Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges -- which accredits two-year institutions in California, Hawaii and several Pacific island nations and territories as part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges -- has placed one two-year institution on probation and taken several others off. At its meeting last month, the accreditor placed San Jose City College on probation on the basis of a comprehensive evaluation. The San Jose Mercury News reports that, among a number of deficiencies cited in a recent letter from the accreditor, San Jose City College was told “to make changes to ensure financial solvency,” “establish a climate of trust and respect” with the new chancellor of its district, and “better assess student learning outcomes.” Crafton Hills College, Diablo Valley College and Solano Community College were removed from probation after follow-up visits. The Western accreditor continued the probations of Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Cuesta College, Laney College, Merritt College, and Southwestern College.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The heads of the California State University and University of California systems said Monday that their boards would absorb hundreds of millions of dollars in state budget cuts without raising tuition, The Sacramento Bee reported. At a news conference before UC President Mark G. Yudof and Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed testified at a legislative hearing, they and the president of the California Community Colleges, Jack Scott, said the institutions would absorb a total of $1.4 billion in cuts ($500 million each for the university systems and $400 million for the two-year colleges) through program cuts and some enrollment limits. (The community colleges plan a $10 per unit increase in student fees.) The university systems have raised tuitions sharply in recent years, but said they would forgo increases this year unless voters reject tax extensions that Governor Jerry Brown has proposed for a June election.

The campus leaders said that they hope legislators will give the systems increased flexibility and more stable financing going forward in exchange for the newest round of cuts. "We're saying, 'I don't like it. I don't want to do it, but I'm willing to do it for the CSU if there is a future to reinvest in California and have a conversation about what kind of California do we want for our kids, what kind of economy do we want, what kind of people do we want in the work force," Reed said. "So this one time, sure. I'm willing to sacrifice because every public agency is going to have to sacrifice something."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Canadian universities are once again debating whether it is appropriate to support anti-abortion groups. Carleton University, in Ottawa, revoked the club status of Carleton Lifeline, saying that it violated campus rules by seeking to limit the rights of women, The Canadian Press reported. Several other universities have made similar moves, but critics of the decisions (who are not necessarily anti-abortion) say that these actions limit freedom of expression.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 3:00am

When the U.S. Education Department holds a meeting today to gather feedback about new rules on incentive compensation, many interested parties will be there -- with one big exception. An e-mail invited higher education officials and other parties to "share [their] questions and concerns to help inform our anticipated upcoming guidance regarding the rule." Unless, that is, they happen to be from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the main lobbying group for for-profit colleges, or from one of its members. The association has sued the department over the incentive compensation regulation and two other rules. "As you may be aware, APSCU recently filed a complaint against the Department challenging the legality of the incentive compensation rule. In accepting the invitation to meet, you are certifying that you or your parent company are not members or affiliate members of APSCU, and that you have no connection to the filing of the claims by APSCU."

A department spokesman could not be reached for comment. The president and CEO of the college group, Harris N. Miller, said via e-mail that his association has "asked for and been granted a separate meeting with ED to air our concerns about the incentive compensation regulation. We find it strange that the lawsuit has anything to do with who is or is not invited.... Such behavior is enough to make one more than a little paranoid and also wonder what happened to Obama's transparency in government."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology this year was dominated by a talk charging that the disciplines represented in the organization may have a bias against conservatives, The New York Times reported. Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia made his point by polling the audience of 1,000 scholars and asking by shows of hands how many of them identified themselves in various political ways. He found that about 80 percent called themselves liberals, a few dozen said that they were centrists or libertarians, and only three said they were conservatives. "This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity," Haidt said, given that 40 percent of Americans identify as conservatives. He told the Times that social psychologists are a "tribal-moral community" with values that may hinder research and make them fail to see their hostility toward non-liberals.

Monday, February 7, 2011 - 3:00am

The Orange County District Attorney on Friday charged 11 men affiliated with the Muslim Student Union at the University of California at Irvine with two misdemeanor counts each: one count of conspiracy to disrupt a meeting and one count of disturbing a meeting. If convicted, the students could face up to six months in jail. The charges stem from an incident a year ago in which members of the student group repeatedly interrupted a talk at Irvine by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States. Leaders of the Muslim student group have denied that they did anything wrong, and some at Irvine who criticized the heckling have said that this is a matter that should be adjudicated by the university (which has already done so). District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, however, said in announcing the charges: "This case is being filed because there was an organized attempt to squelch the speaker, who was invited to speak to a group at UCI. These defendants meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting. This is a clear violation of the law and failing to bring charges against this conduct would amount to a failure to uphold the Constitution."

Monday, February 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Purdue University officials told their board Friday that they have uncovered two cases in which tenured faculty members committed financial fraud, The Lafayette Journal and Courier reported. Officials said that "corrective measures" have been taken, but declined to elaborate on them or to identify the professors involved.

Monday, February 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Apple may be developing a stylus pen to go with the iPad in an effort to appeal to students, The New York Times reported. According to the blog Patently Apple, the company filed a patent in 2008 for a special stylus that works with its touchscreen devices. The Times quoted an anonymous source at Apple who said a stylus could increase the utility of the iPad in education. “It’s one of the barriers for school kids and college students to purchase an iPad where they want the ability to take notes by hand and draw in class,” the Times quoted the source as saying. A number of students and professors have noted as much to Inside Higher Ed. A second version of the iPad is expected to be unveiled this spring.

Monday, February 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Many colleges and universities rely on their Greek organizations' leadership groups to help prevent hazing. But at the University of Kansas, officials recently found that the Interfraternity Council itself has been engaged in hazing, with members paddling one another as part of leadership transition ceremonies, The Kansas City Star reported. The university is planning sanctions, which have yet to be determined, against the council.

Monday, February 7, 2011 - 3:00am

A team of researchers at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education captured considerable attention last week with a new report questioning whether the United States has placed too much of an emphasis on an (unsuccessful) effort to prepare all students for college, when a more vocationally oriented "realistic" approach might yield greater results. On Saturday, Gary Rhoades, the general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, released a statement denouncing the report as based on "a narrowed set of largely class-based educational paths that will reduce rather than expand educational opportunity." Rhoades writes that the vision of the Harvard report is too much like the traditional European approach to education, when the United States has historically had different values. "Part of that commitment is to provide people with multiple opportunities to pursue higher education, not to have their educational and occupational futures determined at the age of 12 or 13. Predetermining a student’s future makes no sense in a world in which occupational paths regularly include numerous career changes," Rhoades writes.

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