In today’s Academic Minute, Vanderbilt University's Daniel Sharfstein examines the long history of racial assimilation in the United States and why racial categories prove ambiguous at best. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
WASHINGTON -- A federal court today invalidated a recently implemented U.S. Education Department regulation that requires colleges and universities that operate online programs to seek approval from every state in which they enroll students in those programs. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities on behalf of its for-profit-college members, found that the Education Department had not given sufficient notice that it planned to include online programs in the requirement, which represented a major shift in its approach. The court upheld the other two regulations that the career college group challenged in its lawsuit: those that changed the rules governing incentive compensation for recruiters and misrepresentation of colleges' programs and results.
A big name in student finance is entering a market that has been populated mostly by under-the-radar players: the practice of providing insurance for students' payments for tuition and other college-related costs and risks. Sallie Mae, long the dominant player in a student loan player that was upended by the one-two punch of then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's scrutiny and the Obama administration's policy changes, announced Monday that it would join with Next Generation Insurance Group to offer products such as the "Student Protection Plan," "a package of tuition insurance, ID theft protection, emergency medical evacuation, and other services to meet the needs of a typical college student." Several other companies have dabbled in providing insurance to refund tuition to students who drop out for documented medical or other reasons, but Sallie Mae is by far the biggest and most visible entity to do so.
Jason Liptow, an adjunct at Mid Michigan Community College, is charging that he was dismissed shortly after he announced he was going to try to form a union to provide job security for instructors, The Morning Sun reported. College officials said that Liptow violated confidentiality rules by posting a Facebook status update that said "Student emailed me wanting to know how he could pass the class, he hadn’t been there and failed three open-book tests." Liptow said that he did not violate confidentiality since he did not name the student.
Yale University has rejected a call from the Middle East Studies Association for an independent inquiry into the university's decision not to offer a faculty position in 2006 to Juan Cole, a scholar at the University of Michigan who has a wide following for his blog, which is highly critical of U.S. foreign policy. The association called for such an investigation because of recent reports that the Bush administration was trying to undercut Cole's reputation at about the same time that Yale was considering and rejecting him for a position. A letter from Peter Salovey, provost at Yale, to the association, said: "I can assure you in the strongest possible terms that no member of the Bush Administration nor any other government official contacted the president, provost, or two deans involved in overseeing the appointments process in the case of Professor Cole, nor is there any evidence of inappropriate external interference or other impropriety in this appointment matter. We see no reason to compromise the confidentiality of a faculty deliberation on the merits of an appointment by constituting an external faculty committee to conduct an investigation."
California Governor Jerry Brown filed a brief Friday backing a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the state's referendum banning the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions by the state's public colleges and universities, The Los Angeles Times reported. A federal appeals court recently ruled in a similar case that a Michigan referendum unconstitutionally took away the rights of minority citizens to influence admissions policy. While that decision is being appealed, advocates of affirmative action are hoping for a similar win over California's referendum.
Scientists are increasingly treating addiction as a disease needing treatment. The New York Times noted a consequence of this trend: 10 medical schools have just introduced the first accredited residency programs in addiction medicine.
A plan to pay Elliot Hirshman, the new president of San Diego State University, $400,000 -- $100,000 more than his predecessor -- has legislators and faculty leaders furious, The Los Angeles Times reported. California State University officials say that system presidents aren't underpaid. But critics say that the proposed salary sends a terrible message and wastes money at a time that the state's public universities are facing deep budget cuts and students are being hit with a new round of tuition increases.
Many law schools are making curricular shifts to focus on practical skills instead of legal theory, The Wall Street Journal reported. The article noted that Indiana University's Maurer School of Law has started teaching project management and that the New York Law School has been adding faculty members to teach negotiation, counseling and investigation. Washington and Lee University's law school moved in this direction in 2008, replacing third-year courses with practical training.
The University of Texas System has sued Ryan O'Neal, the actor and long-time companion of the late Farrah Fawcett, charging that he has held on to an Andy Warhol portrait of the late actress that belongs in the art museum of the university's Austin campus, The Austin American-Statesman reported. The university argues that Fawcett left all of her art to her alma mater. But a publicist for O'Neal said that Fawcett gave him the portrait in question.