Higher Education Quick Takes
In December, ProPublica published an article revealing that many medical schools that had adopted tough conflict-of-interest rules to limit or require reporting of professors' ties to the pharmaceutical industry weren't enforcing their rules. That report and other scrutiny may be having an impact. ProPublica reported Thursday that Stanford University has taken disciplinary action against five medical school faculty members who violated rules there by giving paid speeches for drug companies. The University of Colorado medical school this week toughened its conflict-of-interest rules -- joining other medical schools that have increased attention to these issues.
Kye Allums, the openly transgender man on the George Washington University women’s basketball team, announced Wednesday that he will not play next season. Allums made headlines last November when he publicly came out and became the first openly transgender person to play Division I college basketball. The junior played in only eight games this past season before he was sidelined by multiple concussions. Allums wrote in a statement published by the Associated Press: “I alone came to this conclusion, and I thank the athletic department for respecting my wishes.” Allums offered no further details about his early departure from the basketball team. George Washington officials, however, confirmed that Allums has enrolled in classes for the fall semester.
Academic staff members -- including non-tenure-track faculty -- have voted to unionize at the University of Wisconsin at Superior. The vote there was the latest in a series at Wisconsin campuses to unionize, despite the drive by Governor Scott Walker and legislative Republicans to end collective bargaining by system faculty members. The unions voted in at Superior and elsewhere in the system are affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. The vote at Superior was 89 to 5.
Scott Svonkin, a long-time political aide and union-supported school board member, appears to have defeated Lydia Gutierrez, a teacher whom some had labeled a Tea Party-like candidate, for a hotly contested seat on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. The race was too close to call Tuesday night, but The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that an unofficial vote tally gave 52.3 percent to Svonkin and 47.7 percent to Gutierrez. The race closely resembled another community college trustee election in Montana, which took place earlier this month, in which the relative political conservatism of some of the candidates became an issue of much public debate. For instance, Svonkin called out Gutierrez in the Los Angeles race for her support of the state's recent ban on gay marriage. On the other side, Gutierrez argued that Svonkin was too close to the faculty union and too supportive of the status quo, given his political background.
Leaders of the Louisiana House of Representatives on Wednesday withdrew a proposal to merge Southern University at New Orleans and the University of New Orleans, The Times-Picayune reported. The measure apparently lacked the two-thirds support needed to pass. The proposal -- strongly backed by Governor Bobby Jindal -- has been strongly opposed by advocates of historically black Southern.
Gary Sherrer quit as chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, citing conflicts with other board members, The Kansas City Star reported. He cited the reluctance of other regents to become more involved in decision-making involving the universities, and his disappointment at not being able to lead the search for a new president for Emporia State University, his alma mater.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association "has no mandate to create" a football playoff unless its members push for one, the group's president said in response to a Justice Department letter this month that discussed the wisdom of the Bowl Championship Series and the prospects of replacing it with a national playoff. Mark Emmert also noted that, other than licensing postseason bowl games, the NCAA “has no role to play in the BCS" and that questions about whether it “serves ‘the interest of fans, colleges, universities, and players’ [are] better directed to the BCS itself.” The Justice Department letter to which Emmert responded is the first confirmation the department has given that it is examining college football's system for crowning a national champion and considering action against it. Critics have long called for the government to investigate the BCS for possible antitrust violations.
The Indiana University System announced Wednesday that it would shut down its School of Continuing Studies to save as much as $4 million a year. The closure of the school, which provides online and evening classes to about 4,000 undergraduates and some non-degree programs as well, comes nearly a year after Indiana's governor, Mitch Daniels, essentially created a new online institution in the state by striking a deal to let the nonprofit Western Governors University provide courses to Indiana residents. At that time, the head of Indiana's continuing studies school said that he did not see the new arrangement creating too much overlap with the school's own market. "There's plenty of work to be done" in using online education to reach underserved Indianans, Dean Daniel J. Callison said.
A survey by a German research center found that one in three university students in Berlin would consider sex work (defined as prostitution, erotic dancing or Internet shows) to pay for tuition, Reuters reported. Four percent of the students reported that they had already used sex work to pay their expenses. Eva Blumenschein, one of the study's authors, told Reuters that reforms designed to speed up degree completion may encourage sex work. "It's possible that because educational reforms have increased student workloads, they have less time to earn money," she said. "Coupled with higher student fees, in this instance, leads students into prostitution."