A Louisiana judge granted an injunction Tuesday to block a study of a proposal to merge Southern University of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans, The Advocate reported. The injunction was sought in a suit by seven Southern students charging that the Louisiana Board of Regents in its current composition is unconstitutional, and thus lacks the authority to review the study that was under way until the injunction was issued. The lawsuit states that the board is required to represent the diversity of the state, but that all of the appointed members of the board are white. (Until recently there were some minority members, but the latest round of appointments replaced them.) Those bringing the suit, and many other supporters of Southern, a historically black institution, oppose the idea of a merger. Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, called for the study of the merger, citing low graduation rates at the two universities, but critics say that Southern has a valuable mission that would get lost in a combined institution.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Ohio State University is today announcing its largest gift ever -- $100 million from alumnus Les Wexner, who founded Limited Brands. The gift will primarily benefit medical research and education, as well as Ohio State's Wexner Center for the Arts.
The University of California at Berkeley on Tuesday announced plans to spend more than $500,000 to add more than 30 foreign language courses, beginning in the next academic year. The additions are part of a broad effort at Berkeley to add sections of courses needed by freshmen and others to launch themselves in various courses of study. Sections will be added in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. The news from Berkeley comes at a time that a number of public universities are scaling back language offerings, frequently citing the relatively small number of majors in various programs. The Berkeley announcement noted that the university's analysis has found that only a small minority of language students at the university are language majors, but that the instruction is essential for many courses of study and careers.
Rutgers University's board has revised its process for evaluation of its president, currently Richard McCormick, The Star-Ledger reported. Until now, McCormick has prepared a 20-page self-assessment for the board each year, followed by a meeting with board members to discuss his assessment, and theirs. Going forward, reflecting the current focus in higher education on using metrics, the evaluation will be based on specific measures related to graduation rates, research grants, the quality of the incoming undergraduate class and other factors that relate to the university's quality.
John Junker, CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, was placed on administrative leave Monday, the Arizona Republic reported. Currently, an investigation is under way as to whether Junker and other bowl officials “orchestrated improper political contributions.” In December 2009, Grant Woods, the Fiesta Bowl’s investigator, concluded that there was “no credible evidence that the bowl’s management engaged in any type of illegal or unethical conduct.” Woods, however, recently told the Republic: “Key people may have lied to me. It’s one thing not to catch it, but it’s another thing if they were purposely trying for me not to find out.” Junker had no comment on the charges or his leave.
Westmont College, a Christian institution that bars "homosexual practice," is facing a serious debate over how it treats its gay students, the Los Angeles Times reported. The discussions were spurred by a letter in the student newspaper, signed by 31 gay and lesbian alumni who wrote of their "doubt, loneliness and fear due to the college's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues." The alumni said they wanted their names known as "proof that LGBT people do exist within the Westmont community." There are no signs that Westmont is reconsidering its views on sexual orientation, but 50 of the college's 92 faculty members issued their own letter, asking the gay alumni for "forgiveness for ways we might have added to your pain."
Students at California State University at Northridge are being hit by worsening personal economic conditions, higher tuition rates and greater difficulty getting into courses, according to a report, "Squeezed From All Sides," being released today by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles. Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 students at Northridge, which like most of the Cal State campuses is ethnically diverse and includes many first generation college students. Among the findings:
- Students' families have taken hard hits. More than 10 percent of students reported that at least one parent had lost a job since 2008, and 21 percent reported that at least one parent had lost income or hours of work.
- Paying for college has become more difficult. Among students enrolled for at least two years, 57 percent said that paying had become "a little more difficult" and another 28 percent said that it had become "a lot more difficult."
- Getting into courses has become more difficult, with 77 percent of students reporting that the inability to get into classes will result in longer time to degree.
The renovation of the student center at the University of Colorado at Boulder was finished this fall, adding more comfortable seating and a fireplace, among other amenities. The Boulder Daily Camera reported that the new facility and the particularly cold winter have drawn homeless people to the center in greater numbers than in the past. Some students have raised concerns, but officials say that as long as the homeless people don't break rules, they cannot be kicked out of a public building.
Utah State Representative Chris Herrod introduced a bill Monday to require the state's public colleges and universities to stop offering tenure to faculty members, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Higher education leaders are speaking out against the bill, saying it would make it difficult to attract top academic talent to the state. (Currently tenured faculty members would not have their tenure revoked.) Herrod said that the bill would be good for higher education. In tight budget times, he said, “I would hate to have to cut a young, energetic Ph.D." to preserve a position for a tenured professor who is "barely there."
The London School of Economics and Political Science has declined to ban from a panel discussion on Europe's future two speakers who are seen as anti-Muslim for questioning the willingness of Muslim immigrants to integrate themselves into German society, Times Higher Education reported. German students and academics based in Britain had asked for the panelists to be removed, but the student organizers and the institution itself declined to do so, citing a commitment to free speech.