Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, July 18, 2014 - 3:00am

The American Anthropological Association is the latest disciplinary association to decide to consider the role it should play in discussing and/or taking a stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The association's president is announcing to members that leaders of the group want to promote "a conversation" about these issues, particularly given the expertise of many anthropologists in the Middle East. Monica Heller, the president, also noted in a letter to members in the forthcoming Anthropology News that she was aware that such discussions in other disciplinary associations have been "divisive," and that anthropologists should be able to have a "respectful exchange" on the topic. There will be a special forum at the association's annual meeting in December, and perhaps special sessions. The association is also considering the appointment of a task force. Heller's letter stresses that while association leaders are not preempting moves by others to take various steps, the association is not at this time taking a stand on a boycott of Israel.

Heller's letter is based on a larger article she wrote with other AAA leaders that appeared in an earlier issue of Anthropology News.

The anthropology blog Savage Minds has run a series of posts in recent weeks in which two Ph.D. candidates in anthropology have, under a pseudonym, argued that the association should endorse a boycott. The first post is here.




Friday, July 18, 2014 - 3:00am

George Fox University has been facing criticism for its policy, which it says is motivated by its Christian beliefs, of not allowing transgender students to live in housing with the gender with which they identify. On Thursday, the university announced a change that would open housing to transgender students who have surgery. The university's new policy (which George Fox characterizes as a clarification) states: "Common residence halls are single-sex, defined anatomically. We are committed to residential access, and it is consistent with our beliefs and our community values that a presurgical transgendered person will be provided on-campus housing in appropriate alternative housing either on or off campus." A spokesman confirmed that those who do have surgery will be entitled to regular housing.

Paul Southwick, a lawyer representing a transgender student challenging George Fox's policies, said that the policy shift did not resolve his concerns. "If George Fox University is drawing the line at gender reassignment surgery, that is not the line drawn by state and federal law. Gender identity protections do not extend only to those individuals who can afford, or who are ready, for gender reassignment surgery," he said. Southwick added that most transgender people do not get surgery. "And how would George Fox police anatomy?" he asked.


Friday, July 18, 2014 - 3:00am

A method of financing public higher education by allowing students to forgo upfront tuition payments in exchange for repaying a portion of their wages after graduation has captured the imagination of lawmakers in several states, but an analysis by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities argues that it would be bad for colleges, students and ultimately state taxpayers as well.

Friday, July 18, 2014 - 3:00am

The Golden Goose Award is this year going to three economists whose basic research on game theory and auctions enabled the Federal Communications Commission to auction spectrum licenses. The award -- sponsored by the Association of American Universities and other science focused associations -- was created to honor federally funded research that "may not have seemed to have significant practical applications at the time it was conducted but has resulted in major economic or other benefits to society." The award was created as something of a response to lawmakers who criticize basic research or projects whose names sound funny. This year's award, to social scientists, comes as some Republicans have questioned the value of federal support for the social sciences.

The winners are Robert Wilson, the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management Emeritus at Stanford University; Paul Milgrom, the Shirley and Leonard Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University; and R. Preston McAfee, chief economist at Microsoft.


Friday, July 18, 2014 - 4:23am

A survey of campus police departments at 343 colleges and universities has found that, when campus police find students violating alcohol laws, they typically refer them to various college offices, but do not issue citations. Further, the students are generally not referred to a campus health center for alcohol screening or intervention. The survey results will appear in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Friday, July 18, 2014 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Erika Engstrom, professor of communications at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, discusses made-for-television portrayals of weddings and brides, and the way these glitzy Hollywood renditions are unrealistic. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

A new study in PLOS ONE has found that scholars -- especially women and those starting their careers -- experience sexual harassment and sexual asault when doing field studies in anthropology, archaeology, geology, and other fields. A survey of 142 men and 516 women found that a majority (64 percent) had experienced sexual harassment (defined as inappropriate sexual remarks, comments about physical beauty, or jokes about cognitive sex differences, for example). More than 20 percent reported they had been the victims of sexual assault (defined as unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature, including touching, physical threats, or rape).

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 4:30am

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the University of Wisconsin System had valid reasons to obtain an injunction against a former student who repeatedly disrupted meetings and events, the Associated Press reported. The disruptions went beyond protest, and thus were legitimate to ban, the ruling said. The former student argues that he was engaged in protest over the way the university system campuses use student fees. The court, however, also found that the injunction -- barring the former student from all campuses and interacting with all university employees -- was too broad, and so ordered a lower court to narrow it.


Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

A couple who made their fortunes in founding the Chinese real estate company SOHO China are setting up a $100 million fund to send low-income Chinese students to elite universities abroad, an initiative they launched on Tuesday by signing a $15 million gift agreement with Harvard University, The Wall Street Journal reported. Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi are looking to set up similar endowments at other universities in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Gordon College, whose policies barring sex outside of heterosexual marriage and request for an exemption from federal antidiscrimination requirements have drawn significant attention in recent weeks, has "no chance" of having its institutional accreditation withdrawn in the coming months over the policies according to its accreditor, the Boston Business Journal reported. In a letter to Gordon's president, the head of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges' Commission on Institutions of Higher Education said that its planned discussion of Gordon's policies at the commission's September meeting was "common practice" when an institution has been in the news over matters that relate to policies covered by accreditation. "Being on the agenda only indicates that the Commission will discuss the matter and decide what action, if any, to take," wrote Barbara Brittingham, the agency's president. "But ... the range of actions the Commission could take at the September meeting would not include withdrawal of accreditation or probation."




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