California Governor Jerry Brown last week proposed -- as part of a new round of state budget cuts -- that the California Postsecondary Education Commission be eliminated. The governor's budget proposal states that the elimination "would have little programmatic impact as the functions it performs are either advisory in nature or can be performed by other agencies." California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, noted concerns by some analysts that California's three massive higher education systems can't be expected to coordinate among themselves without some additional body charged with reviewing new campuses or major programs, and analyzing statewide trends.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. State Department announced Friday that it was changing the visa rules for Iranian students that have limited them to "single entry" visas, which have forced any Iranian student who travels outside the United States to reapply for a new visa. The multiple-entry visas for which Iranian students can now apply will allow them to travel abroad and return to their studies in the United States. "This change will allow Iranian students and exchange visitors to travel more easily, furthering our goal of promoting the free flow of information and ideas. This important decision is being taken as the global community witnesses the Iranian government’s increasing censorship and isolation of its own people," said a statement from the State Department.
A move to get DePaul University students to call for the institution to stop selling the Sabra brand of hummus, which is owned in part by an Israeli company, failed to get enough votes. A large majority of students who voted in the referendum backed the idea of kicking Sabra off campus, but DePaul requires referendums to have 1,500 voters to be considered valid, and not enough students voted to reach that threshold. DePaul's administration never said that the results of the vote would be followed, even if 1,500 students voted. Students for Justice in Palestine, which pushed for the vote, issued an open letter arguing that it had won a "landslide victory" -- even if the election lacked enough voters to count. The Chicago office of the American Jewish Committee issued a statement noting that "too few of DePaul’s 25,000 students cared enough even to vote."
The Syrian Studies Association last week issued a statement noting that its members are "deeply saddened by the violence that is occurring throughout the country" and "are particularly distressed by reports of deliberate shootings and mass arrests." The statement also noted the "disappointment of the many researchers who are unable to conduct their work under existing circumstances." The association is recommending that scholars who were planning fieldwork in Syria this summer "cautiously evaluate developments inside Syria before traveling." Members of the association are also being urged to "do everything they can to provide informed and accurate background and commentary regarding events in Syria, so that policy-makers and the general public alike benefit from the insights of scholars who have devoted time and energy to understanding the subtleties of Syria's internal and regional affairs."
Finally the association appeals to any members with connections to Syrian authorities to "impress upon them the importance of unrestricted channels of news and information, which offer the only viable foundation for an appreciation of the objectives and motivations of all sides in any dispute."
Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who has become a leading critic of for-profit higher education, took to the Senate floor Thursday night to criticize ads that he said were encouraging students to enroll at such institutions, The Hill reported. "The ad that just really troubles me shows a lovely young woman who says you can go to college in your pajamas.... You don't even have to get out of bed to go to college, and she's got a computer on her bed there." He added that "I don't believe anybody should fall for that, but some must, and they end up signing up for these for-profit schools, getting deep in debt with a worthless diploma when it's all over."
The Hill identified this ad -- in which the actress playing a student starts by saying "I love learning new things in my pajamas" -- as the one that concerned Durbin:
The ad is for EducationConnection.com, which promotes online higher education. While many of the colleges it promotes are for-profit, others are not.
Georgetown University's commencement ceremonies were smooth except for one problem -- a typo on the program cover -- The Washington Post reported. Georgetown University appeared as Georgetown Univeristy. Georgetown plans to make corrected programs available.
A review committee has recommended that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst not renew the contract of Chancellor Robert Holub, setting the stage for the flagship to have had four chancellors in a decade, The Boston Globe reported. Holub declined to comment on his job status, but defended his record to the Globe, saying that various academic indicators were all headed in the right direction. But people familiar with the deliberations about Holub's future said that he was faulted for, among other things, poor political instincts and insufficient concern over declines in black enrollment.
A Bloomberg article explores the way some agents in China may be exploiting students who are trying to enroll at colleges in the United States. The main example in the article is a student who was encouraged by an agent (paid $5,000) to enroll at the University of Connecticut, based on a description of the main UConn campus. The student didn't realize that he was actually enrolling at a small branch campus. The article also noted links between some agents and real estate developers who want to get foreign students to live in their apartments.
A judge on Thursday ordered a Virginia Beach businessman held without bond while a grand jury considers a range of charges against him for providing women with college "scholarships" in return for, among other things, being spanked by him, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The women described being forced to submit, and other unusual provisions of the awards, including exercise and diet requirements. A lawyer for Henry Allen Fitzsimmons, who is facing the charges, told the judge: "He's providing money to these so-called victims. Who's the victim here?"