Feniosky Peña-Mora, dean of Columbia University's engineering college, has resigned amid widespread faculty criticism of his performance, The New York Times reported. Peña-Mora pushed to expand the engineering college, but faced a revolt from professors who said he wasn't paying enough attention to preserving the quality of existing programs or of keeping commitments he made to them. Some minority leaders have said that the criticism is racially based (Peña-Mora was born in the Dominican Republic), and Al Sharpton is planning a rally for him in September. Two other high ranking minority administrators have left their positions at Columbia in recent years, but university officials have said that the departures are unrelated.
Higher Education Quick Takes
In today’s Academic Minute, Kurt Rotthoff of Seton Hall University tests claims about the economic benefit of investing in large sports arenas and stadiums. Learn more about the Academic Minute here. And since you may have missed yesterday's podcast, in which Colby College's David Freidenreich examines the historical meaning of dietary restrictions within the world's major monotheistic religions, here's a link.
A new poll of 1,000 adults -- released by Widmeyer Communications -- has mixed results for those in higher education. About 60 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed said they believed college was a good investment, with only 12 percent disagreeing, and the rest saying they didn't know. But the poll found Americans split on whether college is as valuable today as it was 20 years ago, with 46 percent agreeing, and 41 percent disagreeing -- despite countless statements from educators that college is more necessary today than at previous points in American history.
All of the sports except one that were slated for elimination at the University of Maryland at College Park were officially terminated Monday, after seven of eight failed to reach the necessary fund-raising goals to stay alive. But men’s outdoor track and field still must meet “a number of other benchmarks” to keep the sport on the books, the athletic department said in a statement. The university said in November it would cut a third of its sports teams to help mitigate a budget deficit that last year had the athletic department borrowing more than $1 million from the institution. The teams that will not return are men’s cross country, women’s outdoor track, men’s and women’s outdoor track, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, women’s acrobatics and tumbling, and women’s water polo.
The Institute for Higher Education Policy has devised a new classification system to measure the performance and characteristics of for-profit colleges and universities. The framework is an attempt to look at for-profits in a less monolithic way, said Michelle Asha Cooper, the institute's president, and also to be "more outcomes-specific" when tracking the sector. One key measure is a look at markets where for-profits have expanded their operations, and the relative affluence of those markets. Parts of California, for example, have seen rapid growth, according to the system's accompanying report.
The target audience for the framework is lawmakers, Cooper said, adding that it could be used to help inform state-level policies. However, Cooper said findings gleaned from the system are likely to be complex and difficult to generalize. "It doesn't put institutions in neat little buckets," she said.
In March, hundreds of students at Central Connecticut State University held a rally to back Alexandra Pennell, a student who told the crowd that she had been receiving notes in her dormitory room attacking her for being a lesbian. Now Pennell has been expelled from the university and faces numerous criminal charges that she faked the notes, The Hartford Courant reported. Police who were investigating Pennell's allegations installed (with her knowledge) a camera to try to identify who was leaving the notes. Twice the camera was turned off, and during one of those times, a note arrived. Authorities then installed another camera in a hall closet and recorded Pennell leaving the notes herself. Her lawyer declined to comment.
California students have struggled (without much success) to win tuition freezes in public higher education. Now a graduate of the University of California at Irvine is trying a new tactic that could succeed where others have failed. He is collecting signatures on a petition for a referendum to the California Constitution that would require public colleges and universities to keep tuition rates at the level that students pay when they first enroll, The Los Angeles Times reported. So colleges and universities could increase the rates each year for new students, but not continuing students. "It's an unsettling and uncertain feeling when you think you are going to afford something and just skate by and suddenly somebody asks for more money you don't have. You feel you are going to lose your investment. You feel you are going to lose your future," said Christopher Campbell, who is organizing the campaign. California higher education leaders are skeptical, and Campbell still needs many more signatures. But such a proposal, if it qualifies for the ballot, could be popular.
The University of Birmingham, in Britain, has withdrawn a job advertisement seeking people to be unpaid research assistants, Times Higher Education reported. Birmingham withdrew the ad after the university was criticized for not paying people in the position. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, the primary faculty union in Britain, said that not paying researchers “undermines the principles of equal pay and is discriminatory."
In a new report the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning describes various "showcase" models of competency-based degree programs, which are efficient at eliminating redundant coursework or unnecessary degree requirements. There are a variety of sound approaches to competency-based education, the report found, which ensure the quality of a degree by focusing on outcomes rather than the amount of time students spend on coursework. The council also encourages the use of student assessments, which can be used to measure students' prior learning.