Higher Education Quick Takes
Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, received a highly publicized call from President Obama after the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" (among other things) for backing the president's health-care proposal that would require employers to cover contraception. She also received a strong statement of support on Friday -- for her right to speak out without being slurred -- from the president of Georgetown.
The statement from John J. DeGioia, Georgetown's president, didn't endorse Fluke's point of view on the health law. DeGioia noted that many -- including, significantly for a Roman Catholic university like Georgetown, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- have offered differing perspectives. But he said that what deserved attention was the way Fluke spoke out, and the way others attacked her.
"She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction. She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression," the Georgetown president wrote. "And yet, some of those who disagreed with her position – including Rush Limbaugh and commentators throughout the blogosphere and in various other media channels -- responded with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student."
DeGioia quoted Saint Augustine, who said: "Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed." Added DeGioia: "If we, instead, allow coarseness, anger – even hatred – to stand for civil discourse in America, we violate the sacred trust that has been handed down through the generations beginning with our Founders. The values that hold us together as a people require nothing less than eternal vigilance. This is our moment to stand for the values of civility in our engagement with one another."
Limbaugh apologized for his statement on Saturday.
A former student has sued Stonehill College, charging that it drove her into suicidal depression by failing to deal with a roommate who had sex in the room while the plaintiff was present, MSNBC reported. According to the suit, the college didn't respond to complaints or requests for a private room. A college spokeswoman said that Stonehill responded "swiftly and professionally" to complaints about the roommate in question, but was never informed that the "concerns involved her roommate's sexual activity."
The editor in chief of The Kansas State Collegian has apologized for the paper running an op-ed questioning the presence of international students on the campus. "[E]ditors should have raised concerns about the content and style of the column," wrote Caroline Sweeney, the editor in chief. The original column said that Kansas and federal funds were being used to educate foreign students, many of them from countries that don't always agree with the United States. "I have nothing against citizens from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq or Turkey. I just truly believe that nearly $7 million of taxpayer money should not be spent to educate students who could, in the near future, become the enemy," wrote the student author of the piece, Sean Frye. The column outraged many international students and others at the university. The online version now features an apology from Frye, on top of the essay, in which he notes errors in his column. Among them, he didn't note that the university benefits financially from the international students, who pay much higher tuition rates than Kansans do. He also praised his resident adviser from last year, a Chinese student.
Lander College for Men, a college in Touro University that educates Orthodox Jews, is a place where students spend long days and nights studying Jewish texts. There is minimal time for television, and no viewing on Saturdays -- making Lander an unlikely place to produce football fans. But as Yahoo!Sports reported, Lander has adopted the University of Oregon Ducks as its football team. Herb Ratner, an assistant dean, went to graduate school at Oregon and has introduced his favorite team to Lander. Periodically there is a night game that students can watch, but primarily students learn of the outcome after Saturday game days, when Ratner posts the news, either as a win or "NW" for non-win (he doesn't like to refer to losses). "Guys will come up to me and say, 'Hey dean, how are the Ducks doing?' Guys who had never followed college football, let alone the Ducks, suddenly take a passing interest and we talk about the Ducks. So it's become a thing at the school."
The American Council on Education and other higher education groups on Friday wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services to urge the agency to move ahead with final rules on student health insurance coverage. The letter noted that it has been more than a year since the proposed rules were first issued. Friday's letter does not focus on the substance of the proposed rules, but on the impact of the delay in the final rules. "Many colleges and universities currently are negotiating contracts with insurers for their student health insurance coverage in the coming academic year," says the letter. "The final ... regulations will affect the terms and cost of such coverage. In some instances it appears insurers are using the uncertainty about the final contours of those regulations to their benefit, proposing increased premiums beyond what may be warranted under the final rules. In the absence of final regulations, it is difficult for schools to complete negotiations with their issuers." Further, the letter says that colleges are trying to determine financial aid packages for students for 2012-13 and changes in health insurance rules could affect various awards.
The National University of Singapore says it is willing to talk about human rights issues with Yale University, officials told Bloomberg after faculty members at Yale expressed concern about a collaboration between the two institutions. A new liberal arts college in Singapore, created with Yale, has prompted much discussion about how academic freedom can be assured in countries that do not have full freedoms as enjoyed in the United States. Last week at Yale, faculty members proposed a resolution calling for additional discussions on how the new campus will "respect, protect and further the ideals of civil liberties." A vote is expected next month. “It is understandable that for a pioneering initiative like the Yale-NUS College, there may be a diversity of views on different issues,” Lily Kong, vice president of university and global relations at the National University of Singapore, said in a statement. "We believe that this discussion should lead to an even higher level of mutual understanding and respect, ultimately making the college even more robust.”
Oregon's State Board of Higher Education voted Friday to ban guns from classrooms, buildings, dormitories and sporting and entertainment events, The Oregonian reported. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled last year that the board could not by administrative decree ban guns from the state system's campuses, but the ruling said that the board had authority to set rules for facilities and events. So the board acted within that power. The new rules do not apply to someone with a concealed weapon permit carrying a gun on a campus walkway, but would apply if that person entered a facility.
Barnard College announced Saturday that its commencement speaker this spring will be President Obama. Barnard had previously announced that Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, would speak, but the college said that, after the Obama possibility materialized, Abramson said that she would be happy to speak another time. Historically, presidents of the United States speak at commencements at three colleges -- one private college, one public college and one U.S. service academy.
Is Harvard University less expensive than public universities in California? A Bay Area News Group article explores the question, using a hypothetical family of four with $130,000 in family income. With Harvard's generous financial aid for middle class families, such a family would pay only $17,000 for a student to spend a year at Harvard. At Cal State, with much lower tuition rates, but much less aid, an in-state resident would pay about $24,000. Many students say these figures illustrate the flaws of California's policy of increasing tuition rates without sufficient financial aid.