Higher Education Quick Takes
Students have ended a long-term occupation of the president's office at Cooper Union, reaching an agreement with the administration. The occupation was designed to protest the decision to start charging tuition at what for many years had been a free institution. Cooper Union officials have said that they have no financial alternative. A joint statement of the administration and the protesting students did not indicate that tuition would be abandoned. However it said that "a working group will be established promptly to undertake a good faith effort to seek an alternative to tuition that will sustain the institution’s long-term financial viability and strengthen its academic excellence." Further, the administration pledged to add student representation to the board, to create a community space for students and to grant amnesty for violating Cooper Union policies during the occupation. In the future, "occupiers and all present at this meeting commit to complying with, and cooperating with the enforcement of, all laws and Cooper Union policies," said the agreement that ended the occupation.
The Yuba Community College District, in California, has decided to leave the federal student loan program to eliminate a risk its students could lose access to Pell Grants, The Sacramento Bee reported. Only 275 of the district's 15,000 students borrowed last year, but the district's default rate, if repeated for three years, could subject Yuba to sanctions that might affect access to federal and state aid programs relied on by many students. Others, however, say that the college is over-reacting and that there is little risk of it losing aid eligibility.
Eric Fingerhut, former chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, was named Sunday as the next president of Hillel International, which operates programs for Jewish students at campuses throughout the world, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Rumana Monzur, a student at the University of British Columbia who was blinded by her husband on a trip back home to Bangladesh, has finished her master's degree, The Canadian Press reported. It took Monzur two years to recover and to earn the master's degree in British Columbia. She is now planning to go to law school.
Israeli science and education officials are concerned about a new government study finding that only about one-third of those who earn Ph.D.s at Israeli universities eventually join the faculties of those institutions, The Jerusalem Post reported. Officials said that they believed the one-third figure reflected a brain drain problem, which they said should be remedied by providing more funds to Israeli universities and private research institutions to hire more Ph.D.s. Another data point of concern found that while 77 percent of new male Ph.D.s do their postdoctoral training abroad (most commonly in the United States), only half of new female Ph.D.s do so. Postdoc location is important because the best jobs in Israeli academe go to those with foreign postdoctoral training.
University of California regents appear to want to shake up the system with their choice of Janet Napolitano as the next system president, The Los Angeles Times reported. The university system -- unlike some others -- has not typically sought out non-academics for senior positions. Napolitano is currently secretary of homeland security and previously was governor of Arizona. Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, in San Jose, called Napolitano's hiring "a radical departure" for the university system, which he called "a very insular place in the way it looks for leadership."
Faculty groups sometimes question appointments of non-academics to presidencies. But Robert Powell, the faculty representative to the Board of Regents -- who had the opportunity to talk with Napolitano during the search process -- endorsed the selection. He noted that she supported public higher education in Arizona, has a strong record managing complex government organizations and is committed to transparency. Further, he said in a statement that she indicated strong support for the faculty. "She has deep respect for the faculty and she will listen to what we say," Powell said. "She knows that, as the core of what makes UC great, the faculty must have an environment in which they can thrive as scholars and teachers. And she is ready to engage the many challenges that face us all, such as meeting master plan obligations, promoting our research mission, diversifying our faculty and student body, and insisting on unparalleled academic excellence."
Not all faculty members agree, Christopher Newfield, professor of American culture at the University of California at Santa Barbara, outlined several objections, and rejected the idea that success in a political career necessarily made someone qualified to lead a university. "[A]lthough Ms. Napolitano appears to be a very senior manager with lots of political experience, she is unqualified to be a university president," Newfield wrote on his blog. "This would be obvious were the direction of appointment reversed: no mayor or city council would appoint a dean of Engineering as chief of the LAPD. None would justify such a choice by explaining, in the words of Regent Selection Chair Sherry Lansing, that the engineering dean will be a great police chief because she 'has earned trust at the highest, most critical levels of our country's [engineering profession].' "
Saint Joseph's University, in Pennsylvania, announced last week that it will no longer require applicants for admission to submit SAT or ACT scores. John Haller, associate provost for enrollment management, said that the university has found that high school grades (even without standardized test scores) predict first-year student success. “We know there is a population of students with strong academic records in high school who have standardized test score outcomes below our middle 50 percent range who are likely to be successful and difference makers at Saint Joseph’s University,” said a statement from Haller. "There is ample statistical evidence demonstrating that standardized test scores can be shaped by environmental and cultural factors that make them an inaccurate predictor of academic success."
The University of Macau is relocating to a much larger campus in Zhuhai, where it will be the first academic institution in mainland China to have officially negotiated an uncensored Internet connection, The New York Times reported. Despite its mainland location, the campus will be governed by the laws of Macau – a semi-autonomous region of China (like Hong Kong). Students who commute from Macau to the campus will do so through an underwater tunnel and without undergoing the usual immigration checks. Concrete barriers will separate the campus from the rest of China.
An associate professor of law at the University of Macau quoted in the article described the situation as “curious”: “This piece of land is not legally an enlargement of Macau, but in practice, it is,” Jorge A.F. Godinho told the newspaper. “There won’t be a border or Internet censorship or anything.”