The Forum | Trusteeship

This Week in Higher Ed 12/7

December 7, 2018 by Erik Gross

Trustees Shirk Commitment to Academic Freedom

In an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Keith Whittington, professor of politics at Princeton University, discusses how college trustees need to rise to the challenge of protecting academic freedom. According to Dr. Whittington, trustees have been lax in their defense of free speech and, in some cases, have limited academic freedom. He urges trustees to become acclimated to the unique qualities of institutions of higher learning before accepting a leadership position: “New trustees should get an orientation of their own. They should be asked to read about, think carefully about, and discuss the importance of principles and contours of academic freedom and free speech. As trustees come to colleges and universities from the private sector, they should be asked to reflect on the differences between those institutions and for-profit businesses.”

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University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point Announces Program Cut, Faculty Letter of “No Confidence” Follows

Faculty and community members at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point are calling for a change in management after the University announced a proposal that would cut several academic programs, including history, French, and geography, and lay off several faculty members to address its $8 million deficit. A letter of “no confidence” in the provost and chancellor was signed by over 100 current and former faculty members. Following state budget cuts and mergers, many institutions in the Wisconsin system have been struggling financially. Federal data that ACTA has analyzed shows that Stevens Point increased its administrative spending by 44% from 2011 to 2016; the University should analyze its spending practices and take steps to rein in administrative spending.

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Silent Sam Returns to Campus (Kind Of)

The University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (UNC) announced this week that Silent Sam, a statue which commemorates UNC students who fought for the Confederacy, will be returned to campus, albeit with one wrinkle: The statue will be housed in a new $5 million building to ensure its security. University leadership hopes that the decision will comply with a state law that limits the movement of memorials from campus. The statue will also be in a less prominent part of campus, which the University hopes will mitigate criticism. The statue was torn down by protesters in August, sparking a national debate about the legacy of confederate monuments. In an article published this week in the Federalist, ACTA President Michael Poliakoff weighed in on the controversy, offering a path of compromise to address contentious statues.

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STEM Costs More to Teach than Humanities, New Study Finds

A new paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that universities spend more money to teach pre-professional and STEM courses than they spend on humanities and social sciences. Relevant factors affecting the cost of providing a major tend to include class size, faculty salaries, and resource use. NBER also found that majors which earn higher salaries generally cost more to teach, although there are exceptions. Math and economics, for example, are high-wage majors, yet are inexpensive to administer. But NBER also found that universities tend to allocate more resources for high earning majors in order to steer students toward taking them. ACTA has long supported a robust liberal arts education as well as college affordability. By refining their course catalogs, colleges could yield significant financial savings.

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In addition to these stories, here are several thought-provoking opinion editorials that were published in higher education news outlets this week:

Check here every Friday for the most important higher education news. Using over 23 years of expertise, ACTA will provide commentary on the pressing issues facing our nation’s colleges and universities.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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