Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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."

March 2, 2012

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday announced the creation of a panel of college presidents and other higher education leaders to advise the agency on issues related to international student recruitment, research, and other matters. Agency officials said the establishment of the committee reflected its officials' desire to work with college and university leaders. The panel's members are:

  • Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University
  • Carrie L. Billy, president of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium
  • Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges
  • David M. Dooley, president of the University of Rhode Island
  • Royce C. Engstrom, president of the University of Montana
  • Antonio R. Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Rufus Glasper, chancellor of the Maricopa Community Colleges
  • Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University
  • Marlene M. Johnson, executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators 
  • Eric W. Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota
  • R. Bowen Loftin, president of Texas A&M University
  • Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland at College Park
  • Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College
  • Ruby G. Moy, president and CEO of the Asian Pacific Islander American Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities
  • John Sexton, president of New York University
  • Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz, superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy
  • Dianne Boardley Suber, president of Saint Augustine’s College
  • Holden Thorp, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
March 2, 2012

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 60 percent of Americans think colleges have a generally positive effect on American life, but noted sharp partisan divides in Americans' views of institutions of higher education. Twenty-six percent of Americans said that colleges have a negative effect on "the way things are going in the country," with the rest of respondents not answering. Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats said that colleges have a positive effect on the country. Among conservative Republicans, 46 percent agreed; among Republicans who agree with the Tea Party, only 38 percent said colleges have a positive effect.

Still, among the population as a whole, the 60 percent approval rating for colleges was relatively high: more saw positive effects from colleges than from churches (57 percent), the news media (26 percent) or Congress (a dismal 15 percent). The Pew Research Center also noted that a 2011 survey found that across party lines, Americans who attended college overwhelmingly believed it was a good investment.

March 2, 2012

U.S. News & World Report plans to collect and publish new data on colleges in next year's rankings, but will not use the additional data in the methodology for total scores. The new data will cover differential graduation rates based on income and race; the affordability of colleges; and colleges' Internet connectivity. Details are available on the blog of Robert Morse, who leads the rankings effort.

March 2, 2012

Faculty members are speaking out against cuts due to be proposed by the administration next week at the University of Northern Iowa, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. Officials are preparing the plan to deal with budget shortfalls, and say that they have no choice but to propose deep cuts. Draft plans have been circulating and faculty union leaders say that they show a willingness to go too far. Cathy DeSoto, president of the faculty union, said that current plans would end undergraduate degrees in fields such as physics, geography, religion, philosophy and the teaching of English as a second language. "The reorganization that they've proposed, if it went through, it would eviscerate the university," she said.

March 2, 2012

A proposed measure that would allow most employers with moral objections a way out of the federal mandate requiring that birth control be covered in employer-sponsored health insurance plans was tabled in the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 51 to 48. The measure, an addition to a highway funding bill known as the "Blunt Amendment" for its sponsor, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, would have allowed any employer (not just religious ones) with a moral objection to preventive care to opt out of offering that care. Religious colleges have strenuously objected to the mandate, which they say violates their religious freedom.

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