Higher Education Quick Takes
The board of Southern University on Friday declared that the flagship campus at Baton Rouge is in a state of financial exigency, The Advocate reported. A similar vote failed in September, when several board members did not attend the meeting. Faculty groups and others have opposed the move, which makes it easier for the university to eliminate academic programs, tenured faculty positions, and more. But university leaders said that they needed flexibility to deal with budget cuts that have already been made by state officials in Louisiana, and more that are expected.
A jury on Friday awarded $4.1 million to Austin T. Wells for brain injuries he suffered after falling down an elevator shaft at an event sponsored by the University of Memphis in 2005, The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. The jury found the university 65 percent at fault and a gallery where the event was held 30 percent at fault, with Wells 5 percent responsible, and the funds provided to Wells will be provided in that proportion, minus the 5 percent. The university and the gallery owner had each blamed the other party for lack of supervision at the event.
The Pentagon on Friday pledged not to change tuition reimbursement policies for active duty military at this time. Cuts in benefits have been expected (and the Marine Corps indicated earlier in the month that it was ready to make cuts), causing concern to many active duty military members who are enrolled in various programs. The Pentagon announcement did not rule out future cuts, but said any changes would be made as part of a "holistic review of the military compensation package."
Several Republican presidential candidates (but not Mitt Romney or Rick Perry) spoke about education on Thursday at a forum sponsored by the College Board and News Corp. Herman Cain, who is currently leading in some polls of Republican voters, said that helping students afford a higher education is not a federal responsibility, Politico reported. "I believe that if a state wants to help with college education, that they should do that," he said. "Secondly, you have people living within communities within states that are willing to help fund those kinds of programs. So I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to help fund a college education because herein, our resources are limited and I believe that the best solution is the one closest to the problem. The people within the state, the people within the communities, ultimately, I believe, are the ones who have that responsibility."
Representative Michele Bachmann used the forum to criticize President Obama for his plan to reduce the size and duration of some payments on student loans. The Associated Press reported that she said the president was exceeding his authority with the plan, and that there was a "moral hazard" in relieving people of debts that they have accumulated.
David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba, on Thursday became the first Canadian university president to formally apologize for the residential schools that were formerly used in the country to educate many Native Canadians, with the goal of assimilating them into the dominant white culture. Barnard made his apology in a statement to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He noted that the university did not run the schools, but said that did not remove all responsibility for the system. “We did not live up to our goals, our ideals, our hard-earned reputation or our mandate," said Barnard. "Our institution failed to recognize or challenge the forced assimilation of Aboriginal peoples and the subsequent loss of their language, culture and traditions. That was a grave mistake. It is our responsibility. We are sorry."
Trustees at Shorter University, a Baptist institution in Georgia, have voted to add a formal faith statement for the first time, as well as a "personal lifestyle statement" for all university employees that requires them to be members of a local church and and reject all sexual activity "not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality."
Such requirements are not uncommon at Christian colleges, and have been a policy at Shorter for many years, vice president for public relations Dawn Tolbert wrote in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed. Still, the written statements are a first for Shorter, which also added a document on "the integration of faith and learning" that requires faculty and staff members to submit annual plans on how they will integrate their faith with their working life, as well as a philosophy on Christian education. They are part of an effort to brand the college as a more "intentionally Christian university," Tolbert said.
The University of Idaho on Thursday revealed that it had received multiple complaints about Ernesto Bustamante, the psychology professor who killed himself this year shortly after killing a graduate student with whom he had a relationship, the Associated Press reported. The university on Thursday released extensive documents about Bustamante and also announced it was reviewing its policies on relationships between faculty members and students. Bustamante told the university he was bipolar shortly after he was hired, but he also indicated that he was receiving appropriate treatment and medication. Duane Nellis, the university president, said at a press briefing that the university cannot dismiss people for being bipolar. "We, as an institution when we hire people, we’re not allowed to ask for medical conditions, or anything like that," Nellis said. "Bipolar is something that’s certainly treatable."
A year after two female students at Marquette University said that they were sexually assaulted by athletes there, one of them gave an interview to The Chicago Tribune to discuss how the incident -- and her decision to report it -- have changed her life. In the last year, five Marquette athletes were accused of sexual assault by three female incidents, and while all have been punished in various ways by the university, they have all been permitted to continue to play on their teams. The various incidents -- in particular the one reported by the woman interviewed by the Tribune -- led to increased scrutiny of the way the university handled allegations athletes, and pledges of reforms. The woman talked about the experience of having her name leaked, of having athletes pressure her to take back her allegations and of losing many friends. "It was a traumatizing experience that I would not wish on my worst enemy," she said. "I realize that the majority of people this happens to don't do anything about it because they're scared.… But I wanted to do something so that maybe it would happen to one less girl and to let these guys know that they're not invincible."
More than 7,000 people have signed a petition calling for Florida lawmakers to defend the liberal arts. The campaign started after Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, questioned the value of educating more people in fields such as anthropology. The governor suggested that the state needs to focus on science and technology fields. But the petition states that bashing other disciplines will not promote STEM education. "Innovation and scientific discovery do not happen in a vacuum. To create the problem-solvers of tomorrow we need to maintain a well-rounded curriculum. The issue with low graduation rates in STEM programs need to be addressed at the K-12 level, not through attacks on higher education," says the petition. "Florida universities are not vocational schools. Their task is to teach students to think critically and to provide a well-rounded education, which absolutely involves the liberal arts. No government has the right to tell an individual what their chosen career should be nor does it have the right to qualify one discipline as superior to another."
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Thursday approved the elimination of undergraduate programs in physics at Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University, rejecting appeals from the historically black institutions, The Houston Chronicle reported. The board has identified hundreds of programs for elimination, based on low enrollment. But advocates for those two physics programs questioned why the state would be cutting off opportunities to produce more black scientists at a time that many experts say that the only way the United States will achieve its goals in science education is with more participation from all racial and ethnic groups.