Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 26, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders have reached a deal that would bar public universities from receiving $125 million that could become available for them if voters approve a tax hike unless the universities freeze tuition, The Los Angeles Times reported. Lawmakers dislike planned tuition increases, and see the deal as another incentive for voters to pass the tax increases. But university officials are dubious, saying that they can't give up the tuition revenue, especially given that passage of the tax measure is uncertain.


June 25, 2012

Rodney Erickson, president of Pennsylvania State University, issued a statement Friday, following the conviction of Jerry Sandusky on 45 of the 48 charges against him, reaching out to the child sex-abuse victims in the case. "The legal process has spoken and we have tremendous respect for the men who came forward to tell their stories publicly. No verdict can undo the pain and suffering caused by Mr. Sandusky, but we do hope this judgment helps the victims and their families along their path to healing," said Erickson.

His statement also acknowledged that some of the victims plan to sue Penn State, and Erickson suggested that settlements are possible. "Now that the jury has spoken, the university wants to ... do its part to help victims continue their path forward. To that end, the university plans to invite victims of Mr. Sandusky’s abuse to participate in a program to facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr. Sandusky's conduct. The purpose of the program is simple – the university wants to provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims' concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the university. Counsel to the university plan to reach out to counsel to the victims of Mr. Sandusky’s abuse in the near future with additional details."

While the Sandusky trial is over (barring appeals), more fallout from the scandal is expected. Trials are pending for Tim Curley, the former athletics director, and Gary Schultz, a former vice president in charge of the campus police, on charges related to allegations that they didn't report child abuse by Sandusky.

The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported that the university has started "preparing trustees for the possibility of an indictment against former president Graham B. Spanier." Spanier has denied wrongdoing, and has been fighting with the university over access to e-mail records that he says he needs to adequately respond to various probes of the scandal.

June 25, 2012

Prompted by research questioning the reliability of placement tests, Long Beach City College is making some of its placement decisions based on students' high school grades, and not on standardized tests, The Los Angeles Times reported. The move goes against the pattern at most community colleges of using placement test to identify those students who need remedial help. California's community college system is now conducting a study to see whether high school grades should be a larger part of placement decisions.


June 25, 2012

The European Union on Thursday launched a campaign -- "Science -- It's a Girl Thing!" -- to attract more young women into science and technology fields. As part of the campaign, the EU placed a video on YouTube, and within a day withdrew the video as it faced criticism for promoting stereotypes. Radio Free Europe summed up the criticisms: "It looks one part girl-group music video and one part cosmetics commercial, with three miniskirted young ladies in heavy make-up dancing and posing with lab equipment and mathematical proofs as a male scientist watches intriguingly. A tube of lipstick forms the 'i' in 'Science.' " The EU appears to be removing copies of the video, but here's one that survives on YouTube:




June 25, 2012

Minority college students who major in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – earn 25 percent more than do minority students who study humanities or education, according to a study in the new issue of Research in Higher Education (abstract available here). Further, those minority students who ended up in jobs related to their STEM degrees earned at least 50 percent more than fellow students who majored in the humanities or education. The students in the study were not a random sample, but more than 1,000 Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino and black students who were scholarship applicants for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.

"The premiums for majoring in STEM fields are huge," said Tatiana Melguizo, lead author of the study and associate professor of education at the University of Southern California. "We need to educate students that if they get a job in a STEM-related occupation, they have an even higher earning premium. Otherwise, students aren’t reaping the economic benefit of all the hard work they went through as undergrads."

June 25, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Daniel Kissling or Aarhus University explains what the number and type of palm species in tropical forests reveal about the climate of the deep past. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 25, 2012

Part of the settlement of Mississippi's higher education desegregation case in 2004 was a pledge by the state to raise $35 million to boost the minimal endowments of the state's three historically black universities: Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State Universities. After the campaign was announced, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave $1 million. Since then, nothing has happened. But the Associated Press reported that state higher education officials are now pledging to develop new plans to raise the money. Hank Bounds, the higher education commissioner, said that "we really need to put forth a really good strategy and see if we can find some success."

June 25, 2012

Purdue University faculty members are expressing a range of views on Thursday's selection of Mitch Daniels, currently ending his second term as governor of Indiana, as the university's next president. Morris Levy, past chair of the Purdue University Senate, published an open letter to his faculty colleagues, both pledging support for Daniels and raising questions about his appointment. The letter noted that the search committee had requested help from an advisory committee of faculty, students and alumni -- and that that group has stressed that its first criterion for the next president was that he or she be someone with experience leading an academic institution (something Daniels lacks). Levy also mentioned "a cloud of conflict of interest," in that every member of the Purdue board was either appointed or re-appointed by Governor Daniels.

But two faculty members who were on the search committee wrote a column in The Journal and Courier in which they said that the search committee took faculty concerns seriously, tried hard to recruit the best possible academic candidates, and discussed in detail the issues related to picking someone from outside of academe. "This choice is a bold move because the governor does not have the academic credentials that university presidents traditionally have. U.S. research institutions, including Purdue, are the envy of the world, and typically it takes an insider to understand exactly how the process of academic freedom operates to enable us to lead the world in research and education. But there are rare exceptions. Public universities find themselves in exceptional times, and we found an exceptional candidate for these challenging times," they wrote.

June 25, 2012

Tina Fey plays an admissions officer at Princeton University in a film, "Admission," for which filming will take place on the campus next month, The Times of Trenton reported. The film is based on a novel by the same name and features a love interest (a private high school administrator played by Paul Rudd) and an ethical dilemma.

June 25, 2012

Higher education groups have asked the federal agencies that support the education of military service members and veterans to clarify what they expect colleges to do to comply with President Obama's April executive order. In a letter to the secretaries of education, defense and veterans affairs, the American Council on Education and the National Association of College and University Businesss Officers, on behalf of 11 other groups, said they supported the goals of the administration's “Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses and Other Family Members.” But without significantly more clarity about the administration's goals, "it is far from evident how the Agencies will construe them and what the practical ramifications will be," the groups wrote.

The associations note that the veterans affairs agency is pressing colleges to commit to complying with the principles and the executive order. "Colleges and universities want to know that if they commit to achieve a standard, they will be able to meet that standard," they write. "The Principles embody goals that can be achieved only if institutions understand the government’s expectations."


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