Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, November 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Darrell G. Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, on Sunday at the group's annual meeting called for a series of reforms of the institutions and the services they provide. While praising the health care reform law Congress passed, Kirch said that it should be viewed as "a crucial first step," and not a resolution of the problems facing American health care. He called on medical schools -- among other things -- to launch new ways to prepare people to lead their institutions, to be more open about medical education's finances and alternative approaches to them, and to redesign health care for the faculty and staff members, and their families, who work in academic medicine. "Data indicate that, despite our knowledge and experience, our faculty and staff members are not always wise consumers of heath care," Kirch said. "We often do not receive basic preventive services or good continuity of care, and too often we overuse tests and procedures despite the best medical evidence. Because many medical schools and teaching hospitals self-insure, they carry all the financial risk for their employees’ health status and health care. That presents an incredible opportunity. Rather than just being one more detached employer lamenting rising health care costs, academic medical centers in many cases are in the best position to improve the health of their faculty and staff."

Monday, November 8, 2010 - 3:00am

A professor in Taiwan last week unveiled software that would allow universities to measure the impact that various university decisions would have on international rankings of universities, Times Higher Education reported. "We need a system to help us know what kind of strategy we can use to get on the [rankings] list," said the professor, Han-Lin Li, of National Chiao Tung University. Under the system, a university could measure the impact, for example, that recruiting a single Nobel laureate would have on the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings (which uses a methodology that includes the number of faculty Nobel laureates).

Monday, November 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, on Friday issued a letter saying that the university was responsible for the death of Declan Sullivan, who was killed in an accident last month when the tower on which he was situated to film a football practice collapsed. "There is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of its students under any circumstances. Yet this loss is more devastating, for Declan died in a tragic accident while in our care," wrote Father Jenkins. "For that, I am profoundly sorry. We are conducting an investigation and we must be careful not to pre-judge its results, but I will say this: Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe. We at Notre Dame — and ultimately I, as president — are responsible. Words cannot express our sorrow to the Sullivan family and to all involved." Notre Dame has asked Peter Likins, former president of the University of Arizona, to conduct an independent review of the tragedy. Some have criticized Notre Dame's football coach, Brian Kelly, for holding practice outdoors on the windy day when Sullivan was killed. Father Jenkins, in his letter, backed the coach: "Coach Kelly was hired not only because of his football expertise, but because we believed his character and values accord with the highest standards of Notre Dame. All we have seen since he came to Notre Dame, and everything we have learned in our investigation to date, have confirmed that belief. For those reasons I am confident that Coach Kelly has a bright future leading our football program."

Monday, November 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Harvard University has been engaged in a project to diversify the subjects of the many oil portraits that hang in libraries and various other public spaces at the university, The Boston Globe reported. A 2002 inventory found that of 750 such portraits, 690 were of white men, only two were of minority individuals, and the rest were of white women -- generally the wives of presidents, members of benefactors' families, or Radcliffe College professors. In recent years, 10 new portraits of minority individuals linked to Harvard have been added to the collection. The latest, unveiled Friday, is of Chester Pierce, a 1948 Harvard graduate who for many years was a professor of psychiatry and education and who is believed to have been the first black college student to play a football game at an all-white Southern university (the University of Virginia). A Globe slide show features some of the other portraits recently added to Harvard's collection.

Monday, November 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Hundreds of climate scientists, organized in a new effort being announced today by the American Geophysical Union, are pledging to fight back against politicians who dispute established findings and who threaten scientists with politically motivated investigations, the Chicago Tribune reported. More than 700 researchers have agreed to participate in the campaign. "This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

Monday, November 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Ontario's government has announced a new program under which 75 top international doctoral students will receive full scholarships, with the government paying two-thirds of the costs and the universities picking up the rest, The Globe and Mail reported. The program is part of a larger campaign by Ontario political and academic leaders to attract more foreign students, especially those at the very top who are also recruited by American universities. But critics of the government, Maclean's reported, are questioning the strategy, charging that it is taking away money and spots from Canadian students.

Monday, November 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors has written to George M. Philip, president of the State University of New York at Albany, urging him to reconsider plans to end all admissions to programs in French, Italian, Russian and classics. The letter notes the deep budget cuts faced at Albany and other SUNY campuses, but questions both whether these eliminations are necessary and whether faculty members were appropriately involved in the process to plan budget reductions. The letter endorses a view already expressed by faculty members there that eliminating these departments will erode the "core academic mission" of the university. The AAUP letter notes that the SUNY system is on the association's censure list for faculty layoffs in 1977. Those layoffs included an earlier round of language program eliminations at Albany, the AAUP recalls, adding: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." A spokesman for Albany said via e-mail on Friday: "We received the letter today amd are reviewing it. We will respond to AAUP directly, as appropriate."

Friday, November 5, 2010 - 3:00am

When President Obama heads to India this weekend, he will be accompanied by presidents from several of the many universities that are exploring possible ties to the country as it prepares to open its doors to foreign institutions, Bloomberg reported. Officials from Arizona State, Boston and Rutgers Universities are among the group, according to the news service.

Friday, November 5, 2010 - 3:00am

Utah's attorney general met with Justice Department officials this week about a possible federal investigation into whether college football's Bowl Championship Series violates antitrust laws, the Associated Press reported. Mark Shurtleff, the Utah attorney general, told that AP that while the federal officials did not commit to an inquiry, "they had done their homework."

Friday, November 5, 2010 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday penalized the University of Michigan for major violations involving its football program. The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions placed the institution on three years' probation and backed Michigan's decision to reduce its football practice time by 130 hours over the next two years. The trouble for the Wolverines started when Rich Rodriguez became head football coach in January 2008. During his first year and a half at Michigan, Rodriguez’s team exceeded NCAA playing and practice limits — put in place to protect player safety and guaranteeing time for academics — by approximately 65 hours.

Football staff members “monitored and conducted voluntary summer workouts, conducted impermissible activities outside of the playing season, required student-athletes to participate in summer conditioning activities as a form of punishment, and exceeded time limits for athletic activities outside the playing season.” The football team also exceeded the number of NCAA allowed coaches by retaining “five quality control staff members,” who “were on the sidelines for practice and games, traveled with the team, wore the same attire as coaches, shared office space with the football staff and attended team meetings.” The NCAA determined that the institution and Rodriguez “failed to monitor” the football program and ensure that it was adhering to rules. In addition to the probation and practice restrictions for the institution, the only punishment for Rodriguez is that he must attend a NCAA rules seminar next year.

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