Several major publishers will experiment with offering free course materials to Coursera users enrolled in the Silicon Valley-based company's massive open online courses. The partnership, which involves Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, SAGE, and Wiley will deliver material using Chegg, a company that offers an e-book platform. According to Coursera, while professors teaching MOOCs on its platform have been able to assign free high-quality content, they will now be able to work with publishers to "provide an even wider variety of carefully curated teaching and learning materials at no cost to the student." Coursera has, however, generated some revenue from the Amazon.com affiliates program wherein users buy books suggested by professors.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Students at California State University at San Marcos held a protest outside the president's office Thursday to protest the university's decision not to punish Alpha Chi Omega sorority following a racially insensitive incident, KPBS reported. The sorority held an event in which members posed for photographs dressed as Latina gang members, and then posted the photos to social media. One of the students who protested said: "To come to school where people don’t understand that there’s real struggles behind these things; that they’re real, we have to go home to them whenever we go home to our families or our communities. And it’s not funny. It’s not funny to us. In fact, it’s hurtful."
The Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association has written a letter to the president of Egypt’s Suez Canal University protesting its investigation and informal suspension without pay of an English professor variously accused of “contempt of religion” and “insulting Islam.” As the letter details, Mona Prince is accused by a student of making “untoward” statements about Islam in a lecture on sectarian tensions in Egypt.
The letter describes the incident as a misunderstanding or disagreement between Prince and a student complainant. "It seems to us, indeed, that Dr. Prince acted precisely as a professor should, particularly in a discussion section of a course designed to teach critical thinking skills,” states the letter, signed by MESA’s president, Peter Sluglett. “She encouraged her students to tackle matters that, while sensitive and unpleasant, are among the most pressing socio-political issues in contemporary Egypt.”
“We are quite disturbed, therefore, that the university has opened an investigation at all,” the letter continues. “The mere fact that the university deems this innocuous incident worthy of inquiry could exercise a chilling effect upon academic freedom."
The president of Suez Canal University did not immediately respond to an email message on Thursday.
A new report, "The Changing Face of Historically Black Colleges and Universities," was released Thursday by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and the Center for Minority Serving Institutions. The report details the role of black colleges, outlines demographic trends in enrollments and discusses educational and financial challenges facing the institutions.
WASHINGTON -- Senators Marco Rubio, Ron Wyden and Mark Warner introduced a bill Thursday to require colleges to disclose data about their students' salaries in the first year after graduation. The measure would require colleges to break down salary data by major or program of study, as well as require them to report more information on remediation rates, debt for students who graduate and those who drop out, and continuation rates to graduate education. It would also disaggregate outcomes for Pell Grant and G.I. Bill recipients.
The bill would also repeal the ban on a federal unit record data system to track students' outcomes in college and beyond. The previous version of the bill would have circumvented the ban by linking state unit record databases. Some House Republicans, privacy advocates and private colleges strongly opposed the creation of such a database in 2006, when it was proposed by the Bush administration.
The bill, the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, was first introduced in the last Congress; since then, transparency about graduates' debt and salaries has become a point of agreement for the Obama administration and some Congressional Republicans. Many colleges oppose it, arguing that information about salaries doesn't accurately capture the value of a higher education, particularly only one year after graduation. The measure picked up a new Democratic co-sponsor, Warner, of Virginia. The bill's counterpart in the House of Representatives was co-sponsored by Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, and Robert Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey.
Stephen Hawking on Wednesday stunned Israelis and set off a day of mixed reports about his motives for calling off plans to attend a major conference in Israel next month. But by the end of the day, it appeared clear that he was honoring the boycott of Israel set up by some pro-Palestinian groups. Early Wednesday, word spread that Hawking was going to skip the conference due to the boycott, but then a spokesman for the University of Cambridge, where Hawking is on the faculty, told The Guardian that the reason the visit had been called off was the scientist's health. Subsequently, the spokesman said he had been wrong, and that Hawking did want to honor the boycott.
The Guardian printed an excerpt from a letter Hawking sent to conference organizers in which he said: "I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster."
The decision of Hawking to honor the boycott was greeted as a huge boost to the movement to encourage scholars and others to stay away from Israel. For Israelis and supporters, to have such a prominent scientist honor the boycott -- which has been criticized as antithetical to academic values by many American scholarly groups -- was a major blow.
Students at Cooper Union took over the office of President Jamshed Bharucha on Wednesday, while he was not there. Students say that they are angry not only at the move to start charging tuition, but their sense that they have been left out of decision-making at the university. A spokeswoman for Cooper Union said that the protest was "a peaceful non-violent action and we continue discussions with students."
Here is a video made by students in the protest outlining their views:
The students are also documenting the protest on Twitter.
Indiana University last year approved -- and then quickly unapproved -- the release of a sex reporting app by its Kinsey Institute, long famous for cutting-edge sex research. Using the app, individuals could report promptly (and anonymously) on their own sexual activities, potentially giving researchers new information on exactly what people do and when and how they do it. The university denied it was being prudish and said it needed only to review privacy protocols. Following months of review, the university announced Wednesday that the app has again been approved for release -- with only one change. That change is that all reports will be placed on hold for geographically defined areas. Only when enough people from a given area respond so that reports could not be linked to any one individual will that information move into the database where it can be studied.
Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, has halted the search for a new president of Nassau Community College, pending a review of allegations of problems in the search. An editorial in Newsday outlined a range of concerns that were expressed prior to Zimpher's action, including charges of racial bias and of scheduling search committee meetings at times some members could not attend. The editorial also questioned the quality of the candidates that have emerged thus far.