Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Tik Root, a Middlebury College student who was studying in Syria and was detained there while observing recent protests, has been released. A statement from Ron Liebowitz, the college's president, thanked State Department officials and members of Vermont's Congressional delegation for work to assure Root's release.

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."

Monday, April 4, 2011 - 3:00am

An American Bar Association committee, which met this weekend in Chicago to continue its review of law school accreditation standards, heard complaints from numerous legal experts who argue that some of the proposals being considered would significantly weaken legal education. Representatives from the Clinical Legal Education Association, the Society of American Law Teachers, the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) all testified Saturday before the ABA’s Standards Review Committee, primarily in protest of proposed provisions that would eliminate requirements that law schools have tenure systems and use the LSAT in admissions. The ABA Journal reported Saturday that, after reviewing a letter from AALS urging the committee to put its accreditation review on hold, Donald J. Polden, committee chair and dean of the Santa Clara University School of Law, said “he hadn’t heard anything that would persuade him the committee should stop what it’s doing."

Susan Prager, AALS executive director, told Inside Higher Ed that many individual law school faculty members testified before the committee at an open forum Saturday, offering personal anecdotes about why tenure is important to them. She also clarified that AALS does not want the Standards Review Committee to halt its review entirely, just that it wants the committee to take more time to consider the implications of the many changes it is considering. Though some proposals were approved, specific proposals regarding the more contentious items -- such as tenure and the LSAT -- were not voted on at this weekend's meeting, meaning that the committee will take more time to review them before making a formal recommendation to the broader ABA.

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.

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.

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