Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Notre Dame is facing -- for the second time this academic year -- charges that it was slow to investigate an alleged sexual assault by one of its students on a female student at nearby St. Mary's College, the Chicago Tribune reported. In the first case, the student who brought the complaint subsequently committed suicide. In the new case, the man who was accused of the sexual assault (and who says the sex was consensual) was not interviewed by authorities for 11 days after the accusation was made. Notre Dame, while not discussing details of the cases, issued a statement defending its handling of such allegations.

Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Union Graduate College's Sean Philpott examines why women around the world are slightly more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than are men, and continuing efforts to address the disparity. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 3:00am

Leaders of the University of Wisconsin System are urging Governor Scott Walker to reconsider a plan to spin off the system's flagship Madison campus into an independent university -- while the chancellor at Madison has quietly been encouraging the governor to set the campus loose, The Journal-Sentinel of Milwaukee reported. In a letter to Walker on Tuesday, Kevin Reilly, the system's president, and the leaders of its board write that "it has come to our attention that elements of your proposed 2011-13 biennial budget might remove UW-Madison from the UW System." Doing so would return the state to a two-tiered university system that it abandoned 40 years ago, the letter states, which would be bad for students and taxpayers. The UW system officials said that they are committed to giving the Madison campus more flexibility and autonomy, and noted that Madison's chancellor, Biddy Martin -- while pushing hard for more autonomy -- "is not advocating for UW-Madison to be removed from the system."

But late Wednesday, The Journal-Sentinel reported that it had uncovered evidence to the contrary. It cited a brief memo that Martin wrote in January to a member of the governor's cabinet acknowledging Walker's proposal and expressing support for it, if obliquely. "As I indicated when we met, we will need to continue working with the leadership of our key internal constituencies, among them our key alumni, to ensure support for a proposal," Martin wrote. And Wednesday night, the newspaper reported, Martin -- wrote a letter to the regents explaining why she had "ventured as far as I have" in pushing for Madison to split off from the system. "In my view, it is dangerous not only for UW-Madison, but for the entire System and the state to have the System administration and the regents oppose the possibility that its flagship campus, or any other campus, be given the tools it needs to preserve quality and contribute to economic recovery," she wrote.. There is nothing to be gained, in this economic and political environment, from opposing an innovative and helpful step that could move the entire system and state forward."

Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 3:00am

Depression and a loss of financial aid significantly influence college students to consider dropping out -- while events such as a death in the family and students' failure to get into their intended major have little apparent effect on continued enrollment, according to a study by Michigan State University scholars. The study, which was funded by the College Board and is forthcoming in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, used a mathematical model to analyze the "shocks" that promoted 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities to withdraw (or not). “Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college,” said Tim Pleskac, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State. “We now have a method to measure what events are ‘shocking’ students and prompting them to think about quitting.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 3:00am

The Department of Veterans Affairs has "suspended and/or withdrawn" its approval for educational benefits for veterans to flow to some for-profit colleges because they have used "questionable recruitment practices," Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a letter made public this week by Senator Richard Durbin. Officials at the veterans' agency did not respond to several telephone and e-mail messages requesting more information about which colleges it had acted against, or the practices they had engaged in. Durbin, who is among a small group of senators who have ramped up their criticism of for-profit colleges in the last year, responded to the letter from Shinseki with one of his own, which praised the department "for taking a more careful look at how for-profit schools attract and serve students assisted by VA education benefits” and asked for "more detailed information on the process it is using to assess the schools, as well as the identity of those that have had their approval affected.” A spokeswoman for Durbin said the senator had not yet received a response from the veterans' agency.

Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors has launched a formal inquiry in the way the State University of New York at Albany moved to close several language programs. The eliminations -- which the university has said are necessary due to tight budgets -- have been criticized by professors at Albany and nationally. Some have focused on the wisdom of a university that boasts about its global ambitions scaling back language programs. Others have questioned whether there was appropriate faculty consultation. The inquiry by the AAUP, a letter it sent to the university said, will focus on "the academic and educational ramifications for a prominent research university to end such programs" and "the bases and the methods for reaching the decisions," among other issues.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Nevada education is facing a "state of fiscal collapse," and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas faces budget cuts so large that it will likely have to declare "financial exigency," officials told faculty members Tuesday, The Las Vegas Sun reported. Such a declaration could lead to layoffs of tenured faculty members and the elimination of entire programs. UNLV has faced about $50 million in cuts over the last four years, but may face another $47 million over the next year. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Provost Michael Bowers appeared to be on the verge of breaking down during his talk, saying, "I never thought this day would come."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

John Junker, CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, was placed on administrative leave Monday, the Arizona Republic reported. Currently, an investigation is under way as to whether Junker and other bowl officials “orchestrated improper political contributions.” In December 2009, Grant Woods, the Fiesta Bowl’s investigator, concluded that there was “no credible evidence that the bowl’s management engaged in any type of illegal or unethical conduct.” Woods, however, recently told the Republic: “Key people may have lied to me. It’s one thing not to catch it, but it’s another thing if they were purposely trying for me not to find out.” Junker had no comment on the charges or his leave.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

A Louisiana judge granted an injunction Tuesday to block a study of a proposal to merge Southern University of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans, The Advocate reported. The injunction was sought in a suit by seven Southern students charging that the Louisiana Board of Regents in its current composition is unconstitutional, and thus lacks the authority to review the study that was under way until the injunction was issued. The lawsuit states that the board is required to represent the diversity of the state, but that all of the appointed members of the board are white. (Until recently there were some minority members, but the latest round of appointments replaced them.) Those bringing the suit, and many other supporters of Southern, a historically black institution, oppose the idea of a merger. Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, called for the study of the merger, citing low graduation rates at the two universities, but critics say that Southern has a valuable mission that would get lost in a combined institution.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Westmont College, a Christian institution that bars "homosexual practice," is facing a serious debate over how it treats its gay students, the Los Angeles Times reported. The discussions were spurred by a letter in the student newspaper, signed by 31 gay and lesbian alumni who wrote of their "doubt, loneliness and fear due to the college's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues." The alumni said they wanted their names known as "proof that LGBT people do exist within the Westmont community." There are no signs that Westmont is reconsidering its views on sexual orientation, but 50 of the college's 92 faculty members issued their own letter, asking the gay alumni for "forgiveness for ways we might have added to your pain."

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