Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

Peter F. Burnham, former president of Brookdale Community College, in New Jersey, was sentenced Friday to five years in jail for using college funds to pay for $44,000 in personal expenses, and for accepting $20,000 in tuition reimbursement for his son to attend Monmouth University when his son's tuition was already covered by financial aid, The Daily Record reported. The prosecutor, Christopher Gramiccioni, said that Burnham was arrogant in thinking he could do whatever he wanted with college funds. "He was the king, and everyone else were his subjects,” he said. Burnham won one concession in sentencing: He will be allowed to have $36,000 that the college owes him for unused vacation days applied to the restitution of $44,497 that he was ordered to pay.

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The French higher education minister has replaced the interim director of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, an elite institute of political science commonly known as Sciences Po, The New York Times reported

The school’s longtime director, Richard Descoings, died in April. He is credited with increasing the institution’s international profile, to the degree that 40 percent of students come from outside France. However, the national audit office recently completed an investigation of the school's finances from 2005-10, raising questions about Descoings’ compensation – about $700,000 per year – “weak internal and external controls,” abuse of credit cards by staff, “toxic loans” for faculty housing, and the practice of paying some professors more than others, despite the fact that they taught fewer hours.

The Times notes that the controversy seems to stem in part from Descoings’ attempts to recruit top talent. As the newspaper explains, “French professors are civil servants, whose salaries and working hours are strictly controlled. It was difficult for Mr. Descoings to recruit the faculty he wanted without offering the kind of arrangements, on pay and teaching load, that were criticized by the auditors.”

Hervé Crès, a deputy to Descoings and the faculty pick for Science Po’s directorship, has been replaced by Jean Gaeremynck, the head of the finance section for the Council of State.

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

Chris Krumm, the son of a faculty member at Casper College, shot and killed his father with a bow and arrow on Friday while his father was teaching at the Wyoming institution, The Casper Star-Tribune. While the father -- Jim Krumm -- died from the wounds from that single shot, he struggled with his son, allowing students to escape the room. Just before coming to the classroom, Chris Krumm had gone to his father's home and killed Heidi Arnold, an instructor at Casper who lived with Jim Krumm. Chris Krumm killed himself after killing his father. Casper College has created a memorial page with information about the career of Jim Krumm, who taught computer science, and Arnold, who taught mathematics.

 

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin reveals how the Mayans would have viewed the end of the year 2012. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

Hofstra University athletic officials -- responding to the arrests of four basketball players last week -- say that they carefully check the backgrounds of athletic recruits, The New York Times reported. The athletes were arrested after an investigation into a series of thefts from campus dormitories. Among the items stolen: a Sony laptop, headphones, three MacBooks, two iPads, an iPod and cash.

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

With the 2012 presidential campaign complete, the campaign for the Obama presidential library (and to raise money for it) has started, Politico reported. The University of Chicago -- where Obama taught and where Michelle Obama worked -- is considered the favorite. But Politico noted that the University of Hawaii is also making a strong push. Obama was born in Hawaii, his parents met at the university and his sister teaches there.a Jennifer Epstein article... -sj

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

University of Central Arkansas officials are pledging to stop a practice -- recently revealed -- of using funds from the tutoring center and admissions office budgets to subsidize the salaries of coaches, the Associated Press reported. In recent years, about $89,000 of the tutoring center's $217,000 budget has gone to coaches' salaries.

 

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 245-139 on Friday in favor of the STEM Jobs Act, a Republican-backed measure that would make 55,000 visas available for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The bill is unlikely to progress in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Although there is bipartisan support for visas for STEM graduates, many Democrats oppose a provision of the bill that would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which allocates visas for  those coming from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The White House opposes the STEM Jobs Act, as does NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, which said, in a statement, “In the acrimonious political debate about immigration reform, we lose our way by embracing a mistaken, zero-sum approach to permanent immigration.”

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Federation of Teachers is proposing today a new national exam that all new teachers -- whether prepared by teacher education or other programs -- would have to take to be certified. "Just as in professions widely recognized for having a set of rigorous professional standards, such as law or medicine, teaching must raise standards for entry into the profession through a process similar to the bar process in law or the board process in medicine," says an AFT report, "Raising the Bar." "There has been significant debate about the quality of teacher preparation programs — both traditional and alternative. By requiring all teacher candidates to pass a universal assessment, we ensure all teachers who enter the classroom, whether trained in a traditional program or alternatively certified, meet the same standards of competence."

The report also calls for tougher standards for teacher education programs. "Completion of a set of program requirements including a minimum G.P.A., documentation and demonstration (through midpoint and exit examinations) of an understanding of fundamental or 'high-leverage' practices needed to be an effective beginning teacher, and at least a full year of successful clinical experience" are needed, the report says. It also says that new teacher education graduates should be able to demonstrate "mastery of subject-matter knowledge and competence in content-specific pedagogical approaches, as demonstrated by passage of a rigorous written exam."

Sharon P. Robinson, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, offered this reaction via e-mail, to the AFT report: "AACTE is encouraged by the vision expressed by the American Federation of Teachers. A national 'bar' for teachers, including a teacher performance assessment, would represent the consensus of the broader professional community concerning novice teacher capabilities. The community of teacher educators, working with accomplished teachers across the country, has been working to create such an examination. edTPA has just been field tested by 7000 candidates from more than 160 institutions from 22 states. As we go forward, we look forward to working with the AFT and the full range of stakeholders in the education community to make the vision of a performance-based profession a reality."

 

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

Dixie State College, in Utah, is considering changing its name to reflect its status as a university and is also considering an end to the "Dixie" part of its name at the same time, the Associated Press reported. The name reflects the identity of a group of 19th-century Mormon settlers from the South who wanted to turn Utah into a cotton-growing region. Advocates of a name change say that Dixie has associations with the slave-owning or segregated South, while defenders of the name say that it reflects Utah history and doesn't prevent the college from promoting equity and diversity.

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