The Department of Veterans Affairs faced significant problems in carrying out the Post-9/11 GI Bill, resulting in significant delays in processing education benefits for veterans and major headaches for college officials, the Government Accountability Office said in a report Thursday. Congress's investigative arm found that the veterans' agency could have improved its performance in implementing the dramatically expanded new program if it had worked more closely with the Education Department and others, and urged it to do so in the future. The publication of the GAO report echoed many concerns that college officials expressed throughout the process, prompting one campus official, on a listserv on veterans' issues, to write: "Duh."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Indian students for years have considered the United States, Britain and Australia as the top study abroad destinations. But The Economic Times reported that the "red hot locations" today are new: Continental Europe, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and China.
A deaf football fan is suing the University of Kentucky in hopes of forcing it to caption all game-related announcements on scoreboards at Commonwealth Stadium. The complaint, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Lexington, cites the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and argues that Charles Mitchell, a Kentucky football season ticket holder, "does not have equal opportunity to enjoy, benefit from, or participate in home games or athletic events, equal to that of individuals without disabilities." Among other actions demanded, the complaint argues that the university should provide captioning on "Jumbotrons and video monitors" at its football stadium for "all of the plays that just occurred, all of the penalties called, safety and emergency information, and any other announcements made over the public address system." Kentucky officials declined to comment on the suit to the Associated Press Thursday. The AP also reported that the suit against Kentucky resembles suits recently brought against Ohio State University and the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Ohio State settled the matter out of court last year and has agreed to provide captioning; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a decision in March requiring that the Redskins provide captioning.
Preliminary results from Tuesday’s election show that incumbents on the Flathead Valley Community College Board of Trustees easily held off a surprise challenge from a group of conservative candidates whose views and campaign rhetoric startled many in the rural Montana region who were used to uneventful races. Among other positions, the challengers argued that the college relied too heavily on federal funding and that its faculty and staff unions should not have the right to collectively bargain for their salary or benefits levels. A campaign blog maintained by one of the main challengers offered congratulations to the incumbents in a post Wednesday afternoon. The official results of the election are slated to be released and certified at the next Board of Trustees meeting, May 23.
The University of Texas at Austin has largely resisted the controversial higher education reforms being pushed by Texas Governor Rick Perry and others close to him, but Texas A&M University -- the governor's alma mater -- has been more open to the ideas. For instance, Texas A&M has published rankings of professors' "productivity." But this week, 22 prominent A&M alumni, all of whom have been been designated as "distinguished alumni" for their contributions to the university, are circulating a letter calling for Texas A&M to oppose the governor's ideas, The Houston Chronicle reported. The letter refers to "an extraordinary level of political intervention in our university" that could hurt the university's standing. In particular, the letter questions "proposals to fundamentally change how research universities in Texas fulfill their educational responsibilities."
Two months after the faculty of the Rhode Island School of Design overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the school's president and provost, the provost, Jessie Shefrin, has announced she will step down, according to the Providence Journal.
In early March, three-quarters of the faculty at RISD who cast ballots returned a vote of no confidence in Shefrin and in President John Maeda, due, in part, to concerns over management style and to objections over a new strategic plan. Faculty members argued that the plan would weaken the school's core curriculum and academic standards.
Shefrin became provost at RISD in 2008 after serving as dean of graduate studies since 2005. "I will be taking a long-awaited sabbatical next year as I make the transition to pursue other interests," she said in a statement, according to the paper. Maeda has announced a search for an interim provost who will start in the fall and serve for one year.
Britain should consider giving more financial support for private (read: for-profit) providers of higher education and developing a more consistent regulatory framework to monitor them, according to a study reported on by Times Higher Education. The study, by the Higher Education Policy Institute, suggests that the government consider incentives to private institutions to merge with or take over failing public universities. But it also warns that, if Britain isn't vigilant enough in its oversight, it could end up repeating the mistakes of the U.S. higher education system, where for-profit colleges have come under intense scrutiny.
Toilet drainage issues appear to be a growing problem in higher education. On Monday we noted concern at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks about people flushing socks down the toilets of the fine arts complex. Now comes word from The Boulder Daily Camera that the University of Colorado at Boulder is suing a company for $40,000 over damage caused by toilet paper "that failed to disperse properly."
David Protess, a legendary Northwestern University journalism professor known for his efforts to show the innocence of wrongly accused prisoners, is on leave from the university, amid investigations that he lied to the university about his conduct. But The Chicago Tribune reported that he has both signed an agreement not to return to teaching and that he started teaching an "underground class" to students. According to the Tribune, reports are surfacing that he told students to lie about their identities in some past class investigations -- a tactic he says is justified in some cases, but that others question.