Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 4:35am

Two trustees of Deep Springs College have filed a suit in a California court to block the institution from admitting women, The Los Angeles Times reported. Deep Springs is a 28-student, two-year college near the Death Valley, known for educating men in a highly intense environment in which they also manage the college's farm. Many of its graduates transfer to some of the most competitive colleges in the United States. In September, after years of debate in which student recommendations to admit women were rejected by the trustees, the board voted to admit women, and a process is under way to do so in the fall of 2013.

The lawsuit says that the college was founded with a gift for educating men, and that the college is doing well in its current set-up. As a result, the suit says, the college's board should not be able to deviate from the founder's intent. "If the trustees wish to have a coeducational college similar to Deep Springs, they are free to donate or raise the funds to create one according to their own vision," the suit says.

David Neidorf, president at Deep Springs, said he hoped the college would admit women, and that he had not yet read the suit, and so could not comment on it.

 

Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 3:00am

In the federally mandated regulation that all distance education programs must obtain authorization from every state in which they enroll students, a much-touted solution has been a reciprocity agreement, under which states would agree to accept each other's authorization and spare large distance education programs from making up to 50 different applications. The Presidents' Forum and the Council of State Governments released a draft of such an agreement this week. The details of the authorization requirements are still scant, and will depend in part on the states who decide to join the effort, but the agreement would require minimum standards, including accreditation and legally mandated disclosures.

A later draft should be complete by this fall, and states are expected to begin joining the reciprocity agreement some time next year. The federal state authorization requirement has been challenged in court, but even if it is struck down, many believe that states will continue to enforce their own authorization rules.

Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 3:00am

University of North Carolina officials -- both at the system and campus levels -- are studying the impact of the state's new ban on gay marriage. The measure, passed Tuesday, says that the state can only recognize a marriage between a man and a woman as a "domestic legal union," and officials are uncertain what impact that could have on the generally limited benefits currently available to university employees with same-sex partners. In other states that have passed measures banning single-sex marriage or domestic partnerships, benefits offered by public colleges and universities for domestic partners have sometimes come under scrutiny and ruled illegal.

North Carolina, however, has not been a leader in providing such benefits to start with. Domestic partners are not eligible for the university system's state-provided health care plan. Some campuses, however, offer supplemental benefits such as life and dental insurance, and have allowed employees to cover domestic partners if the employees pay 100 percent of premiums. Some campuses have also allowed employees to include domestic partners in the use of campus recreational facilities.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, students have been able to include domestic partners on health insurance plans as long as the students pay 100 percent of the costs. Likewise, students with domestic partners have been able to apply to live in on-campus family housing units.

 

Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 3:00am

The top appeals court in Alberta ruled Wednesday that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the way universities treat students, Canada.com reported. The ruling came in a case concerning the University of Calgary's decision to punish two students for their criticism on Facebook of an instructor. The appeals court said that the university's decision could be challenged for infringing on the students' right to free expression. "The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the disciplinary proceedings undertaken by the university," said the decision.

 

Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 3:00am

A letter signed by 745 scholars, writers, artists and others issued a letter Wednesday denouncing the planned changes at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library. The letter says that efforts to "democratize" the library will not do so, but will damage the library's scholarly role. “More space, more computers, a café and a lending library will not improve an already democratic institution," the letter says. "In fact, the absence of expert staff will diminish the accessibility of the collections to those who aren’t already experienced researchers, narrowing the constituency who can profitably use the library.” Signatories include the Nobelist Mario Vargas Llosa; Pulitzer Prize winners Frances FitzGerald, Margo Jefferson, David Levering-Lewis, Edmund Morris, Art Spiegelman and Annalyn Swan; and the writers Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Lethem, Amitav Ghosh, and Luc Sante.

Two recent Intellectual Affairs columns in Inside Higher Ed detailed the concerns of many scholars about the planned changes at the library. The president of the library wrote a column here last month defending the changes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 4:30am

University of Utah faculty members are willing to move class locations on days that night football games will be played on campus, but they issued a plan Monday designed to demonstrate that there is no need to call off classes, as was done last season, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Faculty leaders said that it was important to make a statement about the values of the institution by not calling off classes just because of a weeknight football game. "Do we want to send a message that the education of our students is secondary to other interests? We have made a commitment as an institution to accommodate what we do for a living, and that’s education," said Patricia Hanna, a professor of linguistics.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 3:00am

Major League Baseball and the National Collegiate Athletic Association are in the early stages of discussion of a potential partnership in which the professional league could fund scholarships and otherwise support the sport at the collegiate level, the Associated Press and CBSsports.com reported. The AP quoted Walt Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and a leader in NCAA governance, said he was "cautious" about whether the partnership would come about, but that he could envision similar arrangements occurring in golf and other sports.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 4:41am

Hebrew College has abandoned plans to sell its campus to pay off its debt, The Boston Globe reported. The college had planned to move into leased space. But 18 months after announcing plans to sell the campus, the college has managed to reduce its spending on administrative functions, and to attract enough new backing to stay put.

 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan is today unveiling a new way to encourage faculty research innovation. In a $15 million program called MCubed, faculty members will receive a token for $20,000. When three faculty members decide to "cube" their tokens and work together on a project, they will receive -- on a first-come, first-served basis -- $60,000 to hire one graduate student, undergraduate student, or postdoctoral researcher to begin work on the idea. Thirty faculty members could cube together and get funds for 10 such positions. The idea is to let researchers quickly move toward testing their projects, rather than going through the long peer review process to receive an initial planning grant. Michigan officials hope these "cubed" grants will let researchers move quickly into position to apply for much larger outside grants.

“The world has changed and yet higher education’s funding model is the same. With the speed at which people communicate and share information today, we see an opportunity to do things in a very different way. This is a totally new model that could turn things upside down,” said Mark Burns, professor and chair of chemical engineering. Burns developed the idea with Alec Gallimore and Thomas Zurbuchen, both associate deans in the College of Engineering.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Miami is preparing to lay off as many as 800 employees, roughly 8 percent of its work force, amid cutbacks in state and federal funds and payments by insurers, The Miami Herald reported. Although Miami is a private institution that often operates out of public view, it signaled its plans on a state website Tuesday because of a Florida law that requires employers to warn of layoffs that would affect 500 or more workers.

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