Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 3:00am

Britain should consider giving more financial support for private (read: for-profit) providers of higher education and developing a more consistent regulatory framework to monitor them, according to a study reported on by Times Higher Education. The study, by the Higher Education Policy Institute, suggests that the government consider incentives to private institutions to merge with or take over failing public universities. But it also warns that, if Britain isn't vigilant enough in its oversight, it could end up repeating the mistakes of the U.S. higher education system, where for-profit colleges have come under intense scrutiny.

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 3:00am

Toilet drainage issues appear to be a growing problem in higher education. On Monday we noted concern at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks about people flushing socks down the toilets of the fine arts complex. Now comes word from The Boulder Daily Camera that the University of Colorado at Boulder is suing a company for $40,000 over damage caused by toilet paper "that failed to disperse properly."

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 3:00am

A legislative committee in Louisiana, after rare testimony from Gov. Bobby Jindal, approved a measure that would combine historically black Southern University at New Orleans into the University of New Orleans, despite strong opposition from black lawmakers, The Times-Picayune reported. The proposal, which Jindal said would create one stronger institution out of two that have struggled, was approved largely along party lines, with only one Democrat joining nine Republicans in supporting it. A Senate panel is due to consider a parallel measure today.

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 3:00am

Preliminary results from Tuesday’s election show that incumbents on the Flathead Valley Community College Board of Trustees easily held off a surprise challenge from a group of conservative candidates whose views and campaign rhetoric startled many in the rural Montana region who were used to uneventful races. Among other positions, the challengers argued that the college relied too heavily on federal funding and that its faculty and staff unions should not have the right to collectively bargain for their salary or benefits levels. A campaign blog maintained by one of the main challengers offered congratulations to the incumbents in a post Wednesday afternoon. The official results of the election are slated to be released and certified at the next Board of Trustees meeting, May 23.

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Texas at Austin has largely resisted the controversial higher education reforms being pushed by Texas Governor Rick Perry and others close to him, but Texas A&M University -- the governor's alma mater -- has been more open to the ideas. For instance, Texas A&M has published rankings of professors' "productivity." But this week, 22 prominent A&M alumni, all of whom have been been designated as "distinguished alumni" for their contributions to the university, are circulating a letter calling for Texas A&M to oppose the governor's ideas, The Houston Chronicle reported. The letter refers to "an extraordinary level of political intervention in our university" that could hurt the university's standing. In particular, the letter questions "proposals to fundamentally change how research universities in Texas fulfill their educational responsibilities."

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 3:00am

Two months after the faculty of the Rhode Island School of Design overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the school's president and provost, the provost, Jessie Shefrin, has announced she will step down, according to the Providence Journal.

In early March, three-quarters of the faculty at RISD who cast ballots returned a vote of no confidence in Shefrin and in President John Maeda, due, in part, to concerns over management style and to objections over a new strategic plan. Faculty members argued that the plan would weaken the school's core curriculum and academic standards.

Shefrin became provost at RISD in 2008 after serving as dean of graduate studies since 2005. "I will be taking a long-awaited sabbatical next year as I make the transition to pursue other interests," she said in a statement, according to the paper. Maeda has announced a search for an interim provost who will start in the fall and serve for one year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 3:00am

David Protess, a legendary Northwestern University journalism professor known for his efforts to show the innocence of wrongly accused prisoners, is on leave from the university, amid investigations that he lied to the university about his conduct. But The Chicago Tribune reported that he has both signed an agreement not to return to teaching and that he started teaching an "underground class" to students. According to the Tribune, reports are surfacing that he told students to lie about their identities in some past class investigations -- a tactic he says is justified in some cases, but that others question.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Many people were shocked that Osama bin Laden was discovered in a city. But this week's big news was entirely consistent with a project by ecosystem geographers at the University of California at Los Angeles, who published an article in 2009 stating an 89.9 percent chance that bin Laden would be found in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed, Science reported. The work was done by two UCLA geographers, Thomas Gillespie and John Agnew, and a class of undergraduates. They published their findings in MIT International Review.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeff Grabill of Michigan State University reveals how the modern technology of texting is creating a generation of writers. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 3:00am

The dispute between Amazon and college bookstores is heating up. Amazon is now seeking a court order declaring that it is not false or misleading for it to claim discounts of 30 percent on new college textbooks and up to 90 percent on used textbooks, Bloomberg reported. The move follows a complaint by the National Association of College Stores, filed with the Better Business Bureau, calling those claims misleading.

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