Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Lu Hardin, the former president of the University of Central Arkansas, on Monday pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges, the Associated Press reported. Hardin admitted to forging a letter to the university's board saying that it could approve a $300,000 deferred compensation package for him, a benefit that later was criticized by many as inappropriate. The letter Hardin wrote was submitted in the name of a university vice president and general counsel, both of whom were not involved in the letter. Hardin quit Central Arkansas in 2008 as the controversy over the compensation package grew, and then became president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. He quit that position on Friday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Keith Pomakoy of Adirondack Community College examines the use of the term "genocide" in connection with recent events in Libya. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 3:00am

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.

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

 

Sixty percent of the students polled at Columbia University support a return of the Reserve Officer Training Corps to their campus, according to a report submitted Friday to the University Senate by a special Task Force on Military Engagement. The survey was open chiefly to undergraduate students: in Columbia College, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of General Studies and Barnard College. Graduate students at the School of International and Public Affairs also voted. The survey was administered online over an eight-day stretch, and 2,252 students voted.

 

In addition, 79 percent of students approved of Columbia "allowing the participation of Columbia students in ROTC, whether on- or off-campus,” which already has been happening. Other statements garnering strong student support included the notion that a ROTC program with Columbia-educated officers would be a positive development (66 percent). Nearly as many, 58 percent, believed military engagement on campus would increase intellectual diversity at Columbia.

 

The task force, which was composed of five students and four faculty members, also summed up weeks of e-mailed comments it received and provided transcripts to three public meetings on the subject (one of which was the source of controversy). The results of the latest vote, in the wake of the repeal in December of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred gay servicemen and women from serving, differed from the last such survey taken at Columbia in 2008. A referendum that year revealed that 49 percent of students favored a return of ROTC to campus.

The fate of the program now rests with a vote of the 108-member University Senate sometime during the next two months.

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

J. Michael Bailey on Saturday issued a new statement, apologizing for the after-class sex act demonstration held for his human sexuality course at Northwestern University, the Chicago Tribune reported. Bailey has up until now defended the act, in which a man used a sex toy to stimulate a naked woman to orgasm, and his new statement continues to say that no harm was caused. However, his new statement also says that he was sorry for "upsetting so many people" and that he would "allow nothing like it to happen again." Further, he said, "I regret the effect that this has had on Northwestern University's reputation, and I regret upsetting so many people in this particular manner. I apologize."

However, the statement also criticized the way the incident has been discussed. "During a time of financial crisis, war, and global warming, this story has been a top news story for more than two days," he said. "That this is so reveals a stark difference of opinion between people like me, who see absolutely no harm in what happened, and those who believe that it was profoundly wrong."

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Moody's Investors Service is today releasing a report predicting that the coming years will see more public colleges declare "financial exigency," a condition of such dire financial danger that faculty groups acknowledge it may justify steps as severe as layoffs of tenured faculty members. Moody's makes its prediction on the basis of continued state budget cuts -- without additional federal stimulus money to minimize the impact of cuts. Moody's rates colleges' credit-worthiness, and the ratings can have a significant impact on the cost of borrowing through bonds. The report notes the fears of some colleges that a declaration of financial exigency might result in a lower bond rating.

But Moody's says not to worry. A summary of the report from Moody's says that "financial exigency is likely to be a positive step in terms of credit standing because it empowers management to take aggressive cost-cutting steps to preserve cash flow to pay debt service. Such a declaration would have little or no negative impact on a university's bond rating if Moody's expects the actions to improve the institution's future financial position."

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 3:00am

Baylor University has rejected a student request for recognition of the Sexual Identity Forum as an official student group, KXXV News reported. Students, some of whom are openly gay, want recognition of the group to promote open discussion of sexuality. But Baylor argues that recognition would be inappropriate. Baylor's statement on sexuality states: "The university affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God. Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm. Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching." Students pledged not to engage in advocacy activities, but that promise failed to persuade the university.

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