Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, October 24, 2011 - 3:00am

The Occupy Wall Street movement is receiving new backing from academe. The Council of the American Studies Association has released a statement expressing support as faculty members who study and teach about American society. "As educators, we experience the dismantling of public education, rising tuition, unsustainable student debt, and the assault on every dimension of education," the statement says. "As American Studies scholars, our work includes, among other things, addressing the problems and challenges societies face, drawing lessons from the past, comparing across polities, and making informed recommendations that will spark open debate.  We draw inspiration from earlier social movements that have challenged the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and authority. Today’s movements continue this necessary work. The uprisings compel us to lift our voices and dedicate our effort to realizing the democratic aspirations for an equitable and habitable world.  We are the 99 percent."

The Council of University of California Faculty Association created an open letter of support, now signed by more than 1,000 faculty members, that says in part: "We, members of the faculty of the University of California, write in solidarity with and in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement now underway in our city and elsewhere. Many observers claim that the movement has no specific goals; this is not our understanding. The movement aims to bring attention to the various forms of inequality – economic, political, and social – that characterize our times, that block opportunities for the young and strangle the hopes for better futures for the majority while generating vast profits for a very few."

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Robert Ward, dean of the new law school at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, announced Thursday that he is resigning to deal with health issues, but his decision comes amid the news that he made personal charges on a university credit card, The Boston Globe reported. Ward said that he reimbursed the university for the credit card charges, and that the accounting issue had nothing to do with his decision to resign.

 

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 4:30am

Richard Rubasmen will quit as president of Sierra Nevada College to help the college save money, The North Tahoe Bonanza reported. Non-faculty employees are having their salaries cut 5-10 percent as well, and the provost will assume the president's job. "I was tasked by the board with planning for financial sustainability in order to (ensure) the long term health of the college," Rubsamen said in a statement. "It was clear to me where reductions had to occur. While the idea of leaving the college is very difficult, it is the right thing to do. I need to lead by example and practice what we teach."

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The swelling discontent over college sports -- with scrutiny for issues ranging from improper benefits to scholarship gaps and athletic eligibility -- may soon be examined in the halls of Congress, as well. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the panel's Republican chairman asking that the committee hold hearings focusing not just on the aforementioned hot topics, but other “antitrust and due process issues.” Among them: conference realignment, limitations on scholarship durations (see related essay elsewhere on this site), National Collegiate Athletic Association bylaws regarding due process of athletes, institutional liability in the event of athletes getting injured, and the NCAA's control of athletes’ “likeness” – which critics say has allowed the association to profit unfairly from using students’ names or images in things like video games and promotions. “It has become increasingly clear to me that the combination of issues and challenges facing intercollegiate sports have reached a tipping point calling for Congressional attention,” Conyers wrote.

In the letter, Conyers acknowledged that his colleagues might hesitate to spend time on issues regarding college athletics, but argued that the “massive business” has widespread economic impact on athletes, broadcasters, fans and colleges nationwide. He also noted that to do so would not be unprecedented – the committee has previously conducted hearings on piracy of sports broadcasting rights and Bowl Championship Series antitrust issues. (Conyers invoked the latter in his appeal to examine the continuing shake-up among conferences. “The impact of major conference realignment on lower-profile sports teams, parents, and smaller and independent universities -- notably Historically Black Colleges and Universities -- are of particular concern,” he wrote. “HBCUs and other universities appear to have been relegated to difficult bargaining postures due to the recent realignments.”)

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 4:40am

The American Bar Association is pledging that it will force law schools to release more information about how their graduates fare at finding jobs. The pledge comes amid criticism from recent law graduates (some of whom are suing law schools) and some members of Congress that law schools deceive prospective students by counting as "employed" those who are working part-time or in temporary jobs or in jobs paid for by the law school. The ABA said that it will now require law schools to report information directly to the association, and that it will require detailed reports, including for each graduate: employment status, employment type, employment location, salary, whether a position is short-term or long-term, and whether a position is funded by the law school. The ABA also plans -- once it completes work on various definitions -- to require reporting on whether jobs in which graduates are employed are positions for which a law degree or bar passage is required. This reflects criticism that, if prospective students knew how many law graduates ended up in jobs for which a law degree was not necessary, some might not enroll (and take out considerable loans to do so).

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, York University's Aaron Dhir discusses the regulatory techniques used to encourage multinational corporations to respect human rights around the world. Dhir is an associate professor at York's Osgoode Hall Law School, in Toronto. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 4:50am

New York University is dropping out of the National Merit Scholarship Program, becoming the latest institution to say that it is wrong to award scholarships in which a standardized test score (in this case the PSAT) is the sole criterion for becoming a semifinalist, Bloomberg reported. Shawn Abbott, assistant vice president of admissions at NYU, said, “We simply do not feel that enrolling a larger number of National Merit finalists is a necessary way for us to attract the most academically qualified freshman class." The College Board, the sponsor of the PSAT, has always said that its tests should not be used in isolation for high-stakes decisions, and critics have for years said that using the PSAT alone violates much expert advice about how tests should be used, but the National Merit Scholarship Program has declined to change. The University of Texas at Austin dropped out of the program in 2009.

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 3:00am

More than 2 million American taxpayers received as much as $3.2 billion in education tax credits to which they were not entitled, the U.S. Treasury's inspector general for tax administration said in a report Wednesday. The refundable tax credits were expanded as part of the federal economic stimulus legislation in 2009, and the report said an inquiry had found that 1.7 million taxpayers received $2.6 billion even though the Internal Revenue Service could not document that they had attended an accredited college or university. Another half million or so taxpayers got tax breaks even though they did not attend college for long enough, did not have a valid Social Security number, or were claimed as dependents on another taxpayer's return. “Based on the results of our review, the IRS does not have effective processes to identify taxpayers who claim erroneous education credits,” J. Russell George, the inspector general, said in a news release.

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Officials of the Peralta Community College District have promised to promote transparency, but they redacted large portions of thousands of pages of trustee e-mails that had been requested by journalists, The Contra Costa Times reported. California law generally requires the release of such e-mails, and experts questioned the legality of the district's redactions, the newspaper reported. District officials are now promising to review their policies on such information requests.

 

Friday, October 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors, which thought it was on the verge of lifting the censure of the Savannah College of Art and Design, now seems likely to keep the institution on its censure list. A report released by the AAUP Thursday details a tentative agreement by SCAD to change its policies and to make cash payments to faculty members who the AAUP found were dismissed unfairly in the 1990s. But the report notes that a final step in the removal process -- a campus visit -- led discussions with SCAD to fall apart. The college wanted assurances of the lifting of censure, and control over the visit, the AAUP says. And these actions demonstrate serious academic freedom problems, the AAUP found. The college told the AAUP that "fundamental issues" separate SCAD and the AAUP. Further, SCAD asserted that these disagreements "have nothing to do with the high quality education that our faculty provides or with student achievement."

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