Higher Education Quick Takes
The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is mourning the death of President Matt Branam, who suffered a medical emergency in his office Friday morning and died shortly after he was rushed to a hospital. Branam was named president in 2009, after first serving several months as interim president. He spent most of his career in the corporate and nonprofit worlds before returning to his alma mater to serve as interim president. The Indianapolis Star noted that Branam had wide support on the campus and among alumni, and that many hoped he would bring stable leadership to Rose-Hulman, which saw several short-term presidencies between 2004 and Branam's arrival.
Governor Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, on Friday signed legislation to create Florida Polytechnic as a freestanding university, The Miami Herald reported. The campus has been a branch of the University of South Florida. Many higher education leaders in Florida have questioned the wisdom of creating a new university when the state is having difficulty supporting existing institutions. But Scott said that the new university's emphasis on mathematics, science and engineering fields will "generate a positive return on investment."
Assumption College officials say that a senior who is backing Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in July, will not be on campus "for the forseeable future," the Associated Press reported. Administrators said that they are reviewing the record of Kevin Forts, who has been writing letters of support for Breivik, and who was also arrested for an alleged assault on campus this year. Forts was quoted in a video interview as saying that the deaths of children Breivik killed in his massacre were "a necessary political sacrifice that is not necessary again." And Forts called on people to pay attention not to Breivik's "atrocious actions," but to his political platform. Forts said people need to look at Breivik’s political platform, "rather than his atrocious actions." Forts said of Breivik: "He’s fighting against cultural Marxism and an Islamization of Norway, and he found that the most rational ... way to accomplish that was through terrorist actions on Utoya and in Oslo."
A fraternity member at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln is facing expulsion from Delta Tau Delta and a college investigation after he marched around campus in camouflage waving a Confederate flag, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.
A university employee took a video of the incident after she was disturbed to see the fraternity parade past her office. The march was apparently an effort to raise money for military veterans. A screen shot from that video published by the Journal Star shows two men leading a group of at least 20 people. Another person in the march is waving an American flag, and several appear to be wearing camo.
A chapter spokesman told the Journal Star that the Confederate flag was destroyed and that the march lasted less than five minutes.The spokesman expects that student to be expelled from Delta Tau Delta. The university's judicial affairs department is investigating, as is the national office of Delta Tau Delta.
Scholars of Dracula gathered last week at two academic conference in Britain to mark the centenary of the death of Bram Stoker. Times Higher Education reported that attendees expressed concern that American obsessions with vampires are hurting understanding of the relevant Victorian literature. Clive Bloom, emeritus professor of English and American literature at Middlesex University, said that "Gothic studies have become institutionalized and safe. We need to return to a more visceral and scary notion of the Gothic. We need to stop using Freud and go back to de Sade – it’s all about perversity and the will to power." Bloom also said that the "Americanization of the vampire," as reflected in the Twilight books, was unfortunate. In those books, Bloom said, "the dangerous violent aristocrat has become the dark boy no one talks to and who’s eternally 17."
Students and others are protesting plans at the University of Florida to move research functions from the computer science department, allowing it to focus on teaching, The Gainesville Sun reported. Critics say that the plan will diminish the quality of the department, while university officials stress that they must save money to deal with erosion in budget support.
A Colorado judge on Thursday denied a request by six individuals who sought to block the University of Colorado at Boulder from keeping everyone who is not a student or employee off the campus today, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. The university imposed the rules to try to prevent an annual gathering on April 20 of people who smoke pot together in an unofficial party. Civil libertarians have said that the university is effectively squelching political debate because the event is also a forum for opposing current drug laws. But Judge Andrew Macdonald said that the university had legitimate reasons to block the event. "Why doesn't CU have the right to say, 'We don't want to pay $60,000 a year for this?'" he said. "Why don't they have the right to say, 'We're tired of this?'"
A report by Education Sector shows how rapidly the federal government has increased its spending on tax credits and deductions for college tuition -- tax breaks that disproportionately help upper-income taxpayers. Financial aid experts have noted that amid many complaints about the exploding costs of the Pell Grant Program, which mostly assists low-income students, relatively little attention has been paid to tuition tax breaks. In addition to documenting the growth of the tax breaks, the Education Sector report urges their elimination.
"At a time when Congress is struggling to fund the Pell Grant program and financially needy students who pursue a higher education are facing mountains and mountains of debt, policymakers need to refocus the government’s resources on its core mission of eliminating the financial barriers that prevent low-income and working-class students from enrolling in and completing college," the report states.
With state funds in short supply, public and private higher education leaders in Iowa are sparring. The Des Moines Register reported that private college leaders were upset when Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Board of Regents, drew attention to the funds going to private college students in the state through a program not open to those at public institutions. He said that the money didn't go to "our public universities, which the people of Iowa own.” Gary Steinke, president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, responded by saying: "If that was a shot across the bow, and it certainly seemed to be to me, I think that's selfish."