Higher Education Quick Takes
Seven months after taking the presidency of Capella University and four months into the job, Larry Isaak is leaving the for-profit higher education company. Capella, an online university that focuses on graduate education, issued a cryptic announcement late Friday saying that Isaak has "made the personal decision to step down and will pursue other opportunities." Isaak did not reply to e-mail messages seeking comment, and officials at the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the regional policy group that Isaak headed before leaving for Capella, could not be reached for comment. The compact had not yet hired a replacement for Isaak, who was chancellor of the North Dakota University System before leading MHEC.
At a Lawrence Summers speech in Boston Monday, the audience questions focused not on economic policy, but on his portrayal in "The Social Network," The Boston Globe reported. In the film, Summers is brusque and dismissive of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, two students who met with him to complain that another student, Mark Zuckerberg, had stolen their idea for Facebook. Summers said Monday that the film was "fairly accurate," including its depiction of his less than warm treatment of the Winklevoss brothers. “I’ve read somewhere, on occasion, that people think I can be arrogant. And, uh, I can’t imagine why. And if that is so, I probably was on that occasion.’’
The University of Nevada at Reno -- facing steep budget cuts from the state -- on Monday announced a plan to eliminate numerous programs and, with them, 225 positions, of which 150 are currently filled. Among the programs that will be eliminated: the School of Social Work, degrees in theater and French, the assessment office and the special collections division of the library.
A new report suggests that Indian universities may be able to recruit substantial numbers of Indian graduate students in the United States to return. The issue is key because Indian universities badly need to recruit more faculty talent, and many have assumed that those who come to the United States for graduate study are unlikely to consider jobs in India. The new study -- by researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Pennsylvania State University and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences -- interviewed 1,000 Indians who are either pursuing or have finished graduate work in the United States. Only 8 percent said that they strongly preferred to stay in the United States. While many cited obstacles to going home, their answers suggested that the right packages and conditions could attract many of them.
Roland Toups has resigned as a member the Louisiana Board of Regents, under pressure from Governor Bobby Jindal, as the board is facing criticism that all of its gubernatorial appointees are white, The Times-Picayune reported. Jindal, a Republican, is pushing a plan to merge historically black Southern University in New Orleans with the University of New Orleans. Defenders of Southern are attacking the plan in part by questioning whether the Board of Regents, which will play a key role in considering the plan, is out of compliance with a state constitutional requirement that it reflect the population of Louisiana. An aide to the governor said that the diversity issue was a reason Toups was asked to resign.
The Duke Endowment of Charlotte on Monday announced a gift of $80 million to Duke University, which will be used to renovate the student union and renovate two other buildings that were part of the original campus plan in 1924. The grant is the largest single philanthropic gift in the university's history and in the endowment's 87 years.
WASHINGTON -- It's one thing for Clayton M. Christensen to share with a bunch of Washington think tankers his warnings that colleges must change or die, as he did at the American Enterprise Institute last month. But directly to the faces of college presidents themselves, at the annual gathering of their main national association? Yet there was the Harvard Business School professor known for documenting how industries get transformed by "disruptive technologies" on Monday, telling hundreds of college chiefs at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education that he was not at all sure in 20 years if their institutions would still be around. Some of Christensen's ideas (drawn from a paper he co-wrote with Henry Eyring of Brigham Young University-Idaho called "The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education") and comments may have stung, notably his prediction that distance education, done well, can subject existing higher education to disruption that could render many existing institutions irrelevant in two decades. "There is good reason for many of us to think that we might be okay in 20 years. But I think we might be wrong," he said.
But with a good-natured, deadpan delivery and a powerful personal story -- having re-learned how to speak after suffering a stroke in July -- Christensen captivated an audience that could well have found his comments disturbing instead.
University presses need to consider new business models, and share information on successful new approaches, but no one model should be assumed to be correct for all, according to a report being released today by the Association of American University Presses. "[T]he simple product-sales models of the 20th century, devised when information was scarce and expensive, are clearly inappropriate for the 21st-century scholarly ecosystem. As the report details, new forms of openness, fees, subscriptions, products, and services are being combined to try to build sustainable business models to fund innovative digital scholarly publishing in diverse arenas," the report says.
The report stresses the role of university presses in vetting and improving scholarly writing, not just publishing it, and that emphasis turns up in several recommendations. "Open access is a principle to be embraced if publishing costs can be supported by the larger scholarly enterprise. University presses, and nonprofit publishers generally, should become fully engaged in these discussions," the report says. Another recommendation: "Proposals and plans for new business models should explicitly address the potential impact of the new model on other parts of the press’s programs, as well as explicitly address the requirements, both operational and financial, for making the transition to a new model."