Higher Education Quick Takes
A committee in the Utah House of Representatives on Wednesday killed a bill that would have barred public colleges and universities from offering tenure to new faculty members, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Utah higher education officials said that the bill, if passed, would have been the first such law in the United States, and would have hurt the reputation of the state's colleges. But Representative Christopher Herrod, who proposed the measure, said: "There’s been no academic research that tenure benefits the system. I believe competition brings out the best. I believe in the capitalist system." He added that, if the state's higher education leaders really believe in tenure, they wouldn't be relying on adjuncts. "If we think tenure is so valuable, why don’t we have 100 percent on tenure? Are we not creating two classes of individuals?" he said.
A contentious lawsuit by a law professor against the dean of the Widener University law school has been settled, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The suit by Lawrence Connell charged that Dean Linda L. Ammons defamed him by making false statements that he was racist and sexist. Connell argued that those statements were made because of his conservative political views. No terms of the settlement were announced, except that Connell no longer works at Widener.
The never-ending saga of the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo has been extended again, with the university tentatively embracing the controversial moniker while a statewide referendum plays itself out, the Associated Press reported. After several years of machinations and stops and starts, the university stopped calling its teams the Fighting Sioux in late 2010 under pressure from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, whose 2005 campaign to end the use of Native American nicknames and mascots considered to be "hostile and abusive" targeted about 20 colleges. At risk was the university's ability to play host to NCAA championships, among other things. But state legislators approved a law last March requiring the university reinstate the Fighting Sioux name, which was promptly repealed in a special legislative session last November, citing the continued threat of NCAA retribution.
Now a group of Fighting Sioux advocates are petitioning to force a statewide vote on the matter, and the university's president said he had reinstated the name and logo to honor the state's referendum process, which mandates that a law must be in effect if it is to be legally challenged. The AP said that state officials would meet soon to decide whether to once again seek legal action to block reinstatement of the law, since the NCAA remains poised to punish North Dakota if the Fighting Sioux nickname is retained.
California's Legislative Analyst's Office issued an extensive report Wednesday that praised some aspects of Governor Jerry Brown's plan to finance higher education in 2012-13 but said the proposal could "unduly" curtail student access and would limit the legislature's right to set budgets for different types of institutions. The analysis says that the governor's plan to impose grade point average requirements on the receipt of some state student aid and to cut need-based aid for students at private institutions would "unreasonably harm access" to postsecondary education. The analyst's office also proposes changes to the program that grants fee waivers to community college students, and notes that the plan would impose devastating cuts on the three systems of public higher education if voters do not approve a tax increase in November.
Northern Essex Community College has taken an unusual approach to sharing its new strategic plan with various constituents: it is using a theme song. Jeff Bickford, chief information officer at the institution, wrote and performed the song, now available on YouTube:
The American Federation of Teachers Executive Council on Tuesday reaffirmed a commitment to collaborating with the American Association of University Professors on advocacy efforts and union organizing. The announcement extends a relationship created in 2008 as part of an effort to bring more faculty members -- especially at research universities -- into collective bargaining. The joint effort resulted in a big win with the unionization of faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago (although the university is challenging the win). Currently, the AFT and AAUP are jointly organizing faculty members at the University of Oregon.
An investigation by The Washington Post has revealed many millions in earmarks -- grants made by members of Congress to specific institutions, bypassing peer review -- that have gone to colleges that employ close relatives of the lawmakers who obtained the funds, or who have such relatives on their boards. For example, Representative Robert Aderholt, an Alabama Republican, helped get about $440,000 for the University of Montevallo while his wife was on its board. Or there's Representative Robert E. Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat, who won $3.3 million over the last 10 years for a scholarship program at the Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, where his wife is an associate dean in charge of scholarships. And Rep. Robert E. Latta, an Ohio Republican, co-sponsored earmarks worth $2.8 million for Bowling Green State University while his wife was a senior vice president there.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, on Tuesday proposed cutting the state's higher education budget by 30 percent, on top of a 20 percent reduction approved last year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Democratic legislators and faculty unions denounced the proposed cuts and said that they would lead to significant tuition increases, but some Republican legislative leaders said that it was time to focus on whether the state has too many campuses.
Amid an ongoing furor over the Obama administration's decision to require Roman Catholic colleges, hospitals and other religious employers to offer health insurance plans covering birth control at no cost, a senior adviser to the president's re-election campaign suggested Tuesday that compromise might be possible. On the MSNBC program "Morning Joe," David Axelrod, a top campaign adviser, said the White House would look for "a way to move forward that both provides women with the preventative care that they need and respects the prerogatives of religious institutions," The New York Times reported.
Religious institutions' objections were well-known before the final rule was issued in January. But the contraception coverage requirement has become a feature of the Republican presidential campaign, with Mitt Romney, considered most likely to face Obama in the general election, accusing the president of attacking religious liberty.