Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Victoria Kaspi, professor of astrophysics and cosmology at McGill University, explains the structure of a specific type of neutron star called a magnetar. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 3:00am

The United States' historical strength in biomedical research faces longterm decline because assumptions about never-ending growth have run headlong into a decade's worth of funding declines, a quartet of esteemed science leaders argues in a new article (abstract available here) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors -- who include Harold Varmus, the former head of the National Institutes of Health, Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University, Bruce Alberts, editor in chief of Science magazine, and Marc Kirschner, professor of systems biology at Harvard University -- argue that the funding buildup followed by shortfall has created an "unsustainable hypercompetitive" environment that is hampering the work of established scientists and discouraging new researchers from entering the field.

Among the group's recommendations are funding biomedical graduate students with training grants and fellowships instead of research grants, and awarding grants based more on the quality of the scientists than the merits of the projects.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 3:00am

The suspect in Sunday's deadly shooting at a Jewish community center in Kansas was a guest lecturer in a class at Missouri State University in 2012, BuzzFeed reported. David Embree, an adjunct professor of religious studies, told the website that he invited Frazier Glenn Miller, an active white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader, to speak with his students during an interterm course on cultural and religious subgroups. “One of the groups that students were pretty fascinated by and wanted more on was white supremacists,” Embree said. “One of the things I’ve found with many of these groups is that if I tell the story myself [the students] don’t believe me, they just think I’m trying to make them look bad.”

Miller, who is suspected of killing three people Sunday, was one of three white supremacists invited to the class by Embree. Miller frequently shares his views on the Internet, and apparently described his visit in this post. It uses ethnic slurs to refer to students in the class.

A Missouri State spokesman said via email that the university is a "marketplace of ideas; some that we agree with and some that we aren't as comfortable with." In an accompanying statement, Embree said: "My acquaintance with Glenn Miller is a couple of phone calls and one hour in a classroom. He epitomizes the worst possible manifestation of white supremacy/British Israelism and demonstrated to the twelve students who heard him speak that his philosophy is repulsive and truly threatening (as his actions on Sunday demonstrated all too clearly)."



Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 3:00am

Academics were among the winners of Pulitzer Prizes announced Monday:

  • Dan Fagin, associate professor of journalism and the director of the Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University, won the award for general nonfiction for Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, (Bantam Books).
  • Megan Marshall, who teaches in the M.F.A. program at Emerson College, won the award for biography for Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
  • Vijay Seshadri, who teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, won the award for poetry for his collection 3 Sections (Graywolf Press).
  • Alan Taylor, the Thomas Jefferson Professor of History at the University of Virginia, won the history award for The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, (W.W. Norton).
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 4:23am

Liberty University has removed some job duties from its provost, who will no longer serve as vice president of academic affairs, The Lynchburg News & Advance reported. The actions follow upon criticism that Provost Ron Godwin, in a video, appeared to endorse an unauthorized partnership between the university and a Texas-based faith healer. A statement from Liberty said that Godwin "will spend the next few years grooming his successors and guiding the team responsible for Liberty University’s pending 10 year accreditation reaffirmation report." Godwin said he should have verified the relationship before appearing in the video, and that “I have apologized to President Falwell for this error and am grateful that I can continue to contribute to Liberty University’s health and success."


Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 4:29am

The University of Memphis is seeking large cuts in out-of-state tuition, hoping to attract more students from outside Tennessee, The Commercial Appeal reported. Currently, out-of-state students pay $21,768 a year, and Tennessee residents pay $7,056. Under the proposal from the university, non-residents would pay $12,403 if they graduated from a high school within 250 miles of Memphis, and $18,768 otherwise.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 3:00am

A review by the University of Michigan's student government criticized the university for failing to explain a years-long delay in the punishment of a football player allegedly involved in raping a fellow student, The Detroit News reported. A report from a task force created by the Central Student Government also said that Michigan's football coach, Brady Hoke, "knowingly issued false statements" about the case of Brendan Gibbons, a football player who was expelled in December four years after his 2009 arrest for the alleged rape of another student. The case is also under review by the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Larissa Samuelson, associate professor of psychology at the University of Iowa, demonstrates that playing with one's food might be a beneficial part of the learning process. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Monday, April 14, 2014 - 3:00am

The University of South Carolina Upstate has been under attack by legislators lately over a book on gay themes that was assigned to freshmen and a scheduled appearance (since called off) of the comedy show “How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less.” On Sunday, Chancellor Tom Moore published a short essay called "On Being a University," trying to put the events in context. He noted that the university offers a range of programs for all kinds of students -- for students with different academic majors, of different religious groups, for veterans and so forth. Moore wrote that, if one looks at the totality of the programs at the university, issues related to gay students and gay issues "definitely" do not dominate, and are only a small fraction of what is offered.

But he also defended the idea that these programs need to be part of the mix. "If public universities do not offer programs and conferences that deal with cultural dynamics related to LGBTQ and other societal issues, where will such programs occur? Wherever we stand on issues of gay rights and same-sex marriage, denying the presence and importance of these issues in contemporary American culture is tantamount to burying our heads in the sand," Moore wrote. "As a public university, we must engage important issues in our culture, even when doing so makes some uncomfortable."


Monday, April 14, 2014 - 3:00am

The University of Missouri erred in its own policies and mishandled the case of Sasha Menu Courey, a Division I swimmer who said she’d been raped by one or more Missouri football players in 2010, and who later committed suicide, according to an investigative report by a group of independent lawyers. Missouri officials did not have the appropriate Title IX policies and procedures in place (in violation of federal law), and did not report relevant information to the Title IX coordinator who could have investigated the allegation, the report says. There is also no evidence that any officials other than medical personnel, who are bound by confidentiality laws, knew about the allegation while Menu Courey was alive.


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