Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Twenty-three academic groups issued a joint statement Tuesday condemning Glenn Beck, the television commentator, for language that has inspired others to make threats against Frances Fox Piven, a noted professor of sociology and political science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Beck has said that he was only engaging in legitimate criticism of a scholar with whom he disagrees. The statement from the scholarly groups says in part: "We vigorously support serious, honest, and passionate public debate.... We support serious engagement on the research of Professor Piven and of others who study controversial issues such as unemployment, the economic crisis, the rights of welfare recipients, and the place of government intervention. We also support the right of political commentators to participate in such debates. At the same time, we insist that all parties recognize the rights of academic researchers not only to gather and analyze evidence related to controversial questions, but also to arrive at their own conclusions and to expect those conclusions to be reported accurately in public debates." The groups that signed the letter are:

  • American Anthropological Association
  • American Association of Geographers
  • American Council of Learned Societies
  • American Educational Research Association
  • American Sociological Association
  • Association for Humanist Sociology
  • Board, American Society of Criminology
  • Board, Research Committee 19 (Poverty, Social Welfare, and Social Policy) of the International Sociological Association
  • Board, Society for the Study of Social Problems
  • Consortium of Social Science Associations
  • Eastern Sociological Society
  • Linguistic Society of America
  • Mid-South Sociological Association
  • Midwest Sociological Society
  • National Women’s Studies Association
  • Pacific Sociological Association
  • Planners of Color Interest Group, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning
  • Rural Sociological Society
  • Social Science History Association
  • Social Science Research Council
  • Sociologists for Women in Society
  • Sociologists Without Borders
  • Southern Sociological Society
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Andrea Habura of the University at Albany, of the State University of New York, explains the importance of single-celled organisms called protists. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Ohio State University is today announcing its largest gift ever -- $100 million from alumnus Les Wexner, who founded Limited Brands. The gift will primarily benefit medical research and education, as well as Ohio State's Wexner Center for the Arts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Rutgers University's board has revised its process for evaluation of its president, currently Richard McCormick, The Star-Ledger reported. Until now, McCormick has prepared a 20-page self-assessment for the board each year, followed by a meeting with board members to discuss his assessment, and theirs. Going forward, reflecting the current focus in higher education on using metrics, the evaluation will be based on specific measures related to graduation rates, research grants, the quality of the incoming undergraduate class and other factors that relate to the university's quality.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Nevada education is facing a "state of fiscal collapse," and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas faces budget cuts so large that it will likely have to declare "financial exigency," officials told faculty members Tuesday, The Las Vegas Sun reported. Such a declaration could lead to layoffs of tenured faculty members and the elimination of entire programs. UNLV has faced about $50 million in cuts over the last four years, but may face another $47 million over the next year. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Provost Michael Bowers appeared to be on the verge of breaking down during his talk, saying, "I never thought this day would come."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

A Louisiana judge granted an injunction Tuesday to block a study of a proposal to merge Southern University of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans, The Advocate reported. The injunction was sought in a suit by seven Southern students charging that the Louisiana Board of Regents in its current composition is unconstitutional, and thus lacks the authority to review the study that was under way until the injunction was issued. The lawsuit states that the board is required to represent the diversity of the state, but that all of the appointed members of the board are white. (Until recently there were some minority members, but the latest round of appointments replaced them.) Those bringing the suit, and many other supporters of Southern, a historically black institution, oppose the idea of a merger. Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, called for the study of the merger, citing low graduation rates at the two universities, but critics say that Southern has a valuable mission that would get lost in a combined institution.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

John Junker, CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, was placed on administrative leave Monday, the Arizona Republic reported. Currently, an investigation is under way as to whether Junker and other bowl officials “orchestrated improper political contributions.” In December 2009, Grant Woods, the Fiesta Bowl’s investigator, concluded that there was “no credible evidence that the bowl’s management engaged in any type of illegal or unethical conduct.” Woods, however, recently told the Republic: “Key people may have lied to me. It’s one thing not to catch it, but it’s another thing if they were purposely trying for me not to find out.” Junker had no comment on the charges or his leave.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Westmont College, a Christian institution that bars "homosexual practice," is facing a serious debate over how it treats its gay students, the Los Angeles Times reported. The discussions were spurred by a letter in the student newspaper, signed by 31 gay and lesbian alumni who wrote of their "doubt, loneliness and fear due to the college's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues." The alumni said they wanted their names known as "proof that LGBT people do exist within the Westmont community." There are no signs that Westmont is reconsidering its views on sexual orientation, but 50 of the college's 92 faculty members issued their own letter, asking the gay alumni for "forgiveness for ways we might have added to your pain."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Students at California State University at Northridge are being hit by worsening personal economic conditions, higher tuition rates and greater difficulty getting into courses, according to a report, "Squeezed From All Sides," being released today by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles. Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 students at Northridge, which like most of the Cal State campuses is ethnically diverse and includes many first generation college students. Among the findings:

  • Students' families have taken hard hits. More than 10 percent of students reported that at least one parent had lost a job since 2008, and 21 percent reported that at least one parent had lost income or hours of work.
  • Paying for college has become more difficult. Among students enrolled for at least two years, 57 percent said that paying had become "a little more difficult" and another 28 percent said that it had become "a lot more difficult."
  • Getting into courses has become more difficult, with 77 percent of students reporting that the inability to get into classes will result in longer time to degree.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Next Generation Learning Challenges, a program that plans to disburse $20 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to educational technology projects over the next two years, on Monday released the 50 higher-ed finalists for its first round of grants. The projects were chosen as finalists based on their potential impact on college access and completion through the development and use of open courseware, blended learning, "deeper" learning, and learning analytics. About 60 percent of the finalists are expected to receive grants. The foundation is currently working on selecting the winners, which are expected to be announced in early spring.


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