Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 6, 2009

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has agreed to release more information in the reports that colleges and other organizations that conduct research must file with the agency. The agreement settles a lawsuit by the Humane Society of the United States, which sued the department, saying that it wasn't making the reports public as it should have. While researchers who work with animals have defended their work as necessary, some have expressed worry that releasing more information will attract the attention of animal rights groups.

July 6, 2009

Two scholarly associations last week issued statements about the Iranian government's crackdown on students and professors at the nation's universities. The Middle East Studies Association sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressing "serious concern over the murders, mass arrests, brutal beatings, and widespread harassment of Iranian university students." A statement from the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association said: "Recognizing with alarm the implications for freedom of thought and expression and in the light of its particular responsibility for the humanities in higher education, the Modern Language Association deplores the attacks on Iranian universities, which endanger students, faculty members, and staff members. We express our hope that the government of Iran will refrain from using violence or other repressive measures in these revered centers of learning and teaching."

July 6, 2009

Tensions are growing between Bruce Leslie, chancellor of the Alamo Colleges, and faculty members at the five colleges in the San Antonio area that are in the community college district, The San Antonio Express-News reported. While Leslie has pushed for more collaboration and consistency in the district, professors have complained about a lack of consultation and a loss of autonomy for individual colleges. Some professors are organizing to oppose the re-election of trustees who back Leslie.

July 6, 2009

The ever-growing University of Illinois admissions scandal has now reached athletics. Many big-time athletics programs face controversy over their requests that admissions officers let in athletes with less than stellar academic credentials. But the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, some athletic boosters had senior athletics administrators lobby on behalf of non-athletes -- applicants with ties of some sort to the donors -- and the athletics administrators complied, in at least one case turning an automatic rejection based on a poor academic performance into an acceptance.

July 6, 2009

Legislators are complaining about a University of Wyoming policy adopted in May to authorize administrators to issue vouchers for the health insurance for the domestic partners of employees, The Casper Star-Tribune reported. The policy approved by the university's board allows the vouchers to be issued only if any additional costs can be managed. The university's employees are part of a state health insurance system and the idea of vouchers was suggested because the university cannot by itself change the policies of the state system -- but has employees and potential employees who want coverage for domestic partners.

July 6, 2009

Mark Drummond, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, took an unexpected leave last month and on Thursday announced that he was resigning, effective July 31. Drummond is midway through a four-year contract and no reason was given for his sudden departure. Drummond was chancellor of the district from 1999 to 2004 and then left to become chancellor of the state's community college district. He returned in 2007, saying that he really wanted to return to the Los Angeles job. A spokesman for the district declined to elaborate on the statement except to say that the decision was "mutual" between the chancellor and the board. In the announcement, Drummond noted the successful passage of a series of bond measures that have provided $5.7 billion for renovations and construction of the nine campuses in the district.

July 6, 2009

Mark A. Sargent resigned unexpectedly as law dean at Villanova University last week. On Friday, police reports emerged identifying Sargent as a customer of a prostitution ring who cooperated with police, leading to the arrest of the man who ran the operation, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. University officials declined to comment except to say that Sargent would not be returning to the law school's faculty. Sargent could not be reached for comment.

July 6, 2009

An English professor who has served on the admissions committee of the U.S. Naval Academy has set off a debate at Annapolis and in military circles with an article suggesting that standards have been lowered to admit more black and Latino students, The Washington Post reported. Bruce Fleming's article, which ran in The Capital, charges that there are dual standards for white and nonwhite applicants, with significant differences in the grade and test scores required for the admissions committee to declare an applicant suitable for admission. The Post article noted that Annapolis officials deny admissions practices that go as far as Fleming suggests. But Fleming noted that as the Naval Academy has seen significant increases in black and Latino enrollments it has also seen significant increases in the percentage of students with mathematics SAT scores below 600 or who need a year of pre-college work (although the figures for those two categories of students are not broken down by race).

July 6, 2009

Britain's Liverpool Hope University has infuriated faculty members by saying that it expects their work days to be spent on campus and not -- as many faculty members doing writing or grading do -- working from home. The Times Higher reported that a new policy says that working from home should be the "exception to the norm and can be authorized only by a dean in each instance." When faculty members have authorization to work from home, they are instructed to kee a "careful note of activity engaged in during such absences that, if required, they are able to discuss with an authorized line manager."

July 6, 2009

An analysis of student loan guaranty agencies' budgets by the New America Foundation has found that 60.5 percent, or $948.8 million, of the federal payments agencies received in the 2008 fiscal year were for the collection and rehabilitation of defaulted student loans. In contrast, they received only $177.3 million for helping to prevent defaults.

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