Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 22, 2011 - 3:00am

Governor Rick Perry, the Texan whose entry has shaken up the race for the Republican presidential nomination, is continuing to question evolution. The Huffington Post has published videos of him in New Hampshire calling evolution "a theory that's out there," and a theory with "some gaps in it." Then on Thursday, after a supporter in South Carolina praised his remarks, he said, “Well, God is how we got here. God may have done it in the blink of the eye or he may have done it over this long period of time, I don't know. But I know how it got started."

Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who is one of Perry's rivals for the nomination, then spoke out in defense of evolution, criticizing Perry's statements both on origins and on climate change (Perry doubts the science). On Twitter, Huntsman wrote: "To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." And he told ABC that "When we take a position that isn't willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science has said about what is causing climate change and man's contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position."

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 3:00am

Central Michigan University administrators said late Sunday that the university would hold classes this morning despite the vote by its faculty union earlier in the day to strike. Leaders of Central Michigan's Faculty Association said university administrators had adopted a "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude in negotiations over renewing the contract for its 600-plus members, prompting them to file unfair labor practice charges. Campus officials said that they would seek a court's injunction this morning to bar what they called an "illegal work stoppage," and that students should report because fixed-term faculty members and graduate teaching assistants would "still hold classes as scheduled."

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 3:00am

The United States Department of Education has fined Washington State University $82,500 for improperly reporting two reported sex assaults, the Associated Press reported. The university is appealing the fine -- the result of an audit of crime reporting procedures -- but also says that it has improved its system since the inquiry. In one incident, a reported assault was recorded as a "domestic dispute" when it may have involved a rape. In the other, the university's police report of an alleged assault listed it as "unfounded" after the victim decided not to provide details, but the person who made that determination did not have the authority to do so.

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 3:00am

For the first time, students will pay more in total to attend the University of California in 2011-12 than the 10-campus system will receive in state funding, the Los Angeles Times reported. While this has been true for other public colleges and universities for some time, UC's historically low tuition and California's historically strong support for public higher education have kept these lines from crossing only now. But with California's budget in tatters, UC, like many public institutions, has raised tuitions to make up for the lost state funds. "When these things happen, how often do they reverse themselves?" the Times quoted Patrick Lenz, the university's vice president of budget and capital resources, as saying. "Never."

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 3:00am

The Faculty Senate of Southern University at Baton Rouge has rejected a request to approve furloughs for professors, and to shorten the time required before jobs may be eliminated, The Advocate reported. The vote followed statements from President James Llorens that he is likely to ask the Southern board to declare financial exigency in the next week, unless he could get furloughs accepted. That would allow the university, among other things, to dismiss tenured professors. Faculty leaders said that more money could be saved with administrative cuts before furloughs would be needed or declaring financial exigency would be appropriate.

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 3:00am

James Perry retired as dean and chief executive officer of the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley campus this year. Gannett Wisconsin Media reported that the retirement was under strong pressure, following alleged inappropriate conduct while accompanying those on a three-week study abroad trip in Namibia. According to documents obtained by the news service, Perry "drank, swore, made crude remarks to women on the trip, overstepped his authority and got into a physical altercation with an assistant professor and a student." He was then given the choice of retirement or return to the faculty. Perry said that the incidents in Namibia were not as bad as the report made them sound, and he characterized them as nothing more than "a shouting match." But he added that he realized retirement was a good option. "I just know how things go," he said. "Once something gets messed up, it's hard to kind of back out and rethink things. It's just better if everybody says, 'OK, that's enough. Let's just call it a good career.' "

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 3:00am

Drexel University has called off plans to build an undergraduate campus in California, far from the institution's Philadelphia home, The Sacramento Bee reported. Drexel has started (and plans to continue) graduate programs in Sacramento. The undergraduate campus was to have been financed by a donation of land that would have been developed. But real estate values have fallen sharply, making the plan's underlying assumptions no longer valid, officials said.

Monday, August 22, 2011 - 3:00am

Pope Benedict XVI used a speech to university professors in Madrid on Friday to denounce the pressures on higher education to focus on job skills as opposed to a broader education. "At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability," he said. "This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the university. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the university, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the university, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity."

The full text of the address is available from Vatican Radio.

Friday, August 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Utah has fired a political science professor after concluding that he engaged in a "pattern of plagiarism," the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The newspaper said that a faculty panel determined that Bahman Bakhtiari, former head of the university's Middle East Center, had committed plagiarism, but that the panel recommended against dismissing him. But according to documents provided to the Tribune, it said, Utah's interim president overruled the faculty body. "Plagiarism -- holding out the work of another as one’s own -- strikes at the very core of academic integrity," the newspaper quoted the interim president, Lorris Betz, as writing in a June 30 letter. "The only appropriate sanction in this case is dismissal, which is necessary to preserve the academic integrity of the institution and to restore public confidence in the university." Bakhtiari has contended that the overlap in his work and that of others was unintentional and too limited to qualify as a pattern.

Friday, August 19, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Sylvia Alajaji of Franklin and Marshall College reveals how the music of Islamic female rappers undermines dominant assumptions about gender in Islamic societies. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

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