Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - 3:00am

Sixteen law journals have issued a joint statement pledging to stop the practice of "exploding offers," in which authors have only a very short time period (sometimes hours) to decide whether to accept an offer of publication. The practice was seen as a way to get the best content, but many law professors disagree. The statement from the journals said that the publications have come to believe that the costs of such exploding offers outweigh the benefits. From now on, authors will have at least seven days to decide whether to accept an offer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - 3:00am

Morris Brown College and the U.S. Department of Education are on the verge of a deal that would forgive most of the college's $10 million debt to the government, the Associated Press reported. The debt stems from unused financial aid that was supposed to have been returned to the government. Morris Brown, a historically black institution, lost its accreditation in 2003, and now educates a small fraction of the students it once did. Resolving the federal debt issue is seen as a key step toward efforts to revive the college.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - 3:00am

Many colleges are relying on deception to inflate the rosters of women's teams to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, The New York Times reported. Colleges add women to teams even if the women never play or, in some cases, even realize they are on the team, recruit some women by telling them they need not attend practice, and list male "practice players" (who participate in practices) as members of women's squads, the Times reported. Colleges have found it less expensive to create women's slots through increasing the number of alleged athletes on existing teams than to create new teams -- and need to add to their women's totals because the institutions do not want to cut football.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

A new law in Washington State has created WGU Washington, a new division of Western Governors University that will offer WGU's competency-based online programs in the state. The new university -- part of an expansion of WGU -- will not receive state funds, and officials believe it will help many students obtain degrees more speedily than they might otherwise. The new branch of WGU is similar to an arrangement started last year in Indiana. In Washington State, some faculty members have objected to the new approach.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

The vast majority of colleges and universities line up outside speakers for commencement ceremonies, setting off annual debates over the selections. California State University at Monterey Bay will this year skip the outside speaker for the first time, The Monterey Herald reported. The decision isn't related to the devastating budget cuts facing the California State system, officials said, noting that the university has never paid an honorarium. "It's a decision to try a different approach and try to put the focus on the students and their accomplishments as much as possible," said a spokesman.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

The City of Boston has formally asked nonprofit organizations to pay up to 25 percent of the property tax bills they would face if they were not tax-exempt, The Boston Globe reported. Many nonprofits already make "payments in lieu of taxes" in recognition of the demands their students and faculty members place on city services, so some nonprofit leaders (including some of those in higher education) are not concerned by the formal request from the city. Others, however, see the potential for such demands to erode their nonprofit tax status.

The colleges and universities already making voluntary payments -- according to a Globe analysis -- would generally have a ways to go to meet the level demanded by the city. Harvard University currently pays $2.1 million to Boston, but the city wants $5.8 million. Boston University pays $5.1 million now, but the city wants $6.8 million. Northeastern University currently pays a little more than $30,000, but the city wants $4.3 million.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Sally Jackson has resigned as chief information officer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to object to a reorganization of her reporting structure, The News-Gazette reported. Under the shift, the CIOs of the three campuses in the system will no longer report to their respective provosts, but instead to a new university system CIO. The central administration says the shift will promote efficiency and will not distance the CIOs from their campuses, but Jackson and many faculty leaders at Urbana-Champaign object to the reorganization, saying it will shift technology functions from an academic to an administrative focus.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Columbia University on Friday announced that it has signed an agreement to reinstate on campus a unit of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. The move follows extensive campus debate and is consistent with the statements of university leaders who in years past have said that they would act once the military stopped discriminating against gay people. Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia's president, said in a statement: "Repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law provided a historic opportunity for our nation to live up to its ideals of equality and also for universities to reconsider their relationships with the military."

Some other universities that have barred ROTC are expected to follow. Stanford University on Friday announced that a committee studying the issue there has recommended the return of ROTC. The Faculty Senate is expected to vote on the issue on Thursday.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Black athletes are charging that Brigham Young University is tougher in enforcing its honor code on them than on other athletes or on other students, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Many of the athletes accuse the university of using a "bait and switch" approach to recruiting, telling them that Brigham Young is like any other college, and then enforcing an honor code that bars premarital sex, drinking and other activities that would be standard for most college students. The university says that it enforces the honor code without regard to race.

An analysis in Deadspin found that since 1993, at least 70 athletes have been suspended, dismissed or put on probation because of honor code violations. Just under 60 percent of those punished have been black men (a figure that may be low because the race of some of those punished could not be identified). The article in Deadspin, comparing the 60 percent figure to the total minority share of athletes at Brigham Young (23 percent) and of black people in the student body (0.6 percent), argues that "something is amiss."

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

For several days last month, an earringed, mustachioed employee named Pete Weston did a range of jobs (with mixed success) at the University of California at Riverside. Only weeks later did campus employees find out that Weston had actually been Chancellor Timothy P. White, who on May 1 will become the first higher education leader to appear on CBS's "Undercover Boss," which puts corporate (and now campus) chief executive officers in disguise to see how their organizations work from the ground up. White said he learned much about the campus and was "moved and changed as a person" by participating in the hugely popular, if critically unacclaimed, show and seeing the "level of dedication of our students, staff and faculty."

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