The American Association of University Professors has written to George M. Philip, president of the State University of New York at Albany, urging him to reconsider plans to end all admissions to programs in French, Italian, Russian and classics. The letter notes the deep budget cuts faced at Albany and other SUNY campuses, but questions both whether these eliminations are necessary and whether faculty members were appropriately involved in the process to plan budget reductions. The letter endorses a view already expressed by faculty members there that eliminating these departments will erode the "core academic mission" of the university. The AAUP letter notes that the SUNY system is on the association's censure list for faculty layoffs in 1977. Those layoffs included an earlier round of language program eliminations at Albany, the AAUP recalls, adding: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." A spokesman for Albany said via e-mail on Friday: "We received the letter today amd are reviewing it. We will respond to AAUP directly, as appropriate."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Utah's attorney general met with Justice Department officials this week about a possible federal investigation into whether college football's Bowl Championship Series violates antitrust laws, the Associated Press reported. Mark Shurtleff, the Utah attorney general, told that AP that while the federal officials did not commit to an inquiry, "they had done their homework."
The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday penalized the University of Michigan for major violations involving its football program. The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions placed the institution on three years' probation and backed Michigan's decision to reduce its football practice time by 130 hours over the next two years. The trouble for the Wolverines started when Rich Rodriguez became head football coach in January 2008. During his first year and a half at Michigan, Rodriguez’s team exceeded NCAA playing and practice limits — put in place to protect player safety and guaranteeing time for academics — by approximately 65 hours.
Football staff members “monitored and conducted voluntary summer workouts, conducted impermissible activities outside of the playing season, required student-athletes to participate in summer conditioning activities as a form of punishment, and exceeded time limits for athletic activities outside the playing season.” The football team also exceeded the number of NCAA allowed coaches by retaining “five quality control staff members,” who “were on the sidelines for practice and games, traveled with the team, wore the same attire as coaches, shared office space with the football staff and attended team meetings.” The NCAA determined that the institution and Rodriguez “failed to monitor” the football program and ensure that it was adhering to rules. In addition to the probation and practice restrictions for the institution, the only punishment for Rodriguez is that he must attend a NCAA rules seminar next year.
A Tennessee judge on Thursday granted financially imperiled Fisk University's request that it be allowed to sell off part of its renowned art collection -- but imposed restrictions on the sale that left Fisk officials balking, The Tennesseean reported. Under the ruling, which was the latest step in a long-running saga over Fisk's attempts to sell a collection of Impressionist and Georgia O'Keeffe paintings, the judge ruled that Fisk could sell the works to another museum, but said that it had to put two-thirds of the expected $30 million in proceeds into a trust aimed at preserving the art if Fisk were to go under, the newspaper ruled. The ruling reportedly disappointed both Fisk officials and the state attorney general, which has sought to stop the sell-off.
Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College are two Twin Cities area colleges that are part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and both have interim presidents. On Thursday, the system announced that it would seek a single president for both colleges. Officials said that this "realignment" will not be a merger of the colleges, but rather will be an attempt to achieve better coordination and economies of scale at administrative levels.
When President Obama heads to India this weekend, he will be accompanied by presidents from several of the many universities that are exploring possible ties to the country as it prepares to open its doors to foreign institutions, Bloomberg reported. Officials from Arizona State, Boston and Rutgers Universities are among the group, according to the news service.
In comments that were widely characterized as solemn and full of contrition, after what he acknowledged was a "shellacking" for which he was largely responsible, President Obama reaffirmed his belief that further spending on education and research was necessary to assure an economic recovery. At the news conference after his party lost control of the House of Representatives and barely kept its grasp on the Senate, Obama conceded that he might have to compromise on health care and other key priorities, and that the need to control the deficit would require a contraction of federal spending. But "as we bring [the deficit] down, I want to make sure that we’re not cutting into education that is going to help define whether or not we can compete around the world. I don’t think we should be cutting back on research and development, because if we can develop new technologies in areas like clean energy, that could make all the difference in terms of job creation here at home." He added: “[I]n these budget discussions, the key is to be able to distinguish between stuff that isn’t adding to our growth, isn’t an investment in our future, and those things that are absolutely necessary for us to be able to increase job growth in the future as well."
Some universities in Texas do not give students appropriate credit for college courses they take from professors while in high school, the Dallas Morning News reported. The number of students taking such courses has more than doubled in the last five years, the newspaper reported, largely in response to changes in state law aimed at ensuring that colleges and universities give students credit for a set of core courses to make them college-ready. But some students are finding that the colleges count the credits as electives or require them to retake the classes in college, rather than as fulfilling requirements toward their degree.
A priest who was punished by Saint Vincent College for allegedly violating its policies by downloading pornography onto a computer in his office -- but who was cleared of that accusation -- has dropped a lawsuit he filed in September accusing officials of the college and its Roman Catholic archabbey of defaming him. The Rev. Mark Gruber's decision to drop the lawsuit, days after he gave a sworn deposition, prompted Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki -- whom Gruber had accused of conspiring with Saint Vincent's former president, James L. Towey, to manufacture the charges against him -- to issue a statement welcoming Father Mark's "unilateral dismissal" and suggesting that it was proof that the priest "finally had to confront his egregious misconduct.... It has now become apparent that Father Gruber has misled many people and has caused significant harm in our academic and religious communities." The archabbot said that Saint Vincent would continue to push for Father Mark's ouster as a priest through proceedings in the Vatican. Neither the priest nor his lawyer could be reached for comment. Inside Higher Ed reported in September that another employee had told both Father Mark and Saint Vincent officials that he, and not the priest, had downloaded the pornography, and several people close to Father Mark told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Thursday that he had dropped the lawsuit to protect the sanctity of the confession made to him by the other employee.
Jewish organizations are raising questions about a group at Rutgers University that is raising money for organizations that send supplies to Gaza in disregard of Israeli blockades, the Associated Press reported. Those organizing the effort say that they are trying to provide humanitarian aid, but critics say that there are questions over whether funds are being raised for illegal activities.