Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of California at Berkeley on Tuesday announced plans to spend more than $500,000 to add more than 30 foreign language courses, beginning in the next academic year. The additions are part of a broad effort at Berkeley to add sections of courses needed by freshmen and others to launch themselves in various courses of study. Sections will be added in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. The news from Berkeley comes at a time that a number of public universities are scaling back language offerings, frequently citing the relatively small number of majors in various programs. The Berkeley announcement noted that the university's analysis has found that only a small minority of language students at the university are language majors, but that the instruction is essential for many courses of study and careers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Ohio State University is today announcing its largest gift ever -- $100 million from alumnus Les Wexner, who founded Limited Brands. The gift will primarily benefit medical research and education, as well as Ohio State's Wexner Center for the Arts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Rutgers University's board has revised its process for evaluation of its president, currently Richard McCormick, The Star-Ledger reported. Until now, McCormick has prepared a 20-page self-assessment for the board each year, followed by a meeting with board members to discuss his assessment, and theirs. Going forward, reflecting the current focus in higher education on using metrics, the evaluation will be based on specific measures related to graduation rates, research grants, the quality of the incoming undergraduate class and other factors that relate to the university's quality.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

John Junker, CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, was placed on administrative leave Monday, the Arizona Republic reported. Currently, an investigation is under way as to whether Junker and other bowl officials “orchestrated improper political contributions.” In December 2009, Grant Woods, the Fiesta Bowl’s investigator, concluded that there was “no credible evidence that the bowl’s management engaged in any type of illegal or unethical conduct.” Woods, however, recently told the Republic: “Key people may have lied to me. It’s one thing not to catch it, but it’s another thing if they were purposely trying for me not to find out.” Junker had no comment on the charges or his leave.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Nevada education is facing a "state of fiscal collapse," and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas faces budget cuts so large that it will likely have to declare "financial exigency," officials told faculty members Tuesday, The Las Vegas Sun reported. Such a declaration could lead to layoffs of tenured faculty members and the elimination of entire programs. UNLV has faced about $50 million in cuts over the last four years, but may face another $47 million over the next year. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Provost Michael Bowers appeared to be on the verge of breaking down during his talk, saying, "I never thought this day would come."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Westmont College, a Christian institution that bars "homosexual practice," is facing a serious debate over how it treats its gay students, the Los Angeles Times reported. The discussions were spurred by a letter in the student newspaper, signed by 31 gay and lesbian alumni who wrote of their "doubt, loneliness and fear due to the college's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues." The alumni said they wanted their names known as "proof that LGBT people do exist within the Westmont community." There are no signs that Westmont is reconsidering its views on sexual orientation, but 50 of the college's 92 faculty members issued their own letter, asking the gay alumni for "forgiveness for ways we might have added to your pain."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

The California State University System spent $1.87 million on legal bills related to a whistle-blower lawsuit that it settled last month (for $2.7 million) with David Ohton, formerly a football strength coach at San Diego State University, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Ohton's lawyer told the newspaper that said he initially offered to settle the case for an apology and his former coaching assignment -- with no money involved -- and that proposal was rejected. Ohton is leaving the university as part of the settlement. His suit focused on his demotion to other jobs, which he said was related to assistance he provided to a Cal State audit that was critical of spending practices in the athletics program at San Diego State.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Utah State Representative Chris Herrod introduced a bill Monday to require the state's public colleges and universities to stop offering tenure to faculty members, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Higher education leaders are speaking out against the bill, saying it would make it difficult to attract top academic talent to the state. (Currently tenured faculty members would not have their tenure revoked.) Herrod said that the bill would be good for higher education. In tight budget times, he said, “I would hate to have to cut a young, energetic Ph.D." to preserve a position for a tenured professor who is "barely there."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Next Generation Learning Challenges, a program that plans to disburse $20 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to educational technology projects over the next two years, on Monday released the 50 higher-ed finalists for its first round of grants. The projects were chosen as finalists based on their potential impact on college access and completion through the development and use of open courseware, blended learning, "deeper" learning, and learning analytics. About 60 percent of the finalists are expected to receive grants. The foundation is currently working on selecting the winners, which are expected to be announced in early spring.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The London School of Economics and Political Science has declined to ban from a panel discussion on Europe's future two speakers who are seen as anti-Muslim for questioning the willingness of Muslim immigrants to integrate themselves into German society, Times Higher Education reported. German students and academics based in Britain had asked for the panelists to be removed, but the student organizers and the institution itself declined to do so, citing a commitment to free speech.

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