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Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Jewish students, faculty members and organizations are angry at the State University of New York for changing its academic calendar so that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur will no longer be holidays and spring break will no longer be scheduled to overlap with Passover and Easter, The Jewish Week reported. Charles Robbins, vice provost for undergraduate education, told the newspaper that the idea was to treat all religious groups the same (not offering any holidays as university holidays), while encouraging faculty members and others to be flexible with those whose observances require them to miss some classes. "We are trying to be respectful of all religions," Robbins said. "We want to be equally welcoming to everybody."

Rabbi Joseph Topek of the Stony Brook Hillel has posted on his blog a critique of the new calendar, the adoption of which he wrote is in contrast to a long history of support at Stony Brook for students of many faiths. "We are very concerned that this policy will result in large numbers of faculty and staff being unable to teach classes on major holidays and large numbers of students will miss important course work," he wrote. "New York State Education Law (Section 224-a) requires the institution to provide all students with an equivalent make up opportunity for any required work missed due to religious observance. We all know, however, that the student-teacher relationship is not an equal one, and many students are intimidated or frightened by the prospect of revealing personal information to a teacher in order to ask for make up work."

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Many academics in Israel are angry over the selection of a business executive, Amos Shapira, as president of the University of Haifa, Haaretz reported. Supporters of the pick have argued that the university needs a leader who will promote change. But many in Israel believe that presidencies should go to academics. Danny Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa, called Shapira's selection a step in "the Finance Ministry's hostile takeover of the universities." He rejected the idea that the business perspective is needed. "The premise that a commercial-business administration will rescue the universities is an addictive bit of propaganda," he said. "Essentially, as a consequence of the budget cuts the Finance Ministry forced on the universities, they have been administered as a 'business' for about two decades. And yet, experience shows that the more the universities adopt business logic, the greater the crisis in which they find themselves."

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 3:00am

State and local funding for higher education remained almost constant in 2011, according to a State Higher Education Executive Officers Association study released today.

Instead of the marked decreases in state and local support for colleges seen the previous two years, overall funding saw a slight uptick from $87.2 billion in 2010 to $87.5 billion in 2011.

But that’s not cause for celebration, said Andrew Carlson, the association’s policy analyst. For one, that number is still considerably lower than the $88.8 billion awarded to colleges in 2008. And even though overall funding remained basically steady last year, enrollment grew. Having more students on campus means fewer government dollars per student and an increased reliance on tuition to pay university bills.

Nationally, state and local funding per full-time student fell $242 last year while net tuition revenue per full-time student increased $225. That exaggerates a long-term trend in which tuition went from supporting 23.2 percent of educational revenues in 1986 to 43.3 percent last year.

Complicating matters, Carlson said, is that next year’s numbers are projected to be worse. Enrollment is again expected to grow, while state funding dropped.

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 3:00am

Smith College will be the chief academic planning partner with a group creating a women's university in Malaysia, tentatively called the Asian Women's Leadership University. The new institution is being founded as a nonprofit by three Smith alumnae. Starting in 1916, Smith supported a then young women's institution in China, Ginling College.

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 3:00am

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is pushing a plan to merge Rutgers University at Camden into Rowan University, a plan that is hitting opposition from some on both campuses who see their missions as distinct. One talking point for supporters of the plan has been that SAT averages of Rowan are higher than those of the Camden campus, part of the state's flagship university. It turns out they aren't. The Record reported that Rowan's figures excluded the scores of disadvantaged students. When they are included (as Rutgers does and as colleges are generally required to do by those who make SAT score comparisons), Camden's SAT average is higher than that of Rowan.

 

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The Education Writers Association has honored the University of Venus -- an Inside Higher Ed blog by and about Gen X women in academe, all over the world -- with second prize for community blogging in the association's annual contest. Inside Higher Ed salutes the great writers of University of Venus, and all the winners in this year's EWA contest.

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The New York Legislature on Thursday passed a plan supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that will cut retirement benefits for future state and local government workers, The New York Times reported. The cuts would affect new employees at public institutions such as the State University of New York and the City University of New York. According to the Times, the measure would save $80 billion for state and local governments over the next 30 years, even though one of the more contentious proposals in the measure -- a plan that would let new workers opt out of a traditional pension and let them choose something similar to a 401(k) --– would now be open only to new non-unionized workers who earn $75,000 or more, under a concession made by Cuomo.

Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, a union representing 20,000 faculty members and staff at CUNY, said the plan -- also referred to as Tier 6 -- flowed from an ideological agenda of protecting the rich. “Tier 6 will hit CUNY especially hard; it will undermine CUNY’s ability to attract and retain the best faculty in national searches.  I remember being told more than 20 years ago when I came to CUNY that one thing CUNY was able to offer was good benefits, including a decent pension,” Bowen said.

“We were hoping it would be defeated but that is not the way it turned out,” said Denyce Duncan Lacey, Director of Communications for the United University Professions, a union representing 35,000 faculty members and professional staff at state-operated SUNY campuses.
 

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Tanya Leise of Amherst College explains how the body reacts to travel and the best method for overcoming jetlag. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 3:49am

Santa Monica College's plans for two-tiered tuition rates (higher prices for high demand courses) have drawn criticism from those who view it as going against the traditional values of community colleges. But a local couple is responding to the news by donating $250,000 to pay for scholarships for those who can't afford the higher prices, The Los Angeles Times reported. Daniel Greenberg, who is giving the money with his wife Susan Steinhauser, told the Times that he admired the college's president, Chui Tsang, for proposing an innovative solution to the college's financial and capacity problems. "He has not dealt with this by avoiding the issues but by confronting them and hopefully has found a really good way of tackling them," Greenberg said.

 

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 3:59am

Students and other experts on spring break (bartenders in spring break locales) report that students have become tamer, even "prudish" while on the vacations once known for every kind of excess, The New York Times reported. The reason? With video cameras everywhere, students fear that their exploits will be posted online in ways that will embarrass them. One piece of evidence for this trend: Only one bar in Key West is featuring a wet T-shirt contest, and it takes place only once a week.

 

 

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