Higher Education Quick Takes
An affidavit filed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration details federal suspicions that a researcher and Wheeling Jesuit University used millions in federal funds inappropriately for their benefit, The Wheeling News-Register reported. Funds that were supposed to be used for various research projects were instead used for unrelated expenses, the affidavit says. A university spokeswoman said that the university had not seen the document and so could not comment on it, but she said that Wheeling Jesuit is cooperating with the probe.
California State University campuses are withholding grants to about 20,000 graduate students with financial need, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The grants typically cover tuition for the students, and Cal State is instead offering the students a federal loan with a 6.8 percent interest rate. Cal State officials cite looming state budget cuts, which they say require them to hold on to their cash for now, while they consider all options. Graduate students say that many be unable to enroll without the grants. One student told the newspaper: "I was horrified. I started crying once I realized it was happening to everyone."
Fitch Ratings, which analyzes some colleges' credit worthiness, on Friday released an analysis challenging the idea that tuition increases are doing damage to many Americans' ability to enroll, and to higher education generally. "[T]he increase in cost of attendance at U.S. colleges and universities, which began during the mid-1990s and accelerated through the end of the past decade, has not yet had a meaningful impact on enrollment at most institutions," the ratings service said. "The lack of a negative enrollment trend, we believe, underscores fundamentally robust societal demand for postsecondary education and the non-discretionary nature of a college degree."
Athletic cuts at the University of Maryland at College Park have already received considerable attention, but an article in The Washington Post notes that one of the teams slated for elimination is part of a trend that Maryland pioneered -- competitive cheer. Supporters view the athletic accomplishments of squad members on par with those of many other sports, but the activity has struggled for recognition, especially as related to federal gender-equity rules.
Some alumni of Gonzaga University have organized a petition drive to ask the institution to rescind its invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican cleric who was a leader in the fight to defeat apartheid, saying that his views are inconsistent with Gonzaga's Roman Catholic teachings. Hundreds of alumni have signed the petition that notes Archbishop Tutu's support in South Africa for legal abortion and gay marriage rights. "There are gifted and accomplished leaders from many fields who would be far more appropriate choices to receive such an honor from Gonzaga University. Instead Gonzaga has chosen prestige over principles and popularity over morality," the petition says. The university has not formally responded to the petition drive. When Gonzaga announced its selection of commencement speaker, the press release called Archbishop Tutu "an inspirational voice for justice, peace, truth and reconciliation throughout his ministry."
The student newspaper in the last week has run columns endorsing and criticizing the choice of speaker. "Tutu's public support for abortion, homosexual 'marriage' and contraception clearly identify him as a person who should receive no awards, honors or platforms from a Catholic institution," said one letter. But another wrote to say that many of the Catholic students at Gonzaga in fact share Archbishop Tutu's views, and that the university shouldn't reject graduation speakers who differ with church leaders. "It is especially the beauty of a Jesuit university such as this, encouraging healthy and intelligent discussions, not discrediting someone because we disagree. Last time I checked, disagreeing with Church doctrine didn’t mean you couldn’t participate, unless, of course, the Inquisition is still flourishing," said the author of that letter.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, on Sunday evening vowed at a closed-door fund-raising event that he would substantially shrink the Education Department if he is elected, NBC News reported. In his campaign, Romney has not made many policy proposals on education. But he was more detailed Sunday in outlining two possibilities for the Education Department. "The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely," Romney said. He said that one reason to keep the agency was to have a federal role in pushing back against teachers' unions.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, bruised by a year of scandals, is looking to improve its image. Ad Age reported that the NCAA is requesting proposals from agencies for a public relations campaign. A request for proposals obtained by Ad Age included this acknowledgment that some people might not think as positively about the NCAA as its leaders would like: "Market research and media analytics show that misperceptions persist and opportunities exist to inform public opinion, increase confidence in the association, and boost awareness and advocacy for the positive values of intercollegiate athletics."
The Middle East Studies Association has written a letter to the Ministry of Justice in Bahrain to object to the treatment of students and faculty members in the country. The letter details the arrests of numerous students on "ambiguous" charges, as well as arrests and suspensions of professors at the University of Bahrain. "The appalling maltreatment of these university personnel is part of what we are forced to conclude has been an orchestrated campaign of assaults upon academic freedom," the letter says. Bahrain's embassy in the United States did not respond to a request for comment.