Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The California State University Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved a salary of $400,000 for Elliot Hirshman, the new president of San Diego State, over the objections of Governor Jerry Brown, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The salary is $100,000 more than the previous president earned -- an increase that system officials said was justified to attract top talent. Faculty and student groups have criticized the pay plan, saying it is insensitive at a time that the university system is facing both budget cuts and tuition increases.

In a letter released before the board vote, Governor Brown rejected the idea that the large increase in salary was needed. "The assumption is that you cannot find a qualified man or woman to lead the university unless paid twice that of the chief justice of the United States. I reject this notion," Governor Brown write. "At a time when the state is closing its courts, laying off public school teachers and shutting senior centers, it is not right to be raising the salaries of leaders who -- of necessity -- must demand sacrifice from everyone else."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Stanford's alumni magazine has published a new oral history of the "prison experiment" 40 years ago in which some students played the part of jailers and others prisoners, and the abuse of the latter by the former making the study one of the most discussed social science experiments of modern times. As a blog in The Wall Street Journal noted, some of the details may lead some to question how much the study revealed about human nature. For instance, one person who played a jailer said that he drew on acting experience to be intentionally mean. Another participant in the experiment said that he was high on drugs most of the time he was being studied.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The full House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday endorsed a subcommittee's recommendation that Congress cut spending for the National Endowment for the Humanities (and the National Endowment for the Arts) in 2012. The subcommittee drafted legislation last week that would slash support for both agencies by nearly $20 million from their 2011 levels.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

A new paper from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment examines the role of measuring student learning outcomes at community colleges. Findings from surveys of community colleges show that they make extensive use of measures of student learning, but tend to do so at the program level rather than the institutional level (a finding that is probably not surprising, given the range of programs offered). For instance, 80 percent of community colleges reported using performance assessments other than grades (simulations, portfolios, capstone projects, etc.) to evaluate learning in individual units, but only 19 percent used those approaches across their institutions. And 83 percent reported using specialized tests (such as licensure exams and other standardized tests) for programs, but only 8 percent reported their use across institutions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Purchase College's Karen Baird discusses the modifications that have made health care more inclusive of needs unique to women. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The New Faculty Majority, a national group for those faculty members who work off the tenure track, has started offering health insurance plans for members who live in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Lack of health insurance (or lack of access to more affordable group rates on health insurance) is a major issue for adjuncts who work at many colleges that limit access to their coverage.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Colleges could and should do much more to inform their students about the availability of federal loans and the risks of higher-cost private loans, the Project on Student Debt asserts in a new report, which describes promising practices that some institutions use and some troubling practices embraced by others. The report, "Critical Choices: How Colleges Can Help Students and Families Make Better Decisions about Private Loans," describes the extent to which significant numbers of students take out higher-priced alternative loans even though they have not exhausted the limits on the federal student loans they can take.

The report praises practices in which institutions (such as Barnard, Mount Holyoke and Grinnell Colleges and San Diego State University) are rigorous about counseling students who wish to take out private loans and critiques other institutions (which it does not name) that certify students' use of private loans willy nilly or treat private loans in their institutional financial aid awards to students as if the loans without making the nature of the loans clear.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Humboldt University, Berlin's oldest university, announced Monday that Google is setting up a research institute there, the Associated Press reported. The research center will study the evolution of the Internet and its role in science, politics, economics and other parts of life. Other partners will be the Berlin University of Arts, the Social Science Research Center Berlin and the Hamburg Hans-Bredow-Institute

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 3:00am

An American Bar Association panel reviewing standards used to evaluate law schools is leaning toward requiring more job protection for clinical law instructors and others who work full time, but off the tenure track, The National Law Journal reported. Many such instructors currently work on year-to-year or semester-to-semester contracts, providing little job security. The plan gaining support would require law schools to have a system of "presumptively renewable long-term contracts" for such instructors. While that would fall short of tenure, it would represent improvements for many instructors, committee members believe.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the right of the University of Minnesota to discipline a student in a mortuary sciences program who posted jokes about a cadaver on a Facebook page, Minnesota Public Radio reported. The student argued that the First Amendment protects the posts, but the appeals court found that the university could take action if it could "reasonably conclude" that the Facebook postings would "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school."

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