Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 3:00am

Ohio State University announced Wednesday that its new senior vice president for university development is Andrew A. Sorensen. The appointment is unusual in that Sorensen already has been a university president, twice -- serving at the University of South Carolina and the University of Alabama. While many former presidents return to faculty positions, it is unusual -- but not unheard of -- for them to take administrative positions in which they aren't president. Among those who have done so: Thomas G. Burish, provost of the University of Notre Dame, who was president of Washington and Lee University.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 3:00am

During a year in which the University of California at Berkeley faced deep budget cuts, furloughs and student unrest, did it become a much better institution? Times Higher Education released its world rankings Wednesday night -- and Berkeley came in at #8, an impressive gain from #39 last year. And once again, the power of methodology changes is evident in rankings. After last year's rankings were widely criticized -- with many citing Berkeley's relatively low grades as an example that something must have been wrong with the formula -- Times Higher switched rankings partners and changed its methodology. (Among other changes, the weight has been reduced for the "reputational survey" -- with separate surveys on teaching and research.) Generally, American universities fare well in the formula, occupying 7 of the top 10 spots, and all of the top 5.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 3:00am

Georgia State University is enjoying its first season of college football, and now another Georgia institution is moving down that path. Kennesaw State University has had a committee studying the possibility of adding football, and it announced Wednesday that the panel was recommending that the team be added. There was, however, one glitch in the announcement. Vince Dooley, the legendary University of Georgia coach who led the committee, briefed the campus on the recommendations, announcing that he wanted to see football come to Kansas State University. The crowd corrected him.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 3:00am

Some at Harvard University question whether the university should honor Martin Peretz, the editor of The New Republic, in light of one of his recent blog posts, The Boston Globe reported. In the post, he wrote: “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims,’’ and argued that Muslims have hardly “raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood.... So yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse." He has since apologized and said that he doesn't believe that, but critics at Harvard say this is not a time to go ahead with plans to name an undergraduate research fund in his honor. Alumni and others have raised $500,000 for the fund. Peretz taught at Harvard for 40 years. Harvard issued a statement indicating that it has no intention of blocking the honor, saying that “it is central to the mission of a university to protect and affirm free speech, including the rights of Dr. Peretz, as well as those who disagree with him, to express their views.’’

Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 3:00am

Labor leaders are criticizing plans by the University of California to require a greater employee contribution to the pension fund, the Los Angeles Times reported. With the university projecting a deficit in the pension fund as high as $21 billion, it started requiring payments by itself (of 4 percent of salaries) and of employees (2 percent) this year. Under a plan that could be approved as soon as today, those shares would increase to 5 percent for employees and 10 percent for the university. Future changes could raise the retirement age or create two tiers of benefits, with new employees not receiving everything going to those currently employed. Union leaders argue that many of these changes will have a disproportionate impact on those at the low end of the salary scale.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Georgetown University on Tuesday announced its largest gift: $87 million to support medical research. The gift originated with a $1.2 million charitable trust created by the will of the late Harry J. Toulmin in 1965. His widow, Virginia Toulmin, managed the trust for 45 years and led it to its present value.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Gay students and faculty members, in a national survey by Campus Pride, were much more likely than their straight counterparts to report experiencing harassment -- 23 percent to 12 percent. The most common form of harassment reported was to be the target of derogatory remarks, followed by being stared at or singled out as "the resident authority" on issues related to sexual identity and orientation. The survey found particularly high rates of harassment reported by transgender people in academe and people who do not conform to traditional gender identities.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - 3:00am

The Texas Board of Education, whose textbook rules are influential and sometimes controversial, is getting back into the culture wars and is going to consider whether school textbooks have become (as its conservative members appear to believe) pro-Islamic and anti-Christian, The Dallas Morning News reported. A draft of a resolution prepared for the board states that "diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions in social studies texts," and suggests that too much attention is paid to Christian attacks on Muslims during the Crusades (ignoring attacks by Muslims on Christians), "implying that Christian brutality and Muslim loss of life are significant, but Islamic cruelty and Christian deaths are not."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - 3:00am

For the first time ever, white students do not make up a majority among freshmen at the University of Texas at Austin. According to figures announced by the university Tuesday, white freshmen make up 47.6 percent of students, down from 51.1 percent a year ago. Hispanic enrollment now makes up 23.1 percent, up from 20.8 percent; black enrollment is up to 5.1 percent, from 4.9 percent; and Asian enrollment is 17.3 percent, down from 19.6 percent.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Chicago State University, which was in danger of losing its accreditation over very low retention rates and a graduation rate of 14 percent, is holding on to its accreditation, the Chicago Tribune reported. The university has started a series of programs to improve retention, responding to some of the concerns expressed by accreditors, and the university said that its retention rate of freshmen has started to increase. Still, the publicity about the problems may be having an impact. Enrollment of first-time, full-time freshmen is down 12.9 percent this fall, although many urban public universities are reporting increases.

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