Higher Education Quick Takes
With the new film "Les Misérables" winning rave reviews, it was inevitable that a college parody would emerge, focusing on the struggles of today's students.
The Boston Globe reported that Boston University students -- with majors in journalism, philosophy, theater, and anthropology and with many worries about their job prospects -- created the parody.
The National Association of College and University Business Officers has issued guidance for colleges on using debit cards for financial aid refunds, a fast-growing practice that has led to criticism of the companies that offer the cards, which can have high fees. The association asks colleges to encourage students to use a full-fledged bank account rather than a preloaded debit card; to offer direct deposit of refunds; to use a competitive bidding process; and to negotiate no-fee or low-fee options for students from the third-party vendors that offer the debit cards. About one-quarter of colleges said in a NACUBO survey that they already use the debit cards, and 33 percent are considering doing so.
Wyoming's attorney general has sued DegreeinaDay.com, which is based in Cheyenne, asking that it stop operating as an unaccredited institution, The Casper Star-Tribune reported. The site offered degrees in medicine, cosmetic dermatology, law and teaching based on life experience. The suit charged that the institution had no authority to award degrees. Officials from the website could not be reached for comment.
State officials in Pennsylvania are preparing to sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association, perhaps as early as today, over the sanctions imposed on Pennsylvania State University, Sports Illustrated reported. Penn State -- which has accepted the association's penalties -- is not involved in preparing the suit. While many supporters of Penn State have said that the NCAA went too far and may not have had the authority to punish the institution, university officials have defended their stance of accepting the punishments by saying that the NCAA might otherwise have imposed harsher punishments known as the "death penalty."
The National College of the Arts in Lahore, Pakistan's leading art college, is under heavy criticism from Islamic traditionalists over its journal, which published homoerotic images that also depicted Muslim clerics, the Associated Press reported. The college has shut down the journal, pulled all copies of the journal from bookstores and dissolved the journal's editorial board, the AP reported. But those actions have not stopped the controversy. A court is considering blasphemy charges against the journal's editorial board and the head of the college.
The University of Northern Iowa is contesting a recently released American Association of University Professors report on affronts to shared governance and tenure policies last academic year in the midst of a budget crisis. The AAUP criticized university administrators for eliminating 20 percent of academic programs and the K-12 laboratory school without full engagement of the faculty -- who are primary curricular decision-makers, according to association recommendations -- and for making some professors involved in those programs feel forced to accept separation packages or risk being laid off.
In a statement, President Benjamin J. Allen said the institution disagrees with the findings of the report, and that “university leadership is obligated to not only consider the best interests of the faculty, but also the taxpayers, staff, alumni, and most importantly our students. The program changes were made up with all those stakeholders in mind.” Allen called the AAUP report mere “opinion," without punitive teeth at this point, and said it mischaracterizes university policies and agreements.
Dan Power, president of the UNI-United Faculty union, called the events of the past year “unprecedented,” and said that collegial, shared governance is in the interest of everyone in the university community going forward. “My hope is that we will resolve the outstanding issues identified in the AAUP Committee A investigation," he said in an email. "We need to work [together] to continue to meet the needs of our students and the people of Iowa.”
The AAUP report followed a May 2012 investigation prompted by faculty complaints, said Michael Bérubé, investigation chair and professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, as well as president of the Modern Language Association. "In the future, we would hope and expect that the UNI administration will involve [the union] and the Faculty Senate at every level of decision making with regard to program closures and/or reductions, because UNI's own handbook gives the faculty primary responsibility over the curriculum," he said in an e-mail.
Emory University students who produce "The Dooley Show," which is intended to be humorous, have issued an apology for a broadcast that angered many at the university. The show referenced the Supreme Court case on affirmative action in college admissions and urged viewers to help identify students who "shouldn’t be here and are only at the school because of affirmative action." Methods suggested for finding such students included lynching, tarring and feathering, and cross-burning. The apology states: "We at 'The Dooley Show' would like to apologize for the Supreme Court segment that has recently caused so much hurt, pain, and anger within the Emory Community.... The referred-to segment was poorly written and in poor taste, which we fully recognize.... As stated, we were not aware of the pain the segment would cause, the wounds existing on our campus it would open, or the dialogue it would recall. We should have considered more fully the horrible history our words recalled, and apologize immensely for not having done so.We too are members of the Emory community, and are deeply ashamed and sincerely sorry for all the pain and hurt our words have caused within it. Never at any point were they meant maliciously or to incite hatred towards anyone, anywhere."
An Ohio judge has issued an injunction barring the parents of a music student at the University of Cincinnati from coming within 500 feet of their daughter, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The daughter sought the injunction after the parents repeatedly traveled from Kansas to the campus to accuse her of using illegal drugs and being promiscuous. The parents admitted that they installed monitoring software on their daughter's laptop and cellphone to monitor her activities. The university backed the student, awarding her a scholarship when the parents stopped paying tuition, and hiring guards to keep the parents out of her performances.
Taiwan's Ministry of Education has agreed to study whether universities are avoiding fair pay for faculty members by hiring part-time professors instead of full-time professors, The Taipei Times reported. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of part-time professors at universities in Taiwan increased by 63 percent. Faculty union leaders have complained that universities are trying to save money by hiring part-timers, even though there has been enrollment growth that would pay for more full-time positions. The Education Ministry adopted a regulation last year stating that while universities may use four part-time instructors to replace one full-time professor, a university's total number of part-time faculty members cannot exceed one-third of the number of full-timers.
Chen De-hua, the deputy minister of education, told the Times: "We will take a very close look into the matter and if we decide that some universities have infringed upon the rights of teachers and students, the ministry will seek to remedy the situation and look for ways to prevent re-occurrences."