Higher Education Quick Takes
Jon Huntsman has tried to stand out in the Republican presidential field by, among other things, arguing that scientists should be trusted on issues such as evolution and climate change. Huntsman also has yet to experience a surge in his standing in the race. The Washington Post and others speculate that the latter fact may explain an evolution of Huntsman's position on climate change. After earlier saying that Republicans cannot be seen as the "anti-science party," he is now questioning whether researchers have demonstrated the validity of climate change. "There are questions about the validity of the science — evidence by one university over in Scotland recently,” he said Tuesday, referring to the leaked e-mail messages that were dubbed a scandal but that several scientific inquiries have said don't change the consensus that climate change is real. Huntsman denied he was changing his position about trusting scientists, but said that “I think the onus is on the scientific community to provide more in the way of information, to help clarify the situation. That’s all."
Under pressure from state lawmakers, the central administration of the State University of New York system backed off a plan to have one president oversee two campuses, though system administrators stressed that the decision would not keep the campuses from putting cost-saving administrative structures in place. The system announced in August that three pairs of campuses would share presidencies, part of a larger initiative designed to stimulate regional cost-saving initiatives. The announcement spurred particular backlash at one pair of institutions -- SUNY-Potsdam and SUNY-Canton -- and drove one state representative, whose district includes the campuses, to introduce a bill that would guarantee each campus had its own president.
The other two pairs will move ahead with unified presidencies. According to a resolution passed in November, the campuses, including Potsdam and Canton, have until July 15, 2012, to produce a report about how they will meet certain cost-savings goals. "Chancellor Zimpher and the SUNY Board of Trustees decided this was more important than allowing one hurdle to distract from our efforts to channel more funding to our academic courses, which has always been our goal, and remains our goal," said a spokesman for the chancellor's office. "There will still be a consolidation of the administrative structure at Canton and Potsdam."
The University of California at San Diego has agreed to expand library hours -- including 24/7 hours in the main library during finals week -- following student protests that involved taking over a closed library, NBC San Diego reported. University administrators responded to the building take-over in part by removing police officers from the scene, hoping to avoid confrontations that have been so controversial at the University of California's Berkeley and Davis campuses, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Students, while they were arguably occupying a space, tried to differentiate themselves from the Occupy movement. The students said they were focused on their need for room to study, and they said that they were "reclaiming," not "occupying" the library.
Faculty members at Ocean County College are protesting a tenure denial they say was based on the professor involved living in another county, The Asbury Park Press reported. Maria Flynn, who was denied tenure despite outstanding reviews, said that she was told by President Jon H. Larson that he rejected her tenure bid because she lives elsewhere. Faculty leaders said that such a policy would violate college rules, and was inappropriate. Larson did not comment on whether he is considering residency in making tenure decisions.
President Obama has signed an executive order calling on federal agencies to work to support tribal colleges and universities. The executive order notes gaps in educational attainment between Native American and other students, and the role of tribal colleges in closing those gaps.
Educators in China are debating whether the value of majors can be determined by their graduates' employment, Xinhua reported. Officials are planning to phase out majors that have less than 60 percent job placement rates two years in a row. While some praise the plan as focusing resources on programs that will prepare students for jobs, others are not so sure. Some educators are questioning whether this narrows the focus on higher education, while others note that many graduates find employment in careers not directly linked to their majors.
Academics worried about the various reform ideas being proposed in Florida (such as ending anthropology programs) may not like the latest proposal to come up. Mike Haridopolos, who is finishing a term as Senate president, told The Orlando Sentinel that higher education needs more cuts, and that public campuses can consolidate based on the ideas behind trading baseball cards. "I would prefer that the college presidents sit around a table and literally start trading like baseball cards some of these majors,” said Haridopolos. "If they have a program that is kind of underserved, why don’t they just talk to other universities and see if they have the same kind of program?... Why not consolidate them on one campus, and then say ‘I’ll take your British history program, and you’ll take our medieval studies program.'... I just think that’s a common-sense way of doing things."
Cardiff University, in Wales, is running a "free tuition for life" contest being compared to the "golden tickets" offered by the fictional Willy Wonka or the competitions of allegedly real "reality" television shows. The university will be unveiling a series of challenges that need to be completed, leading to a live challenge at the university. The winner will not be charged tuition for any program for the rest of his or her life -- and can enroll in an unlimited number of undergraduate and multiple graduate degree programs. Applicants must be from Britain or other European Union countries.
Fans of the University of Connecticut and others are debating a new practice there of asking those attending home football and basketball games to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag before the traditional playing of the national anthem, The New York Times reported. While some see the pledge as a welcome sign of patriotism and unity, others question a public university asking people to say anything with the words "under God" and note concerns for international athletes.