Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 26, 2013

A prominent Singaporean academic who has been critical of the country's ruling party was denied tenure for a second time. Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Nanyang Technological University, has written about the restrictions on the press imposed by the People's Action Party. Although George was denied tenure on the ostensible basis that he did not meet NTU’s standards for teaching and research, one of his external reviewers, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen of Cardiff University, said she found that claim to be “blatantly absurd."

“His record is stellar in both respects, so much so that he could easily get a full professorship elsewhere in my estimation,” said Wahl-Jorgensen. "In addition to being a popular teacher and a well-known public intellectual, his academic profile demonstrates excellence in research and a significant international standing, as well as an extremely high degree of productivity.”

“To put it bluntly I am baffled by this decision and worried about what it means for academic freedom in Singapore,” she said.

As of Monday evening, more than 500 people had signed an online petition attesting to George’s "stellar teaching credentials." George declined to comment on the tenure denial. In a written statement, a NTU spokesman described the tenure review process as being "purely a peer-driven academic exercise" and said the university does not comment on specific cases. (Note: this article has been updated to incorporate NTU's response.)

February 26, 2013

Arkansas legislators gave final approval Monday to a bill, expected to be signed into law by the governor, that gives public colleges and universities the option of allowing faculty and staff members to carry concealed weapons on campus, the Associated Press reported. The boards of colleges that don't give their employees that option would be required to reconsider the policy every year. Arkansas higher education leaders opposed an earlier version of the legislation, which would not have allowed colleges to opt out of concealed carry for campus employees. But the opposition was dropped after the bill was amended to make this an option, not a requirement, for colleges.

 

February 26, 2013

Despite headlines about the rising price of a college degree, fewer families are saving money for college and fewer have a plan to pay than in the past, according to a survey released today by Sallie Mae. The annual survey about families' saving habits found that only 50 percent of families with children younger than 18 were saving for college, a drop of 10 percentage points from 2010. On top of that, 16 percent of respondents said they were saving less than the previous year, citing unexpected expenses, higher cost of living, and lower income. When asked to describe their feelings about saving for college, parents were more likely to say that they felt overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated, or that they don't like thinking about it than they were to say they were confident.

February 26, 2013

Senate Republicans are raising new questions about payments Jack Lew, President Obama's nominee to become treasury secretary, received upon leaving a top position at New York University, The New York Times reported. Lew left the position of executive vice president in 2006 to take a post at Citigroup. On Monday it was revealed that Lew -- who was earning in excess of $700,000 a year since starting at NYU in 2001 -- received an exit payment of $625,000. While deferred compensation and bonuses are common for long-time leaders or presidents of colleges and universities, Lew's tenure at NYU was not exceptionally long. NYU officials said that the payment reflected his successful work at the university.

One of the Republicans reviewing Lew's nomination is Charles Grassley of Iowa, who regularly raises questions about salaries and benefits provided by nonprofit organizations. "Mr. Lew’s track record of getting well paid by taxpayer-supported institutions raises questions about his regard for who pays the bills,” Grassley said. “The problem of colleges that always seem to find money for the executive suite even as they raise tuition is not unique to New York University. However, New York University is among the most expensive, has a well-funded endowment, and has high student debt loads. It should explain how its generous treatment of Mr. Lew and other executives is necessary to its educational mission."

February 26, 2013

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center today released a state-by-state rundown of graduation data, which is based on a broad sample representing about 97 percent of students who attend public and private nonprofit institutions. The report is a companion to a national completion data study the group released last fall. Both are based on students who first enrolled in 2006 at the 3,300 colleges and universities that submit data to the clearinghouse, which is a nonprofit that collects enrollment data and conducts degree verifications.

February 25, 2013

For years, veterinary medicine has been a field with a limited number of slots for students and, theoretically, good career prospects. But after years in which enrollments have grown and the numbers of pets and veterinary visits in the United States have declined, new veterinarians are facing a debt crunch, The New York Times reported. Salaries have fallen, and the average debt to income ratio for new D.V.M.s is now twice that of M.D.s.

February 25, 2013

A romantic physics paper was circulating online Sunday. Actually, it is a marriage proposal in the form of a physics paper. The full names of the enamored physicists aren't provided, but the proposal credits the University of Sydney "for facilitating the initial period of this research."

She said yes.

 

February 25, 2013

Paid interns received salaries 2 percent higher in the summer of 2012 than they did in 2011, but the rate of increase slowed from the year before, when salaries rose 6.4 percent, according to a new survey by the research and consulting form Intern Bridge. The 2012 Intern Salary Report found that interns were paid on average $13.50 an hour, up from $13.25 an hour in 2011. Many industries paid less in 2012 than they did the year before, but Robert Shindell, vice president of Intern Bridge, said the losses were likely offset by bigger gains in business and engineering. The majors of students who saw the steepest wage declines were mechanic and repair technicians; science technologies; communications technologies; family and consumer sciences; and area, ethnic, cultural and gender studies. The Department of Labor requires companies who employ interns to either pay them or ensure they receive academic credit.

February 25, 2013

Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University on Friday announced that both are adding an "early decision" option to their admissions programs. Both institutions already have "early action" in which applications are evaluated early in the process. In early decision, applicants make a pledge to enroll if accepted. Both universities noted that early decision -- popular at colleges in the Northeast and the West -- is not common in Texas. Among private colleges in the state, only Rice and Trinity Universities had the options in place prior to Friday's announcement.

 

February 25, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association's executive committee on Friday expressed confidence in President Mark Emmert, even as some critics have called for his resignation in the face of the association's brutally embarrassing acknowledgment that its officials botched an investigation of rules violations at the University of Miami. Emmert was forced to concede last week that NCAA administrators had known about the association's improper hiring of a lawyer who manipulated bankruptcy proceedings to help the NCAA build a case, in contravention of the NCAA's procedures. Several top NCAA officials resigned, but two top aides to Emmert did not even though they acknowledged knowing about the improper conduct. When asked during a news conference last week whether he should take personal responsibility for the controversy, Emmert said it would be up to the executive committee to decide.

In its statement Friday, the panel, which is made up of college presidents, said that the association had significant work to do to ensure the credibility of its regulatory and enforcement processes. "Mark Emmert was hired to lead a major transformation of the NCAA.  Much has been accomplished without fanfare, such as academic reforms, enhanced fiscal accountability and organizational transparency," the panel said. "The Executive Committee and President Emmert recognize there is much yet to do and that the road to transformational change is often bumpy and occasionally controversial.  Therefore, on Friday the Executive Committee unanimously affirmed its confidence in Mark’s leadership as president and its support for his ongoing efforts to implement these essential and historic reforms.”
 

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