Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Marc Hauser, a prominent Harvard University psychology professor whose research has come under scrutiny, has resigned, The Boston Globe reported. An internal investigation found that he committed multiple instances of scientific misconduct, one paper he published was retracted and two others were corrected -- but many observers have pushed for more details on the nature of what was incorrect in his work. Hauser was not available for comment on his resignation, which was confirmed by a university spokesman.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Gerald Lang, the former provost of West Virginia University, has dropped a suit against the institution, after reaching an undisclosed settlement, the Associated Press reported. Lang resigned in 2009 amid a scandal over an inappropriately awarded degree -- a situation for which he said he was a scapegoat. Officials did not comment on the settlement.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Moody's Investors Service published two reports Tuesday that underscore the ratings agency's perception of a growing divide between the fortunes of wealthy private colleges -- and the rest. The more substantive of the two reports, which are available only to Moody's clients, focuses on "divergent credit trends" and finds that institutions that were highly dependent on tuition and "weaker market positions" were more likely than "high-reputation institutions" to experience declines in the agency's ratings metrics. A second report on private gifts anticipates a continued rebound in donations in 2011, but mostly benefiting "“highly rated, market-leading universities."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 1:08pm

Higher education advocates are again on the defensive in the ongoing battle over Pell Grants, which Congressional Republicans are hoping to cut in deficit reduction talks. Eight college presidents joined student activists and U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin (both Maryland Democrats) at a rally Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill to criticize proposals to cut Pell's budget back to pre-stimulus levels.

Tuesday’s event was the result of some last-minute organization – the presidents were in town for a meeting of the Coalition of Urban-Serving Universities and worked with the U.S. Students Association to bring it together.

USU’s 46 member institutions, which are all public research universities in large metropolitan areas, have a lot to lose if Pell is cut next year because large percentages of their students rely on their grants. At Florida International University, for example, 37 percent of the 43,000-member student body received Pell Grants last year. More than half of those students – 54 percent – received the full grant amount of $5,500.
Mikulski asked students to be more vocal in their opposition to proposed Pell cuts, which could keep many low-income students from being able to afford a college education.
“We need you to flood the airwaves and the broadband,” she told the audience of students and education lobbyists. Student activists responded by talking about their plans to flood lawmakers’ Twitter and e-mail accounts on Monday – which they’ve dubbed “Save Pell Day” – to call attention to their campaign to preserve the program.
Pell Grants were spared major cuts in April, when Republicans agreed to preserve the maximum award amount while cutting the summer grant program – which shielded most of the program's 9.4 million recipients from cuts. But Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal for the upcoming fiscal year would reduce the maximum award by $845 and render 1.7 million current students ineligible to receive the grants.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Francine Berman of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute discusses our growing need to store massive amounts of digital data and the problems we face in keeping our data accessible as storage formats change. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Iran's higher education minister is studying plans that would separate men and women at the country's universities, The National reported. At most universities today, men and women attend the same classes, but sit in separate rows -- a degree of separation that falls far short of what some religious leaders are advocating. Ayatollah Safi Golpaigani said last week: "Mingling of male and female [students] thwarts scientific achievements and causes great corruption. The costs of segregation [for the government] are affordable however heavy they may be."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Governor Bev Perdue of North Carolina said Monday that a legislative proposal to combine the operations of many of her state's community colleges would move North Carolina's education system "backwards" and represent an attack on rural areas. Four of the 26 two-year institutions that would be affected in the merger plan -- College of the Albemarle, Halifax Community College, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, and Tri-County Community College -- have no other community college within 30 miles, Perdue said, noting the job training and business development missions of the institutions. “Take away the community colleges and where will those businesses turn for workers? What other state -- or country -- will get our jobs instead?” she said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of British Columbia, which represents more than 10,000 faculty members at universities, colleges, institutes and private sector institutions in that province, recently adopted a new statement of bargaining principles. The statement follows a wave of conversions of several area colleges into universities, which "has brought with it pressures to convert working conditions to the stratified tenure, non-tenure track realities of many old-line universities in Canada," an e-mail last week from at-large executive committee member Frank Cosco to union members read. "Conditions which seem to be the norm in the US."

The new set of principles was adopted at the union's general meeting in May but not distributed to many adjuncts until last week. It calls for bargaining policies to be based on a "collectivist, egalitarian, and equitable university workplace model as opposed to a competitive, stratified model of employment." More specifically, the principles embrace -- for both full- and part-time faculty members -- broad access to tenure and academic freedom regardless of the number of hours they work on a given campus, job protection and a single salary scale. Many adjunct faculty members in the U.S. chafe at their uncertain status in each of these areas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Many of the same colleges that have ended SAT requirements, noting that wealthy students tend to do well on the exam and that many black and Latino students succeed in college while not doing well on it, may trust the SAT in other ways. These colleges buy the names of high-scoring students from the College Board (and from the ACT) and use those names to recruit prospective students, Bloomberg reported. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College (which neither requires the SAT nor buys names), criticized the practice. "They take a stance that looks principled but is strategic,” Botstein told Bloomberg. "They say 'I’m going to show myself to be open,' but in reality they’re completely buying into the definition of a good student that is guided by the test."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

A state judge has ruled that Florida Gulf Coast University should reinstate and provide back pay to David Lounsbury, a fired forensics professor, The Naples Daily News reported. Lounsbury was fired for having students give him checks for a certification exam and depositing them -- a violation of university rules. The judge's ruling upheld one of an arbitrator last year, who found that the university would have been within its rights to punish Lounsbury, but not to fire him. The university plans to appeal.

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