Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 8, 2018

American Jewish University, in Los Angeles, has announced that it is ending undergraduate admissions and "sunsetting" its undergraduate curriculum, which currently enrolls about 70 students. The university said it would work to find ways for current students to finish their programs. A university statement said that a task force is being created to come up with new programs that may be started in the future.

October 8, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Timely Topics Week, Amy Bhatt, associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, explores another side of the story. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 5, 2018

Postdoctoral researchers and associate research scientists at Columbia University voted to form a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers by a 2-to-1 margin, they announced Thursday. Their contract would be the first for postdocs at any private institution. Columbia, which has denied recognition to a UAW-affiliated graduate student union on the grounds that graduate students are not employees, despite a National Labor Relations Board decision saying otherwise, said it had no immediate comment on the postdocs’ vote. The new bargaining unit includes about 2,000 academics.

October 5, 2018

A new study examined in Nature says that university guidelines on tenure and promotion still focus on publication metrics rather than professed values such as public engagement. The study, led by Juan Pablo Alperin, an assistant professor of publishing studies at Simon Fraser University in Canada, looked at 864 documents used for personnel decisions at 129 institutions in the U.S. and Canada. There were relatively few references to keywords such as “community” and “public.” But nearly all the documents mentioned grants, journal articles, books and other readily quantified research outputs at least once. “Community” showed up in documents from research-intensive institutions, but it was most often associated with the academic community, not public outreach. The same went for “impact.”

“Universities talk in a grandiose way about fulfilling the public mission. But when we look at the documents, they aren’t necessarily walking the walk,” Alperin told Nature. “There’s a huge disconnect.” The study is available as a preprint in the Humanities Commons repository.

October 5, 2018

Academics are among those who learned Thursday that they are winners of the MacArthur Fellowships, widely known as the "genius" grants of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Each will receive $625,000 -- with no strings attached -- over five years. The academic winners are:

  • William J. Barber II, a distinguished visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary.
  • Clifford Brangwynne, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Princeton University.
  • Natalie Diaz, associate professor of English at Arizona State University.
  • Livia S. Eberlin, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Deborah Estrin, a professor of computer science and associate dean of Cornell Tech of Cornell University.
  • Amy Finkelstein, the John and Jennie S. MacDonald Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Gregg Gonsalves, assistant professor of epidemiology of microbial diseases at Yale University.
  • Vijay Gupta, a faculty member of the Longy School of Music of the Bard College master of arts in teaching program and the Colburn School.
  • John Keene, professor and chair of African American and African studies and a professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark.
  • Okwui Okpokwasili, a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Art.
  • Kristina Olson, associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington.
  • Lisa Parks, a professor of comparative media studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Rebecca Sandefur, associate professor of sociology and law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Allan Sly, professor of mathematics at Princeton University.
  • Sarah Stewart, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Davis.
  • Doris Tsao, professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology.
October 5, 2018

The University of Michigan announced Thursday that it has become the first public university to raise $5 billion in a fund-raising campaign. The campaign, started in 2013 with a goal of raising $4 billion, still has until the rest of this year to add to the total. Large gifts have always been crucial to fund-raising campaigns, but The Wall Street Journal did an analysis showing how Michigan has come to rely more on the most generous donors. At Michigan, gifts over $5 million make up 54 percent of the campaign, compared to 34 percent of a campaign that raised $1.5 billion in 1997.

Michigan may have competition for the title of top public fund-raiser. The University of Washington has raised $4.93 billion in its capital campaign, which continues through 2020.

Check on the status of these and other campaigns at the Inside Higher Ed fund-raising database.

October 5, 2018

A top higher education aide and First Amendment advocate has left the U.S. Department of Education, a spokesman confirmed Thursday. Adam Kissel had served as deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs since June of last year.

He’d previously had stints at the Koch Foundation and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where he headed the individual rights defense program.

Kissel in that role had been a vocal critic of “intolerance” on college campuses and of colleges that FIRE had accused of violating the free speech rights of students and faculty members.

October 5, 2018

The University of Montana will be fined nearly $1 million for reporting “inaccurate and misleading” crime statistics for three years.

Under the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, institutions must disclose the number of crimes committed on campus. The Missoulian reported that the university failed to accurately report everything from “liquor violations to rape” from 2012 to 2015.

The institution intends to appeal the fine, even though it agreed with the U.S. Department of Education’s findings, according to The Missoulian.

The review of the university’s Clery reports began in 2011, according to the newspaper -- based on allegations of sexual misconduct and media reports, the department expanded to review crime statistics from 2012 to 2015.

The Missoulian reported the university omitted the following crimes:

  • 18 offenses in the 2013 report for the previous year, including one "forcible" sex offense.
  • 90 offenses in the 2014 report, including 52 "liquor law referrals" and 34 "drug law referrals."
  • 22 offenses in the 2015 report, including six "forcible sex offenses/rape."
  • Three offenses in the 2016 report.
October 5, 2018

An American student is expected to be deported from Israel for backing the boycott movement against the nation, Haaretz reported Thursday.

Lara Alqasem received a student visa at Israel's consulate in Miami to study for a master’s degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But despite receiving the visa, Alqasem, who has Palestinian grandparents, was denied entry upon arrival in Israel Tuesday. An administrative appeals tribunal on Thursday denied her appeal to stay in the country.

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs cited Alqasem’s "consistent activity against Israel, according to Amendment 28 to the Entry to Israel Law," which bars the entry of foreign nationals who support or participate in boycotts of Israel. The ministry cited leadership positions it said Alqasem held in the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Florida.

Israel's Population, Immigration and Border Authority described the prior decision to grant the student visa to Alqasem in Miami as reflecting a "lack of coordination." A lawyer for Alqasem said that upon arriving in Israel she was shown a picture of herself from the controversial website Canary Mission, which publishes profiles of students and professors it accuses of anti-Israel activism, and asked about her ethnicity and the names of her father and grandfather.

October 5, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Marc Zimmerman, professor of public health at the University of Michigan, looks into one theory about improving neighborhood safety. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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