Wayne State University announced Wednesday that it will maintain its Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award, to honor journalists, despite the controversy over anti-Israel statements that led Thomas -- a Wayne State alumna -- to retire, The Detroit Free Press reported. A university statement said that Wayne State "strongly condemns" her "wholly inappropriate comments" but that the controversy shouldn't detract from her "many years of exemplary service."
Higher Education Quick Takes
At California State University at Los Angeles, budget cuts have the library closing at 8 every night, leaving many students without their preferred space to study. So, with finals week approaching, students created their own library. The Los Angeles Times reported that they set up tables for laptops, a copy machine and printer, and a coffee machine at a gathering spot outside the library. The "People's Library" has been available until midnight -- and students say it is both serving a practical need and drawing attention to the need for more money for the library budget. University officials initially expressed worries about safety issues, but then helped students with electrical cords and other matters.
The National Federation of the Blind is expanding its challenge to the Law School Admissions Council's online system for law school admissions, with a suit against the council and four California law schools that use its applications. The suit charges that the system is not accessible to blind applicants, and thus violates both state and federal anti-bias laws. The Law School Admissions Council has said in the past that its members do not discriminate against blind applicants and want the admissions system to be as functional as possible for all groups, but that some of the changes sought by the blind advocacy group are complicated to carry out.
Dr. Pamela M. Jolicoeur, president of Concordia College in Minnesota, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke. She was 65, and had led the college since 2004, following a 32-year career at California Lutheran University. At Concordia, she helped to complete a $100 million capital campaign, and encouraged new programs in the sciences, business and global education. A university statement about her accomplishments may be found here.
Claremont School of Theology will announce today that it will add training for Muslims and Jews to its curriculum this fall, making it the first "truly multi-faith American seminary," the Los Angeles Times reports. The Times article quotes religion experts praising the decision as a "creative, bold move" that reflects the growing interdisciplinarity in religion as in other fields, but it also notes that the California seminary's shift has strained its relationship with the United Methodist Church, which cut off funding for the institution in January, citing a "substantial reorientation of the institution's mission."
The American Association of University Professors, which holds its annual meeting this week in Washington, will present its Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom to Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, for her outspoken defense last year of the right of Roman Catholic colleges to have a range of speakers on their campuses. McGuire devoted her commencement address last year to the controversy over President Obama's visit to the University of Notre Dame to give the commencement address there. Anti-abortion groups organized protests and urged Notre Dame to withdraw the invitation because Obama favors legal abortion rights. In her talk, which she adapted to an essay that was published on Inside Higher Ed, McGuire said that this kind of "religious vigilantism" was an affront to academic freedom and to the open traditions of Catholic higher education.
The Meiklejohn award -- last given in 2003 -- goes to academic administrators who have made major defenses of academic freedom. The AAUP citation for McGuire states: "President McGuire has a reputation for speaking out on topics other college presidents will not touch. She understood clearly that the drama that unfolded last year on the Notre Dame campus would affect the future of all Catholic colleges. She spoke out when others did not. Her passion for justice, for the salutary benefits of open and rigorous debate, for what is simply right did not allow her to keep silent. Her voice has provided inspiration, encouragement and guidance to the leaders of Catholic colleges and universities across the country and, in fact, to all those in the academy who must resist the forces of censorship and repression."
The Institute for Higher Education Policy is today releasing a report, "A Portrait of Low-Income Young Adults in Education," with data showing the education gaps between those young adults in poverty and those who are more affluent. Over all in 2008, 44 percent of young adults in the United States were from a low-income background -- and they had low levels of educational attainment, with levels even lower for black, Latino and Native Americans.
Education at all levels received just over $40 billion in gifts in 2009, a drop of 3.6 percent from the previous year, according to the annual Giving USA report. Over the last two years, giving to education has dropped by nearly 12 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. The trends for education are similar to those for most other categories of philanthropy over the past two years -- a drop in 2009 but a smaller dip than the year before. Education received 13 percent of gifts in 2009, the second-highest category (after religion, at 33 percent of the total).
University of California officials are contemplating a widescale boycott of the Nature Publishing Group because of concerns over ever-rising prices of the publisher's journals, according to a letter sent to UC faculty members last week. The letter from the California Digital Library, which is part of the university's Office of the President, says that Nature has said that it will increase by 400 percent the price of the systemwide license it charges UC for access to its 67 journals in 2011. The letter warns that unless Nature sticks to its current licensing agreement, the university's faculty will encourage the system's libraries not only to "suspend their online subscriptions entirely," but also urge professors to decline to participate in the publishing group's peer review process, resign from editorial boards, stop placing job ads in its journals, and "cease to submit papers" to them, among other things.