Higher Education Quick Takes
Central Michigan University administrators said late Sunday that the university would hold classes this morning despite the vote by its faculty union earlier in the day to strike. Leaders of Central Michigan's Faculty Association said university administrators had adopted a "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude in negotiations over renewing the contract for its 600-plus members, prompting them to file unfair labor practice charges. Campus officials said that they would seek a court's injunction this morning to bar what they called an "illegal work stoppage," and that students should report because fixed-term faculty members and graduate teaching assistants would "still hold classes as scheduled."
The United States Department of Education has fined Washington State University $82,500 for improperly reporting two reported sex assaults, the Associated Press reported. The university is appealing the fine -- the result of an audit of crime reporting procedures -- but also says that it has improved its system since the inquiry. In one incident, a reported assault was recorded as a "domestic dispute" when it may have involved a rape. In the other, the university's police report of an alleged assault listed it as "unfounded" after the victim decided not to provide details, but the person who made that determination did not have the authority to do so.
For the first time, students will pay more in total to attend the University of California in 2011-12 than the 10-campus system will receive in state funding, the Los Angeles Times reported. While this has been true for other public colleges and universities for some time, UC's historically low tuition and California's historically strong support for public higher education have kept these lines from crossing only now. But with California's budget in tatters, UC, like many public institutions, has raised tuitions to make up for the lost state funds. "When these things happen, how often do they reverse themselves?" the Times quoted Patrick Lenz, the university's vice president of budget and capital resources, as saying. "Never."
The Faculty Senate of Southern University at Baton Rouge has rejected a request to approve furloughs for professors, and to shorten the time required before jobs may be eliminated, The Advocate reported. The vote followed statements from President James Llorens that he is likely to ask the Southern board to declare financial exigency in the next week, unless he could get furloughs accepted. That would allow the university, among other things, to dismiss tenured professors. Faculty leaders said that more money could be saved with administrative cuts before furloughs would be needed or declaring financial exigency would be appropriate.
James Perry retired as dean and chief executive officer of the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley campus this year. Gannett Wisconsin Media reported that the retirement was under strong pressure, following alleged inappropriate conduct while accompanying those on a three-week study abroad trip in Namibia. According to documents obtained by the news service, Perry "drank, swore, made crude remarks to women on the trip, overstepped his authority and got into a physical altercation with an assistant professor and a student." He was then given the choice of retirement or return to the faculty. Perry said that the incidents in Namibia were not as bad as the report made them sound, and he characterized them as nothing more than "a shouting match." But he added that he realized retirement was a good option. "I just know how things go," he said. "Once something gets messed up, it's hard to kind of back out and rethink things. It's just better if everybody says, 'OK, that's enough. Let's just call it a good career.' "
A study published Thursday in Science found that science graduate students are more likely to improve their research skills if they are also teaching. The study counters conventional wisdom that time spent on teaching limits advancement in research. David Feldon, assistant professor of education at the University of Virginia and lead investigator on the study, found that graduate students in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics who both teach and conduct research demonstrate greater growth over an academic year in their abilities to generate testable hypotheses and design experiments around those hypotheses than do grad students who only conduct research.
The University of Utah has fired a political science professor after concluding that he engaged in a "pattern of plagiarism," the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The newspaper said that a faculty panel determined that Bahman Bakhtiari, former head of the university's Middle East Center, had committed plagiarism, but that the panel recommended against dismissing him. But according to documents provided to the Tribune, it said, Utah's interim president overruled the faculty body. "Plagiarism -- holding out the work of another as one’s own -- strikes at the very core of academic integrity," the newspaper quoted the interim president, Lorris Betz, as writing in a June 30 letter. "The only appropriate sanction in this case is dismissal, which is necessary to preserve the academic integrity of the institution and to restore public confidence in the university." Bakhtiari has contended that the overlap in his work and that of others was unintentional and too limited to qualify as a pattern.
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.