Mark Brixey, the former bookstore director of Missouri State University, admitted in court Tuesday that he stole $1.16 million from the institution, The News-Leader reported. Brixey made the admission in pleading guilty to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and filing a false income tax return. The university expects to recover most of the money, largely due to an employee theft insurance policy.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Judith Shapiro has been named the next president of the Teagle Foundation, and will succeed Richard Morrill in July. Shapiro, an anthropologist, was president of Barnard College from 1994 to 2008, and was provost of Bryn Mawr College from 1986 to 1994. She joined the Teagle board in 2009 and had been leading the search for a new president when other search committee members asked her to leave that panel so she could be considered for the position.
Teagle, which finished 2012 with its endowment valued at $144 million, is small by comparison to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, but it has had influence in discussions of assessment, curriculum, academic rigor and teaching and learning. "I think Teagle has become quite famous for punching above its weight," Shapiro said in an interview. "I think that's because it has picked strategic things to do and has known how to use the bully pulpit in higher education." She noted that Teagle was working on assessment issues "before everyone else."
Looking ahead, she said Teagle will continue to focus grants and gather educators to discuss issues related to teaching and the curriculum. And at a time of rapid change in the use of technology and other tools, Shapiro said she wanted to keep a focus on the substance of what is taught along with teaching. "We'll be paying the right kind of attention to the content of the curriculum as well as the form," she said. "That's complicated because we can't agree on a canon, but that doesn't absolve us from making really good decisions about what's really important."
Shapiro is involved in efforts to use technology to change higher education, serving on the board of Ithaka (which promotes new models of scholarly publishing and communication) and the presidential advisory board of the University of the People (which offers free online education). She said she hoped Teagle and others would help evaluate the many innovations being introduced. "Not much attention has been given to the effectiveness of new ways or teaching, or the business plan," she said. "It's going to take a while to see how it is cost-effective and it could be good teaching."
Controversy continues to grow over an intercultural communications course at Florida Atlantic University in which students were told to write "Jesus" on a piece of paper, to fold it up and to stomp on it. A student has claimed he was suspended when he refused. The university has apologized for the exercise and said that it won't be repeated, but has said it was voluntary and that no student was punished in any way related to the class. Now Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, is calling for the state higher education system to investigate the incident and to identify or create policies to prevent such exercises from being used again, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. Scott called the exercise "intolerant to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom."
The university also issued a video statement by Charles Brown, senior vice president for student affairs, in which he said the university "deeply sorry for any hurt" caused by the exercise. He said that academic freedom must come with "a level of responsibility which we did not uphold" in the exercise. "We are truly sorry that this incident occurred," he said.
Harvard University on Monday sent a letter to thousands of alumni, asking them to volunteer to serve as discussion leaders for a new massive open online course based on a class they took at the university, The New York Times reported. The professor who teaches "The Ancient Greek Hero," said he was thrilled with the idea of a MOOC reaching many more students than he could in Cambridge. But Claudia Filos, editor of content and social media for the course, said that there was a need for more help with discussions. She said that, in some MOOCs, discussions "tend to run off the rails." Alumni who volunteer will be screened before taking on duties monitoring and helping to guide discussions.
CourseSmart, a company that provides online course materials, said it has now partnered with 100 campus learning management systems and campus portals to provide content to students.
That, officials at the six-year-old company said, makes it the industry leader in this space. The company offers 40,000 electronic textbooks from more than 50 publishers, including Pearson and McGraw-Hill Education. Cindy Clarke, the senior vice president of marketing at CourseSmart, said the company’s online offering plugs right into different learning portals, including Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Pearson LearningStudio, Moodle and custom software created by some universities. By integrating its offerings with such portals, the company can give students at the different institutions immediate access to the course materials it sells alongside other class materials posted by instructors and used by students.
Now, the company is beta testing an analytics package, Clarke said. The goal is to produce a program to track how and if students are using materials to let educators see how engaged students are.
Simba, which analyzes publishing trends, predicts the overall market for digital course materials will account for 14 percent of the textbook market by 2014, CourseSmart said.
California's community colleges would be serving 600,000 additional students if the system had not absorbed $1.5 billion in budget cuts over four years, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California. Since 2007, the state's 112 community colleges have been forced to substantially reduce staffing, which in turn led to a 21 percent dip in course offerings, the report found. And first-time students were the most likely to be turned away, with a 5 percent enrollment decline even as the number of California high school graduates increased by 9 percent.
Republican legislators in Louisiana are accusing Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, of trying to oust Jim Purcell as higher education commissioner, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. The legislators say that Jindal is upset with Purcell because he has criticized the governor's proposed budget for next year. Officials of the Board of Regents say that they know that there are tensions between the governor and higher education commissioner, but that they are not being pressured to get rid of Purcell. One state representative told the newspaper: "Clearly, the governor would prefer to run the state like a dictatorship. He shouldn’t be in the business of trying to fire people for telling the truth."
Faculty members in arts and sciences at Rollins College have voted no confidence in President Lewis Duncan, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Faculty leaders said that Duncan has not worked well with them, or communicated well to the college. In a statement, he said that he disagreed with the criticism, and that he has "honored" the principles of shared governance.
A new report from the European Commission examines the effect of the financial crisis on education budgets. The report shows that nearly half of the 28 countries for which data were available cut their spending on tertiary and adult education from 2010 to 2011, with the greatest decline observed in Slovakia (nearly 15 percent), and reductions of more than 5 percent in the Czech Republic, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Northern Ireland. In 2012, even larger cuts took place in Cyprus and Lithuania (more than 30 percent), and Greece (25 percent).
Only a few countries say that budget reductions have resulted in increased tuition fees. The report cites Spain and the United Kingdom as two countries where tuition fees are being increased “with the objective of aligning them with the real cost of studies.”
The report examines educational spending at all levels, from pre-primary to tertiary education.