Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

J. Michael Bailey on Saturday issued a new statement, apologizing for the after-class sex act demonstration held for his human sexuality course at Northwestern University, the Chicago Tribune reported. Bailey has up until now defended the act, in which a man used a sex toy to stimulate a naked woman to orgasm, and his new statement continues to say that no harm was caused. However, his new statement also says that he was sorry for "upsetting so many people" and that he would "allow nothing like it to happen again." Further, he said, "I regret the effect that this has had on Northwestern University's reputation, and I regret upsetting so many people in this particular manner. I apologize."

However, the statement also criticized the way the incident has been discussed. "During a time of financial crisis, war, and global warming, this story has been a top news story for more than two days," he said. "That this is so reveals a stark difference of opinion between people like me, who see absolutely no harm in what happened, and those who believe that it was profoundly wrong."

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Baylor University has rejected a student request for recognition of the Sexual Identity Forum as an official student group, KXXV News reported. Students, some of whom are openly gay, want recognition of the group to promote open discussion of sexuality. But Baylor argues that recognition would be inappropriate. Baylor's statement on sexuality states: "The university affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God. Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm. Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching." Students pledged not to engage in advocacy activities, but that promise failed to persuade the university.

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Moody's Investors Service is today releasing a report predicting that the coming years will see more public colleges declare "financial exigency," a condition of such dire financial danger that faculty groups acknowledge it may justify steps as severe as layoffs of tenured faculty members. Moody's makes its prediction on the basis of continued state budget cuts -- without additional federal stimulus money to minimize the impact of cuts. Moody's rates colleges' credit-worthiness, and the ratings can have a significant impact on the cost of borrowing through bonds. The report notes the fears of some colleges that a declaration of financial exigency might result in a lower bond rating.

But Moody's says not to worry. A summary of the report from Moody's says that "financial exigency is likely to be a positive step in terms of credit standing because it empowers management to take aggressive cost-cutting steps to preserve cash flow to pay debt service. Such a declaration would have little or no negative impact on a university's bond rating if Moody's expects the actions to improve the institution's future financial position."

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Could the Bill Gates-Steve Jobs rivalry extend to educational philosophy? Gates last week gave a talk to the nation's governors in which he urged a focus on "categories [of courses] that help fill jobs and drive that state economy in the future." But in a talk last week in which he unveiled the latest Apple products, Jobs urged a broader focus for education -- and specifically praised the liberal arts. "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough -- it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices," Jobs said, according to an account in The Seattle Times.

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

The vice president of a Los Angeles community college co-owned a company that gained half a million dollars from her college through a construction program she oversaw on her campus, the Los Angeles Times reported. Karen Hoefel, who co-owns the company with her husband, was vice president of administrative services at Mission College. She quit last year after the Times asked questions about a possible conflict and the district told her that she had to quit or the company she and her husband own would be excluded from future business. The Times has been running a series raising numerous questions about the management of a massive construction project in the Los Angeles Community College District, and the district has been highly critical of the series.

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Faculty members at the Rhode Island School of Design voted no confidence last week in President John Maeda and Provost Jessie Shefrin, The Providence Journal reported. Of 194 faculty members who attended the meeting to discuss the proposed vote, 147 voted in favor it. Faculty members argue that the administration's new strategic plan places so much emphasis on interdisciplinary work that key disciplines -- especially in the fine arts -- are losing their essential role. The president and provost issued a statement after the vote saying that they have "heard the point of view of the faculty and take it very seriously."

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Bryant University's Amber Day examines the rise of political satire and why it is becoming a normal feature of political discourse. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

The 2010 College Racial and Gender Report Card, released Thursday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, gave college athletics a “B” for both its racial and gender hiring practices. The raw scores for both these hiring practices, as determined by Central Florida researchers, increased notably from the previous iteration of the study, in 2008. Accounting for some of the improvement, Richard Lapchick, principal author of the study and director of the Institute, notes in the executive summary that there have been many “well publicized” minority hires to head football coaching positions, in particular. Still, he argues there is much more room for improvement in other athletics positions. For example, all of the conference commissioners of Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) conferences are white men. Also, only 8.3 percent of Division I athletics directors are women.

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Harvard University on Thursday announced that it will formally welcome back to campus the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, and will discuss similar affiliations with other branches of the armed forces. Harvard officials previously signaled that they would do so once Congress cleared the way for openly gay individuals to serve in the military. Harvard students have had the option of training with an ROTC unit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and they will continue their joint training. But Harvard will now pay some of the costs of the program, provide Navy ROTC with office space and hire a director for the program. A statement from Drew Faust, Harvard's president, said: "Our renewed relationship affirms the vital role that the members of our Armed Forces play in serving the nation and securing our freedoms, while also affirming inclusion and opportunity as powerful American ideals. It broadens the pathways for students to participate in an honorable and admirable calling and in so doing advances our commitment to both learning and service."

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, issued a statement Thursday saying that he was "troubled and disappointed" by an after-class presentation in which a naked woman was stimulated to orgasm with a sex toy. Northwestern's first statement after the incident became public defended the academic freedom of the professor who arranged the presentation. But Schapiro's statement was much more critical. "Although the incident took place in an after-class session that students were not required to attend and students were advised in advance, several times, of the explicit nature of the activity, I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member. I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission," he said.

John Michael Bailey, the professor who teaches the course, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment on Schapiro's statement. But he released a statement to The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper, about his thinking about the sex toy demonstration.

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