Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 22, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Timothy Lytton of Albany Law School reveals how stringent selfregulation has allowed the kosher food industry to thrive over the past century. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 22, 2013

Faculty members at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York are angry that President Karen Gould has rejected the choices of professors to lead three departments, making her own selections instead, The Wall Street Journal reported. Gould maintains that she has the right to pick department chairs, but faculty members say that the norm is to respect professors' votes, particularly if departments are well-managed and certain choices have broad support.

July 19, 2013

Saint Louis University is putting aside $13.4 million for salary increases for faculty and staff in the coming school year, something its embattled president, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, said he hoped would demonstrate the university’s recognition “of the important contributions of all our employees” in an announcement early this week. (The president and faculty have been at odds since last year, when he backed a controversial plan to require faculty to requalify for tenure every three years.)

But by midweek, Saint Louis faculty were accusing Biondi of retaliating against professors who had spoken out against him by way of forfeited raises. At Saint Louis, salary recommendations are based in part on performance, and some professors said they didn’t get what their deans had recommended to the university’s senior academic officer, Ellen Harshman. “The system is supposed to be transparent, fair and merit-based,” said Jonathan Sawday, professor of English, in a news release from the university’s American Association of University Professors chapter. “This year, in some cases, it looks like it wasn’t any of those things.”

Steve Harris, professor mathematics and computer science and AAUP chapter president, said statistical analysis showed “irrefutable” evidence that targeted faculty were “largely those – both lay and Jesuit – who opposed the president who had their salary recommendations reduced by [Rev.] Biondi.” Harris said his own dean recommended him for a 3.75 percent raise, but he only received a 1 percent raise. "The difference is $2,000," he said in an e-mail. "This is typical of the most vocal of the opponents."

In a statement to all faculty, Jane Turner, Faculty Senate president and professor of pathology, said members of the senate’s executive committee “believe that all such acts of retaliation warrant serious scrutiny and that the president should be held accountable for this action by informing the affected faculty members of the reasons supporting his decision to overrule the recommendations of the respective deans.”

In an e-mailed statement, Clayton Barry, university spokesman, said that 98 percent of all eligible full-time faculty and staff received salary increases beginning July 1, and that those publicly charging Biondi with retaliation included those who received raises. (Harris said that was true, but that the raises were less than had been recommended.) “The salary review process was the same this year as it has been for the past 30 years,” he said, “and each year some salary recommendations – faculty and staff – are increased and some are decreased during the process.”

Harshman did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did Rev. Michael D. Barber, dean of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences.

July 19, 2013

The University of California has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by a surgeon at the medical school at the university's Los Angeles campus, the Los Angeles Times reported. Christian Head, a head and neck surgeon at UCLA, had accused the university of retaliating against him for filing complaints about discrimination through regular channels, and said that he had once been portrayed as a gorilla being sodomized in a slide show at an event for residents -- an incident for which the university apologized in the settlement.

July 19, 2013

Accurately tracking the job placement rates and earnings of college graduates is tricky business, according to a new paper from the American Association of Community Colleges. Policy makers are pushing hard for work force performance measures, but the data are often problematic. For example, students' paths after community college might include more college or enlistment in the military, the paper said. And institutional earnings data vary widely based on students' majors and earned credentials.

July 19, 2013

Expressing concerns that the Australian government's push to expand enrollments could hurt quality, officials at the University of New South Wales will require students to meet a minimum test score to enroll in any of its classes next year, The Australian reported. Fred Hilmer, the vice chancellor, told employees that the university would restrict entry to students with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank of 80 or above, the newspaper reported. Hilmer expressed concern that the quality of degrees may be slipping as universities rushed to enroll undergraduates to maximize government funding.

July 19, 2013

Cayuga Community College is wrestling with serious money problems, according to the Auburn Citizen. The college, which is located in New York, declared a state of fiscal exigency this week. It is working to cut a $1.5 million budget gap, the newspaper reported, and might lay off employees. 

July 19, 2013

The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved a spending bill Thursday that would increase spending on the National Science Foundation by $183 million over what the agency is receiving this year. The legislation is part of an overall spending bill for several agencies that would make a significant investment in federal science research programs, particularly in the physical sciences. Funds for the NSF would increase to $7.4 billion, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology would see a boost of $141 million over its 2013 spending level. The spending levels in the Senate bill are significantly higher than those in the competing House version -- which means that it's far from clear how a final budget for the agencies will shake out.

July 19, 2013

Leaders of the Pac-12 Conference's member universities have written the National Collegiate Athletic Association to question whether for-profit institutions should be allowed to participate in Division I athletics, according to CBSSports.com. The inquiry follows the transition of Grand Canyon University, a publicly traded for-profit, to Division I, which began last month. Grand Canyon is joining the Western Athletic Conference, where its men's and women's basketball teams will compete.

The Pac-12 CEOs did not specifically criticize Grand Canyon's jump to the big time. Instead they said they wanted to share their broader concerns about institutions that are responsible to investors participating in Division I. Larry Scott, the league's commissioner, told the website that Pac-12 universities had discussed not playing Grand Canyon in any sport. The league includes Arizona State University, which is near Grand Canyon's campus.

July 19, 2013

Brandeis University is shifting to a "test flexible" admissions policy. Until now, applicants have been required to submit either SAT or ACT scores. Going ahead, applicants may continue to submit those scores, or may submit other tests or an "enhanced" academic portfolio. Other tests that could be submitted will now include Advanced Placement tests, SAT subject tests or International Baccalaureate exams. Those who do not want to submit standardized tests can submit a sample of analytical writing and an additional teacher recommendation beyond those required already. Brandeis is calling the program a pilot, and will continue to collect traditional standardized test scores -- after admitted applicant decide to enroll -- so the university can study the impact of the new policy.

Andrew Flagel, senior vice president for students and enrollment, said via e-mail that the shift made because "our experience shows that the rigor of a student’s program and overall academic performance are the best indicators of a student’s ability to take on challenges and excel academically."

 

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