Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

President to President

 Email  Share  Print
President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

President to President, January 16-20, 2012

Vol. 13, No. 1

  • Congress Returns; State of the Union Scheduled for Jan. 24
  • Higher Ed Groups File Brief in Churchill Case
  • ACE Annual Meeting Features Dynamic Speakers, Networking Opportunities
  • IN BRIEF: USAID Announces RFA for Higher Education Development Centers; Gross Accepts ED Position; ACE, NACUA Hold Events on Sexual Violence on Campus

The House of Representatives returned to work this week for the new congressional session, with the Senate slated to follow Jan. 26. Although the 2012 election has started drawing attention away from everything else in Washington, there remains critical legislation Congress must address in the coming weeks.

First on the agenda, Congress must revisit the payroll tax cut dispute that kept lawmakers working right up to Dec. 23 of last year. They were unable to agree on a long-term plan and simply extended the break until the end of February, along with a temporary extension of unemployment benefits.

However, last year's hard-fought battles are already coloring the new congressional session: The House voted 239-176 on Wednesday in favor of a resolution to protest President Obama's proposed increase in the debt limit, a symbolic action that will not actually prevent a rise in borrowing authority. Under last summer's budget deal—where Congress agreed to allow an increase of more than $2 trillion in the debt limit in exchange for spending cuts equal to that amount—lawmakers are allowed to vote against debt increases but not actually block them.

Also on deck is President Obama's State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday evening, Jan. 24. We have heard from several sources that the president intends to discuss college affordability, highlighting a handful of the many institutions that have designed programs to reduce costs for students and families. Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been traveling around the country this month to talk with various groups about the issue, and we expect this focus to continue through the November election. If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to make sure the Education Department is aware of any initiatives your campus has to lower costs or increase productivity.

ACE submitted an amicus brief to the Colorado Supreme Court Wednesday in support of the University of Colorado (CU) in Ward Churchill's continuing suit against the university.

Many of you will remember this high-profile case, which centers around the university's firing of the former CU-Boulder professor for academic misconduct in 2007. Churchill sued the university after his termination, making two claims. First, he argued his First Amendment rights were violated when the university launched an investigation into the content of his writings and speeches. Second, he argued he was fired in retaliation for publishing a controversial essay comparing victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to Adolf Eichmann and not for research misconduct, as the university asserts.

The university agreed the essay was protected speech but made the decision to terminate Churchill as a result of its investigation, which turned up complaints that he had plagiarized some of his other work. Churchill was originally awarded $1 by a Denver jury, but Denver District Judge Larry Naves set that verdict aside in favor of the university. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld Naves' decision in 2010. We are requesting the Supreme Court uphold the appeals court decision—to overturn it would not only infringe on the institutional autonomy that is the cornerstone of academic freedom, but would chill universities' incentive to provide robust internal processes for faculty misconduct proceedings.

The brief was also signed by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Universities and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

The Colorado Supreme Court is expected to hear the case early this year.

We're now on countdown for ACE's 94th Annual Meeting, scheduled for March 10-13 in Los Angeles, CA. I hope you are all planning to join us this year—we have many critical issues to discuss, from the Obama administration's new focus on college costs and what's happening to accreditation, to what steps colleges and universities can take to increase student access and attainment.

Public policy will be a key issue throughout the meeting. Martha Kanter, under secretary at the Department of Education (ED), will appear at Monday's session on adult education and the president's higher education attainment goals. Eduardo Ochoa, ED's assistant secretary for postsecondary education, has agreed to join us to speak on recent developments in the federal arena. ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle will give his always well attended federal relations update both on Sunday (presidents only) and Tuesday (open session).

Among the other speakers slated to appear this year are:

  • Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, who will deliver this year's Robert H. Atwell Lecture at the opening plenary on March 11.
  • Sal Khan, educator and founder of the Khan Academy.
  • Helene Cooper, White House correspondent for The New York Times and author ofThe House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood. Cooper will speak at the Women's Leadership Dinner on March 10.
  • Michael Mandelbaum, Johns Hopkins professor and co-author (with Thomas L. Friedman) of That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.

Early bird registration rates are available through the end of the day today, but you may register anytime through the opening of the meeting.

If you have never attended an ACE Annual Meeting, please take a few minutes to watch this compilation of videos to learn why your colleagues find the event so valuable. For those of you on Twitter, follow @ACEducation and look for the hashtag #ACE2012 now and throughout the meeting.

IN BRIEF

Colleges and universities are invited to join a webinar Jan. 24 from 1-3:00 p.m. EST to learn more about a draft request for applications (RFA) from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support individual institutions or consortia of institutions in creating innovative solutions to ongoing development challenges. Successful applicants will bring multi-disciplinary approaches to USAID's development practice while engaging faculty, staff and student communities, and will become part of a networked set of centers that bring creative problem-solving, analysis and engagement to USAID's core development practice. USAID anticipates awarding a total of $100 million over five years. The final RFA is expected to be issued Feb. 8, with applications due April 3.

I was pleased to learn over the holidays that Karen Gross, president of Southern Vermont College, has taken a one-year leave of absence to serve in the U.S. Department of Education. As a senior policy adviser at the department, she will focus on issues such as increasing student access, college costs and affordability, and higher education completion rates. We welcome Karen to Washington and look forward to working with her in her new position.

ACE will host a webinar Jan. 26 on what higher education leaders need to know about sexual assault and crime on campus. The webinar will address this important issue from three perspectives: campus law enforcement, media and public relations, and legal compliance. In addition, the National Association of College and University Attorneys, in cooperation with ACE, will hold a one-day workshop Feb. 3 in Arlington, VA, on responding to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights "Dear Colleague" letter on sexual violence. Please pass this information along to the appropriate staff working on this issue.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE