Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 3, 2014

Three Congressional lawmakers are pushing for a new federal committee that would coordinate the government’s oversight of for-profit colleges. Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Tom Harkin of Iowa, both Democrats, plan to introduce legislation Thursday that would create a committee comprising representatives from nine federal agencies that oversee for-profit colleges.

The committee would be tasked with improving the coordination among the various federal and state regulators that are investigating for-profit institutions. It would also publish an annual “warning list” of colleges that have been found guilty of illegal activity or institutions for which the committee otherwise has “sufficient evidence” of widespread abuses. Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, plans to introduce an identical proposal in the House, but both bills are likely to face fierce opposition from Republicans, who have been critical of the Obama administration’s efforts to more tightly regulate the for-profit industry. 

April 3, 2014

The National Geographic Channel has indefinitely put off a new television show "Nazi War Diggers" that was to have featured the digging up of Nazi war graves, The New York Times reported. The action followed strong criticism of the planned program by the American Anthropological Association and other scholarly groups. Scholars, who conduct digs according to ethical standards, have said that their work is undercut when television shows suggest that digs are about entertainment or making money.

 

April 3, 2014

The General Assembly of South Carolina, which selects most public college trustees, on Wednesday voted down the re-election of a trustee even though no other person had decided to run for the position, The Post and Courier reported. It was unclear why the legislators rejected Daniel Ravanel. Some said it was because he had endorsed a recent board resolution that defended the idea of academic freedom -- which was widely seen as a rebuff to legislators who are angry that the college assigned an acclaimed memoir (that deals in part with gay and lesbian sexuality) to freshmen last year. (In an interview for his trustee re-election, Ravenel had indicated that he shared legislative concerns. Other reported indicated that Ravenel was being punished for not being sufficiently supportive of the recent controversial selection of a long-time legislative leader to become -- over student and faculty opposition -- the next president of the college.

 

April 3, 2014

Florida was a pioneer in having community colleges offer four-year degree programs (and having them drop "community" from their names). Now, some legislators are raising questions about whether the four-year programs overlap too much with offerings of the state university system, Miami Today reported. College leaders defend the programs, saying that they meet key education needs in their local communities, and that state universities don't have capacity for all of the students But Joe Negron, chair of the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee, said his concern was the impact on university budgets and aspirations. “I think we have great universities, but I want to see them get to an elite level, where we have universities in Florida that are thought of with the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill [and the] University of Michigan,” he said. “And we can’t do that if we have two systems that are overlapping."

 

April 3, 2014

A police official was killed and several others were wounded in bombings near Cairo University on Wednesday, The New York Times reported. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings, which the Times described as seeming to signal an intensification of violence on Egypt’s university campuses. 

April 3, 2014

A group of 20 University of California at Santa Cruz students were arrested early Wednesday during a protest outside the campus's two main entrances. Robert Cavooris, a graduate student of political theory who is part of Graduate Student Workers-United, affiliated with the United Auto Workers, said that four graduate student workers on a pre-announced strike were arrested along with 14 undergraduates who were supporting them. Cavooris, who was not arrested, said that at least some of those arrested had been picketing legally, and were not trying to block entrances to campus. They were still being held as of Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Jim Burns, a Santa Cruz spokesman, said that the campus has just two vehicular entrances and that students had been allowed to block one but not the other. Students were arrested based on a variety of charges, including blocking an entrance to a university and failing to disperse. He said only one student resisted arrest.

Graduate student workers across the University of California System had planned to strike Wednesday and today in protest of unfair labor practice claims filed against various campus administrations, including that Santa Cruz had violated labor law by videotaping union activities earlier this academic year. Burns said he was unfamiliar with those claims.

 

April 3, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Frederic Bouchard, a postdoctoral research fellow at Université Laval, explains his work with the climate models of many areas across Canada. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

April 3, 2014

The U.S. Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on Wednesday announced that it had approved Portia Wu as assistant secretary of labor for employment and training. Wu is a lawyer who previously worked for the committee. She replaces Jane Oates, who left the Labor Department last year and is now vice president for external affairs at the Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix.

April 2, 2014

The Faculty Senate at the College of Charleston voted unanimously Tuesday that it has no confidence in the college's board. The vote was prompted by the recent pick of a career politician known for his love of Confederate history as the next president of the college. Board members -- elected by legislators -- have said that Glenn McConnell's political connections will help the college. But students and professors disagree.

The resolution of no confidence says that the search was conducted with "clear disregard" for best practices, by adding candidates (including McConnell) to a list of finalists prepared by the search committee. Further, the resolution notes board members who have been raising questions about the teaching of books that offend them, and an apparent disregard in the college's mission as a liberal arts institution. "[T]hese recent actions and positions have hurt the image and brand of the college and appear likely to negatively impact our ability to recruit students, expand our outreach to minorities, recruit and retain faculty, and successfully engage in fund-raising," the resolution says.

April 2, 2014

Some students who attended the office hours of Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon on Tuesday refused to leave and staged a sit-in that was still going on as of 9:30 p.m. The students are demanding that Hanlon endorse the "Freedom Budget" that they have created. That document includes numerous demands, including increased enrollment (to 10 percent each) of black, Latino and Native American students; the enhancement of many ethnic studies programs; a pledge to make 47 percent of postocs be people of color; and a requirement departments "that do not have womyn or people of color will be considered in crisis and must take urgent and immediate action to right the injustice." Hanlon expressed his commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. A statement from Dartmouth Tuesday night said that students who remain in the president's office "understand, based on discussions with campus safety and security that they are in violation of college policy."

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