Higher Education Quick Takes
A vice president of the instructors' union at the Milwaukee Area Technical College is criticizing the speed with which the union and the college's board ratified a new contract -- amid debate in Wisconsin over a proposal to end most collective bargaining rights for public employees, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The contract has provisions that protect full-time faculty members from layoffs, but also concessions from the union on health insurance. Jim Benedum, second vice president of union, a local of the American Federation of Teachers, said that the union moved quickly to get the contract approved, and he objected to the message that such haste sent at a time the state might end collective bargaining rights. Before the vote, he said, he felt that "if we approve this, we’re going to be perceived by the public as arrogant snobs." Union leaders denied that the contract vote was rushed and said that Benedum was angry with the union over other issues.
A new tool aims to help colleges catalog and present to their constituents the various steps they are undertaking to assess how (and how much) their students are learning. The "Transparency Framework" released this week by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment is designed to bring together in one place the various plans, assessment activities and evidence that a particular college or university is using to gauge student learning. The framework was established to respond, in part, to the disconnect the institute found in a report last year between how much assessment activity campus leaders said they were doing, and how much was visible to the public.
Some faculty members at Texas Tech University are upset about a $500,000-a-year raise, to $2 million a year, for Tommy Tuberville, the head football coach, at a time when they are being told their salaries are frozen, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. University officials have said that the $1.5 million annual salary Tuberville has been paid is below market rates, but that's not swaying some professors. “If that was me, I would have turned it down,” said Julian Spallholz, a faculty senator and human sciences professor, of the coach's raise. “I would have been embarrassed."
As Iowa politicians and educators have debated a legislator's proposal that the University of Iowa sell Jackson Pollock's "Mural" for $140 million, many have discussed what the wishes would have been of Peggy Guggenheim, the pioneer collector of modern art who donated the painting in 1951. Guggenheim died in 1979, but it turns out that she weighed in against the idea of Iowa ever selling her gift. In 1963, she heard a rumor that the university was considering a sale, and she wrote to the university's president stating that, if the university no longer wanted to hold on to "Mural," she wanted it back, to display at another museum, The Des Moines Register reported.
The letter -- and the university's reply, assuring Guggenheim that there were no plans to sell the painting -- may be found on the website Scribd, which also features letters suggesting that the university did explore whether Guggenheim's gift was conditional on the university holding on to the painting. (The advice the university received suggested the answer was ambiguous.)
A state judge in Louisiana on Friday lifted another judge's order barring the state from supporting a possible merger of Southern University at New Orleans and the University of New Orleans, The Advocate reported. The injunction had been granted in a lawsuit -- still pending -- by critics of the idea of merging the institutions. Southern is a historically black institution, and its many defenders say that a merger would leave a new institution without Southern's traditional commitment to low-income, minority students. Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has proposed the merger as a way to help both institutions, whose graduation rates he has said are too low.
Last year, Macalester College celebrated Presidents' Day with this funny video of the college's president, Brian Rosenberg, inhaling helium, eating three bowls of cereal, and generally making light of his presidential duties. While the video attracted considerable attention, the college decided against a sequel, instead posting a video about bad ideas for sequels. Today, Rosenberg plans to call the households of 18,000 alumni, parent and friends today -- at one time. The call will be the largest in the college's history. Special guests on the line will include Walter Mondale, the former vice president, and Tim O'Brien, the author, both Macalester alumni.
The University of Arizona will today announce that it will open a National Institute for Civil Discourse as a nonpartisan center to promote research, education and public programming about civility in public life, The Washington Post reported. The honorary chairs of the new center will be two former U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. The University of Arizona is in Tucson, where six people were killed and Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January.
Allegheny College is among the institutions already doing work in this area, sponsoring a survey and award to promote civility, and encouraging colleges to join the "Soapbox Alliance," a group of colleges and universities that refuse to let their facilities be used for closed political events.
Holy Family University has suspended John O'Connor as head men's basketball coach while investigating allegations that he assaulted a player during a practice, The Philadelphia Daily News reported. O'Connor could not be reached for comment, but the local Fox News station ran video of the alleged assault and quoted the player's lawyer raising questions about whether the university acted soon enough after learning of the allegation.
Mark Wattier, a longtime political science professor at Murray State University, has announced plans to retire amid a controversy over a comment he made about slavery when criticizing two black students who were late, the Associated Press reported. Wattier has admitted that he was wrong to reference slavery when talking to black students as he did, but his version differs from that made in a student complained. Wattier told the AP that he asked the students: "Do you know why you were late? There's a theory that a way to protest their master's treatment was for slaves to be late." But, according to the student complaint, he said: "It is part of your heritage. The slaves never showed up on time to their owners and were lashed for it. I just don't have the right to do that."