Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 4, 2012

Faculty and student leaders who have expressed a lack of confidence in the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, president of Saint Louis University, had been trying to patch things up with the president and the board, which backs him. But The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a leaked memo to trustees has inflamed tensions. In the letter, posted to the Facebook group "SLU Students for No Confidence," the board chair urges fellow trustees not to talk to the press and to trust the advice of an outside public relations firm hired to help calm the situation. Comments posted to the site suggest that Father Biondi's critics are furious at the idea that the controversy at the university is a situation that can be managed by image consultants.

 

December 4, 2012

Wellesley College is joining edX, one of the primary providers of massive online open courses, or MOOCs, The Boston Globe reported. Anant Agarwal, president of edX, said that the college will try to preserve some of the features of liberal arts colleges in its four MOOCs to be offered through edX. The courses will allow instructors to divide classes into small groups for discussions. "We want to create the aura of a small-group setting, so that students can discuss among themselves," Agarwal said. To date, research universities have dominated the MOOC space. edX's other members are Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas System. Of the 33 institutions that offer MOOCs through Coursera, only one -- Wesleyan University -- is a liberal arts college.

 

December 4, 2012

A new blog for grad students and professors who need a little distraction as the semester winds down is "When in Academia." Nothing long to read -- just quick images on such topics as "When I realize that the professor I was talking about was within earshot," "When a student asks me to excuse a sorority-related absence," "When someone says that I blame everything on capitalism" and "When I hear undergrads talking about their plans for holiday break."

December 3, 2012

Saudi Arabia's Cultural Mission to the United States has banned Saudi students from enrolling in an English language program at Southern Utah University, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The program is currently investigating allegations that it looks the other way at plagiarism and has lax academic standards to keep foreign students enrolled. Saudi students make up 158 of the 182 students enrolled.

December 3, 2012

Emmanuel Christian Seminary, the Tennessee college that cited financial concerns as one reason for threatening to fire a tenured professor for cause earlier this year, has received a $3 million gift from a donor, the largest in the college's history. Emmanuel's president told Chris Rollston, a professor of Old Testament and Semitic studies, that he should look for work elsewhere because his liberal theological views were offending students and prospective donors. Rollston's status at Emmanuel is still in flux, but the college announced the gift, from an unnamed Christian donor, to students earlier this week..

The money will be used for debt reduction and could hasten a merger between Emmanuel and its neighbor, Milligan College, which both institutions have said they are exploring. "Since the discussions between Milligan and Emmanuel began, Emmanuel has been blessed with a significant gift from a donor who has designated these funds to go toward relieving their debt," Milligan said in a statement. "Both institutions are grateful for God’s provision through this donor." A letter of intent between both institutions has begun the due diligence that could lead to a merger, Emmanuel announced.

 
December 3, 2012

Giving students and parents targeted information about colleges' pricing and outcomes is a worthy goal that could improve their decision-making about higher education, the Center for American Progress says in a report released today. But the federal government's process for developing its "College Scorecard" has fallen well short in practice, says the report, which offers a slew of recommendations for how the government could rework the document, particularly with advice from actual consumers. Among the report's findings are that the government should: test ways of communicating the concept of “net price”; emphasize four-year graduation rates, not six-year rates, if further testing confirms that the shorter time-frame is more relevant to students’ decision-making; and develop alternative measures of student debt that matter to students if further testing confirms that traditional measures such as repayment rate or default rate are not meaningful to students.

December 3, 2012

Peter F. Burnham, former president of Brookdale Community College, in New Jersey, was sentenced Friday to five years in jail for using college funds to pay for $44,000 in personal expenses, and for accepting $20,000 in tuition reimbursement for his son to attend Monmouth University when his son's tuition was already covered by financial aid, The Daily Record reported. The prosecutor, Christopher Gramiccioni, said that Burnham was arrogant in thinking he could do whatever he wanted with college funds. "He was the king, and everyone else were his subjects,” he said. Burnham won one concession in sentencing: He will be allowed to have $36,000 that the college owes him for unused vacation days applied to the restitution of $44,497 that he was ordered to pay.

December 3, 2012

The French higher education minister has replaced the interim director of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, an elite institute of political science commonly known as Sciences Po, The New York Times reported

The school’s longtime director, Richard Descoings, died in April. He is credited with increasing the institution’s international profile, to the degree that 40 percent of students come from outside France. However, the national audit office recently completed an investigation of the school's finances from 2005-10, raising questions about Descoings’ compensation – about $700,000 per year – “weak internal and external controls,” abuse of credit cards by staff, “toxic loans” for faculty housing, and the practice of paying some professors more than others, despite the fact that they taught fewer hours.

The Times notes that the controversy seems to stem in part from Descoings’ attempts to recruit top talent. As the newspaper explains, “French professors are civil servants, whose salaries and working hours are strictly controlled. It was difficult for Mr. Descoings to recruit the faculty he wanted without offering the kind of arrangements, on pay and teaching load, that were criticized by the auditors.”

Hervé Crès, a deputy to Descoings and the faculty pick for Science Po’s directorship, has been replaced by Jean Gaeremynck, the head of the finance section for the Council of State.

December 3, 2012

Chris Krumm, the son of a faculty member at Casper College, shot and killed his father with a bow and arrow on Friday while his father was teaching at the Wyoming institution, The Casper Star-Tribune. While the father -- Jim Krumm -- died from the wounds from that single shot, he struggled with his son, allowing students to escape the room. Just before coming to the classroom, Chris Krumm had gone to his father's home and killed Heidi Arnold, an instructor at Casper who lived with Jim Krumm. Chris Krumm killed himself after killing his father. Casper College has created a memorial page with information about the career of Jim Krumm, who taught computer science, and Arnold, who taught mathematics.

 

December 3, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin reveals how the Mayans would have viewed the end of the year 2012. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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