Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 18, 2013

New Hampshire's Higher Education Commission extended its approval of the troubled St. John International University, in Italy, until June 30, at its meeting last week. This is the second such short-term extension the commission has granted, as members requested that the for-profit institution present additional information on enrollment and financial data at their May meeting.

A site visit team described the financial fragility of the institution and high turnover of senior staff. It issued 15 recommendations, including the hiring of a president and provost with American higher education experience. 

The team's report also notes that several members of St. John’s board -- which mostly consists of prominent New Hampshire residents – have not visited the campus. The institution has fielded multiple lawsuits from former employees for breach of contract or unpaid wages.

March 18, 2013

The University of Glasgow has launched a new plan to promote the teaching and learning of Gaelic and increase the use of Gaelic, alongside English, in university communications. The university's principal and vice chancellor, Anton Muscatelli, said in a statement that Glasgow “aspires to securing the status of Gaelic as an official language of Scotland.”

March 18, 2013

The top two leaders of the University of California System Academic Senate on Friday released a letter expressing "grave concerns" about California legislation proposed last week to require the state's public higher education systems to grant transfer credit for courses or programs provided by an approved pool of providers, potentially including programs that are for-profit and have never been accredited. Supporters of the plan say that it will deal with the state's serious capacity issues in which qualified students can't get into the courses they need to graduate.

Robert L. Powell, the chair of the system's Academic Senate, and Bill Jacob, the vice chair, on Friday released a joint letter reacting to the proposal. The letter stated that the leaders of the Academic Senate were not consulted as the legislation was drafted, and went on to identify several concerns.

The faculty leaders state: "First, limits on student access to the courses this bill targets are in large part the result of significant reductions in public state higher education funding, especially over the last six years. Second, the clear self-interest of for profit corporations in promoting the privatization of public higher education through this legislation is dismaying. In fact, UC’s graduation rates and time to degree performance show that access to courses for our students is not an acute issue as it may be in the other segments. Lastly, the faculty of the University of California, through the Academic Senate, approves courses for credit at the University and reviews courses offered for transfer credit to determine whether they cover the same material with equal rigor. There is no possibility that UC faculty will shirk its responsibility to our students by ceding authority over courses to any outside agency."

The letter adds that the "Academic Senate is committed to exploring how important measures of student success, such as graduation rates and time-to-degree, can be improved." And the letter notes that faculty leaders have backed initiatives that include the expansion of online course offerings by the university. But the letter stressed the role of professors. "There is no alternative to the deep involvement of faculty in courses and curricula and the validation provided by rigorous and continuing review of these," it says.

March 18, 2013

Union County College is suing its former president, Thomas Brown, for $409,000 that he received during the course of nearly two decades at the college, The Star-Ledger reported. The dispute concerns funds used for Brown's retirement accounts. The college contends that contributions of $23,000 a year for his retirement funds were supposed to come out of his salary, but instead came as extra payments. Brown denies the charges.

March 18, 2013

Professors who study fracking have been at the center of much public debate over the controversial method of obtaining natural gas. On Friday, the University of Tennessee won preliminary state approval to authorize fracking on its land, The New York Times reported. The university says that the plan will generate revenue and also create an opportunity to study the impact of fracking. Many environmental groups say that, based on what is known about fracking, the university should not be using its land in this way.

March 18, 2013

The College of the Ozarks is known for its system of providing students with jobs rather than charging them tuition. Now the college is taking things a step further, and refusing to certify private student loans, which some students were still taking out, The Springfield News-Leader reported. The college itself does not use debt, and raises money for buildings before constructing them. President Jerry C. Davis said that he wants to discourage all borrowing. "The driving force behind this is that debt is bad and we should not allow these students to do that," he said.

 

March 18, 2013

Joseph Corlett is suing Oakland University for $2.2 million for kicking him out after he wrote an essay called "Hot for Teacher" about one of his instructors, The Detroit Free Press reported. The university is not commenting on the lawsuit. His instructor had encouraged students to be frank in their essays, but in this case, some believed he went too far. Corlett maintains that his free speech rights were violated. When Inside Higher Ed wrote about the dispute last year, some commenters said that they sympathized with the instructor and would have been concerned by the student's essay.

 

March 18, 2013

An administrative law judge ruled Friday that Columbia College Chicago had engaged in numerous unfair labor practices in negotiations with the union representing the college's part-time faculty members, which is affiliated with the National Education Association. The judge ordered the college to resume bargaining in good faith, to provide basic information that the union needs to bargain effectively, to compensate the head of the union for classes she lost in what the judge found to be unfair retaliation against her. The judge ordered the college to stop "making regressive contract proposals that retaliate against the union and its members for exercising their [rights]," and to stop "insisting on contract proposals that essentially give [the college] unfettered control over a broad range of mandatory subjects of bargaining, including the effects of decisions regarding those mandatory subjects of bargaining." College officials did not respond to e-mail requests Sunday for comment on the ruling.

 

 

March 15, 2013

As has become common in recent years, some Republicans in Congress are trying to kill the National Science Foundation's support for political science research. Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, has proposed that the $10 million a year spent by the NSF on political science research be shifted to the National Cancer Institute. "NSF’s political science program siphons valuable resources away from higher priority research that will yield greater applied benefits and potential to stir further innovation," said a fact sheet released by the senator. "This amendment does not aim to hinder science, but rather to allocate more support for research that will save lives."

Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities, sent a letter to senators, opposing the proposal. "The amendment sets up a false dichotomy between medical research and research in
the social sciences that we emphatically reject," Rawlings wrote. "The arguments for providing additional funds for NIH and specifically for NCI are obviously strong, and we wish Congress were providing more funding in FY13. However, such funding should not and need not come at the expense of political science research."

The letter went on to defend the value of political science research: "It provides critical information about how democracy works that is useful not only to this country but also to fledgling democracies seeking to make their new forms of government work. As Jonathan Bernstein has pointed out in The Washington Post, Congress and state legislators work very hard to enact legislation that affects our election processes. They deal with issues relating to funding, redistricting, voting rights and obligations, nomination processes, and others. If peer-reviewed academic research can help inform debates over these issues, that alone makes such research worthwhile."

March 15, 2013

More than a dozen cases of mumps have been reported at Loyola University Maryland in the last month, The Baltimore Sun reported. The mumps vaccine has largely removed mumps as a common health problem in the United States, but when outbreaks have broken out, college campuses have been places where mumps can spread quickly. Loyola officials have informed all students and employees of the outbreak, but an incubation period of two weeks prior to symptoms can make it difficult to identify all of those at risk.

 

 

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