Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth, Tex., accepted an invitation Monday to join the Big East Conference, effective summer 2012. TCU will become the conference's 17th member institution and the ninth to play football. The Big East primarily spans the Rust Belt, from the eastern portion of the Midwest into the Northeast. TCU will join the University of South Florida, which joined the conference in 2005, as the other geographical outlier in the conference. Many critics believe the TCU-Big East deal was struck to ensure that Texas Christian gains and the rest of the conference maintains their status as "automatic qualifiers" for the Bowl Championship Series, the controversial system that helps decide the national title winner in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). This year, TCU's football team finished with a perfect 12-0 record in the regular season, but it still may not have the chance to play for a national title because it is a member of the Mountain West Conference, a "non-automatic qualifier." Monday's announcement follows a tumultuous season in college football in which many major conferences expanded beyond their traditional geographic boundaries, primarily for economic reasons.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Hundreds of teaching assistants at the University of California have vowed to vote against a tentative contract deal negotiated on their behalf by their union, which is part of the United Auto Workers, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported. Five members of the bargaining team for the union have endorsed the drive to reject the contract. The contract would provide some gains in pay and benefits, and the union leaders and its dissenters differ on whether those gains go far enough. The union's website offers reasons to approve the contract, while this site offers reasons to reject it.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal of a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the right of Virginia's alcohol regulatory board to ban alcohol-related advertisements in student newspapers. The appeals court reversed a lower court's ruling, and its decision conflicts with one from a different appeals court, which in 2004 found a similar ban in Pennsylvania to be in violation of the First Amendment. Student newspapers have opposed such bans both on First Amendment grounds and for practical reasons (alcohol ads are a good revenue source for many publications).
Kofi Lomotey last week announced his resignation as chancellor of Southern University's Baton Rouge campus on the eve of a possible board vote to oust him, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. Lomotey had been in office only since 2008. He declined to comment on his decision and was praised by Southern system leaders. But the faculty voted no confidence in his leadership this month, citing his handling of budget cuts, among other issues.
A new gay student organization at Cabrillo College wants to know why the student government president vetoed the use of funds for the group's first big event -- a prom for students who weren't able to take same-sex partners to their high school proms, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported. The student government president says that he's not anti-gay, but that the group was "double dipping" because it was already receiving funds from another college source. But the gay student group notes that similar funding hasn't been a problem for other groups.
College boards at public and private institutions are still dominated by men, and about half of members have business backgrounds, according to two reports released Monday by the Association of Governing Boards. The survey of more than 700 institutions found men outnumbered women by more than two to one at both public and private colleges, noting that boards were about 70 percent male at private colleges and about 72 percent male at public institutions. More than 49 percent of public trustees come from business, compared with 53 percent with business backgrounds at private colleges. There has been a small shift in other areas of diversity since 2004. The membership of private boards was 11.9 percent racial and ethnic minorities in that year, compared with 12.5 percent in 2010. At public institutions, racial and ethnic minority representation grew from 21.3 percent to 23.1 percent during the same period.
Students in Italy have been staging a series of dramatic protests across Italy -- breaking into the Italian Senate, sitting on railroad tracks, and so forth -- to protest government plans to reform higher education, The New York Times reported. Researchers have joined the protest, sleeping in sleeping bags on the roofs of some universities. The anger is over the lack of funds that has resulted in chronically overcrowded classes, the potential for new cuts, and government plans that critics say will make the problems worse. The government says its plans would provide financial rewards to institutions that perform well.
Facing a $32.1 million debt, Hebrew College will sell its campus, featuring a building by the noted architect Moshe Safdie, The Boston Globe reported. The Massachusetts college offers a range of programs in Jewish education and religion. The college will still need private donations to retire its debt. Officials said that they regretted having to sell the campus, but decided that they needed to take steps to have financial stability. The college -- which has more than 1,400 students -- will lease space from the Andover Newton Theological School.
A new study in Academic Medicine finds that the average tenure of first-time medical deans (excluding those serving on an interim basis) is six years, although it may have dropped slightly in recent years. Generally, the study suggests that the tenure is longer than earlier studies have suggested.
President Obama on Wednesday ordered the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to conduct a review of the rules regarding the protections of human subjects in research -- both studies conducted in the United States and abroad. He noted the recent revalations that the U.S. Public Health Service "conducted research on sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948 involving the intentional infection of vulnerable human populations. The research was clearly unethical. In light of this revelation, I want to be assured that current rules for research participants protect people from harm or unethical treatment, domestically as well as internationally." Obama's statement said that "[w]hile I believe the research community has made tremendous progress in the area of human subjects protection, what took place in Guatemala is a sobering reminder of past abuses." He asked for a report to be completed within nine months.