Higher Education Quick Takes
President Obama on Wednesday signed legislation that funds the federal government through the middle of March, averting a threatened government shutdown but cutting several programs, including the $64 million Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership Program, which provides federal matching funds to states that provide need-based financial aid to students. The measure also cuts $129 million in earmarked funds distributed in 2010 through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. But it does no damage to the Pell Grant Program.
Brandon Davies, a key player on the men’s basketball team at Brigham Young University, was dismissed from the team Tuesday for a violation of the institution’s strict honor code. BYU has enjoyed high-profile success so far this basketball season; it is currently ranked third in the nation. University officials did not comment on the nature of Davies's offense, though they confirmed Wednesday he was not involved in anything criminal. BYU’s honor code is known for its all-encompassing nature. For example, it stipulates that students “live a chaste and virtuous life,” “use clean language,” “abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse,” and “observe the dress and grooming standards,” among other provisions. This is not the first time that a high-profile athlete has been dismissed at BYU. Last fall, Harvey Unga was suspended from the football team for an honor code violation; he was the team’s leading rusher at the time.
A joint investigation by Sports Illustrated and CBS News has found that 7 percent of the players on 25 top college football teams had been charged with or cited for a crime in their pasts. Reporters for the magazine and TV network conducted criminal background checks on all 2,837 players on the preseason rosters of the 25 teams that were ranked before the 2010 season that concluded in January, and found that 204 of them had a criminal record, involving a total of 277 incidents. Of those, "nearly 40 percent involved serious offenses, including 56 violent crimes such as assault and battery (25 cases), domestic violence (6), aggravated assault (4), robbery (4) and sex offenses (3)," the report on the investigation said. Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, told a CBS reporter that the results were "a set of facts that obviously should concern all of us."
Northwestern University officials are defending an explicit after-class event for a "Human Sexuality" course -- even though some students were offended, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. In the event, a naked woman was penetrated by a sex toy manipulated by her boyfriend and was brought to an orgasm. While students witnessed the demonstration (which was optional), they were not onstage. Exhibitionists from outside the university did the demonstration. A spokesman for the university said, “Northwestern University faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial and at the leading edge of their respective disciplines. The university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge.”
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, testified Wednesday before a Senate hearing entitled “Preventing Abuse of the Military's Tuition Assistance Program.” In addition to responding to a new Government Accountability Office report that calls on the Defense Department to increase oversight of institutions receiving military aid dollars, Harkin cited his December report on for-profit colleges to express his concern about the growing amount of funds going to service members at career colleges.
Advocates of for-profit institutions, however, continued to question his report’s findings. Harris Miller, president of the Association of Private Sector College and Universities, wrote in a statement after the hearing: “[For-profit institution] enrollments of military personnel and veterans are not skyrocketing, nor are our schools ‘targeting’ service members or veterans. Students with a military background select our schools because [for-profit institutions] offer a ‘no-frills’ approach to a quality higher education. These are individuals who want to get their programs, to gain bankable skills and to get on with life. Demand for private sector colleges and universities by members of the military has grown because of flexible and accelerated schedules, targeted programs, and a focus on educating adults for specific careers.”
Many college students want commencement speakers who are famous and some new student groups and Facebook pages suggest any kind of fame will do. George Washington University already has a commencement speaker for this year (New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg). But students at the university have started a campaign to get Charlie Sheen as the 2012 commencement speaker, attracting considerable support on Facebook and Twitter (typical comment: "I don't want some stiff-ass politician boring me to death as I graduate"). The GW Hatchet, the student newspaper, has declared the movement "a satirical ploy." But the idea may be spreading. Other Facebook pages want Sheen to speak at commencement at the University of Georgia, the University of Missouri at Columbia and West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
While minority institutions remain crucial to educating minority students in science, they appear to be producing smaller proportions of new minority scientists than in the past, according to data released Wednesday by the National Science Foundation. In 2008, historically black colleges awarded 20 percent of the bachelor's degrees earned by black students in science and engineering, down from 26 percent in 2000. In 2008, colleges with high Latino enrollments awarded 32 percent of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering that went to Latino students, down from 35 percent in 2000.
More than 200 students staged a sit-in in the administration building at Dickinson College to protest what they view as insufficient policies to prevent sexual assaults, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Students said that they were frustrated by the slow and non-public response of the college to allegations of sexual assault -- with several of the incidents involving women who said they knew their attackers. College officials said that they in fact have most of the policies that students are demanding and take all such allegations seriously, but that cases of "acquaintance rape" can be difficult to investigate.
Higher education groups stepped up their campaign Wednesday against the latest round of regulatory steps made by the U.S. Education Department. In a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, 60 college associations urged the department to withdraw its October 2010 rule that would require states to specifically authorize institutions to offer postsecondary education, to have a process whereby an institution can be subject to adverse action by the state, and to have a process to review and act on complaints. According to the groups’ letter, rather than address their earlier concerns that the rule encouraged state "overreach" in regulating independent colleges, the Education Department added in the final rule an "entirely new and problematic provision regulating distance education programs." The state authorization rule is the second that the groups have urged the department to withdraw; the first was on a new federal definition of the credit hour.