Higher Education Quick Takes
Some typos are more visible than others. Yahoo! Sports noted that the banner on top of dugout at the College World Series had a non-baseball error: College was spelled as "colllege" with an extra L, prompting considerable discussion on Twitter and elsewhere.
Sports Illustrated has published damning new reports on the investigative arm of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and of the football program of the University of Miami.
The enforcement division has "gone from bad to worse," one article says. It notes many departures of key people in the division, a campaign (much mocked internally) to boost morale through the use of corporate buzzwords and complaints about Mark Emmert, the NCAA president. Emmert is said to focus more on publicity -- he is called by some "King of the Press Conference" -- than on the association's challenges. One former enforcement official told the magazine: "The time is ripe to cheat. There's no policing going on." Emmert declined to comment for the piece.
The article on Miami meanwhile includes allegations that a one-time booster, Nevin Shapiro, whose past allegations have already led to numerous problems for the university, "used inside information from Hurricanes players, coaches and athletic department staffers to win bets on 23 Miami football games" between 2003 and 2009.
Scientists in Russia are objecting to the addition of a theology department at the National Research Nuclear University, in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported. Many researchers see the move as inappropriate at a secular university and inconsistent with the focus on science at the institution. Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, however, say that the administration thought of the idea of adding the department, and that it will offer a wide range of programs.
Since 2006, the athletics department at the University of Colorado at Boulder has paid nearly $9.8 million in severance payments to former coaches and other employees, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. The payments are generating scrutiny because the department currently has a $7.5 million deficit. Jerry Peterson, a physics professor and chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said that "we all recognize that the Boulder campus is facing tight financial times, and that [nearly] $10 million -- even if it's over several years -- is a loss to academics."
Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed Friday a bill that would have required appointees to the state's higher education governing boards to attend "a training program that provides instruction in ethics, conflict-of-interest law, and the role of a governing board in a higher education institution or system and that is conducted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, by the system office of a university system, or by the office of a governing board that does not govern a university system" before they voted on personnel or governance matters. The current law does not require any kind of formal training. The bill would have also prevented the governor from making interim appointments to the board while the legislature was out of session.
The UT system's board has become the epicenter of a perceived conflict about the shape and direction of higher education in the state, particularly the University of Texas at Austin. Multiple reports over the past few years have suggested that the governor is pushing the regents to remove UT-Austin President William Powers, who has criticized some of the governor's views on higher education. In February the governor appointed three regents to fill vacancies. The Senate confirmed those appointees in May. (This story has been updated to correct the bill's requirements and the status of the appointees.)
WASHINGTON -- The Education Department is hoping to streamline its process for reviewing and recognizing accrediting agencies to focus more on what it considers key criteria -- 25 of the 95 factors that include accreditors' standards and how they are applied, as well as the agencies' fiscal health. While the streamlined standards won't be in effect for another two years, they're likely to be a relief to accrediting agencies, who have grumbled in recent years that the department has grown increasingly "granular" in evaluating accreditors for official recognition.
"This will result in a better, more targeted process that is simpler and less burdensome for accrediting agencies, NACIQI and the federal government," Martha Kanter, the under secretary of education, wrote in a blog post. "It is our hope and expectation that these improvements will also enable the postsecondary institutions they accredit to focus additional time and effort on quality enhancement and value."
Chen Guangcheng, the dissident from China who has held a fellowship at New York University for the last year, said that NYU was kicking him out because of concerns that his criticism of China was harming the university's interests there, The New York Times reported. While speculation about Chen's departure has circulated for several days, his statement Sunday was Chen's first on the matter. He and others have noted that NYU has a new campus in Shanghai and that many NYU faculty members need visas to travel back and forth to China. “The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine, and some scholars have no option but to hold themselves back,” Chen said. “Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime.”
NYU responded with its own statement, denying that Chinese politics had anything to do with Chen's departure. The issue was simply that his fellowship was over, the university said. “We are very discouraged to learn of Mr. Chen’s statement, which contains a number of speculations about the role of the Chinese government in N.Y.U.’s decision-making that are both false and contradicted by the well-established facts,” said an NYU spokesman.
The budget bill for California higher education for the coming year will include increased reporting requirements, but not a direct linkage between increased funding and accomplishing certain goals, The Los Angeles Times reported. Governor Jerry Brown had wanted public higher education -- as a condition of more money -- to improve graduation rates, enroll more low income students and freeze tuition. But higher education leaders said that those goals might not be possible given the severity of budget cuts over the last decade. Legislators generally accepted that argument.
Faculty members at St. Cloud State University have noticed an increasing number of instances in where failing or low grades were removed from students' transcripts without the professors being consulted, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Devinder Molhotr, the provost, said that it has become clear that proper protocol -- which would include faculty consultation -- hasn't always been followed. He said that a "very specific protocol" should prevent future problems.