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."
Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
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."
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.
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.
A new tool aims to help colleges catalog and present to their constituents the various steps they are undertaking to assess how (and how much) their students are learning. The "Transparency Framework" released this week by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment is designed to bring together in one place the various plans, assessment activities and evidence that a particular college or university is using to gauge student learning. The framework was established to respond, in part, to the disconnect the institute found in a report last year between how much assessment activity campus leaders said they were doing, and how much was visible to the public.
A vice president of the instructors' union at the Milwaukee Area Technical College is criticizing the speed with which the union and the college's board ratified a new contract -- amid debate in Wisconsin over a proposal to end most collective bargaining rights for public employees, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The contract has provisions that protect full-time faculty members from layoffs, but also concessions from the union on health insurance. Jim Benedum, second vice president of union, a local of the American Federation of Teachers, said that the union moved quickly to get the contract approved, and he objected to the message that such haste sent at a time the state might end collective bargaining rights. Before the vote, he said, he felt that "if we approve this, we’re going to be perceived by the public as arrogant snobs." Union leaders denied that the contract vote was rushed and said that Benedum was angry with the union over other issues.
European universities, once seen as entirely supported by their governments, are already relying on diversified funding sources -- but want more flexibility to raise still more money from non-government sources. That is the conclusion of a report being released today by the European University Association. According to the report, public funding accounts for only 73 percent of university budgets, on average, and a majority of universities in Europe already receive more than 10 percent of revenue from sources other than their governments or tuition. While many universities want to raise more money from business contracts and philanthropy, they report that government regulations are often a barrier to doing so, the report says.
Some faculty members at Texas Tech University are upset about a $500,000-a-year raise, to $2 million a year, for Tommy Tuberville, the head football coach, at a time when they are being told their salaries are frozen, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. University officials have said that the $1.5 million annual salary Tuberville has been paid is below market rates, but that's not swaying some professors. “If that was me, I would have turned it down,” said Julian Spallholz, a faculty senator and human sciences professor, of the coach's raise. “I would have been embarrassed."
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.