Sunday, June 5, 2011

Associated Press :: Republic of Barbecue

Republic of Barbeque
by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt
Buy It Now
Texas, Perry wrestle with higher education unrest
By Paul J. Weber

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - When barbecue research is second-guessed in Texas, the turmoil in higher education must be getting serious.

Responding to soaring tuitions and sagging graduation rates, a conservative policy foundation and Republican Gov. Rick Perry have stirred a tempest on Texas campuses by questioning whether college professors are making good use of their state money and suggesting an assortment of efficiencies. The foundation, for example, is asking whether there's a need for more critiques of Shakespeare and other esoteric research that doesn't generate money.

Academics and politicians don't get along in the best of times. But with tuition increasing and budgets tight, the so-called "Seven Breakthrough Solutions," created by the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation, has opened a new debate over the balance between academic freedom and reasonable cost-benefit analysis.

The backlash peaked last week at Texas A&M University - Perry's alma mater - when more than 800 faculty members signed an online petition asking university regents to explain where they stand on the proposals and one professor's withering rebuke to regents made him a small YouTube star. National education institutions have begun to take notice.

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