Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

After weeks of divisive debate, Bergen County College’s Board of Trustees reached a compromise Wednesday with Kathleen A. Donovan, the New Jersey county executive who threatened to cut local funding for the college if she did not gain the ability to unilaterally remove items from the board’s meeting agendas. Under the compromise, which was approved unanimously by the board, Donovan can shelve agenda items, but they can be put back on the agenda within a month. Pleased with the decision, Donovan told the Bergen Record: “It’s not my job to pick the teachers or interfere with the workings of the college. It’s dollars and cents. It’s about how the money is spent.” E. Carter Corriston, board chairman, released a statement Thursday, stating: "The board looks forward to a partnership with the Bergen county executive that will promote the mutual goal of providing excellent educational opportunities to the students of Bergen Community College at a fair and reasonable cost."

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

The trustees of New Jersey's Brookdale Community College placed the president of the two-year institution on unpaid leave Thursday amid an investigation into charges that he had run up significant travel and other expenses that "may not be directly connected to Brookdale or are contrary to Brookdale’s adopted policies," the board said in its statement. Brookdale's president, Peter Burnham, came under fire last week after the Asbury Park Press and other publications reported on his significant benefits and perquisites. Further reviews of the college's budget led to Burnham's suspension and the hiring of an interim president, the board said.

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Bryant University's Amber Day examines the rise of political satire and why it is becoming a normal feature of political discourse. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

The 2010 College Racial and Gender Report Card, released Thursday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, gave college athletics a “B” for both its racial and gender hiring practices. The raw scores for both these hiring practices, as determined by Central Florida researchers, increased notably from the previous iteration of the study, in 2008. Accounting for some of the improvement, Richard Lapchick, principal author of the study and director of the Institute, notes in the executive summary that there have been many “well publicized” minority hires to head football coaching positions, in particular. Still, he argues there is much more room for improvement in other athletics positions. For example, all of the conference commissioners of Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) conferences are white men. Also, only 8.3 percent of Division I athletics directors are women.

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Harvard University on Thursday announced that it will formally welcome back to campus the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, and will discuss similar affiliations with other branches of the armed forces. Harvard officials previously signaled that they would do so once Congress cleared the way for openly gay individuals to serve in the military. Harvard students have had the option of training with an ROTC unit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and they will continue their joint training. But Harvard will now pay some of the costs of the program, provide Navy ROTC with office space and hire a director for the program. A statement from Drew Faust, Harvard's president, said: "Our renewed relationship affirms the vital role that the members of our Armed Forces play in serving the nation and securing our freedoms, while also affirming inclusion and opportunity as powerful American ideals. It broadens the pathways for students to participate in an honorable and admirable calling and in so doing advances our commitment to both learning and service."

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, issued a statement Thursday saying that he was "troubled and disappointed" by an after-class presentation in which a naked woman was stimulated to orgasm with a sex toy. Northwestern's first statement after the incident became public defended the academic freedom of the professor who arranged the presentation. But Schapiro's statement was much more critical. "Although the incident took place in an after-class session that students were not required to attend and students were advised in advance, several times, of the explicit nature of the activity, I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member. I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission," he said.

John Michael Bailey, the professor who teaches the course, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment on Schapiro's statement. But he released a statement to The Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper, about his thinking about the sex toy demonstration.

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Howard Davies has resigned as director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, amid a growing scandal over the school's ties to Libya, Times Higher Education reported. The school's governing council has started an inquiry into the Libya ties, which were nurtured by Saif Gaddafi, who received a Ph.D. from the school and is the son of the country's ruler. Elements of the scandal include allegations of plagiarism in Saif Gaddafi's dissertation, accepting money tied to Libya's government in return for providing advice and training, and a failure until recently to disclose the nature of the relationships.

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Harding University, a Christian institution in Arkansas, has blocked access to a website created by some of its gay and lesbian students and alumni, The Arkansas Times reported. A statement from the university said that the university's "student handbook states that the university holds to the biblical principle that sexual relationships are unacceptable to God outside the context of marriage and that sexual immorality in any form will result in suspension from the university. Based on that policy, university administrators felt that having this website available on campus goes against said mission and policies." The website, called HU Queer Press, gave this explanation of its mission: "The voices enclosed are the unedited and uncensored voices of individuals who are all too familiar with censorship. In truth, there is no single, identifiable goal of this zine other than to put our voices out there. Our aim is that through reading these pages you might become the ones to create the zine's ending — to usher in its full political, social, and religious implications. We fully believe in the potential of communities to be free of oppression, hatred, and misunderstanding of queer individuals — will you help us create that reality at Harding and beyond?"

Friday, March 4, 2011 - 3:00am

Chestnut Hill College on Thursday issued a new statement on its removal of two courses from Rev. James St. George, a gay priest who worked as an adjunct at the Roman Catholic college and was popular with many students. The statement said that "we express our sorrow for not communicating our decision, rife with complex and complicating factors, clearly" and that the college's decision was "sensationalized and distorted," becoming "a source of deep pain and anguish for the members of our college community, especially for those who are gay, as well as for our gay alumni, friends, benefactors, and neighbors. We ache for the negative impact this story is having on them. Likewise, we are sincerely sorry for the confusion and misinterpretation of facts that led people to draw conclusions about Chestnut Hill College that are inconsistent with our history." The statement did not detail any of the distortions that the college believes have been expressed elsewhere, but stated (emphasis in original) that Chestnut Hill is "an inclusive Catholic community that welcomes women and men from all religious faiths, cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles." The statement also said that the college "is reviewing its policies and procedures to ensure that this situation never happens again."

The college did not respond to requests to talk about the statement and to elaborate on its points -- just as the college did not respond to requests for elaboration on its earlier statement about its former adjunct.

Father St. George is not a Roman Catholic, but is part of the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of the Americas, which split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1870s and which today permits priests to be married or gay. The college's initial statements denied that Father St. George was fired (even though he produced contracts he had been given for two courses) and suggested that he deceived the college by wearing "a traditional Catholic priest's collar" (when Father St. George noted that he is openly gay and openly not a Roman Catholic, and has talked publicly about both of those facts for years).

Students at the college have created a Facebook group and are organizing a rally to defend Father St. George. On the Facebook page, the students say that "Father James St. George is an amazing teacher who has the ability to really get his students to think outside the box while looking at a situation from all points of view," that they believe that "EVERYTHING that Chestnut Hill has released has been a LIE and cannot be reached for comment. They will not even answer to their students, like me," and that students should "show your support for EQUALITY, RELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING, and JUSTICE."

Thursday, March 3, 2011 - 3:00am

Higher education groups stepped up their campaign Wednesday against the latest round of regulatory steps made by the U.S. Education Department. In a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, 60 college associations urged the department to withdraw its October 2010 rule that would require states to specifically authorize institutions to offer postsecondary education, to have a process whereby an institution can be subject to adverse action by the state, and to have a process to review and act on complaints. According to the groups’ letter, rather than address their earlier concerns that the rule encouraged state "overreach" in regulating independent colleges, the Education Department added in the final rule an "entirely new and problematic provision regulating distance education programs." The state authorization rule is the second that the groups have urged the department to withdraw; the first was on a new federal definition of the credit hour.

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