Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 29, 2013

The new chancellor of California's community colleges, Brice W. Harris, has written in opposition to a legal challenge to the system's shared governance structure. California Competes, a nonprofit group led by Robert Shireman, says local academic senates have illegal veto power over board actions, which contributes to a "tangled bureaucracy." Harris, however, said the shared governance regulations are lawful and good public policy. And while he said the group's intentions are well-meaning, they are "seriously flawed."

January 28, 2013

Lafayette College is considering what actions it can take with regard to underground fraternities -- organizations that lost their recognition due to various rules violations but that continue to function unofficially, The Express-Times reported. The college's interest in the issue has grown following the death of a freshman who died after drinking alcohol believed to have been provided by an underground fraternity.

January 28, 2013

Faculty leaders are questioning why the University of Toledo is putting money into an economic development unit -- University of Toledo Innovation Enterprises -- when budget cuts are increasing class sizes and eliminating sections, the Toledo Blade reported. Critics also are pointing to the $307,000 paid last year to Rick Stansley Jr., a former chair of the university's board. University officials said that there is no improper conflict, and that the agency is needed to promote the region's economy. But Mike Dowd, president of the Faculty Senate, said: "I don’t know how many universities have the former chairman of the board of trustees take a paid position from the university. Is providing funding for Rick Stansley’s activities a higher priority than providing the resources for the instructional mission of the university?"

 

January 28, 2013

The University of Puerto Rico announced Saturday that it will eliminate an $800 fee that has led to numerous student protests, the Associated Press reported. University officials said that they could manage without the revenue generated by the fee because of government pledges to increase financial support for the university.

January 28, 2013

Elementary and secondary schools must ensure that students with disabilities can participate in sports or provide comparable options for those students, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said via a “dear colleague” letter Friday. While OCR applies the directive in the context of elementary and postsecondary education, it also states that students in postsecondary education enjoy the same rights.

(Note: This paragraph has been updated from a previous version.)

While the letter's immediate effect in higher education is unclear, its effects will be felt at colleges and universities, said Scott Lissner, president of AHEAD: Association on Higher Education and Disability.

Students who are otherwise qualified may not be prevented from trying out and playing on a team, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “Schools don’t have to change the essential rules of the game, and they don’t have to do anything that would provide a student with a disability an unfair competitive advantage,” he wrote. “But they do need to make reasonable modifications (such as using a laser instead of a starter pistol to start a race so a deaf runner can compete) to ensure that students with disabilities get the very same opportunity to play as everyone else.”

Some compared the order to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and preceded a sharp increase in female athletic participation. Lissner said that while there aren’t often formal complaints of collegiate athletic programs discriminating against students with disabilities, the same was true of sexual discrimination before Title IX, and participation skyrocketed anyway.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it was an untapped interest,” said Lissner, who is also Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator at Ohio State University. “In three, four, five years, we’re going to start seeing students who went through high school with participating in athletics at different levels readily available to them. Why wouldn’t they expect that when they get to college?”

Further, Lissner said, the directive relies on the entire Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, not just the sub-sections that apply specifically to primary and secondary education, suggesting the same principles should be applied at colleges and universities.

January 28, 2013

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is planning a new commission that will study the issues facing public universities and consider ways to bolster them in an era of reduced tax support, The Los Angeles Times reported. The new commission will be announced today. It will be led by Robert J. Birgeneau, who is retiring in June as chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley. In honor of the president who signed the legislation in 1862 that led to the system of land grant universities, the new effort will be called "The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education."

January 28, 2013

The University of the District of Columbia is eliminating nearly 100 positions -- most of them administrative but some faculty jobs as well -- to deal with financial problems, The Washington Post reported. Few details are available on which jobs will be cut. The cuts are projected to save $8.5 million a year.

 

January 28, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Kevin Shakesheff of the University of Nottingham explains an innovation that allows better observations of embryonic development in the lab. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

January 28, 2013

Xiamen University, in China, will open a branch campus in Malaysia in 2015, The New York Times reported. The primary language of instruction will be English.

 

January 28, 2013

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made a $350 million donation to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. The new gift brings his lifetime giving to Hopkins to $1.18 billion -- making him the first person to top $1 billion in gifts to an American college or university. The new funds will be used for two primary purposes. The bulk of the money will be used to endow professorships for interdisciplinary work in vital areas. The initial appointments will be in water resource sustainability, individualized health care delivery, global health, the science of learning, and urban revitalization.

The university will use $100 million from the gift for need-based aid for undergraduates. Hopkins is among the more prominent private universities in the United States that have not declared a need-blind admissions policy (meaning that applicants are reviewed and admitted without regard to financial need). Ronald Daniels, the president, has stated that he has a goal of making Hopkins need-blind. An article in The New York Times about Bloomberg's relationship with Hopkins said that he has financed 20 percent of need-based financial aid for undergraduates in recent years.

 

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