Higher Education Quick Takes
Both The Texas Tribune and The Dallas Morning News (behind a paywall) are reporting this morning that the retirement of Mike McKinney as chancellor of the Texas A&M University System -- announced this week -- may not have been voluntary. Both articles cite the intensifying debates in Texas over carrying out the ideas of Governor Rick Perry. Texas A&M has been criticized by many for being too quick to go along with some of those ideas about measuring the output of faculty members, but the articles suggest Perry allies don't think the university has moved enough in that direction.
The American Council on Education and other higher education groups are asking federal officials for flexibility on visa and other rules for the approximately 2,000 Libyan nationals studying in the United States, many of them with family members. The letter from the council noted that most of these students are funded by the Libyan government, and are currently unable to obtain funds or to return home.
The University of Pennsylvania has received a $225 million gift from Raymond and Ruth Perelman for its medical school, which will be renamed in their honor, The New York Times reported. The funds will support scholarships, faculty positions and research.
Saint Paul's College, in Virginia, announced Tuesday that it will eliminate its entire intercollegiate athletic program as a money-saving move, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Saint Paul's currently has seven teams for men and seven for women.
Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, on Tuesday announced a suit against JLF University Inc., which she said defrauded medical and nursing students by telling them incorrectly that the institution's graduates could become eligible for licenses to practice in Florida. In fact, the graduates are not eligible because the university is not accredited or approved by the state. Bondi's statement said that the owner tried at one point to let the students who made an additional payment "transfer" to a nursing program owned by his wife. The Sun Sentinel reported that JLF's main offices are in Haiti and that the phone numbers for the university had been disconnected.
Efforts to reestablish shared governance at Idaho State University appear to have gotten off to a rocky start. Months after the State Board of Education scuttled the institution's Faculty Senate after it had voted no confidence in President Arthur Vailas, the faculty this week elected a new provisional senate charged with writing a constitution and bylaws to pave the way for a new permanent body, the Idaho State Journal reported. So far, so good. But when the leaders of the provisional senate -- many of whom were on the panel that was disbanded in February -- sought to begin work this week, they were told, to their dismay, that Idaho State administrators would not clear the way for them to do so until the fall, Phil Cole, an associate professor of physics and the provisional senate's new chairman, confirmed Tuesday.
Cole found this out, he said, when he sought a key to the Faculty Senate office, which had had its locks changed in February when administrators disbanded the panel. “We have not given an official charge to the provisional senate yet. That will happen in the fall," Provost Gary Olson wrote. "Until then, the senate is not yet in operation. The structure, scope and background information will be provided to you in the fall. We have not authorized an election of officers at this point either. I hope you have a productive summer.” The Idaho State Journal quoted a spokesman for the State Board of Education as saying that he was "surprised" that administrators were not permitting the senate to begin work. Officials at Idaho State could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Idaho State professors got more bad news Monday, when the faculty ombudsman, John Gribas, informed his colleagues that administrators at the university had informed him that they had suspended the office -- which is designed to help faculty members resolve conflicts or problems affecting them -- until the new senate constitution and bylaws are in place. "Therefore, no ombuds office services will be available to ISU faculty during the summer 2011 session or through the 2011-2012 academic year," the office's website says. "It seems to me that this upcoming year will be one of continued transition and uncertainty, a time in which an ombudsperson’s assistance would be greatly desired," Gribas, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies, said in an e-mail to the faculty. "Therefore, until a Faculty Ombuds Office is reestablished and staffed, I encourage us all to look for ways to provide professional, supportive, and confidential assistance to our fellow colleagues in need."
The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a budget bill for higher education that would cut funds for any institution by 5 percent for offering benefits for any partners not based on marriage (which in Michigan is not available to same-sex partners). The measure is not in a Senate version of the bill, but many senators have previously opposed domestic partner benefits, which are offered by many Michigan universities. Michael A. Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council of State Universities in Michigan, said that the benefits are an important tool to recruit talent to the universities, in much the same way that many of the largest businesses in Michigan offer the benefits. He said that, aside from the policy question, the legislation intruded on the autonomy of the universities.
A second legislative committee in Louisiana on Monday approved a proposal to merge Southern University at New Orleans with the University of New Orleans, The Times-Picayune reported. The measure, strongly opposed by advocates for historically black Southern, now moves to a House vote.