Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Rising costs have led to much more scrutiny of the Pell Grant Program, but The Huffington Post noted that a key Republican may be taking criticism of a program that once had bipartisan support to a new level. Representative Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican who is chair of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over Education Department appropriations, compared Pell Grants to welfare in a radio interview and said that there was a major problem of people receiving the funds year after year without ever graduating. "So you can go to college on Pell Grants -- maybe I should not be telling anybody this because it’s turning out to be the welfare of the 21st century," said Rehberg. "You can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college. And there ought to be some kind of commitment and endgame."

Monday, April 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Charles McCaslin, a Southern Methodist University junior, quit his position as chair of the Texas College Republicans last week after video surfaced of him describing a hook-up and calling those opposing his preferred candidate for chairmanship of the national college Republican group "nerds and fags," The Dallas Morning News reported. The comments came in his endorsement of another candidate for the national position. McCaslin has since apologized. The video is here:

Monday, April 4, 2011 - 3:00am

A federal judge has reduced the $5 million in damages awarded (in total) to two law professors to a total of $400,000, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The professors sued West Publishing Corp. after they were named as the authors of an addendum to a work they had written. The professors charged that their reputations were hurt by being seen as authors of the addendum, which they didn't write and didn't think highly of. The judge didn't dispute the basic facts that led to the jury award, but said that the original award could not be justified by the damage done to the professors.

Monday, April 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Rutgers University has raised some eyebrows by going to the practice of paying commencement speakers, and signing a deal to pay Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate, $30,000 to appear this year. But now comes the news from The Star-Ledger that Rutgers paid $32,000 to Snooki, the reality star, for a question-and-answer session on the campus. During her talk, Snooki advised the students to "study hard, but party harder."

Friday, April 1, 2011 - 3:00am

Sure colleges all seem to be talking about their global partnerships these days, but Bryn Mawr College has selected today -- April 1 -- to announce higher education's "first intergalactic partnership between a liberal arts college and an alien research university." The pact is with Bithnian University of Science and Technology, also known as BUST. Bryn Mawr's president, Jane McAuliffe, issued this statement on the breakthrough: "Global partnerships are so 2010. Bryn Mawr is simply beyond global, and we are boldly going where no college has gone before. Our students need to learn to be intergalactic citizens." McAuliffe's excitement over the news has apparently prompted her to adopt a Princess Leia look (see the college's home page). Bryn Mawr did note in its announcement that some students -- known as "Earthers" -- aren't happy with the alliance, and that protests are being planned. "I, for one, don’t welcome our alien overlords,” Katherine Bakke, a senior, is quoted as saying. “At Bryn Mawr we talk about students wanting to make a meaningful contribution to the world. What part of ‘world’ doesn’t the administration understand?” If you are at all confused by this news from Bryn Mawr, we refer you to today's date.

Friday, April 1, 2011 - 3:00am

The Apollo Group announced Thursday that the accreditor of its University of Phoenix subsidiary was intensifying a review of its recruiting and admissions practices after an initial information request "raised a number of questions about the University of Phoenix's oversight of its recruiting, admissions and financial aid practices and the ability of those practices to serve students effectively while providing them with clear and accurate information." The initial review by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools was prompted, Apollo said, by last summer's Government Accountability Office investigation into recruiting practices at Phoenix and other for-profit colleges.

The Higher Learning Commission's president, Sylvia Manning, said that the accreditor had treated the GAO inquiry like it would a formal complaint made against one of the colleges it accredits. "In this case we believe there are issues that are relevant to our criteria for accreditation and we have accordingly taken them seriously," she wrote. Manning added that the accreditor had conducted similar reviews of other HLC-accredited colleges named in the GAO report, though she declined to identify them.

Friday, April 1, 2011 - 3:00am

Ohio Governor John R. Kasich on Thursday signed legislation that would effectively bar the faculties of Ohio public colleges from unionizing -- even though many of them already engage in collective bargaining. Faculty unions have fought hard against the legislation, but Republican legislators have generally backed it and had enough votes to get the bill through, so the outcome was not a surprise. Ohio has until now been fertile ground for faculty unions, and is a key state in the collective bargaining activities of the American Association of University Professors.

Cary Nelson, national president of the AAUP, issued this statement Thursday: "This is a black day in American labor history. The basic human rights of 400,000 public sector workers in Ohio have been cast aside by a legislature and a governor who are opposed to the principle that employees should have a voice in their own working conditions. These politicians -- enemies of democracy -- will themselves answer to the will of the people in November."

Friday, April 1, 2011 - 3:00am

Even as judges and politicians debate the new Wisconsin law barring the faculty at the University of Wisconsin from unionizing, another campus in the system has voted to engage in collective bargaining. Faculty members at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point have voted, 283-15, to be represented by a local of the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT started a major campaign to unionize Wisconsin campuses after their faculty won the right to collective bargaining in a 2009 law that the new legislation repeals.

Friday, April 1, 2011 - 3:00am

Karen Pletz, former president of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, was indicted Thursday on 24 counts related to alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million from the university, as well as making false statements on her tax returns and engaging in money laundering, The Kansas City Star reported. According to the indictment, she forged the approval of her board for a series of bonus payments. Pletz has denied wrongdoing and entered pleas of not guilty.

Friday, April 1, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Rochester Institute of Technology's John Capps examines what the jokes we find funny say about our values. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

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