Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 16, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Scranton Press is being closed due to the tight budgets of its university, The Times-Tribune reported. The press is relatively small and relatively young, and published about 200 books during the 22 years in which it operated. "Basically, it was a budgetary decision. We are a tuition-driven institution, and these are tough economic times," said Harold Baillie, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Our main priority is the education of our students, and that takes precedence in the distribution of our resources." Among the areas of focus for the press have been Roman Catholicism and Pennsylvania. Books currently under contract will be released.

Monday, August 16, 2010 - 3:00am

The president of Tel Aviv University, Joseph Klafter, has asked to see the syllabi of several sociology courses, raising concerns among some professors, Haaretz reported. The request followed a report from a right-wing group that said that some sociology courses at the university have adopted a "post-Zionist" philosophy instead of a Zionist one. Some say that the president is just trying to get a read on the situation to better respond to criticism. Others say that requesting the syllabi is inappropriate. "Right-wingers are trying to divide and label people in academia in a process designed mainly to sow fear. The university president shouldn't have cooperated with such an attempt," one told Haaretz.

Monday, August 16, 2010 - 3:00am

Washington State University, facing a new round of state budget cuts, is planning to eliminate three of its nine vice president positions, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported. While the university has not announced details of the plan, officials said that it would save at least $700,000 from that change.

Friday, August 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Research presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association by the counseling services director at Hofstra University provides additional evidence that rates of depression are rising among college students, Web MD reported. The research compared student records of those who sought counseling at a private university and found that between 1997 and 2009, the share of those diagnosed with moderate to severe depression increased to 41 percent, from 34 percent. In addition, the percentage of students seeking counseling who are using medications for depression, anxiety and ADHD increased to 24 percent, from 11 percent.

Friday, August 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Members of the nation's largest union of postdoctoral scientists overwhelmingly ratified its first-ever contract Wednesday with the University of California, which was tentatively agreed to last month. The contract between the Postdoctoral Researchers Organize/United Auto Workers union and the university will tie the researchers' annual compensation to the federal government's pay scale for postdocs at the National Institutes of Health and promise annual increases of between 1.5 percent and 3 percent, depending on the size of their stipends, between 2010 and 2015. The contract could also require postdocs to make some contributions to their health premiums in 2012 and beyond. The union, which represents an estimated 10 percent of the postdoctoral researchers in the United States, struggled to win recognition but ultimately did so in 2008.

Friday, August 13, 2010 - 3:00am

The American Council on Education and other higher education groups urged federal health officials Thursday to clarify that comprehensive student health plans would qualify as "minimum essential coverage" under the recently enacted health care reform law. In a letter signed by 13 groups, ACE asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy-Ann DeParle, head of the White House health reform office, to clarify in regulation that student health plans would not be considered expensive individual plans in a way that could force their price to soar. The groups also asked that the plans be exempted from provisions in the law that could require them to change their design and reach.

Friday, August 13, 2010 - 3:00am

The National Federation of the Blind Thursday gave Blackboard, the e-learning giant, its top accessibility certification. Blackboard is the first learning-management company to earn the certification, although federation spokesman Chris Danielsen says the group had not tested all of Blackboard's competitors. Given that learning-management systems are so critical to modern education, it started working with Blackboard; the company was able to make a number of accessibility improvements in its latest version, released in the spring. Since Blackboard is by far the biggest player in the learning-management market, the federation's stamp of approval represents a big step for the visually impaired in an age when such online tools have become crucial even to brick-and-mortar institutions, Danielsen says.

Friday, August 13, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of North Carolina System will allow all students to opt out of abortion coverage in their health insurance plan, The News & Observer reported. The move follows criticism from anti-abortion groups that students were being forced to have abortion coverage and to pay for others' abortions. University officials said that because of the way the plan's budget is set up, the premiums don't actually pay for specific procedures, and that declining abortion coverage will not affect fees. But students will now be given the choice to reject coverage for their own plans.

Friday, August 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Purdue University has rejected the idea of outsourcing the work currently done by 700 custodians, the Associated Press reported. The university had been considering the move to save money, and some on the campus protested the idea. University officials said that a review determined that the quality of work couldn't be matched by a private company and that the university also benefits in intangible ways from the connections between the workers and the institution.

Thursday, August 12, 2010 - 3:00am

David Pollick quit as president of Birmingham-Southern College Wednesday as the institution's board released more information about the causes of a large and unexpected deficit that has led to layoffs and other budget cuts. In his statement, Pollick said that "the essential healing and creative process will proceed more rapidly if I step aside as president at this time." The college first announced major difficulties in June, citing a pattern of incorrect calculations of financial aid that resulted in larger awards to many students than were possible under the college's budget. A board statement issued Thursday, however, said that was only part of the problem. Beyond that, borrowing was increased -- without board knowledge -- to pay for some of the financial aid overpayments. All of this happened, the board noted, at a time that the college was already financially challenged to keep up with a facilities plan amid the economic downturn. "The trustees of Birmingham-Southern College accept fully the governance responsibility of the college and regret the fiscal distress that has necessitated unexpected and sudden operational reductions," the statement said.

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