Higher Education Quick Takes
About 350 students at Fairfield University were displaced by Hurricane Sandy, and the university is relocating them with friends, with local volunteers and others. Four students have an unusual new home, The Connecticut Post reported. President Jeffrey von Arx opened his home, and they have moved in.
A former dean at St. John’s University accused of stealing more than $1 million from the institution and forcing international students to perform personal chores as a condition of their scholarships was found dead on Tuesday; police are investigating her death as a suicide, The New York Times reported. Cecilia Chang was midway through her trial at the federal court in Brooklyn, where she took the stand on Monday. As St. John’s vice president for international relations and dean of the Institute of Asian Studies, Chang allegedly charged hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal expenses to a university credit card, and forced international students to clean her house and hand-wash her underwear, among other chores. Chang faced up to 20 years in prison.
The University of California at Berkeley announced Tuesday that it has created 100 endowed chairs by matching a $113 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The grant was made amid concern that Berkeley risked losing star faculty members to private institutions in an era when the state could not be counted on to support faculty salaries. By endowing the chairs, the university hopes to hold on to and attract top faculty talent, which in turn is expected to attract top graduate students.
The American Association of University Professors has asked for a fuller explanation of the University of San Diego's decision last week to rescind an invitation to Tina Beattie, a British professor asked to be a visiting fellow at the Roman Catholic university, because of her positions on social issues. In a letter to Mary Lyons, the university's president, the group drew parallels with a similar situation four years earlier and said it was "surprised and disappointed" that the issues arose again. "We appreciate that you may have additional information that would contribute to our understanding of the serious issues of academic freedom with which we are concerned. We would therefore welcome your comments," wrote B. Robert Kreiser, the AAUP's associate secretary.
Lyons, in a statement, said that it was Beattie's decision to sign a letter supporting gay marriage as a Catholic theologian that influenced her decision. "I want to emphasize that it was not her teaching or scholarship that prompted me to rescind this invitation," Lyons wrote. "I respect her right, as an academic and a Catholic theologian, to engage in whatever work she deems necessary and important." But she said that those speaking at the university's Center for Catholic Thought and Culture should support "both the mission of the center and the Catholic character of our university," and she believed Beattie's public dissent from the church was at odds with those goals.
Smith College will mark Election Day (and remind students to vote) by serving food items associated with presidents. On the menu today: New England clam chowder (a favorite of President Kennedy), mini ballpark franks (inspired by the time President Franklin D. Roosevelt served them to British royalty), and jelly beans (President Reagan's favorite snack). President Obama will be represented by his favorite chili recipe. And to assure a bipartisan spirit to the day, hummus favored by Governor Mitt Romney will also be served.
Record shares of young adults are enrolling in college and completing degrees there, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center. The report, based on newly available U.S. Census data, says that in 2012, one-third of the nation’s 25- to 29-year-olds have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. This is the first time for such a level of educational attainment. Notably, the gains came at a time that the racial and ethnic make-up of the U.S. population was diversifying, a trend that some experts predicted would lead to a decline in educational attainment.
The House Education and the Workforce committee has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate servicing issues in the Direct Loan program, including the performance of loans under both direct lending and federally guaranteed lending and servicing problems that some borrowers are reportedly experiencing. The Education Department's system has had gaps and errors since it began issuing all student loans in 2010, including servicing problems that left some students unable to rehabilitate defaulted loans. House Republicans, who opposed the switch to direct lending, said the recent complaints were "troubling."
Tiffany Edwards, a spokeswoman for the committee's Democrats, said the program "should be held to a high standard and be working in the best interest of students," comparing direct lending favorably to the former bank-based lending program.