Oberlin College marked April 1 by letting kittens take over its website. The site should be back to normal today, but the college has archived the kittens of Meowberlin College here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Many colleges in Florida — and potentially other states, including California and Texas — could lose eligibility for their students to receive federal financial aid under a new interpretation of the Education Department's "state authorization" rule. While the rule will not be enforced for distance education, it still requires colleges to be licensed in their own state. The Education Department is currently interpreting the rule in a way that disqualifies state licensure by means of accreditation — a process that allows colleges to bypass the ordinary licensure process and be granted state approval based on their accreditation status.
The Education Department sent letters to several Florida colleges in recent weeks, warning them that licensure by means of accreditation is not sufficient to comply with the state authorization rule. The states and the Education Department have until July 1 to resolve the dispute. At that time, all colleges must be in compliance with the department's program integrity rules, including state authorization.
The U.S. State Department has released a written statement on the issue of third-party study abroad providers operating credit-bearing educational programs in Cuba. In a written statement that confirms study abroad professionals’ prior understanding of the changing regulatory environment, the State Department indicated that “academic service providers” are now eligible to receive “specific” licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control to offer for-credit educational programs in Cuba on behalf of accredited American undergraduate and graduate institutions. “The goal is to provide study-abroad options for students whose university or college does not have a stand-alone Cuba program but which is nevertheless prepared to grant course credit for formal study in Cuba,” the State Department said in its statement.
While regulations released back in 2011 cleared the way for U.S. colleges to resume exchange programs in Cuba, the third-party study abroad providers' applications for licenses to run such programs were stalled. One such provider, Academic Programs International, announced it had finally received a license late last month.
The State Department indicated that all applications from academic service providers will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. It plans to issue new regulatory guidance on these issues in the Federal Register and the OFAC website in the coming months.
Pima Community College has responded to a scathingly critical report by a site team from its regional accreditor, which recommended that the Arizona institution be placed on probation. While the college said it takes the criticism seriously, it pushed back on certain findings in the report. For example, it clarified that the now-suspended effort to tighten admission standards was aimed at incoming students who perform at or below 7th-grade level. College administrators did not think these changes constituted a mission change. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association is set to consider the probation recommendation next week.
It's April 1 and that means some campus journalists have been busy coming up with fake news to entertain their campuses today. At New York University, where President John Sexton has been under fire for international expansion and bonuses for administrators, The Washington Square News reported that Sexton would be taking over "The Tonight Show" from Jay Leno. Naturally, fake Sexton doesn't think the show can manage with but one location. From the article: "Sexton’s plans to change the form of 'The Tonight Show' have also been met with criticism. The host plans to turn the show into a global franchise at enormous cost to shareholders, starting with 'The Tonight Show Abu Dhabi,' premiering this September. Early projections indicate the program will draw in literally a dozen viewers, making it one of NBC’s top-rated programs."
The GW Hatchet at George Washington University decided to focus on this year's (real) news that the university lost its rank in U.S. News & World Report after a scandal over incorrect information submitted to the magazine. Everything turned out just fine, according to the joke issue, because the university's lack of a ranking attracted hipster applicants. From the article: "In interviews with accepted students – who took spring campus tours sporting non-prescription glasses, checkered scarves and beer-stained Wavves T-shirts – most said they were drawn to GW’s newfound anonymity after it was kicked off the U.S. News & World Report’s top colleges list last fall. 'GW isn’t on any big rankings list. The problem with schools like the University of Texas or Texas A&M, as great as they are, is that you’ve heard of them,' Amaro Hudson, a prospective student from Austin, Texas, said."
And at the University of Pennsylvania (which ran its joke issue last week), The Daily Pennsylvanian made fun of crackdowns on Greek life, and the shock expressed by campus officials about fraternity life. From the article: "The university has withdrawn recognition from 15 fraternities after discovering that at least half, but probably all, of the fraternities on campus participate in alcohol consumption, unprotected sex, hazing, loud music playing and other activities that are completely typical of fraternities everywhere. According to Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Scott Reikofski, some of the 'frat' members were even caught smoking marijuana, which university officials noted is commonly referred to as 'pot,' 'weed' or 'reefer.'"
The Orange County Register is selling three universities ads that will appear in special weekly sections that will contain "positive" news about the institutions, The Los Angeles Times reported. A memo from an administrator at the University of California at Irvine -- one of the participating universities -- said that its public relations staff would serve as "content advisors, idea generators and collaborators" on the project. The participating institutions, in addition to Irvine, are Chapman University and California State University at Fullerton. Each will pay $275,000. Register officials said that they would still make final decisions on content, and that the news pages would not be affected by the pledges about the kind of content to appear in these special sections.
Jeffrey Brody, a professor of communications at Fullerton and a former Register reporter, said that the new approach would be "wonderful for the universities," but he questioned whether this was appropriate for a newspaper. "If publishing the sections is dependent upon advertising revenue from the universities, then the Register might as well call itself a newsletter rather than a newspaper.... If this is the way Publisher [Aaron] Kushner intends to revitalize the newspaper industry, he needs to brush up on journalism ethics and principles."
Jerry Falwell Jr., the chancellor of Liberty University, is denying a report that the institution and its students are becoming more liberal. New York magazine reported that opposition to gay marriage used to be a united political belief at the university. But over the last week, while two Supreme Court cases about gay marriage captured national attention, the university was quiet on the issue and some students said that there were a range of opinions on the issue.
But the day after that article ran, Falwell sent a letter to the author of the article, stating that Liberty remains a conservative institution, even if the political mood has changed a bit. "[M]ost of our faculty, staff and students are very conservative politically and theologically. I do not see that changing at all," he write. "For example, in Liberty’s voting precinct, Romney won 93 percent of the vote and that precinct had, by far, the highest turnout in the area. Students still are very much pro-life and pro-traditional marriage just like they have always been and the ones who voted for Romney indicated those two issues were the main reasons they supported Romney over Obama. The only shift I have noticed in recent years has been more support among conservative Christians, especially young ones, for libertarians. In Virginia, only Romney and Ron Paul were on the ballot in the Republican primary and Ron Paul won at the campus precinct. So, if anything, our students are becoming more conservative on the issue of limiting the size and scope of government while remaining conservative on the social issues."
Proposed legislation in France would ease restrictions on offering university courses in English, The Connexion reported. Currently, courses must be in French unless they are courses to teach a non-French language or offered by a visiting academic from outside France. Some educators want the option of teaching other courses in English to attract more British and American students. Many universities in European countries that are not primarily English-speaking are adding such courses. But leading French writers have launched a campaign calling the proposed changes "insulting," and the Académie Française has said that any change would "harm the status of the French language in universities."