Higher Education Quick Takes
In a highly unusual move, the president of Hocking College on Tuesday sent out an e-mail newsletter in which he attacked his board and said that its members were trying to undercut him, The Athens News reported. Ron Erickson, the president of the Ohio college, said that board members were micromanaging decisions, ignoring agreements on how the president and board could work together and planning to replace him. Board members denied wrongdoing, and some criticized the president for making a public statement as he did.
The American Federation of Teachers released a report Tuesday on how colleges, universities and faculty unions can help recruit and retain women professors. The authors review data illustrating that women comprise a relatively small share of the faculty (both in various disciplines and overall) even though they represent the majority of undergraduate students and doctorate-earners. The paper also lists several policies and approaches that administrators can pursue to better promote gender equity in the professoriate. It is the second in a two-part series of AFT papers on diversity; the first examined racial and ethnic diversity.
Colorado's Supreme Court has agreed to hear Ward Churchill's appeal of lower court rulings that upheld his 2007 dismissal from the University of Colorado, The Denver Post reported. Colorado fired the tenured professor in the wake of his controversial comments about the September 11 attacks, which opened the way to an investigation into scholarly misconduct that prompted his dismissal. Churchill challenged the action in a state lawsuit, but after an initial jury ruling in his favor, a judge and then an appeals panel ruled against him.
Enrollment in Reserve Officers Training Corps participation is up 27 percent over the last four years, The Los Angeles Times reported. The decisions of several elite colleges to restore ROTC units, in the wake of the Congressional vote requiring the end of military discrimination against gay people, have attracted widespread attention, but most of those units are expected to be small. Nationally, students are attracted to ROTC by the lucrative scholarships, and do not appear deterred by ongoing military actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The U.S. Senate's education panel will hold another in a series of hearings about for-profit colleges next week -- and the committee's Republican members have made clear again that they view the hearings as one-sided and will not participate. Little is known at this point about the June 7 hearing, although its title -- "Drowning in Debt: Financial Outcomes of Students at For-Profit Colleges" -- leaves little to the imagination. Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has been persistently critical of commercial colleges, and has staged a set of hearings dating to last summer that focus on various aspects of their operations. In a letter to Harkin Tuesday, his Republican counterpart, Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, reiterated earlier concerns that the panel is focusing on for-profit colleges when the underlying problems -- "the rising cost of higher education, student debt and student outcomes" -- exist "throughout all sectors of higher education.... [U]ntil the Majority demonstrates a sincere willingness to hold fair proceedings on higher education, we will not participate in any hearings on this issue."
Government officials in Togo have shut the University of Lome, the country's largest university, following student protests, the Associated Press reported. Students have been demanding better food and reconsideration of a new curriculum for which they say they are not prepared.
Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State University's football coach on Monday, ending weeks of steadily mounting pressure on both him and the university in the wake of revelations that Tressel failed to act despite knowing that players had violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. Ohio State announced in March that it had suspended and fined Tressel for failing to tell administrators or the NCAA that players had sold team memorabilia and received free tattoos worth thousands of dollars. Although Tressel's two-game suspension grew to five to equal the penalty the NCAA imposed on players, Ohio State had come under increasing pressure to dismiss the coach for his role in the embarrassing scandal. And it appears that it was about to get much worse for Tressel, as Sports Illustrated reports that it had informed Ohio State officials Saturday of a pending investigation showing that the violations at Ohio State were much broader and went on for much longer than the university has acknowledged. In a videotaped statement Monday, Gene Smith, the athletics director, said that Tressel had emerged from a discussion between the two Sunday night persuaded that resigning was in his and Ohio State's best interests.
The Faculty Senate at Cornell University voted this month to stop releasing median grades in courses, as the university has done since 1998. The vote followed research finding that students were using the information to select courses with higher median grades. Median grades will still be available to deans, department chairs and those doing research requiring the information.
Spending on "529" savings plans for college is up 75 percent in the last two years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The state-sponsored plans provide tax breaks for contributions to various investment funds. The article attributed the surge to continued concern among families about college costs, but also to renewed confidence in the possibility of making money through investments.
Backlash continues against the news that some colleges are paying big bucks for graduation speakers. Legislation has been introduced in New Jersey that would deduct from a state appropriation to a public college or university the size of any fee paid to a graduation speaker, The Star-Ledger reported. The move follows criticism of Rutgers University for paying author Toni Morrison $30,000 and Kean University for paying the singer John Legend $25,000 to appear this year. The universities say that students want big-name speakers. One of the legislators sponsoring the bill said that it should be "honor enough to be asked" to attract speakers.