Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 6, 2012

Urban Meyer, head football coach at Ohio State University, has apologized to the university's gay alumni association for the practice -- which he said will be stopped -- of punishing athletes who have not been performing well by making them wear lavender jerseys, The Other Paper reported. Tim Valentine, president of the Ohio State University Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Alumni Society, praised the coach's decision. "Hidden under the guise of being a competitive motivator or 'the only color left,' the choice of lavender reinforces homophobia and promotes bullying amongst students. The color lavender is associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community,” Valentine said. Meyer said that the use of lavender "was never intended to be used to offend anybody.” He offered "sincere apologies" to the alumni group.

March 6, 2012

Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced in a corporate filing Monday that it would sell four Everest College campuses in California and also close three campuses in other states when currently enrolled students complete their studies. The four California campuses have struggled financially, according to the filing. Those campuses were among those that recently failed to meet a state threshold on student default rates. No buyer has yet emerged. The three campuses that have been targeted for closure, which are located in Florida, Georgia and Virginia, have not met the bar on student performance or financial health, the company said. Corinthian owns about 95 Everest campuses in the U.S. and Canada.

March 6, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has remained largely silent on higher education in the race so far, spoke briefly about his views on college tuition at a town hall in Ohio on Monday, The New York Times reported. He told a questioner who asked about high tuition that h doesn't intend to forgive student debt or direct government money toward students seeking a college education. “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education," Romney told the student, according to the newspaper's report. "And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.

“It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

March 6, 2012

A group of 81 scholarly journal publishers on Monday came out against the latest iteration of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) -- a bill that would require federal research grantees to make their resulting academic papers freely available to the public no more than six months after publication in a scholarly journal. The bill, introduced last month in both the House and the Senate, is the third iteration of FRPAA to be introduced since 2006; two previous versions failed to make it to a vote.

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) sent letters to prominent legislators in both chambers criticizing the bill for seeking to apply a “one-size-fits-all” deadline of six months before publishers, many of which charge for access to articles, must compete with a free version in a government database. In many disciplines, publishers retain the exclusive right to sell access to the peer-reviewed article for “several years before costs are recovered,” according to the AAP. Among the 81 signatories to the letters was Elsevier, a major journal publisher that last month withdrew its support for (and effectively nixed) the Research Works Act -- a bill that would have preemptively killed FRPAA -- after facing a boycott from frustrated scholars.

The American Anthropological Association, which caught flak last month from some of its members after its executive director wrote a note to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy criticizing public access mandates, did not sign on to either letter.

March 5, 2012

Donald Ratcliff, a professor of Christian education at Wheaton College, in Illinois, is being held on child pornography and weapons charges, The Chicago Tribune reported. Authorities said that Ratcliff was found to be trading in child pornography, including images of children younger than 13. Authorities also found two handguns and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in Ratcliff's possession. His lawyer said that the guns were family heirlooms, but declined to comment further. Wheaton has suspended Ratcliff.

March 5, 2012

Brown University's board on Friday named Christina Hull Paxson, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, as Brown's next president. She will take office July 1, succeeding Ruth Simmons. At Princeton, Paxson's scholarly work has been on the intersection of health care and economics. She came to Princeton in 1986, rising through the faculty ranks and leading the economics department as chair. Graduate students at the Woodrow Wilson School have given her five awards for teaching excellence.

March 5, 2012

A few colleges, the Associated Press reports, have an optional part of undergraduate applications: a letter of recommendation from a parent. Officials say that they get unique details that only a parent might know, and sometimes reflections on a child date back to the time the applicant was in utero.

March 5, 2012

Faculty leaders in the Texas A&M University System are protesting plans to outsource hundreds of nonacademic jobs, The Eagle of Bryan/College Station reported. A Faculty Senate letter says that many of those who will lose jobs are longtime employees, that many of them are minority, low-income individuals and that many will be hurt by failing to reach key vesting milestones in the state retirement system. But Chancellor John Sharp is defending the plans. "I'm trying very hard to find something I agree with in that letter and I just can't do it," Sharp said. "I will continue to do all I can to redirect monies where possible to classrooms and research, even though that is apparently opposed by the Faculty Senate."

March 5, 2012

Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, received a highly publicized call from President Obama after the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" (among other things) for backing the president's health-care proposal that would require employers to cover contraception. She also received a strong statement of support on Friday -- for her right to speak out without being slurred -- from the president of Georgetown.

The statement from John J. DeGioia, Georgetown's president, didn't endorse Fluke's point of view on the health law. DeGioia noted that many -- including, significantly for a Roman Catholic university like Georgetown, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- have offered differing perspectives. But he said that what deserved attention was the way Fluke spoke out, and the way others attacked her.

"She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction. She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression," the Georgetown president wrote. "And yet, some of those who disagreed with her position – including Rush Limbaugh and commentators throughout the blogosphere and in various other media channels -- responded with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student."

DeGioia quoted Saint Augustine, who said: "Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed." Added DeGioia: "If we, instead, allow coarseness, anger – even hatred – to stand for civil discourse in America, we violate the sacred trust that has been handed down through the generations beginning with our Founders. The values that hold us together as a people require nothing less than eternal vigilance. This is our moment to stand for the values of civility in our engagement with one another."

Limbaugh apologized for his statement on Saturday.

March 5, 2012

A former student has sued Stonehill College, charging that it drove her into suicidal depression by failing to deal with a roommate who had sex in the room while the plaintiff was present, MSNBC reported. According to the suit, the college didn't respond to complaints or requests for a private room. A college spokeswoman said that Stonehill responded "swiftly and professionally" to complaints about the roommate in question, but was never informed that the "concerns involved her roommate's sexual activity."

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