Higher Education Quick Takes
David Protess, a legendary Northwestern University journalism professor known for his efforts to show the innocence of wrongly accused prisoners, is on leave from the university, amid investigations that he lied to the university about his conduct. But The Chicago Tribune reported that he has both signed an agreement not to return to teaching and that he started teaching an "underground class" to students. According to the Tribune, reports are surfacing that he told students to lie about their identities in some past class investigations -- a tactic he says is justified in some cases, but that others question.
Two months after the faculty of the Rhode Island School of Design overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the school's president and provost, the provost, Jessie Shefrin, has announced she will step down, according to the Providence Journal.
In early March, three-quarters of the faculty at RISD who cast ballots returned a vote of no confidence in Shefrin and in President John Maeda, due, in part, to concerns over management style and to objections over a new strategic plan. Faculty members argued that the plan would weaken the school's core curriculum and academic standards.
Shefrin became provost at RISD in 2008 after serving as dean of graduate studies since 2005. "I will be taking a long-awaited sabbatical next year as I make the transition to pursue other interests," she said in a statement, according to the paper. Maeda has announced a search for an interim provost who will start in the fall and serve for one year.
Britain should consider giving more financial support for private (read: for-profit) providers of higher education and developing a more consistent regulatory framework to monitor them, according to a study reported on by Times Higher Education. The study, by the Higher Education Policy Institute, suggests that the government consider incentives to private institutions to merge with or take over failing public universities. But it also warns that, if Britain isn't vigilant enough in its oversight, it could end up repeating the mistakes of the U.S. higher education system, where for-profit colleges have come under intense scrutiny.
Toilet drainage issues appear to be a growing problem in higher education. On Monday we noted concern at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks about people flushing socks down the toilets of the fine arts complex. Now comes word from The Boulder Daily Camera that the University of Colorado at Boulder is suing a company for $40,000 over damage caused by toilet paper "that failed to disperse properly."
A legislative committee in Louisiana, after rare testimony from Gov. Bobby Jindal, approved a measure that would combine historically black Southern University at New Orleans into the University of New Orleans, despite strong opposition from black lawmakers, The Times-Picayune reported. The proposal, which Jindal said would create one stronger institution out of two that have struggled, was approved largely along party lines, with only one Democrat joining nine Republicans in supporting it. A Senate panel is due to consider a parallel measure today.
Preliminary results from Tuesday’s election show that incumbents on the Flathead Valley Community College Board of Trustees easily held off a surprise challenge from a group of conservative candidates whose views and campaign rhetoric startled many in the rural Montana region who were used to uneventful races. Among other positions, the challengers argued that the college relied too heavily on federal funding and that its faculty and staff unions should not have the right to collectively bargain for their salary or benefits levels. A campaign blog maintained by one of the main challengers offered congratulations to the incumbents in a post Wednesday afternoon. The official results of the election are slated to be released and certified at the next Board of Trustees meeting, May 23.
A memo of ideas from the chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents has angered many politicians as well as faculty and student leaders. The month-old memo of ideas from Gene Powell was obtained by The Austin American-Statesman. Among other things, the memo suggests that undergraduate enrollment at the flagship campus at Austin be increased by 10 percent a year for four years, and that tuition throughout the UT system be cut in half. Reaction was speedy and negative, with many -- including a leading state senator -- saying that at a time when the university is facing budget cuts, putting these ideas into practice would erode the quality of the university.
The University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh has taken unspecified "corrective action" against Stephen Richards, a criminal justice professor, for encouraging students to sign a petition to recall a state senator, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Anger over legislation to strip most state employees -- including those at public colleges and universities -- of their collective bargaining rights has led to recall campaigns against a number of legislators. A student recorded Richards and turned over the material to Republican Party officials. Richards isn't returning calls seeking comment. The Oshkosh chancellor, Richard Wells, issued a statement noting that the university respects academic freedom, but "Professor Stephen Richards’ classroom comments of March 7 clearly crossed the line into inappropriate political activity."
Many people were shocked that Osama bin Laden was discovered in a city. But this week's big news was entirely consistent with a project by ecosystem geographers at the University of California at Los Angeles, who published an article in 2009 stating an 89.9 percent chance that bin Laden would be found in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed, Science reported. The work was done by two UCLA geographers, Thomas Gillespie and John Agnew, and a class of undergraduates. They published their findings in MIT International Review.