Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

In the wake of allegations swirling around Cam Newton, the Auburn University quarterback and Heisman Trophy frontrunner, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is considering whether to form a group to examine football recruiting infractions, Bloomberg reported. Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA's vice president for enforcement, said that such a panel would resemble one that was created two years ago to deal with recruiting issues in men’s basketball. Lach expressed concern about more recruits seeking money to attend top football programs and “the rise in seven-on-seven football tournaments funded by apparel companies,” calling them “a breeding ground for potential recruiting violations.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

Harvard University on Monday announced that the size of the Harvard Corporation, the university's governing board, will increase to 13 from 7. Further, the board will start using committees -- on finance and on facilities -- instead of simply meeting as a committee of the whole. Those committees in turn may include some people who are not members of the corporation. The changes are somewhat radical for Harvard, which has had the same structure for the corporation since 1650. But board committees and larger boards are standard in private higher education. By way of comparison, Yale University's governing board has 19 members, and the Stanford University board has 35 members. Data from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges show that the average board size for private doctoral institutions is 38. As Harvard experienced significant budget cuts the past two years, following sharp drops in its endowment value, critics have questioned whether the small board in place was sufficiently engaged with various university constituencies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

Lisa Howe, former women's soccer coach at Belmont University, initially did not speak out in public after reports surfaced that she was pressured to resign once the institution learned that she was a lesbian and that Howe and her partner are planning to have a baby. But after the university's board chair spoke out, she is responding. The board chair, Marty Dickens, told The Tennessean, in regard to the treatment of Howe: "We expect people to commit themselves to high moral and ethical standards within a Christian context." On Monday evening, through a lawyer, Howe issued a statement in which she said: “No one wants their private family life made public or likes to think that people are talking about them, but I feel like I need to explain just a little about myself, for I have always held my head high and will continue to do so. I believe I am a good, moral person, who cares for others. Those and other basic Christian tenets are important to me, to how I live my life, including as a coach, and to what I want to teach my child as he or she grows up. I have never intentionally detracted from the goodness or holiness inherent in any person or institution, and I do my best not to judge people based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, religion, ability, or sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

Controversy continues to swirl around the partnership between a for-profit online course provider and Arkansas State University, where faculty voted last week for a moratorium on any new programs with the company. In a 19-10 vote, the university’s Faculty Senate approved a resolution that calls on Arkansas State to hold off on developing any further programs with Academic Partnerships, LLC, a company formerly known as Higher Ed Holdings. Before moving forward, a faculty committee should review the existing relationship, which has created a “fundamental shift in the nature of faculty roles and relationships, manner of instruction and the nature of the institution itself,” the resolution states. Administrators’ ties to the company have prompted conflict of interest charges, leading an interim chancellor and the former system president to distance themselves from the company and the university, respectively.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

A special commission studying the future of the University of California released its final report Monday, with numerous recommendations for the university system to thrive in an era of limited state budgets. Most of the ideas have been publicly discussed previously in relation to the commission's work; the proposals include three-year undergraduate degrees, improved transfer paths from community colleges to university campuses, enhanced use of online education and additional enrollment of out-of-state students.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 3:00am

The J-1 student visa program, in which foreign students come to the United States for jobs in the summer, is leaving some students subject to abuse, the Associated Press reported. Students in theory get jobs at resorts or various places where they can absorb American culture, but some end up eating on floors, earning $1 an hour or working in strip clubs, the article said.

Monday, December 6, 2010 - 3:00am

Princeton University students last week rejected, by a vote of 1,014 to 699, a proposal to ask dining services to stock an additional brand of hummus beyond the Sabra that is currently offered. Pro-Palestinian students had pushed the idea of adding a new hummus choice, saying that they did not like their only hummus option to be from an Israeli company that the students accused of having ties to the Israeli military.

Monday, December 6, 2010 - 3:00am

The Congressional Budget Office released a report last week saying that the DREAM Act -- which creates a path to citizenship for some students who came to the United States as minors and were educated in the country, without legal authority to remain -- would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over 10 years. The CBO analysis assumes that many of these students would over time get jobs, pay taxes and thus contribute to the federal budget. The report also estimates costs associated with the DREAM Act, such as spending on student loans and other programs for which the students would become eligible. The CBO report was generally much more optimistic on the impact of the act than was a report issued last week by the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonpartisan group that generally argues for tight controls on immigration. That organization predicted billions in additional costs to taxpayers, based on an assumption of many more students enrolling in college.

The reports came amid lobbying of the Senate to approve the legislation. Obama administration officials held a series of press briefings last week in support of the DREAM Act, and many college presidents have been speaking out in support. The White House blog also released a list of "10 reasons we need the DREAM Act." But Republicans in the Senate continue to block the bill -- with some opposing the legislation and others opposing consideration of any legislation on any subject unless the Bush administration's tax cuts for wealthy Americans are extended.

Monday, December 6, 2010 - 3:00am

Players on the women's soccer team at Belmont University say that they were told by Lisa Howe that she was forced out of her job as their coach because she told officials that she and her female partner were about to have a child, The Tennessean reported. Students said that Howe had sought permission to talk to the team about the situation and was told she needed to either quit or be fired. The university released a statement saying that Howe made the choice to leave her position.

Monday, December 6, 2010 - 3:00am

Michael Rao, the president of Virginia Commonwealth University, has withdrawn confidentiality agreements that he had required some university employees to sign, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. "The confidentiality agreements have been the subject of recent scrutiny and criticism and, unfortunately, have been misinterpreted in terms of what I sought to be accomplished by these agreements," he said in a statement. "I sincerely regret any undue burden or ill will that these agreements may have caused. Therefore, I have decided to withdraw all such confidentiality agreements."

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