Higher Education Quick Takes
A broad coalition of higher education associations, expressing "grave" concerns, has urged Education Secretary Arne Duncan to withdraw a federal regulation that would, for the first time, create a federal definition of "credit hour" that the groups argue "federalized a basic academic concept and, at the same time, developed a complex, ambiguous and unworkable definition." The letter, signed by the president of the American Council on Education, Molly Corbett Broad, on behalf of more than 70 college associations and accrediting groups, says that the Education Department has ignored concerns that the groups expressed at various stages of the regulatory process, and that incorporating a definition of the credit hour in the federal regulatory code will "allow the Department of Education [through its accreditation advisory committee] to micro-manage campus academic programs."
The president of the University of Wisconsin System, along with the president and vice president of the Board of Regents, on Tuesday sent Biddy Martin, chancellor of the Madison campus, a public rebuke for promoting a plan that they say would separate Madison from the rest of the system. The regents also called an emergency meeting for Friday to discuss the issue. Martin has been pushing (in public, and generally with support from the system) for more autonomy for Madison from various state regulations. But she also has been discussing with Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, a plan that would create more formal independence from the system, the letter said. "[A] stand-alone public authority, wholly separate from the other UW System campuses, is a radical departure from earlier statements about administrative flexibility and efficiency," the letter to Martin said. The letter also questioned the appropriateness of these discussions between Martin and Walker. "In contrast with our commitment to transparency and shared governance, the Board of Regents and other university governance groups have been excluded from conversations about a major sea change in the structure of public higher education," the letter said. Martin was asked to release the letter, which she did, with her own note in which she said, "I do not agree that the public authority model under discussion would be a 'radical departure from earlier statements about flexibility.' At every point in this process, I have argued for what I believe is in the best interests of our great students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners at a time when the need for change in higher education, particularly at research institutions, is urgent, and when the state most needs its great research institutions."
Several American colleges and study abroad programs reported Tuesday that their students in New Zealand were accounted for and safe -- despite the devastating earthquake that hit the country. Among the institutions issuing statements about their students: The Institute for Study Abroad, at Butler University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Washington State University, Wheaton College (in Massachusetts) and Winona State University.
It appeared last year that the fight over the University of North Dakota's "Fighting Sioux" team name was over, with the university working out a deal to remove the name, which is seen as offensive by many Native Americans in ways that set off a conflict with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. But the fight was revived this week with a vote by the North Dakota House of Representatives to require the university to keep the name, and to request that the state sue the NCAA, the Associated Press reported. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Students at Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, have penned "The Student Poverty Song," as a protest over proposed tuition increases. Students in the video, attracting considerable attention in the province, are shown singing about their financial woes, trying to pay tuition bills in decidedly nontraditional currency, subsisting on hot dogs and suffering through cold showers to cut costs.
Students at Southern University in Baton Rouge are mourning the murders of two students in separate incidents in a week, WAFB News reported. One student was shot and killed outside his apartment building. The other student was found beaten and partly burned in her home.
The London School of Economics and Political Science has cut its ties to the Libyan government, Times Higher Education reported. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Muammar Gaddafi, who has spoken out in favor of his father's rule, earned a Ph.D. at the university and donated £1.5 million (more than $2.4 million) in 2009, and gave a lecture at the university. The university has, in turn, given executive education programs in Libya. Given the government crackdown on protests there, the institution has "reconsidered" its links, according to a statement.
Republican legislators in Minnesota, newly in the majority, elected former colleagues to two seats on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and in the process ended a tradition of having organized labor represented in one seat on the board, The Pioneer Press reported. The Republicans said that the former legislators they selected will be outstanding regents. For 73 of the last 78 years, organized labor has had a representative on the board. In recent years, that person was Steven Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. Democrats and labor leaders have said that the tradition was an appropriate balance to the business leaders typically selected for university boards. "It's just plain wrong that working Minnesotans will no longer have a say in how the university is run," said Shar Knutson, president of the state AFL-CIO.