Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 4:31am

The Tennessee Senate passed a bill Monday that would require Vanderbilt University to change its anti-bias policies with regard to student organizations, The Tennessean reported. Vanderbilt uses an "all comers" policy of the sort that has been upheld for public institutions by the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that to be recognized as an official student organization, groups cannot discriminate against any student who wants to participate. Some religious groups argue that this endangers their identities as those who do not share their faith could demand leadership positions in the groups. Defenders of such policies note that groups without official recognition can continue to limit membership and can engage in much campus activity, but typically must do so with their own funds rather than university funds. Lawmakers in Tennessee, prompted by the Vanderbilt case, are moving to bar public universities in the state from adopting policies similar to those of Vanderbilt (even though they haven't indicated any plans to do so). And on Monday, the Senate voted to add private institutions to the bill.

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

The key action corporate leaders can take to improve higher education is to advocate for state-level policies that provide incentives for boosting productivity and that remove barriers to innovation, according to a report released Monday by the Committee for Economic Development. The nonprofit business group called for a focus on "broad-access" institutions, particularly less selective public colleges, two-year institutions and for-profits, because those colleges face the biggest challenges in educating the American workforce. But change does not come from within, the report argues, so businesses must work with state policymakers to nudge colleges to adapt innovations. As for specific policies, the group called for statewide degree attainment goals and performance funding based on student outcomes, rather than inputs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 4:33am

The Simons Foundation today plans to announced a $60 million grant to the University of California at Berkeley to create a center for the study of the theory of computing, The New York Times reported. The newspaper reported that the work to be done in the center reflects the breadth of fields from the physical and social sciences in which computing theory has growing influence.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Allen Hurlbert of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reveals how different species of migratory birds are responding to global climate change. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

Jonathan Gueverra, chief executive officer of the University of the District of Columbia Community College since shortly after the college's creation three years ago, has been named president of Florida Keys Community College. The new community college in D.C. is the city's first two-year institution. There have been tensions over whether the college should be fully independent from the four-year UDC, The Washington Post reports.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 4:38am

St. John's College, the Annapolis institution with a curriculum built on the Great Books, has updated its fight song to better reflect its values, The Baltimore Sun reported. The song that has been used for a century featured typical references to fighting. The song didn't get much use lately because St. John's athletic teams are in sports -- crew, croquet, sailing and fencing -- not traditionally associated with marching bands and fight songs. But for this year's croquet match against the U.S. Naval Academy, the college used a new fight song, with books front and center. Some lyrics:

"True love of wisdom is sheltered in her halls.

Seekers of virtue will answer to her call.

Books and a balance are all the tools we need.

St. John's forever. She will make us free."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

Brazil's Supreme Court has upheld the use of racial quotas by universities, AFP reported. The case before the Supreme Court concerned the University of Brasilia, which set quotas in 2004 that 20 percent of admissions slots would go to black, mixed-race or indigenous students. More than 70 percent of Brazil's 98 public universities have such quotas, so the case was considered likely to influence admissions practices nationally. The quotas were challenged by a right-wing party that argued that they were counter to principles of equity. But the Supreme Court ruled that the quotas were justified as a means to redress the impact of centuries of slavery in the nation.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Chris Peterman, a student at Bob Jones University, has clashed with university administrators on a number of issues, and he says that he is being kicked out for, among other things, watching the television show "Glee," WSPA News reported. Students are not permitted to watch television on campus, but are permitted to watch off campus, and Peterman said he was spotted by another student off campus watching "Glee." When he was summoned to a meeting back on campus, he said that a dean told him the show was "morally reprehensible," and gave him demerits that had him on a path to suspension. A Bob Jones spokeswoman said that Peterman was not facing disciplinary action over "Glee," but she also said that watching the show would not be appropriate for a Bob Jones student. "We expect students to obey the student covenant in the spirit and the letter.  Our goal is to help him succeed, and we've done everything we can to help him succeed," she said.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Several major college football programs in recent years have hired assistant football coaches (often at very high salaries) with the idea that they would ultimately succeed their current head coaches when they retire. Now the "coach-in-waiting" trend has extended to college basketball, where Southern Methodist University -- which this month hired 71-year-old Larry Brown to head its men's hoops program -- has hired Tim Jankovich, the head coach at Illinois State University, to serve as an assistant under Brown at a salary of close to $700,000, USA Today reported. Longevity in a specific job has never been Brown's strong suit, and at his age, many observers expect him not to be in the SMU job for more than a few years. Jankovich's hiring is expected to make it harder for the coaches of other programs to discourage would-be Southern Methodist players from enrolling there because of the expected turnover upon Brown's retirement.

 

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives passed a bill Friday to keep the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for another year, but President Obama threatened to veto the measure because it would cover the $6 billion cost of the extension by cutting money in the health care reform law for preventive care and public health. Obama has seized the student loan issue as the campaign for the general election begins in earnest, touring college campuses and calling on Congress to act to stop the interest rate from doubling to 6.8 percent in July. 

Democrats in the House and Senate proposed paying for the extension through either changing tax laws that allow owners of some corporations to avoid payroll taxes, or through cuts to oil subsidies. Republicans previously said they wanted a long-term solution rather than a short-term extension, and passed a budget for fiscal year 2013 that allowed the interest rate to increase.

Friday's bill passed 215-195. 

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