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President to President

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

President to President, January 17-21, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 3

  • ‚ÄčCongress Returns to Work
  • Appeals Court Upholds University of Texas Admissions Policy
  • For-Profit Group Sues ED to Stop New Rules
  • Ford Foundation Holds Dialogue on Controversial Campus Speech
  • ACE Accepting Nominations for Advisory Commissions
  • IN BRIEF: ACE Selects Institutions for HBCU Internationalization Project; Don't Miss the Member Survey; Register Now for ACE's Annual Meeting

The House of Representatives was back to work this week, moving quickly to address a key priority: repealing the new national health care reform law.

In what is viewed as a primarily symbolic act, the House voted Wednesday 245-189 to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the health care provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA) approved last March. Significantly for higher education, the student aid provisions in HCERA are not included in the repeal bill. It is unclear at this point whether the Senate will vote on the repeal.

Looking forward to next week, on Jan. 25, the Senate will reconvene and President Obama will give his 2011 State of the Union address, laying out his domestic and foreign policy plans and his FY 2012 budget request (though his formal budget submission is not expected until mid-February, possibly on the 14th). On the education front, most of the focus is expected to be on K-12 and reforming No Child Left Behind, but we will be listening for a return of one of 2010's themes, boosting college graduation rates. The president also is expected to again emphasize the need for increased research funding. I will give you a complete summary next week.

Good news this week from Texas: A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions standards at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) is legal, reaffirming the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 in the University of Michigan affirmative action case, Grutter v. Bollinger.

The three-judge panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2009 lower-court ruling in the case Fisher v. University of Texas that UT did not infringe on the civil rights of two white students who were refused admission to that year's freshman class. The plaintiffs argued, in part, that because UT has succeeded in attracting minority students through the state's "10 Percent Plan" (which provides automatic admission to any public university to students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes), the institution itself did not need to consider race and ethnicity in evaluating applicants.

The appeals court upheld the district court's opinion that UT's plan closely follows the admissions process approved in Grutter, which is that an individualized, holistic review of each candidate for admission is appropriate, even if it included race, to achieve the compelling state interest of increasing diversity in the student body. The majority opinion noted that while the 10 Percent Plan appears to have succeeded in increasing minority enrollment at UT, the policy "is a polar opposite of the holistic focus upon individuals" and "is at best a blunt tool for securing the educational benefits that diversity is intended to achieve." The plaintiffs are expected to appeal.

ACE filed an amicus brief to the Fifth Circuit in March 2010 in support of UT.

We learned this afternoon that the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, which represents for-profit institutions, has filed a lawsuit asking the Education Department to withdraw three of the new regulations set to go into effect July 1, including the rules on state authorization, incentive compensation and misrepresentation.

Because it was just filed today, we haven't yet read the complaint. ACE is not a party to the suit, but it reflects the great discomfort and uncertainty around the regulations within the higher education community.

This week I participated in a session of the Ford Foundation's Difficult Dialogues Initiative entitled "Protecting Controversial Campus Speech: Contemporary Approaches to a Timeless Challenge."

Under the direction of Robert M. O'Neil, founding director of The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, this meeting flows from a letter that then-ACE President David Ward and other higher education leaders sent in 2005. I was joined by former and current members of the ACE Board of Directors in discussing our experiences and approaches to dealing with serious attempts to interfere with academic freedom on our campuses. Leaders of Canadian higher education also attended and contrasted the ways our institutions approach this often delicate issue.

We have all too often seen circumstances in which presidents and chancellors have faced very difficult situations in standing up for academic freedom in the face of political, judicial or other external pressures. My goal in this work is to develop materials including toolkits and case studies that can be helpful in ACE's leadership programs.

We are now accepting nominations for members of ACE's five advisory commissions for the 2011-14 term.

The commissions advise ACE on various mission-related issues and guide the Council in initiating new programs and policies, drafting action plans and working with outside constituencies. The five commissions are:

  • Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity
  • International Initiatives
  • Effective Leadership
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Women in Higher Education

Commission members are selected based on many factors, including ACE's desire to represent the full range of our membership, to involve member presidents who have not previously participated in ACE activities, and to appoint members with specialized knowledge or interest in a particular area.

IN BRIEF

My congratulations to the seven institutions named today to our new Creating Global Citizens: Exploring Internationalization at HBCUs project, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education. They are Dillard University (LA), Howard University (DC), Lincoln University of Missouri, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Savannah State University (GA), Tuskegee University (AL) and Virginia State University. The institutions will work with an ACE project team over the next two years to advance campus internationalization.

Earlier this week you should have received an e-mail from SimpsonScarborough, a market research firm engaged by ACE, requesting that you take an online survey about the Council. This survey is part of a broader research project ACE is undertaking so we may better serve our members and the higher education community. I urge you take a few minutes to participate: Your opinions are important to us and will allow us to enhance our work in meaningful ways in years ahead. Additionally, as a thank you for your participation, you will be entered for a chance to win an Amazon Kindle and a complimentary registration for an ACE Annual Meeting. If you did not receive an e-mail with a link to the survey from SimpsonScarborough or if you would like it re-sent, please contact Renee Kart at rk@simpsonscarborough.com.

We're now six weeks away from our 93rd Annual Meeting, and I hope you and your leadership team are planning to join us for a full schedule of events here in Washington, DC. The meeting is scheduled for March 5-8 at the Washington Hilton Hotel. For more information and to register, see the Annual Meeting website.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE