In today’s Academic Minute, Robert Vanderlan of Cornell University explains the role poets played in creating one of the 20th century’s great media empires. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
In today's Academic Minute, Catherine Snyder of Union Graduate College explains how brain function changes with age. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar on The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education. This listing will appear as a regular feature in this space.
To submit a listing, click here.
Two blind students — backed by the National Federation of the Blind -- on Wednesday sued Florida State University over the use of technology that they maintain denies equal access to the blind. The suit mentions mathematics courses in which the students allege the university required the students to use an inaccessible Web-based application to complete homework and exams, and required the use of clickers that cannot be used by a blind person to respond to in-class questions and obtain bonus credit. The suit is the latest in a series by blind students over educational technology tools.
The Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science released a statement Wednesday about the way some climate scientists have been treated. "We are deeply concerned by the extent and nature of personal attacks on climate scientists," the statement said. "Reports of harassment, death threats, and legal challenges have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and makes it difficult for factual information and scientific analyses to reach policymakers and the public."
While some of the legal attacks have involved extensive records requests of scientists at public universities, the AAAS statement says that these inquiries go beyond legitimate requests for information. "The sharing of research data is vastly different from unreasonable, excessive Freedom of Information Act requests for personal information and voluminous data that are then used to harass and
intimidate scientists. The latter serve only as a distraction and make no constructive contribution to the public discourse," the statement says.
A new report from a higher education think tank calls on state policymakers to rein in the rising cost of community colleges by limiting tuition increases and finding ways to streamline the process of transferring to four-year universities.
The report, from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, focuses on community colleges because the think tank believes they are a crucial part of the plans to increase the number of college graduates nationwide in the next decade.
“The way we’re going to increase completion of baccalaureate degrees, in the biggest and fastest-growing states, is by (increasing) the number of students who start in community colleges and transfer,” said Pat Callan, director of NCPPHE.
That’s unlikely, says Callan, since tuition at public two-year institutions has skyrocketed since 1999, far outpacing the median family income in every state, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics cited in the report.
Callan says states need to re-think their approach to funding and tuition at public two-year institutions. Turning it around would mean adopting policies that tie tuition increases to median family income, rewarding colleges that cut costs without increasing cost of attendance, and allowing steady tuition growth during good economic years, he says.
“No state has an effective tuition policy,” he said. “Most of them are doing it exactly the wrong way.”
The report also praises efforts in some states to make the transition from two- to four-year institutions easier, including adopting common course numbers and an agreed-upon core curriculum. These measures could save students money by saving them from having to re-take courses after they’ve transferred.
But Callan says rising cost of attendance is the most important issue moving forward.
“Most of these aren’t going to be very effective unless we deal with this affordability issue,” he said.
The University of New Hampshire cannot fire Edward Larkin as a German professor, even though he was convicted of indecent exposure for showing his genitals to a woman and her 17-year-old daughter in 2009, an arbitrator has ruled, according to WMUR 9 News. The arbitrator ruled that while Larkin's conduct constituted "moral delinquency," it was not "moral delinquency of a grave order," the standard needed for dismissal.
The new edition of The Pulse podcast features an interview with Mark Nestor of University of the Sciences, in Philadelphia, about Panapto Lecture Capture. Find out more about The Pulse here.
A new report by the North Carolina state legislature proposes merging several of the state's smaller community colleges with larger ones to save $5 million. The report has the state's community college system, which is made up of 58 individual institutions, up in arms and looking for other ways to cut costs.
Under the proposal, 22 small colleges (defined as institutions with 3,000 full-time students or less) would become satellites of larger colleges nearby. Boards of trustees and advisors would be merged, allowing the state to save money on administration and staff.
System president Scott Ralls says those mergers would hurt colleges' ability to provide programs uniquely suited to their community . Part of the strength of the system, he said, is the relationship each college has with local leadership and business owners, allowing them to tailor their services to the needs of students.
"They're not just places where classes occur," said Ralls. "They're hubs of local leadership."
Ralls said the legislature often brings up proposals to consolidate colleges in the system when the economy is down, but "not to this extent." He says he is taking the proposal seriously and is looking into other ways to cut costs. For now, he is hopeful that new measures to streamline the college's remedial and technical education programs, which go into effect next fall, will provide significant savings. But he's confident he can find $5 million in cuts if he needs to -- last year, the system worked with legislators to make $115 million in reductions.
"In those discussions, there was never talk of consolidating 22 colleges," he said. "We would look for other places to make that reduction if we had to."
California legislators are set to begin voting today on compromise budget legislation that would require enormous cuts to the state's public colleges and universities -- hundreds of millions of dollars more than they had been expecting as recently as last week. On Monday, after finding himself unable to reach a deal with Republican legislators that would have raised taxes to avert some cutbacks, Governor Jerry Brown announced that he had reached agreement with Democratic legislators on a state budget that can be passed without Republican support, the Los Angeles Times reported. It counts on rosy revenue estimates valued at several billion dollars more than the state has been expecting -- but still would cut $150 million more each from the University of California and California State University systems, on top of the $500 million reductions on which they had already been expecting.
Leaders of the university systems blasted the deal. "Because cuts of this magnitude inevitably will drive up tuition for public university students and their families, we cannot stand silent," said Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California. "While we recognize the enormity of the fiscal challenge facing the state, we continue to oppose further cuts, and support any efforts that will restore long-term stability to state funding of higher education."