A Louisiana legislative panel voted Tuesday to endorse a constitutional amendment that would consolidate several boards that govern the state's public colleges and universities into a single board of trustees, The Times-Picayune reported. The measure, which Governor Bobby Jindal has promoted, is one of several being considered in states around the country as they look to centralize decision making, cut costs, or both. A legislative leader in Rhode Island proposed this week that the state's separate boards for elementary/secondary education and higher education be combined into a single Board of Regents, according to The Providence Journal. And Connecticut lawmakers have been discussing a plan that would merge the Connecticut State University and Connecticut Community Colleges systems under a single board, excluding the University of Connecticut.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The board of the University of Vermont has ended the official volunteer role of Rachel Kahn-Fogel, wife of President Daniel Fogel, in fund-raising and other events, The Burlington Free Press reported. The move came amid an investigation into Kahn-Fogel's apparent pursuit of a personal relationship with a senior administrator at the university, Michael Schultz, associate vice president of development and alumni relations. Kahn-Fogel's interest in Schultz became known when Schultz's wife -- who is currently in divorce proceedings with him -- found unopened letters from Kahn-Fogel to Schultz. He acknowledged in the divorce proceedings that he had secured a post office box to receive the letters privately. Fogel released a statement in which he said that he supported the inquiry, and revealing (with his wife's permission) that "she has long been in treatment for serious mental health issues with which she has struggled throughout her life."
Schultz wrote his doctoral dissertation on issues related to the spouses of colleges and university presidents; Inside Higher Ed has quoted him about the subject and published an essay in which he offered advice to presidential spouses. One of his points: "A good reputation is hard to earn but easy to lose."
Fogel announced in March that he would step down as president next year, after 10 years in office.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has agreed to make "fundamental changes" in the way its chapters operate, as part of the settlement of a lawsuit by the parents of a freshman at California Polytechnic Institute at San Luis Obispo who died while pledging in 2008, The Tribune News reported. Details of the settlement were not released. The student's death was attributed to the alcohol in his system. Some members of the fraternity started to drive him to the hospital, but returned to the fraternity house with the idea that he would sleep it off. He died that night.
The Illinois General Assembly is poised to pass legislation that would bar students at for-profit colleges in the state from receiving funds from the state's main need-based grant program. The measure, Senate Bill 1773, passed overwhelmingly in the Senate last month, but in a form that would have allowed funds to flow to students at for-profit institutions. But with lawmakers facing the need for cuts in the Monetary Award Program, leaders in the state House amended the legislation to say that the Illinois Student Aid Commission "may not make grants to applicants enrolled at for-profit institutions." "Shouldn't our priority be public higher education, which is distressed right now?" Rep. Dan Brady, a Republican legislator, told The News-Gazette of Springfield. Officials of for-profit colleges in the state said that should it pass the House and survive a conference committee with Illinois's Senate, the legislation would strip $25 million in grants from about 8,000 students. "The students at our schools depend on these funds to obtain their college educations, and without them, they are left with a lifetime of minimum wage jobs and a loss of hope for a better future," Lawrence Schumacher, president of Northwestern College, wrote in a letter to legislators.
A report released Monday by the Anti-Defamation League says that Youth for Western Civilization -- a group that has formed several campus chapters -- "straddles the line between mainstream and extreme views and has close ties to white supremacists." The report says that the group's claimed love of Western civilization really appears to be a devotion to "white culture," with hostility to many minority groups. A statement from Youth for Western Civilization criticized the ADL report, saying that it "implicitly acknowledges that no one involved in YWC has said anything 'racist' when they accuse us of 'avoid[ing] using overtly bigoted rhetoric' in favor of 'euphemistic language' to make our points." The reply goes on to say that the "smears" in the report are "frivolous."
Montclair State University has sued Oracle over what the university calls a failed attempt to install an enterprise system -- a mess that Montclair says has cost it more than $20 million beyond original estimates, IDG News reported. The article describes the university's claims of missed deadlines, cost overruns and poor communication. Oracle did not respond to requests for comment.
The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan has voted, over the objections of President Mary Sue Coleman, to allow graduate researchers to vote on whether they would like to unionize, The Detroit Free Press reported. Coleman argued that the researchers are primarily students. But board members voted 6-2 that the researchers should be allowed to unionize, with supporters of the measure arguing that they are acting as employees in this capacity and deserve collective bargaining rights.
Eric Barron, president of Florida State University, has asked the Faculty Senate to review the terms of a grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation "to ensure that the integrity of Florida State University was protected," The Miami Herald reported. The terms include provisions giving foundation-appointed committee members the right to review candidates for faculty positions and effectively veto power over hires, and academics at Florida State and elsewhere have criticized these terms as giving the foundation inappropriate control over academic decision-making. To date, however, Barron has strongly defended the grant agreement (which was made before he became president). The Faculty Senate currently has no formal role in reviewing gifts or grants that relate to academic decisions, and the body is considering whether it needs to review such arrangements.