Higher Education Quick Takes
Drexel University has called off plans to build an undergraduate campus in California, far from the institution's Philadelphia home, The Sacramento Bee reported. Drexel has started (and plans to continue) graduate programs in Sacramento. The undergraduate campus was to have been financed by a donation of land that would have been developed. But real estate values have fallen sharply, making the plan's underlying assumptions no longer valid, officials said.
Pope Benedict XVI used a speech to university professors in Madrid on Friday to denounce the pressures on higher education to focus on job skills as opposed to a broader education. "At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability," he said. "This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the university. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the university, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the university, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity."
The full text of the address is available from Vatican Radio.
McGill University has found a way to keep the tuition of its M.B.A. program at $29,500 -- a huge increase from the previous rate of $1,700 and a shift that had Quebec threatening to hold back funds from the university. McGill has said that the program does not depend on provincial funds and should be able to set rates comparable with top international programs. The Globe and Mail reported that by designating its program as one focused on international business, McGill has turned its M.B.A. into specialized program not covered by the province's standard tuition rules.
State auditors are calling on the Los Angeles Community College District to seek a criminal investigation of the district's hiring of an inspector general to monitor a $5.7 billion construction program, The Los Angeles Times reported. State officials said that the district hired a company with links to a construction company that was a major donor in trustee elections, and that an initial review of the proposals for inspector general ranked the selected company second to last among 11 proposals. The Times has run a series of articles about mistakes and wasteful spending in the mammoth construction program. Most district trustees are reluctant to seek a criminal investigation, saying that they do not see the need.
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing has added two more colleges to the list of hundreds that no longer restrict admissions to those willing to submit SAT or ACT scores. The new additions are Earlham and Nichols Colleges. According to FairTest, Earlham is the 36th "national liberal arts college" ranked in the U.S. News & World Report top 100 to move away from automatic testing requirements.
Leon Panetta, the new secretary of defense, is calling on the military to look for new ways to promote language training. In a memo last week to senior Pentagon officials, he said that "language, regional and cultural skills are enduring warfighting competencies that are critical to mission readiness in today's dynamic global environment." He asked relevant military leaders to "establish and execute policies" to "show we value these skills." He called for more "cross-cultural training," and new efforts to "increase and sustain the foreign language proficiency" of military professionals.
Georgetown University's basketball team is on a trip to China, where it is playing Chinese squads as part of the university's efforts to build ties in the country. But on Thursday night a brawl broke out during a game in Beijing with the Bayi Rockets, and the game ended prematurely as Coach John Thompson III pulled his team off the court as the crowd showered it with plastic bottles and other refuse. John Thompson issued this statement: "Tonight, two great teams played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams. We sincerely regret that this situation occurred. We remain grateful for the opportunity our student-athletes are having to engage in a sport they love here in China, while strengthening their understanding of a nation we respect and admire at Georgetown University."
YouTube has video of the brawl:
The University of Colorado at Boulder is proud of its numerous environmental initiatives. But as The Boulder Daily Camera noted, the university is not bothering with most surveys of campuses for "green" ratings, even if that means other institutions are named as superior on environmental matters. Until all the surveys opt to collect similar information so that time burdens aren't imposed on Boulder by filling out all of the forms, it is skipping the surveys.
The American Association of University Professors on Thursday told the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights that its recent crackdown on policies and procedures in cases of sexual harassment has the potential to threaten academic freedom. In April, the OCR sent an advisory letter to colleges and universities reiterating their responsibilities to address sexual assault under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. Given the aim of the ramped-up enforcement, organizations such as Security on Campus have praised the letter.
But the AAUP is now among groups, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, that worry that the office is overreaching. In a letter to the federal office, AAUP President Cary Nelson and Ann E. Green, chair of the AAUP Committee on Women in the Academic Profession, took issue with the OCR telling colleges to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard -- which requires them only to show that it is more likely than not that an assault occurred -- and suggested that they use the tougher "clear and convincing" standard of evidence because requiring more proof lessens the likelihood that professors be unfairly disciplined or sanctioned. (The OCR has noted that many colleges do use the latter, illegally.) The AAUP also cautioned against rushed judgment of faculty who teach courses touching on sexually sensitive topics. “‘Dear Colleague’ should encourage discussion of topics like sexual harassment both in and outside of the curriculum, but acknowledge that what might be offensive or uncomfortable to some students may also be necessary for their education,” Nelson and Green wrote.