Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Rutgers University's board has revised its process for evaluation of its president, currently Richard McCormick, The Star-Ledger reported. Until now, McCormick has prepared a 20-page self-assessment for the board each year, followed by a meeting with board members to discuss his assessment, and theirs. Going forward, reflecting the current focus in higher education on using metrics, the evaluation will be based on specific measures related to graduation rates, research grants, the quality of the incoming undergraduate class and other factors that relate to the university's quality.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

John Junker, CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, was placed on administrative leave Monday, the Arizona Republic reported. Currently, an investigation is under way as to whether Junker and other bowl officials “orchestrated improper political contributions.” In December 2009, Grant Woods, the Fiesta Bowl’s investigator, concluded that there was “no credible evidence that the bowl’s management engaged in any type of illegal or unethical conduct.” Woods, however, recently told the Republic: “Key people may have lied to me. It’s one thing not to catch it, but it’s another thing if they were purposely trying for me not to find out.” Junker had no comment on the charges or his leave.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Westmont College, a Christian institution that bars "homosexual practice," is facing a serious debate over how it treats its gay students, the Los Angeles Times reported. The discussions were spurred by a letter in the student newspaper, signed by 31 gay and lesbian alumni who wrote of their "doubt, loneliness and fear due to the college's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues." The alumni said they wanted their names known as "proof that LGBT people do exist within the Westmont community." There are no signs that Westmont is reconsidering its views on sexual orientation, but 50 of the college's 92 faculty members issued their own letter, asking the gay alumni for "forgiveness for ways we might have added to your pain."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

The California State University System spent $1.87 million on legal bills related to a whistle-blower lawsuit that it settled last month (for $2.7 million) with David Ohton, formerly a football strength coach at San Diego State University, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Ohton's lawyer told the newspaper that said he initially offered to settle the case for an apology and his former coaching assignment -- with no money involved -- and that proposal was rejected. Ohton is leaving the university as part of the settlement. His suit focused on his demotion to other jobs, which he said was related to assistance he provided to a Cal State audit that was critical of spending practices in the athletics program at San Diego State.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Nevada education is facing a "state of fiscal collapse," and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas faces budget cuts so large that it will likely have to declare "financial exigency," officials told faculty members Tuesday, The Las Vegas Sun reported. Such a declaration could lead to layoffs of tenured faculty members and the elimination of entire programs. UNLV has faced about $50 million in cuts over the last four years, but may face another $47 million over the next year. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Provost Michael Bowers appeared to be on the verge of breaking down during his talk, saying, "I never thought this day would come."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

A group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Monday that they would seek to use budget legislation the House will consider this week to try to block the Education Department from carrying out regulations requiring vocational programs (and all programs at for-profit colleges) to ensure that they prepare students for "gainful employment." In an interview in his office, Representative John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said that he and three other lawmakers would sponsor an amendment to the continuing resolution legislation that the House could take up as early as today. The measure would bar the Education Department from using any of its appropriated funds in 2011 to promulgate or enforce the gainful employment regulations, which for-profit college officials have fought on a variety of fronts.

Kline, who spoke with reporters along with Representative Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, said the lawmakers were confident that the House would pass the legislation, and hoped that that vote would send a "strong signal" to "the administration and our friends in the Senate" that "somebody ought to take another look at" the wisdom and fairness of the rules. "We have an opportunity right now to make a statement." Kline said the lawmakers objected both to the one piece of the gainful employment regulation that the department has already published -- which requires institutions wishing to create new vocational programs to get the Education Department's approval to do so -- and to the forthcoming portion of the rules that would institute a new set of outcomes that vocational programs would have to meet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The London School of Economics and Political Science has declined to ban from a panel discussion on Europe's future two speakers who are seen as anti-Muslim for questioning the willingness of Muslim immigrants to integrate themselves into German society, Times Higher Education reported. German students and academics based in Britain had asked for the panelists to be removed, but the student organizers and the institution itself declined to do so, citing a commitment to free speech.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Next Generation Learning Challenges, a program that plans to disburse $20 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to educational technology projects over the next two years, on Monday released the 50 higher-ed finalists for its first round of grants. The projects were chosen as finalists based on their potential impact on college access and completion through the development and use of open courseware, blended learning, "deeper" learning, and learning analytics. About 60 percent of the finalists are expected to receive grants. The foundation is currently working on selecting the winners, which are expected to be announced in early spring.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Gallaudet University announced Monday that it will eliminate 17 academic programs (pdf) in a gradual process that will end in August 2013. Six undergraduate majors, six undergraduate minors, three master’s degree programs, one educational specialist program, and one doctoral program will be affected. No faculty layoffs of any kind are planned. The programs include an undergraduate major and minor in French, majors in theater arts and computer science, and a master's program in deaf history.

The announcement comes after a university task force spent seven months reviewing 99 undergraduate and graduate academic program offerings “on a set of agreed-upon common criteria for recommending growth, monitoring, restructuring, merging, or discontinuing.” A campus-wide public comment session followed. The review was prompted in an effort to meet the goals set out in the university’s “Vision 2020” plan, explained Benjamin J. Soukup, chair of the university’s board of trustees. “We feel these recommendations will help us meet those milestones and dramatically improve our offerings to ensure Gallaudet’s continued growth and success,” he said.

Jane Dillehay, chair of the Gallaudet Faculty Senate, issued the following statement on its behalf: "As a whole we recognize that resources are limited and our ability to support all of our programs effectively are limited. Our first commitment is to provide an educational experience to prepare today's students for their futures. While many faculty remain concerned with flaws in the process, the Program Prioritization Task Force was a product of shared governance. The university provost and president have pledged to continue that approach in developing an implementation plan for transition to help students complete their studies by August 2013, place faculty in other programs to avoid layoffs, and reallocate resources to support our stronger programs."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Brown University will stop all future investment in HEI Hotels and Resorts, a real estate company under scrutiny for its treatment of workers. Any current investments held by Brown will not be affected "since they may be difficult or impossible to divest from due to long-term commitments," according to Luiz F. Valente, chair of Brown's Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies, which recommended the investment review. Critics have said that HEI interferes with union organizing and other worker rights. “After conferring with the Investment Committee of the Corporation, the university's governing body, the university has accepted ACCRIP's recommendation,” wrote Sarah Kidwell, Brown’s director of news and communications, in a statement via e-mail. The Brown Student Labor Alliance had lobbied for years for this result, said Lenora Knowles, a member of the alliance, and who said that "this is a big accomplishment" that assures "our university is using this money in a way that is not compromising the values of students.” HEI declined to comment on Brown's move, but has in the past disputed criticisms of its labor practices.

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