The National Association of Scholars in June released a report criticizing the selections colleges make for common reading assignments for freshmen, charging that colleges favor the multicultural and politically correct over the timeless ideals that have helped to build Western civilization. Many academics criticized the association's critique, saying that it oversimplified the book selections and didn't reflect the actual goals behind these reading programs. For instance, many colleges said that the association was correct in identifying a preference for living authors -- and that colleges leaned that way because they saw value in inviting those authors to campus to meet students. On Friday, the association released a list of 37 of its suggestions for books that would be good to use for common reading programs for freshmen. Dead white men do dominate the list -- with William Shakespeare getting three slots (for Julius Caesar, Richard III and Henry V). The association also recommends Augustine's Confessions, James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, and Voltaire's Candide, not to mention classics by the likes of Plato and Plutarch. But those expecting only works by dead white men may be surprised to find books by a living white man (Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff); a living African author (Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart); a dead white woman (Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop); and authors who are very much a part of the African-American and American canons (Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God).
Higher Education Quick Takes
Pennsylvania State University on Friday announced its largest gift ever -- $88 million that will finance the construction of a hockey arena and the creation of a Division I men's hockey team. The university also will create a Division I women's hockey team.
The chancellor of the University of New Orleans is out of a job -- though he and the president of the Louisiana State University System offered different perspectives on whether he jumped or was pushed. The LSU System announced Thursday that its president, John V. Lombardi, had accepted the resignation of Timothy Ryan, chancellor of the New Orleans institution since 2003, and that Lombardi and a team of system officials and local board members would oversee the campus until a successor is named. Later Thursday, Ryan held a news conference at which he told reporters that he had been called to Lombardi's office and "fired" because he "would not allow the LSU System to run UNO as a branch campus of LSU in Baton Rouge." The LSU system released a letter in which Lombardi said he was accepting a recent offer by Ryan to resign. Ryan admitted at the news conference that he had made such an offer, but said he had done so only after essentially being forced out. The LSU system is facing significant budget cuts, and the system's statement said that the interim management team would "conduct a thorough, top-to-bottom review of UNO's strengths in preparing to manage the difficult budget process" over the next year.
The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing, culinary arts, maritime technology and concrete technology, The Detroit News reported. Community colleges in Michigan argue that there is demand for these programs and that they can expand existing offerings without additional state funds. But as the legislation moves to the Senate, many four-year universities are opposing the measure.
The University of Wyoming is not going to adopt a policy on guest speakers, despite recent controversies involving some invited to the campus, The Star-Tribune reported. Some have suggested the university needs a policy in light of its decision to stop an appearance by William Ayers, the former Weatherman leader who has gone on to a career as an education professor. But Tom Buchanan, the university president, on Thursday reiterated that he stopped that appearance because of safety concerns, not because of criticism of Ayers. While a federal judge went on to say that the decision was inappropriate, Buchanan defended it. "For me -- perhaps not for you, but for me -- it was a safety issue," Buchanan said. "I did what I thought was right, knowing that a judge and many others, on and off campus, might disagree."
President Obama on Thursday said in a statement that he would support efforts to use a defense spending bill as a vehicle to pass the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for many college students who have been in the United States for years -- typically brought by their parents at young ages -- without legal documentation to allow them to stay. Many political leaders have argued for keeping the DREAM legislation -- arguably one of the less controversial parts of immigration reform -- in an overall package of changes in immigration laws. The statement issued by the White House stressed that Obama still supported comprehensive immigration reform but that he was getting behind the idea of moving on DREAM first. "The president noted that it is time to stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents, especially when those youth grew up in America and want to serve this country in the military or pursue a higher education they have earned through academic excellence," said the statement.
Student journalists at Southwestern College, a community college near San Diego, say that the administration is trying to block them from publishing controversial election-related articles by invoking an old rule to require them to seek bids on their publishing contract, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The college has not enforced, for at least 15 years, a policy requiring the paper to seek bids before signing a printing contract, but the college now says that the paper may not be printed again until a bidding process takes place. The students say that this is an attempt to squelch them, but college officials say they just discovered the rule -- and they note that students can publish online.
The University of California is routinely ignoring its own policies on proxy votes involving stocks in its endowment, according to an investigation by Bay Citizen, a nonprofit journalism organization whose work appears in The New York Times. The university's rules require a case-by-case analysis on proxy measures involving social issues, but the analysis found that the university appears to routinely vote against measures that would seem to require such an analysis -- without evidence of a study having taken place. Melvin Stanton, the university’s associate chief investment officer, told the Bay Citizen: "Our focus is doing what is best to improve the financial wherewithal of a particular company,” adding that "we’re not really focusing on social issues.”
Higher education leaders from 17 countries on Wednesday announced agreement on a set of principles for evaluating quality in master's and doctoral education. The agreement seeks to articulate principles in light of the trend in which much more consideration goes into global consideration of standards for undergraduate education. Among the principles: that quality evaluation must "go beyond the assessment of research quality" and consider such factors as admissions, recruitment and student learning outcomes; that "meaningful quality metrics" are needed to evaluate research; and that faculty members need to play a key role in the evaluation process. Higher education groups from the following countries signed on: Australia, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
The Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) for fiscal 2010, was 0.9 percent, less than half the 2.3 percent rate for FY2009, according to the Commonfund Institute, which calculates the figure. The index is intended to be used, like an inflation rate, in examining college budgets and policies. The idea is that colleges' expenses are sufficiently different from those in national inflation rates to merit a separate figure. The chief reason for this year's low rate was that two spending categories used in calculating the rate -- materials and utilities -- saw declines in prices.