Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, October 29, 2010 - 3:00am

An Ohio University journalism professor, who was nearly denied tenure over harassment allegations, should be reprimanded for his behavior, a faculty committee has recommended. Bill Reader was granted tenure by Ohio’s president over the objections of his department director and dean, but the charges that imperiled Reader’s tenure case were separately evaluated by his college’s Professional Ethics Committee. Evidence suggests Reader engaged in nonviolent threats of retaliation following a tenure vote that narrowly ended in his favor, the full committee found. Of the committee’s six members, five also agreed Reader engaged in acts of intimidation and verbal harassment of his colleagues. Reprimands are reserved for “moderately serious” offenses, and are less severe than censure or disciplinary action, according to the university’s faculty handbook. In an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed Thursday, Reader said "I maintain my innocence and will appeal if necessary.”

Friday, October 29, 2010 - 3:00am

Cornell University on Thursday announced an $80 million gift from David R. and Patricia Atkinson to support an interdisciplinary research center on sustainability. The center currently involves the work of 220 faculty fellows from 55 academic departments.

Friday, October 29, 2010 - 3:00am

Mark Hopton, who was laid off as assistant vice president for business services at Ohio University, was arrested Thursday and charged with making terror threats against the institution, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Police found 12 guns at his home. Authorities said calls from Hopton to the university on Wednesday prompted them to secure several buildings. WBNS TV reported that Hopton was released on a $10,000 bond.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 3:00am

A senior administrator who was fired when a new president took over at her Minnesota university was ineligible for unemployment benefits because her job was a "major policy-making or advisory position" in the unclassified portion of the state's work force, a state appeals court has ruled. The Court of Appeals of Minnesota overturned a lower court's ruling that Cathleen Brannen qualified for unemployment benefits when she was fired as vice president for administration and finance at Metropolitan State University in 2009, because the institution's new president wanted her own person in the job. In concluding that Brannen did not have a policy making or advisory authority, as required by state law to qualify for unemployment, the lower court erroneously examined whether she had such a role in the entire Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, of which Metro State is a part, the appeals court said. At Metro State itself, "[s]he reported directly to the president.... The new president of the university chose to terminate Brannen without cause solely for the purpose of hiring a person with whom the president might enjoy a better working relationship. That fact alone suggests that giving trustworthy advice to the president was a significant part of Brannen's former position."

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 3:00am

An administrator at Wesley College, in Delaware, accidentally shared an e-mail message intended for academic advisors -- with information about students doing poorly -- with every student on the campus, The News-Journal reported. The e-mail concerned students at risk of failing, describing one this way: "The hole she has dug is deeper than the mine shaft in Chile." The college has apologized to all of the students whose academic failings were shared with the campus.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, has released a formal proposal to change retirement benefits for employees in the system, The Sacramento Bee reported. Yudof and other system officials have been saying for some time that the university's retirement system faces a massive deficit that requires changes to assure its solvency. Yudof's proposal would raise the minimum age to be eligible for retirement, for those hired after July 1, 2013, to 55 (from the current 50). The age for maximum pension benefits would go up to 65 (from 60). In addition, there would be reductions in the health care costs current employees would have covered by the university.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Iowa, like a number of other colleges and universities, has been trying to limit excessive student drinking on Thursdays by scheduling more classes on Fridays. But as The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported, that's easier said than done. After a brief increase in the number of Friday classes, there are now only 1,255 of them at the university, compared to 1,974 on Mondays, the day with the next fewest classes. Faculty members said that they avoid scheduling Friday classes because many students won't attend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 3:00am

A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that legal clinics run by Rutgers University are covered by the state's open records law, The Star-Ledger reported. Rutgers, backed by other legal clinics affiliated with law schools, argued that the unique nature of law clinics should create an exception. But the appeals court disagreed. "It is uncontested that the clinic is affiliated with and part of the law school," the ruling said. "The clinic was created and is funded in part by the law school. Clinic attorneys are hired as part of the faculty of the law school and are retained or discharged by the law school. For purposes of [open records law], the clinic is indistinguishable from any other academic program offered by the law school."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 3:00am

The former director of auxiliary services at La Salle University, Stephen Greb, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday to face charges of theft, forgery and tampering that allegedly allowed him to funnel more than $5 million in university money to a fake company he set up, the Associated Press reported. La Salle fired him in June.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 3:00am

The viral video of the week, at least in the humanities, is below, mocking those who want to pursue a humanities doctorate in the face of the terrible job market. If you haven't seen the video, in which a faculty member tries to discourage a would-be graduate student, you can view it below. (At The Valve, Marc Bousquet writes that the video is really about traditional literary scholarship, not all work in English or the humanities.)

Aspiring humanities professors are not the only ones being mocked in this series, however. Potential law students don't make out much better.

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