Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

The Daily Lobo, the student newspaper at the University of New Mexico, has apologized for a cartoon of President Obama. The cartoon, based on a scene from The Lion King, shows the president holding the head of Osama bin Laden, and the image was viewed as racist by many black students.

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

Gaither Loewenstein quit as president of Modesto Junior College after song lyrics he wrote, featuring off-color humor he used in a singing career, became public, The Modesto Bee reported. Loewenstein had been in office less than a year when his music website (under his stage name) became known. "When somebody takes the job as the president of a college, they are no longer responsible for just themselves. They're responsible for the students, the faculty, the staff, the board of trustees, the chancellor and the district," Loewenstein told the Bee. "In taking on that responsibility it was incumbent on me to take down that web site, and I did not do that. That responsibility lies with myself."

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

Indian students for years have considered the United States, Britain and Australia as the top study abroad destinations. But The Economic Times reported that the "red hot locations" today are new: Continental Europe, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and China.

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

A deaf football fan is suing the University of Kentucky in hopes of forcing it to caption all game-related announcements on scoreboards at Commonwealth Stadium. The complaint, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Lexington, cites the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and argues that Charles Mitchell, a Kentucky football season ticket holder, "does not have equal opportunity to enjoy, benefit from, or participate in home games or athletic events, equal to that of individuals without disabilities." Among other actions demanded, the complaint argues that the university should provide captioning on "Jumbotrons and video monitors" at its football stadium for "all of the plays that just occurred, all of the penalties called, safety and emergency information, and any other announcements made over the public address system." Kentucky officials declined to comment on the suit to the Associated Press Thursday. The AP also reported that the suit against Kentucky resembles suits recently brought against Ohio State University and the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Ohio State settled the matter out of court last year and has agreed to provide captioning; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a decision in March requiring that the Redskins provide captioning.

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court's ruling dismissing a whistleblower's lawsuit alleging that three private student loan providers violated the False Claims Act by defrauding the government. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit came in a suit brought by a former loan adviser at Nelnet, who sought to hold the lender liable under the False Claims Act for regulatory violations that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in federal overpayments to the Nebraska lender. But the appeals panel agreed with the lower court that the former employee had failed to show that Nelnet and two other lenders, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, had made false claims to the government, as the law requires.

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Texas System released data Thursday designed to help the system's regents gauge the productivity of faculty members, The Texas Tribune reported -- one part of an accountability push that has concerned many professors and troubled some lawmakers. The massive spreadsheet -- which system officials insisted was raw and unverified, and should be treated as a draft -- contained numerous data points about all individual professors, including their total compensation, tenure status, total course enrollments, and information about research awards. A similar effort this spring at Texas A&M University -- also undertaken in response to pressure from Gov. Rick Perry -- created a stir there.

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Rev. James Maher of St. John’s University examines organized labor’s progress in the wake of the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

Faculty members and many others are criticizing the board of the City University of New York for blocking a proposal by John Jay College of Criminal Justice to award an honorary degree to Tony Kushner, the playwright best known for Angels in America. The CUNY board refused to approve the degree after one trustee accused Kushner of being anti-Israel based on statements that Kushner and others say are distorted. At least two other colleges do plan to honor Kushner this commencement season -- and so far these events are free of controversy.

Kushner will receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address at Muhlenberg College. And the New School will award Kushner an honorary degree. David Van Zandt, the New School's president, issued this statement: "Discussion and dissent are fundamental strands of New School DNA. Tony Kushner is one of our nation's foremost public intellectuals; his presence at our commencement ceremony reflects the shared values of our university and of this graduating class.”

Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, the CUNY trustee who led the opposition to the degree for Kushner, published a piece Thursday defending himself and calling Kushner an "extremist." Wrote Wiesenfeld: "We can all express dissent where we warrant it – it is our right. However, every nominee that has been brought before the board, during my 12 years at least, has been approved by the full board. Mr. Kushner, however, was opposed because he is an extremist. No extremist from any quarter is a good face for any university – from far left or far right. Honorary degrees are public declarations of esteem by the university community conveyed to the honoree; for the university, they are image-building, advertising and publicity as well."

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

The Department of Veterans Affairs faced significant problems in carrying out the Post-9/11 GI Bill, resulting in significant delays in processing education benefits for veterans and major headaches for college officials, the Government Accountability Office said in a report Thursday. Congress's investigative arm found that the veterans' agency could have improved its performance in implementing the dramatically expanded new program if it had worked more closely with the Education Department and others, and urged it to do so in the future. The publication of the GAO report echoed many concerns that college officials expressed throughout the process, prompting one campus official, on a listserv on veterans' issues, to write: "Duh."

Friday, May 6, 2011 - 3:00am

About 25 adjunct faculty members at Ferris State University in Michigan held a sit-in in the university president's office for about two and a half hours Thursday afternoon before being asked to leave by police. The faculty members, part of the school's newly formed adjunct union, have argued that administrators have been intractable in negotiations and have been unwilling to address issues such as job security and benefits. The university's administration claims that the union is being unrealistic by using the adjunct union's contract at the University of Michigan as their model. At the time of the sit-in, the university's president was not on campus.

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