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Quick Takes: Pro-Israel Group's Academic Freedom Plan, Not So Distant Distance Education, Anxiety Disorders on the Rise, Sierra Nevada's Reorganization Plan, CollegeNet vs. XAP

March 28, 2007
  • The Israel on Campus Coalition, a pro-Israel group with ties to Hillel, on Tuesday issued a report, "Academic Rights, Academic Responsibilities: A New Approach," that calls for a more nuanced approach to campus disputes over things people say that may offend others. The report is full of statements about the importance of academic freedom, but also includes suggestions that run counter to current policies at many colleges. For example, the report suggests the creation of new "academic freedom task forces," involving both academics and those outside academe, to discuss academic freedom issues. And the report calls for the creation of interdisciplinary -- not departmental¬† -- committees to "help review faculty work, consider tenure, address grievance procedures, and possibly review doctoral candidates." These committees are needed, the report says, because too many decisions -- even on campuses with such committees -- are made by departments alone. Shifting more decisions to the interdisciplinary level "can remove the specter of groupthink or favoritism within a particular department," the report says. Likewise, these panels would be better suited to investigate grievances of students because the panels would not be as likely to involve colleagues being asked to investigate their friends.
  • In theory, distance education is supposed to open up an era when all students have a range of options not limited by geography. But a new report from Eduventures finds that most distance students enroll at distance programs run by institutions in their own geographic regions, and that more than a third of these students take online courses offered by an institution within a 50-mile radius.
  • More college students are reporting that they experience high degrees of stress, and many colleges are reporting increasing numbers of students seeking treatment for anxiety disorders, according to a new report from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. The report notes that many anxiety disorders are treatable, and suggests that stigma about seeking treatment and inadequately supported campus counseling centers may limit the ability of colleges to help some students.
  • Sierra Nevada College, a small liberal arts institution on the shores of Lake Tahoe, announced Tuesday that it has sealed a deal in which Knowledge University Learning Group, Michael Milken's education company, will provide it support and establish a new sort of public-private partnerships. Sierra Nevada has been struggling financially for years and announced in September that it was talking with Knowledge Universe about a possible joint venture. Knowledge Universe will provide up to $15 million over five to seven years to bolster the college's operating budget. The company will also pay for improvements to allow for online offerings -- and Knowledge Universe will also then gain a platform for its online education agenda.
  • A federal judge has upheld a jury's decision that CollegeNET should receive $4.5 million -- plus other fees -- from the XAP Corporation for unfair competitive practices. CollegeNET is hailing the decision, which concerns allegations that XAP failed to inform its student clients that their financial information might be shared. XAP is appealing the decision, which it said in a statement "relates to practices discontinued some time ago which affected a small percentage of Xap accountholders."
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