Tea Party candidates such as Rand Paul were emphatic in their campaigns about the evils of earmarks and the need to eliminate them. But Paul, the senator-elect from Kentucky, has developed some flexibility on the subject. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said that while earmarks are a bad "symbol," he will push for earmarks for Kentucky, as long as the earmarks are sought and voted on in public. "I will advocate for Kentucky's interests," he said. That change of heart may comfort Kentucky colleges and universities that -- in an Inside Higher Ed analysis of earmarks this year -- did quite well with earmarks.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A faculty committee at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has recommended a series of ideas -- some radical -- for rethinking the College of Liberal Arts, the largest division at the institution, The Star Tribune reported. Some of the recommendations are typical of those being made at many institutions, with a call to eliminate some small majors and programs to bolster stronger departments. But other recommendations are bolder, such as a call to consider year-round instruction and replacing faculty lectures with lectures given by graduate students, while allowing faculty members to meet students in small groups.
Officially, California has always denied that its public universities charge tuition -- admitting only to requiring "fees." Even though the fees are required, involve thousands of dollars, and support the operations of the universities -- much as is the case elsewhere -- Californians have refused to call them "tuition." But the California State University System announced this week that it would admit reality. An announcement from the system office said: "At this week's California State University Board of Trustees meeting, the trustees will review an agenda item that will inform them of the CSU's intention to change the terminology used to refer to certain charges assessed to students from 'fees' to 'tuition.' " The statement quoted Benjamin J. Quillian, the system's executive vice chancellor for business and finance, as saying that "the change in terminology from 'fees' to 'tuition' will allow us to more accurately define the expenses charged to students, while eliminating confusion and improving our efficiencies in regards to financial aid."
Many times it falls to faculty members to question to relative support universities provide to athletics as opposed to academics. And faculty members at the University of Oregon have raised such questions. But over the weekend, the athletics director of the University of Washington raised those questions -- about Oregon. On a pregame radio show, Scott Woodward, the Washington athletics director, said that Oregon has become "an embarrassment" as an academic institution as its athletic success has come at the expense of academics, the Associated Press reported. On Monday, he apologized, saying that he respects Oregon and that it is "a great example of the struggles which can accompany a university when state funding decreases."
Hundreds of students may be implicated in a cheating scandal over an answer key obtained by some in advance of a senior-level course in business, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The professor in the course told his class that he was left "physically ill" and "absolutely disgusted" by the incident. Because of the widespread cheating, close to 600 students will have to retake a midterm. If students admit that they cheated the first time around, they will not face further disciplinary action. Students found not to have cheated will be allowed to take the higher of the two exam scores.
New Hampshire's community colleges are reviewing adjunct workloads to try to make sure they are not too high, The Nashua Telegraph reported. For example, Nashua Community College has imposed a limit of 15 credit hours -- arguing that more hours are inappropriate. Of 134 adjuncts currently working at the college, 14 will have their hours (and pay) reduced.
The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, a joint campus located adjacent to the Mexican border, will reopen today, following its decision to close on Friday and over the weekend due to rising violence in Mexico. A notice posted on the institution's website stated that campus security officials would continue to monitor the situation.
Darrell G. Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, on Sunday at the group's annual meeting called for a series of reforms of the institutions and the services they provide. While praising the health care reform law Congress passed, Kirch said that it should be viewed as "a crucial first step," and not a resolution of the problems facing American health care. He called on medical schools -- among other things -- to launch new ways to prepare people to lead their institutions, to be more open about medical education's finances and alternative approaches to them, and to redesign health care for the faculty and staff members, and their families, who work in academic medicine. "Data indicate that, despite our knowledge and experience, our faculty and staff members are not always wise consumers of heath care," Kirch said. "We often do not receive basic preventive services or good continuity of care, and too often we overuse tests and procedures despite the best medical evidence. Because many medical schools and teaching hospitals self-insure, they carry all the financial risk for their employees’ health status and health care. That presents an incredible opportunity. Rather than just being one more detached employer lamenting rising health care costs, academic medical centers in many cases are in the best position to improve the health of their faculty and staff."
A professor in Taiwan last week unveiled software that would allow universities to measure the impact that various university decisions would have on international rankings of universities, Times Higher Education reported. "We need a system to help us know what kind of strategy we can use to get on the [rankings] list," said the professor, Han-Lin Li, of National Chiao Tung University. Under the system, a university could measure the impact, for example, that recruiting a single Nobel laureate would have on the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings (which uses a methodology that includes the number of faculty Nobel laureates).
The president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, on Friday issued a letter saying that the university was responsible for the death of Declan Sullivan, who was killed in an accident last month when the tower on which he was situated to film a football practice collapsed. "There is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of its students under any circumstances. Yet this loss is more devastating, for Declan died in a tragic accident while in our care," wrote Father Jenkins. "For that, I am profoundly sorry. We are conducting an investigation and we must be careful not to pre-judge its results, but I will say this: Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe. We at Notre Dame — and ultimately I, as president — are responsible. Words cannot express our sorrow to the Sullivan family and to all involved." Notre Dame has asked Peter Likins, former president of the University of Arizona, to conduct an independent review of the tragedy. Some have criticized Notre Dame's football coach, Brian Kelly, for holding practice outdoors on the windy day when Sullivan was killed. Father Jenkins, in his letter, backed the coach: "Coach Kelly was hired not only because of his football expertise, but because we believed his character and values accord with the highest standards of Notre Dame. All we have seen since he came to Notre Dame, and everything we have learned in our investigation to date, have confirmed that belief. For those reasons I am confident that Coach Kelly has a bright future leading our football program."