Higher Education Quick Takes
The Texas A&M University Student Senate has approved a recommendation to the administration that students be given the option of "opting out" of paying student fees that support groups that are contrary to the students' religious views, KBTX News reported. The proposal first said only that students should be able to opt out of supporting a gay campus center on campus, but the measure was renamed and broadened when some said that the idea was anti-gay. Critics say that the proposal is still anti-gay. Supporters say that students shouldn't have any of their fee money go to groups that are contrary to their religious views.
Liberty University has eased gun rules on campus, The News & Advance reported. Until now, people with concealed-carry permits were allowed to bring guns on campus, but not into buildings. Under the new rules, guns may be brought into any buildings except dormitories. "I think it’s good that Liberty is a little more open than some schools, and I think it’ll continue to create a higher level of security on campus than what was found at Virginia Tech,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the university's chancellor.
City University of Seattle, a 40-year-old nonprofit institution that serves mostly adults, will become part of the National University System, under an arrangement announced by National officials Wednesday. City University operates significant teacher education and business programs, and provides a significant amount of its instruction online. Under the new arrangement, which has already won approval of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, it will remain an independent institution but be part of National's growing system of nonprofit institutions, which also includes John F. Kennedy University (as of 2008), WestMed College, and National University itself, which is headquartered in San Diego but has campuses throughout California and surrounding states.
National is one of a small number of growing systems of nonprofit institutions that have been adding colleges with related missions and that are seeking additional resources to either survive or thrive. The TCS Education System, for instance, took over Pacific Oaks College in 2010.
The former president of one of North Dakota's public universities has urged the region's accreditor to investigate recent actions by the state's public higher education system and its new chancellor, The Grand Forks Herald reported. In a complaint to the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Ellen Chaffee, president emerita of Valley City State University and a consultant on college governance, expressed her "grave" concerns over the direction the State Board of Higher Education has taken since Hamid Shirvani became chancellor last summer. She cited a range of alleged violations of the commission's standards on governance and a destructive personal style on Shirvani's part. A spokeswoman for the North Dakota system told the newspaper that Chaffee's complaint appeared to be based on rumor and misinformation.
The University of Maryland at College Park will establish a close relationship with the Corcoran College of Art and Design and the Corcoran Gallery of Art under a draft agreement announced Wednesday. The Corcoran institutions, in Washington near the White House, have been financially struggling for years. Final terms remain to be determined, but are expected to preserve the Corcoran's independence while giving Maryland a role in the Corcoran board, The Washington Post reported. The final plans are expected to include joint academic programs, shared faculty and a plan for putting the Corcoran in a financially stable situation. Some students protested Wednesday, saying that the Corcoran should remain completely independent.
Students at Riverside City College were stunned this week to learn that their student body president, Doug Robert Figueroa, is a registered sex offender, The Press-Enterprise reported. Anonymous fliers were placed on bulletin boards on campus informing people that he had admitted in court that in 2005 he had kidnapped a child under the age of 14 and committed "lewd and lascivious acts" on him. A prison term was suspended at sentencing and he instead was placed on probation for 10 years. Students told the newspaper that they were shocked, and some said that they wished they had known prior to the election.
Via e-mail Figueroa told the newspaper: "Many students have been aware of my status and we believe in rehabilitation.... I dedicate my life to change the stigmas on these types of offenses. Don't get me wrong, there are some offenders that truly need to be on high supervision."
He also published a letter in the student newspaper, Viewspoints. "Do not let life’s mishaps define who you have to be. I have made mistakes in my life, but I have learned from them, accepted the consequences of them, made a difference in my life and will continue to make a difference for the lives of those in my community. Don’t get me wrong, it has not and will not be easy and there will always be those that find humor in bringing you down, but we all must choose to be resilient so we can overcome anything," he wrote. "In holding a public student office, I understand that there will always be those that are malicious and try to prevent good from happening, whether you are president of a community college student body or the greatest nation on Earth. But I am a strong person, a strong leader and through the support of many friends and colleagues, I will continue fighting for the good of every student at Riverside City College."
The Faculty Senate at Cleveland State University voted no confidence in the administration Wednesday, citing professors' frustration over planned changes in courses' credit hours, The Plain Dealer reported. Faculty leaders object to the administration's plan to convert most four-credit courses to three-credit courses. The administration says that this will bring Cleveland State in line with other public institutions in the state. But faculty members say that the plan will end up costing low-income students much more for textbooks (since they will need to take more courses to graduate) and will make it difficult for part-timers to make progress toward graduation.
The Rev. Lawrence Biondi, unpopular with students and faculty members at Saint Louis University, where he is president, has vowed to ease tensions. But a survey on the campus mood is causing more tension before the results are even tabulated. Faculty leaders complained that the survey features only one question about the president and generally refers to "the university," making it difficult for those answering to note their frustrations, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors then announced a plan to redistribute the plan, substituting "the president" for "the university" where such wording might be helpful to understanding campus climate. The university's response was to send a lawyer to the AAUP threatening a copyright suit for using the survey with those wording changes.