Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, April 29, 2011 - 3:00am

Fontbonne University announced Thursday that it has rescinded an invitation to Greg Mortenson, the author and philanthropist, to be the 2011 commencement speaker and to receive an honorary degree. A segment on "60 Minutes" this month detailed accusations about inaccurate portions of the Mortenson book Three Cups of Tea and about the management of his foundation. A statement from the university said that it acted after a faculty vote to take back the invitation, and that the student government also backed the move. The statement noted that the university had been unable to discuss the matter with Mortenson. “The purpose of our commencement is to honor Fontbonne graduates,” said Dennis Golden, Fontbonne's president. "We want to focus on their achievements and accomplishments."

Friday, April 29, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Quinnipiac University's Paul Janensch discusses the radio roots of a rapidly disappearing entertainment genre, the soap opera. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the University of Notre Dame's Corey Angst explores attitudes about the digitization of medical records. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Raymund Paredes, higher education commissioner in Texas, said Wednesday that Governor Rick Perry's idea of college degrees that would cost only $10,000 (for four years of study, books included) was "entirely feasible," The Texas Tribune reported. Paredes stressed that the idea was not to apply the idea to every academic program, or to replace existing programs with the new inexpensive model. Many experts have been dubious of the possibility of creating quality programs at the price that the governor has set as a target.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Virginia's attorney general's office announced Wednesday that the state would appeal a $55,000 fine the U.S. Education Department levied against Virginia Tech last month for what the government found to be the university's inadequate response to the mass shooting of students and staff on the campus in April 2007. In a strongly worded statement announcing the appeal, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli called the department's behavior "appalling" and accused federal officials of treating the university unfairly. "Their investigation -- if you can call it that -- appears deeply flawed, and their indifference to the facts on the ground is shocking," Cuccinelli said.

An Education Department spokesman, in response, said: "Our findings say Virginia Tech should have done more to respond. They have the right to appeal our fine action, and we will work through that process. In the end, this is about keeping students safe and learning, which is a goal we all share.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The Louisiana Board of Regents voted Wednesday to eliminate more than 100 degree programs statewide, and to consolidate many others, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. Southern University, a historically black institution, lost 13 degree programs, more than any other institution. Spanish and French were among the programs eliminated at Southern, leaving the state's public black colleges without any undergraduate degrees in foreign languages.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 3:00am

St. Francis Xavier University, a Roman Catholic university in Nova Scotia, is reviewing the automatic designation of the area's bishop as chancellor of the university, The Chronicle Herald reported. The chancellor's position includes both ceremonial duties and membership on the governing board. Such arrangements are common at many Catholic institutions, but students have been calling for an end to the tradition, noting that it excludes women and non-Catholics from consideration for the position of chancellor.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, has started a review of the funding that Syrian authorities provided for a Syrian studies center at the university, The Guardian reported. The ties have attracted attention amid the crackdown by Syria's government on pro-democracy protests in the country. The Guardian noted that the advisory board for the St. Andrews center includes people associated with Syria's government.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Leaders of the University of Kentucky faculty are calling on the university to reject a request from its athletic association for a $3.1 million loan to pay for new scoreboards for the football stadium, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Athletics officials say that they need the new video scoreboards, and can find private sources for about half of the $6.25 million cost. Faculty leaders, however, have noted that the university has been making major budget cuts, raising questions about why scoreboards should get limited available funds.

Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 3:00am

Unlike just about every other media organization, Inside Higher Ed has no live coverage planned for tomorrow's wedding of two loyal alumni of the University of St. Andrews. (Our invitations and press credentials appear to have been lost in the mail.) For those wanting an academic angle to the festivities, a few tidbits:

  • The journal Cell has published an article on "cell culture" that explores "the more biological aspects of this historic union, including the neurocircuits that strengthen a marriage, the epigenetic changes that transform a 'commoner' into a queen, and the search process for finding a high-affinity partner in a sea of weak interactions."
  • Williams College is gathering scholars tomorrow for a symposium to consider such questions as how the wedding menu "reflects changing notions of food and identity," how the British royal family is viewed in former colonies, and a comparative analysis of last summer's Swedish royal wedding with Britain's big event.
  • The anthropology blog Savage Minds has urged readers to enjoy the opportunity to view the event through the discipline. The blog set off discussion (and some disagreement) among social scientists with this statement: "How can anthropologists not be interested in the upcoming royal wedding? Centuries of globalization has wiped elaborate large-scale ritual off the face of the planet everywhere except the toffee-nosed bits of the UK. In my opinion, any one who loves a good public orchestration of symbols ought to be interested in this one."

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