Higher Education Quick Takes
Montclair State University has sued Oracle over what the university calls a failed attempt to install an enterprise system -- a mess that Montclair says has cost it more than $20 million beyond original estimates, IDG News reported. The article describes the university's claims of missed deadlines, cost overruns and poor communication. Oracle did not respond to requests for comment.
A story on KGUN9 News in Tucson raises questions about why Ben McGahee, an adjunct math instructor at Pima Community College, hasn't been rehired. One of the instructors of Jared Lee Loughner, accused in the mass shooting, McGahee warned officials that there appeared to be something seriously wrong with his student. After the shooting, McGahee talked about his experiences to reporters, and according to e-mails the station obtained, his comments annoyed college officials. Now his contract hasn't been renewed. Pima officials noted that many adjunct contracts for the fall aren't renewed until shortly before classes start. But KGUN9 reported that most of the adjuncts who teach similar courses already have contracts.
The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan has voted, over the objections of President Mary Sue Coleman, to allow graduate researchers to vote on whether they would like to unionize, The Detroit Free Press reported. Coleman argued that the researchers are primarily students. But board members voted 6-2 that the researchers should be allowed to unionize, with supporters of the measure arguing that they are acting as employees in this capacity and deserve collective bargaining rights.
A report released Monday by the Anti-Defamation League says that Youth for Western Civilization -- a group that has formed several campus chapters -- "straddles the line between mainstream and extreme views and has close ties to white supremacists." The report says that the group's claimed love of Western civilization really appears to be a devotion to "white culture," with hostility to many minority groups. A statement from Youth for Western Civilization criticized the ADL report, saying that it "implicitly acknowledges that no one involved in YWC has said anything 'racist' when they accuse us of 'avoid[ing] using overtly bigoted rhetoric' in favor of 'euphemistic language' to make our points." The reply goes on to say that the "smears" in the report are "frivolous."
Eric Barron, president of Florida State University, has asked the Faculty Senate to review the terms of a grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation "to ensure that the integrity of Florida State University was protected," The Miami Herald reported. The terms include provisions giving foundation-appointed committee members the right to review candidates for faculty positions and effectively veto power over hires, and academics at Florida State and elsewhere have criticized these terms as giving the foundation inappropriate control over academic decision-making. To date, however, Barron has strongly defended the grant agreement (which was made before he became president). The Faculty Senate currently has no formal role in reviewing gifts or grants that relate to academic decisions, and the body is considering whether it needs to review such arrangements.
These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar on The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education. This listing will appear as a regular feature in this space.
To submit a listing, click here.
Six weeks have passed since the comment period closed on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rules for how student health plans provided by colleges and universities would be affected by the health care overhaul. But Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat from West Virginia and chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, waited until Friday to weigh in with a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that reiterated his call for protecting students with pre-existing conditions and guarding against dollar limits on care, and for avoiding unexpected dropped coverage because of clerical errors. But he also went to great lengths to call out insurance companies that say student health plans should not be subject to that law because their market is a volatile one with unique administrative costs.
Rockefeller’s letter, which references various articles and other research, focuses mostly on minimum medical loss ratios, or the percentage of every consumer’s dollar that goes toward actual health care rather than administrative costs. The standard ratio ranges from 80 to 85 percent, but as data the senator cites in his letter show, the ratios for the largest student health plans range from 44 to 94 percent – and the fact that many carriers exceed the 80-percent threshold undercuts their protests, he says.
It’s not surprising to see the pro-Affordable Care Act senator trying to make sure Sebelius isn’t swayed by the insurers’ comments, said Bryan A. Liang, executive director of the Institute of Health Law Studies at the California Western School of Law. This allows Rockefeller to not only make a clear statement after the comment dust settled, but also remind Sebelius that she too has called on insurers to embrace health care reform. The letter is also particularly timely as more states are applying for ACA waivers, Liang said. Steven M. Bloom, director of federal relations for the American Council on Education, said there’s nothing in the letter that ACE would disagree with; in its own comments ACE took a more ambivalent position on the medical loss ratios, recommending that HHS follow guidance from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
The amount of science and engineering research space at research-performing colleges and universities grew by 4 percent between FY 2007 and FY 2009, from 188 million to 196 million net assignable square feet, according to the National Science Foundation's biennial Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities. The growth follows relatively flat space availability in previous surveys.
A move to get DePaul University students to call for the institution to stop selling the Sabra brand of hummus, which is owned in part by an Israeli company, failed to get enough votes. A large majority of students who voted in the referendum backed the idea of kicking Sabra off campus, but DePaul requires referendums to have 1,500 voters to be considered valid, and not enough students voted to reach that threshold. DePaul's administration never said that the results of the vote would be followed, even if 1,500 students voted. Students for Justice in Palestine, which pushed for the vote, issued an open letter arguing that it had won a "landslide victory" -- even if the election lacked enough voters to count. The Chicago office of the American Jewish Committee issued a statement noting that "too few of DePaul’s 25,000 students cared enough even to vote."