Higher Education Quick Takes
Roman Catholic leaders in Pittsburgh are demanding that Carnegie Mellon University take some action over a parade by art students, one of whom mocked the pope, KDKA News reported. The female student dressed as the pope from the waist up, was naked from the waist down, shaved her pubic hair in the shape of a cross, and passed out condoms on the parade route. A statement from the university said, "We are continuing our review of the incident. If our community standards or laws were violated, we will take appropriate action."
Students at the state of Washington's 34 community and technical colleges will save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because of low-cost textbooks produced by the state's Open Course Library, the college system said this week. The library, which received funding from the state legislature and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spent $1.8 million to develop low-cost course material, including textbooks of no more than $30, for 81 common courses. The effort has already saved students $5.5 million since fall 2011, according to an analysis by The Student Public Interest Research Groups, an advocacy organization.
“Students are clearly the winners in the open courseware library model,” said Marty Brown, the executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, in a conference call with reporters.
Nicole Allen, a textbook advocate for the student group, said Washington's materials are used outside the state, including by a math department in Arizona. Policymakers in California and British Columbia have created similar projects, she said.
The new chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee has drafted legislation that would change the criteria under which the National Science Foundation awards grants, Science reported. Traditionally, peer review panels have had considerable latitude within their subject areas. But the draft legislation by Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, would require that all grants adhere to three criteria. Grants would have to be certified by the NSF director to be:
- "In the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science."
- "Groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large."
- "Not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies."
The draft is circulating at a time that many science officials believe Republicans in Congress are trying to undercut the traditional peer review system.
Smith released a statement saying the legislation had been misrepresented.
President Obama used a speech Monday at the 150th anniversary meeting of the National Academy of Sciences to pledge that he would continue to push for research funding. "[A]s long as I’m president, we’re going to continue to be committed to investing in the promising ideas that are generated from you and your institutions, because they lead to innovative products, they help boost our economy, but also because that’s who we are. I’m committed to it because that’s what makes us special and ultimately what makes life worth living," he said.
Further, at a time that Republicans in Congress are questioning the validity of peer review decisions, Obama expressed strong support for peer review. "[W]e’ve got to protect our rigorous peer review system and ensure that we only fund proposals that promise the biggest bang for taxpayer dollars. And I will keep working to make sure that our scientific research does not fall victim to political maneuvers or agendas that in some ways would impact on the integrity of the scientific process. That’s what’s going to maintain our standards of scientific excellence for years to come," the president said.
While a number of presidents have addressed the annual gathering of the academy, President Obama is the first to speak more than once at these meetings. He previously addressed the scientists in 2009.
The Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation has donated $15 million to the City University of New York's New Community College, which will be renamed in honor of the Guttmans. The new college is based on a number of curricular innovations designed to promote high completion and transfer rates. The foundation also gave CUNY another $10 million for other community college efforts.
There is some dispute over the largest gift to a community college, but by some measures CUNY's newest community college may now have a claim, and it certainly has one of the largest of such donations.
Dominican University of California announced last week that it had for many years misreported admissions data to the Education Department as well as to U.S. News & World Report and other groups that rank colleges. At Dominican, the problem was in calculating the number of applications. Contrary to established procedures, Dominican counted incomplete applications in determining the total number of applications. As a result, the college's admission rate appeared more competitive than it really is. For the class that entered in the fall of 2011, Dominican had reported a 53.7 percent admission rate. The real rate was 72.6 percent.
Many colleges and universities are setting new limits on adjunct hours, seeking to keep the part-time faculty members from being covered by the new federal health-care law. On Monday, the adjunct union at Kalamazoo Valley Community College challenged such a limit, filing a grievance with Michigan officials saying that the new policy violated the union's contract, MLive reported. The union called the limit a "unilateral change" in its contract, and said that the college had an obligation to negotiate over that type of change. A college vice president declined to comment on the complaint, saying that administrators had not yet had time to review it.
George Wasson on Monday resigned as president of the Meramec campus of the St. Louis Community College, effective immediately, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The college has been under intense criticism for its handling of an assault on a female student. The alleged attacker -- who has since been arrested -- was originally released with just a verbal warning, infuriating not only the victim and her family, but many others on the campus.