Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 2, 2009

Alumni of Western Washington University, angry over the university's decision to eliminate football, issued a statement Monday saying that the university has refused offers of gifts of $1 million to restore football -- and that, as a result, many alumni plan to stop giving to the institution. The university responded by stating that many alumni understand the decision. "Western cannot accept donations for the football program since that program no longer exists," the university said. "We cannot ethically commit to maintaining a program based on the hope that additional significant funding might be found in the future. The amount of money required to not only sustain the program today, but also in the years to come, is not a realistic possibility given the tough economic times we're currently facing."

March 2, 2009

Southwestern College, in California, is under fire for a deal in which some of its police academy students are being trained at a facility run by the company previously known as Blackwater, the controversial company known for its security work in Iraq, The Union-Tribune reported. While critics say that the college shouldn't be associated with Xe, as the company is now known, college officials said that their own instructors are doing the training, and that they are just using a facility owned by the company.

March 2, 2009

A leading Congressional Republican is asking Education Secretary Arne Duncan for significantly more information about how the department plans to spend $100 billion in new funds from the economic stimulus package and to monitor how the money is used. Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon wrote Duncan last week to ask how the department will oversee the flow of funds to states and the effectiveness with which states spend the money.

March 2, 2009

When Bill Ayers visits a local campus these days, it's become common for a local politician or two to denounce the appearance. But Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are pushing particularly hard at Millersville University, demanding that a lecture later this month be called off. The Intelligencer Journal reported that Republican legislators have issued repeated statements and called for meetings with state higher education officials about the matter. Millersville has defended the appearance by Ayers, noting that he is coming to the campus in his role as a noted education expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and that there are no plans to use tax dollars for the visit. But Republicans keep talking about the Weather Underground, of which Ayers was once a leader, and suggesting that there could be economic penalties for the university if it lets Ayers appear. One legislator told the newspaper: "I mean, this guy probably committed treason, and why Millersville would want to give him a forum is really beyond my understanding." Another said: "At the end of the day, the institution does utilize tax dollars. ... So there has to be a measure of accountability."

March 2, 2009

Benedictine University has a new way to help its alumni pay for their children's college tuitions. When alumni have two children who enroll at the Illinois university within a six-year period, the second child receives a 50 percent discount on tuition. A third child doesn't have to pay any tuition at all. Benedictine is not the first institution to offer a sibling scholarship. George Washington University gives a discount to one sibling when another is enrolled at the same time.

March 1, 2009

States should spend the federal money they receive for higher education from the economic stimulus package in ways that encourage innovation and greater efficiency rather than reinforcing the patterns that got their college systems into trouble in the past, three groups argue in a report released Friday. The Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems offer recommendations for how state leaders can use the stimulus funds to "leverage change," including reallocating funds to colleges (private as well as public, two-year as well as four, for-profit as well as nonprofit) that "pursue undergraduate teaching as their first priority") and imposing greater requirements on the colleges that take funds, such as tying them to the institutions' enrollment of disadvantaged students.

March 1, 2009

Safety inspectors found more than a dozen deficiencies in a University of California at Los Angeles laboratory in which a lab assistant was engulfed in flames in a December accident that resulted in burns that killed her, the Los Angeles Times reported. The article quotes one expert as saying that the death was "totally preventable." UCLA has ordered a series of lab safety improvements and is cooperating with ongoing investigations, while not commenting on the specific points outlined in the article. The safety inspection that found the deficiencies was conducted two months before the accident, and the Times reported that the requested changes were not made.

February 28, 2009

The College of Santa Fe, a private college known for its arts programs and close faculty-student interaction, has for months been facing closure and hoping for a a bailout from a state university, most likely New Mexico Highlands University. Legislation to authorize such a takeover by the state is moving, but is not a done deal, leading the college to announce that it would close May 22, barring a new plan to finance its operations. Even as it announced these plans, the college was working with legislators to push the takeover legislation, and supporters of the college continue to float new ideas on how to keep it alive.

February 27, 2009

A parody issue of a student newspaper at the University of Oxford has cost its editors their jobs. The Times (of London) reported that the parody included an image of a former editor dressed in a Ku Klux Klan uniform and quoting him using racist phrases; a front-page story describing students sexually abusing and killing babies; pornographic photos in which the faces of students and employees were superimposed on the faces of the porn actors; and mocking references to the Holocaust. The editors, who were ordered to resign, said that the issue was intended as satire.

February 27, 2009

Goucher College has decided to let Leopold Munyakazi, a visiting French professor who was suspended after Goucher officials learned he is accused of participating in the genocide in Rwanda, use the college library, The Baltimore Sun reported. Munyakazi denies participating in genocide and some human rights experts are skeptical of the charges he faces. Goucher officials said that they decided to let him use the library, despite his suspension, in response to a student-organized petition that argued that scholars should not be denied access to a college library.

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