Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

In a statement published in this week's issue of Science magazine, a group of biologists call on universities to embrace a set of policies that will encourage faculty members to pay as much attention to their teaching as to their research activities. The essay (for which a subscription is required to read the entire text), by scholars at 11 major universities, says that "[t]o establish an academic culture that encourages science faculty to be equally committed to their teaching and research missions, universities must more broadly and effectively recognize, reward, and support the efforts of researchers who are also excellent and dedicated teachers." It urges the adoption of a set of policies and practices -- including making more real the purported emphasis on teaching in tenure reviews, and increasing professors' training in the science of teaching and learning -- that could help change that picture.

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The governing board of University College of the North, a Canadian institution committed to aboriginal students and cultures, decided not to renew the president's contract because she sided with academics concerned about a mandatory two-day course "traditions and change" course and because she hired two non-aboriginal senior administrators, The Winnipeg Free Press reported. Critics have said that the course is about promoting "white guilt," the newspaper reported, but the board has made it a requirement for all students and staff members. Denise Henning, the president, has since accepted as president of Northwest Community College, in British Columbia.

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

It's that time of year. The most competitive private colleges in admissions typically announce their application totals and typically set records. Stanford University is up 7 percent; Duke University is up 10 percent; Dartmouth College is up 16 percent.

While these and similar institutions are dealing with a flurry of applications, a literal blizzard in the Southeastern United States is leading some institutions to extend application deadlines that the winter weather may have made difficult to meet. Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia are all extending deadlines, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Educators have long worried about students who "choke" on key exams. A University of Chicago study, published this week in Science, finds that if such students are given the opportunity to write about the worries 10 minutes before the test, their anxiety is reduced and their performance on the test improves substantially.

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

SAN ANTONIO — The National Collegiate Athletic Association released Thursday at its convention the results of its second comprehensive survey of athletes, revealing their opinions about myriad academic and athletic issues. The Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Learning of Students in College (or GOALS) study noted, among other findings, that the opportunity to play a certain sport was the most-reported reason for choosing a specific institution. Academics was second, followed closely by the institution’s proximity to home. Most athletes felt that their “pre-college expectations regarding academics and time demands were generally accurate” but that their “perceptions of the athletics and social experience in college were less accurate.”

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of California at Berkeley, facing a new round of state budget cuts over the next year, on Thursday announced plans to eliminate 280 positions, 150 of them through layoffs and the rest through retirements or other means, The San Jose Mercury News reported. No faculty positions will be eliminated, but officials stressed that a range of income levels were covered, with about one-fourth of the positions being eliminated having salaries of $100,000 or above.

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Duncan Cumming of the State University of New York at Albany discusses the unforeseen difficulties faced by a touring concert pianist. Find out more about The Academic Minute here. (To download this podcast directly, please click here.)

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The DePaul University Faculty Council on Wednesday passed a motion calling for the president to reverse the tenure denial of Namita Goswami, a philosophy faculty member. Following the denial, a faculty appeals board determined that the decision should be reversed because of policy, procedural and academic freedom violations in her review, but DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, chose not to overturn it. The denial of Goswami, who is female and South Asian and has a well-regarded academic record, intensified the ongoing debate over why many women and minority candidates have been rejected in tenure reviews at DePaul.

The entire motion reads, “Faculty Council calls upon President Holtschneider to withdraw his final judgment in the Namita Goswami tenure case in order to allow for the full consideration of academic freedom.” The council voted to pass it 20-4-2, citing neglect to follow faculty handbook provisions that allow for a formal hearing or another contract when the appeals board finds academic freedom violations. Tenured political science professor Valerie Johnson previously told Inside Higher Ed that if the motion passed and Father Holtschneider still did not take action, she thinks “that would probably lead to a mobilization of a vote of ‘no confidence.'”

Prior to the meeting, Provost Helmut Epp sent a memo to the council that was later obtained by Inside Higher Ed. In the memo, Epp argued that a closer reading shows the handbook provision does not apply after a tenure decision has been made – rather, it applies only to faculty members whose academic freedom was violated before the final tenure decision. “While the language of the handbook could certainly be stated more clearly,” Epp wrote, “this seems to me to be the reading that best harmonizes and respects all the relevant texts.”

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Harold Koh, legal adviser to the U.S. State Department, has written a letter to a number of academic and civil liberties groups pledging that federal officials will make every effort not to apply ideological tests in deciding which foreign scholars can have visas for academic trips to the United States. "In evaluating the reasons for the proposed travel, the department will give significant and sympathetic weight to the fact that the primary purpose of the visa applicant's travel will be to assume a university teaching post, to fulfill teaching engagements, to attend academic conferences, or for similar expressive or educational activities," the letter says. The American Association of University Professors and other groups that have been pushing for such assurances praised the letter.

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

A George Mason University policy barring the carrying of guns in campus facilities and at campus events does not violate the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment or the Virginia Constitution, the state's Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by a state resident who uses the suburban Washington university's library, among other facilities, and it upheld a state judge's earlier decision. "The regulation does not impose a total ban of weapons on campus," the Supreme Court said. "Rather, the regulation is tailored, restricting weapons only in those places where people congregate and are most vulnerable -- inside campus buildings and at campus events. Individuals may still carry or possess weapons on the open grounds of GMU, and in other places on campus not enumerated in the regulation. We hold that GMU is a sensitive place and that [the policy] is constitutional."

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