Robert Shearer, formerly the director of environmental health and occupational safety at San Francisco State University, has been charged with 128 felonies related to allegedly taking bribes to award a waste-disposal contract that cost the institution millions of dollars, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The bribes allegedly included $183,000, plane tickets for international travel and a Volvo. Shearer has appeared in court, but has not entered a plea in the case.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Only 28 percent of students at Taiwan's universities say that they interact with faculty members, and only 36 percent participate in class discussions, according to a new study, Taipei Times reported. The study comes at a time that some educators in the country want to encourage students to move beyond memorization to a more active concept of learning. Professors are being urged to ask more open-ended questions in class, so students would be less fearful of having an incorrect answer.
A new law in Washington State, requiring that all statutes be converted to gender-neutral language, has led to the elimination of all "freshmen," (at least as an official term), Reuters reported. From now on, they will legally be "first-year students."
California's Senate education committee is expected to vote next week on a newly amended plan to allow online courses from unaccredited providers to count for credit at the state's three college and university systems.
The committee on Wednesday heard an hour of discussion about the bill, SB 520. The bill's sponsor, Democratic State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg -- who is the leader of the Senate -- showed up to defend the bill against a parade of opposition by faculty representatives from unions and the state's academic senates. Student support for the idea, which is meant to expand access to over-enrolled lower division classes and lower costs for students, also appeared mixed.
Steinberg offered three new amendments to his bill, which he also amended last week. He said the new amendments will prevent public money from going to private companies and make it possible that colleges can develop their own classes without being forced to turn to outside providers, although seeking aid from private sector technology companies remains a key impetus for the legislation.
“What are you afraid of?" Steinberg said to faculty who attended the hearing to oppose the bill. "What are you afraid of?”
Faculty representatives expressed concern that unproven private sector companies would be put in charge of students' education. They argued that the solution to access problems in California is more funding for the public higher education systems.
Dartmouth College has called off classes for today to discuss the college's "commitment to fostering debate that promotes respect for individuals, civil and engaged discourse, and the value of diverse opinions." A series of programs, featuring faculty members and a diversity and social justice consultant, will be held. The college's decision follows a series of threats received by students online -- some citing the students' sexual orientation or race, college officials told the Associated Press. The threats followed a protest in which some students interrupted a program for high school students who have been admitted to Dartmouth. The protesters chanted "Dartmouth has a problem," and said that the college wasn't doing enough to prevent homophobia, racism and sexual assault on campus. The online threats were subsequently posted -- some against students who had participated in that protest, and some against other students.
The Cooper Union, an art, engineering and design college in New York City, announced Tuesday that its board voted to charge tuition to undergraduates for the first time since 1902. That decision is likely to spark controversy among the institution's alumni, who have been fighting the idea since it was raised in 2011. The college will cut in half the full tuition scholarships it offers its students starting in the fall of 2014, leaving a tuition bill of about $20,000 a year, but administrators said they would continue to provide need-based aid, including full tuition scholarships for students eligible for federal Pell Grants.
The move toward charging tuition began 18 months ago, when newly installed Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha announced that the college would seek new revenues to make up for an escalating structural deficit that had grown to about a quarter of the institution's operating budget. The deficit was driven by a combination of an increase in the cost of educating students and a decrease in the average return on the institution's endowment, which includes rents on the Chrysler Building.
A year ago Bharucha announced that the college could start a series of fee-based graduate, online and continuing education programs, as well as ramp up fund-raising, to generate the needed revenue. But given the size of the deficit and the minimal revenue potential of those programs, many Cooper Union students and alumni felt like the college was moving toward charging undergraduates.
Lone Star College has seen two violent incidents this year: the stabbings of 14 (a student has been charged) and the shooting of three. On Tuesday, college officials pledged that if Houston voters approve a bond referendum next month, some of the funds will be used to improve security. Among the improvements planned: more video surveillance, enhanced lighting, improved public address systems and automated door locking systems.
The president of Kappa Delta sorority at Indiana University at Bloomington has issued an apology for a party at which attendees mocked the homeless with costumes and signs, and rubbed dirt on their faces to appear homeless. "I want to express my sincere apology to the campus community and public for the actions of our chapter at a social event this week that made light of those who are homeless. Our choice was a poor one. We know that it was not acceptable and does not align with our values," said a statement from Aubrey McMahon, the chapter president. The website Jezebel published photos of the party, drawing attention to its theme.
Four men have been charged with hazing in the drowning deaths in the Appomattox River of two freshmen at Virginia State University, The Richmond Times Dispatch reported. Two of the men charged are also Virginia State students. The students were apparently completing an initiation for "Men of Honor," an unrecognized student group. University officials said that they can't bar students -- who are legal adults -- from joining unrecognized groups.