Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 3:00am

Leaders of the American Association of University Professors on Tuesday released a statement warning of the "dangers of a sports empire" in higher education, citing recent sex-abuse scandals as evidence. "Recent accounts of the systemic cover-up of allegations of sexual assaults on young boys at Penn State indicate that the unchecked growth of a sports empire held unaccountable to the rest of the university community coincided with the steady erosion of faculty governance," says the statement. "Genuine shared governance, which involves meaningful participation by the faculty in all aspects of an institution, could have resulted in these alleged crimes being reported to city and state police years ago, and might have spared some of the victims the trauma they endured, and indeed continue to endure, because of the memories that remain, and the legal and judicial processes they still face."

The statement added that "the AAUP’s Council, in the earnest hope of preventing abuses of power, suffering of victims, and betrayals of trust, reaffirms the necessity of ensuring meaningful faculty participation in all aspects of institutional governance and, in particular, of athletics programs."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 4:30am

Big-time college football may have yet another issue of concern. USA Today reported that the latest trend is for colleges to fire head coaches after only two years -- meaning that those hired to lead football teams have a shorter timeframe to produce a winner. Officials said that this trend raises questions about fairness to the coaches (since turning around a program doesn't happen overnight) and about finances. The dismissed coaches are taking away large payouts for having their contracts cut short. "It's a trend that's very disturbing," said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "I took over a program [at Baylor University] that wasn't very good, and if they had let me go after two years, we would not have had the success we had."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 3:00am

Leslie Ungerleider and Mortimer Mishkin, two researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health, are today being named winners of the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Psychology. The two scientists were the first to show that the brain uses separate visual processing systems to recognize objects and fix their location.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 4:32am

The District of Columbia's human rights agency has ruled that Catholic University has the right to single-sex dormitories, the Associated Press reported. A law professor at George Washington University filed a complaint about the new policy. But the agency found that men and women were treated equally under the rule. Further, the agency said that barring the single-sex facilities would set a principle that would require the banning of single-sex bathrooms and athletic teams.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Brian Burke of Fort Lewis College reveals how the unconscious fear of death animates virtually all human action and belief. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 4:34am

A Tennessee appeals court has ruled that Fisk University may sell a share in its modern art collection without being required to set aside much of the money gained to maintain the collection, The Tennessean reported. The financially struggling university has argued that it needs to sell some or all of the art to support other functions of the institution. But the Tennessee attorney general has challenged the sale as inconsistent with the public interest and the bequest that created the collection. It is unclear if the attorney general will appeal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 3:00am

Oregon's Board of Higher Education voted unanimously to cut short the presidency of Richard Lariviere at the University of Oregon, despite impassioned pleas from faculty and staff members and students at a highly contentious board meeting Monday. The vote came after a week in which it became clear that the board that governs the Oregon University System had reached informal agreement not to renew Lariviere's contract when it expires next June, citing the president's perceived failure to work collaboratively with board members and the system's other colleges. Board members listened as a parade of Lariviere's supporters described his contributions to the university and criticized the board's decision; they then voted, one by one, to endorse Chancellor George Pernsteiner's recommendation that Lariviere be dismissed without cause in 30 days.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 4:32am

Syracuse University's firing Sunday of an assistant basketball coach accused of abusing three boys may not end the institution's legal problems, reported The New York Times. The article noted that the third allegation against Bernie Fine, the fired coach who has denied wrongdoing, falls within the statute of limitations -- unlike the first two charges. If Syracuse is sued for failing to take action earlier, the article noted that as a private institution it cannot invoke sovereign immunity that might be used by Pennsylvania State University to try to limit its liability in the sex-abuse scandal it faces. While Syracuse investigated an allegation against Fine in 2005 and said it could not find corroborating evidence, the Times article suggested that this may not help the university. First, the article quoted a legal expert as saying that corroboration frequently doesn't exist in rape or abuse cases. (The charges at Penn State are unusual in that they include witnesses to some instances of the abuse.) Second, the article noted that -- until Sunday -- Jim Boeheim, the head basketball coach, had been a strong supporter of Fine against the charges. “I think the university could have enormous liability, including Boeheim, who was in a supervisory capacity,” one lawyer told the newspaper. “It comes down to who knew what, or who should have known. And you have to ask, because Boeheim’s defense of Fine was so complete after the initial allegations, would he have been at all open to look into anything suspicious?”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 4:35am

While student groups protested loudly outside, the board of the City University of New York voted Monday for a series of $300 tuition increases that will raise charges at CUNY's four-year institutions to $6,330 by 2015-16, The New York Times reported. The students protesting said that the increases would hurt low-income and minority students. But CUNY officials said that cuts in state support required the tuition increases to maintain the quality of the university system, and said that financial aid would continue to make it possible for students of all income levels to enroll.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Adam Rabinowitz of the University of Texas at Austin outlines his efforts to preserve archaeological research for examination by generations of future archaeologists. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.


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