Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

The City of Boston has formally asked nonprofit organizations to pay up to 25 percent of the property tax bills they would face if they were not tax-exempt, The Boston Globe reported. Many nonprofits already make "payments in lieu of taxes" in recognition of the demands their students and faculty members place on city services, so some nonprofit leaders (including some of those in higher education) are not concerned by the formal request from the city. Others, however, see the potential for such demands to erode their nonprofit tax status.

The colleges and universities already making voluntary payments -- according to a Globe analysis -- would generally have a ways to go to meet the level demanded by the city. Harvard University currently pays $2.1 million to Boston, but the city wants $5.8 million. Boston University pays $5.1 million now, but the city wants $6.8 million. Northeastern University currently pays a little more than $30,000, but the city wants $4.3 million.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Sally Jackson has resigned as chief information officer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to object to a reorganization of her reporting structure, The News-Gazette reported. Under the shift, the CIOs of the three campuses in the system will no longer report to their respective provosts, but instead to a new university system CIO. The central administration says the shift will promote efficiency and will not distance the CIOs from their campuses, but Jackson and many faculty leaders at Urbana-Champaign object to the reorganization, saying it will shift technology functions from an academic to an administrative focus.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Columbia University on Friday announced that it has signed an agreement to reinstate on campus a unit of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. The move follows extensive campus debate and is consistent with the statements of university leaders who in years past have said that they would act once the military stopped discriminating against gay people. Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia's president, said in a statement: "Repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law provided a historic opportunity for our nation to live up to its ideals of equality and also for universities to reconsider their relationships with the military."

Some other universities that have barred ROTC are expected to follow. Stanford University on Friday announced that a committee studying the issue there has recommended the return of ROTC. The Faculty Senate is expected to vote on the issue on Thursday.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

Black athletes are charging that Brigham Young University is tougher in enforcing its honor code on them than on other athletes or on other students, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Many of the athletes accuse the university of using a "bait and switch" approach to recruiting, telling them that Brigham Young is like any other college, and then enforcing an honor code that bars premarital sex, drinking and other activities that would be standard for most college students. The university says that it enforces the honor code without regard to race.

An analysis in Deadspin found that since 1993, at least 70 athletes have been suspended, dismissed or put on probation because of honor code violations. Just under 60 percent of those punished have been black men (a figure that may be low because the race of some of those punished could not be identified). The article in Deadspin, comparing the 60 percent figure to the total minority share of athletes at Brigham Young (23 percent) and of black people in the student body (0.6 percent), argues that "something is amiss."

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Denise McKahn of Smith College outlines the challenges colleges and universities face when attempting to achieve carbon neutrality. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

A new law in Washington State has created WGU Washington, a new division of Western Governors University that will offer WGU's competency-based online programs in the state. The new university -- part of an expansion of WGU -- will not receive state funds, and officials believe it will help many students obtain degrees more speedily than they might otherwise. The new branch of WGU is similar to an arrangement started last year in Indiana. In Washington State, some faculty members have objected to the new approach.

Monday, April 25, 2011 - 3:00am

For several days last month, an earringed, mustachioed employee named Pete Weston did a range of jobs (with mixed success) at the University of California at Riverside. Only weeks later did campus employees find out that Weston had actually been Chancellor Timothy P. White, who on May 1 will become the first higher education leader to appear on CBS's "Undercover Boss," which puts corporate (and now campus) chief executive officers in disguise to see how their organizations work from the ground up. White said he learned much about the campus and was "moved and changed as a person" by participating in the hugely popular, if critically unacclaimed, show and seeing the "level of dedication of our students, staff and faculty."

Friday, April 22, 2011 - 3:00am

Peru State College has rescinded an invitation to Greg Mortenson to appear on the Nebraska campus in September, citing allegations that portions of his book Three Cups of Tea are false, and that management of his charity has been questionable, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. The allegations, in a "60 Minutes" report, have stunned many colleges, where Mortenson is a popular speaker and his book is frequently assigned. "In light of the uncertainty surrounding Mortenson, we cannot set him out as an example for our students or southeast Nebraskans at this time, nor can we expect donors to continue to support his appearance," Peru State said in a statement.

Friday, April 22, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group has decided to stop taking money from the drug industry, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Over the last decade, it has taken in about $2.5 million from the industry. The decision to stop taking the money followed another article in the Journal Sentinel on criticism of the research center's findings supporting "controversial uses of narcotic painkillers" at a time that it was receiving the funds.

Friday, April 22, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Research Council on Thursday released the corrected versions of its rankings of doctoral programs, including factors that had been recalculated based on various errors or omissions. The NRC website features links to the new and old versions. Most of the changes involve the subcategories being corrected, with relatively modest shifts in the overall categories. This article details the changes released on Thursday and this one details the generally skeptical reaction with which the NRC methodology has been greeted. The corrections released Thursday do not address the larger methodological issues cited by many critics.

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