Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 3:00am

The decision by The New York Times to start charging for online content has prompted considerable debate here and elsewhere. A political science blog, The Monkey Cage, responded by announcing that it would start to charge Times staffers a monthly fee to have access to the blog. At the same time, the political scientists have indicated that they will permit -- at no charge -- posting on the blog by Times employees "if the comments are essentially positive and invoke the words 'insightful' or 'counter-intuitive." Further, Times employees are assured that free links will be available on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 3:00am

Rev. James St. George, a gay priest, on Monday announced that he had reached "an amicable resolution" with Chestnut Hill College that will end the controversy over its decision to end his work teaching as an adjunct. "This resolution is consistent with each party's respective religious beliefs and was arrived at over this past weekend," said his statement. "Chestnut Hill College and I have expressed our respect for each other's churches, however different our religious principles may be. We are committed to moving forward and tending to our respective ministries." Chestnut Hill is a Roman Catholic college, and it revoked contracts with Father St. George after senior officials received a complaint about his being a gay priest. Father St. George is part of the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of the Americas, which split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1870s over a number of issues. Today it practices many Catholic rituals and shares some Catholic theology, but also permits priests to be married or gay. A college spokeswoman said that Father St. George's statement was consistent with Chestnut Hill's views on the settlement.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Claudette Artwick of Washington and Lee University examines the traditional media's evolving use of social media. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 3:00am

Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian of the Civil War and the American South, was named Monday by the National Endowment for the Humanities to give the 2011 Jefferson Lecture, the top honor the federal government bestows for scholarship in the humanities. Faust is of course also known as the president of Harvard University. Jim Leach, chair of the NEH, said in a statement: "It is a rare individual who can break new ground from both the library archives and the president’s podium." This year's lecture will be May 2.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 3:00am

The union that represents professors in Pennsylvania's 14-campus public college system agreed on Sunday to negotiate a pay freeze for 2012, with its leaders saying they want to "do our part" to help the state deal with its budget gap. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which represents 6,000 faculty members and coaches in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, said its members would agree to a one-year freeze "in the context of similar sacrifice shared by our administrative and management counterparts.” But the union's statement went on to urge legislators to do their part "by meeting the Commonwealth’s obligation to the State System of Higher Education by restoring the critical funds necessary for our students to have the same opportunities their brothers, sisters, and parents had to improve themselves and to secure Pennsylvania’s future.” Governor Tom Corbett has proposed a 50 percent cut in the budgets for the state college system and Pennsylvania State University.

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 3:00am

A state judge in Wisconsin temporarily blocked a controversial state law that would bar faculty unions at the University of Wisconsin System and limit collective bargaining by most public workers in the state, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The judge ruled in a suit backed by critics of the law, but her finding was focused not on the substance of the law, but on lack of required notice given for a key committee vote on the bill. The judge indicated that legislators could take new votes to make the issues in the suit moot, but for now Republicans who pushed the law are vowing to fight her ruling.

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan has shut down its Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, and some of its members face university discipline over hazing issues, The Detroit Free Press reported. The investigations followed allegations from the parent of a pledge that the fraternity hazed pledges by, among other things, hitting them with broomsticks, shooting them with Airsoft guns, making them drink regurgitated water with goldfish and requiring them to pay for strippers. Chapter officials could not be reached for comment, but the national organization disbanded the chapter for a year.

Middlebury College suspended its men's and women's swimming teams, and ended the season for most of its women's team swimmers because of hazing incidents, The Burlington Free Press reported. Also last week, two former pledges settled lawsuits against the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Sigma Chi over alleged hazing, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. Each student will receive at least $62,500 from the university, but full details of the settlement were not available. The university has suspended the fraternity.

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Last week's news that the latest essay question on the SAT focused on reality television has set off quite a bit of media commentary and comedy. The Huffington Post, for example, suggested that the College Board might shift the focus of the SAT entirely, with questions requiring aspiring college students to calculate the circumference of a Kim Kardashian body part, or to "compare and contrast the social impact of Kanye West's interruption of the VMA's with his tweet on abortion."

The College Board is not making any apologies, however, and is stressing that the essay questions it asks are judged not on content knowledge, but on the ability to explore an issue and make an argument. Laurence Bunin, senior vice president of the College Board, wrote an essay on the controversy for The Daily Beast, saying that all of the "breathless commentary" was irrelevant.

"The central task of the SAT essay -- any SAT essay -- is to take one side of an issue and develop an argument to support that position. Questions raised about the so-called reality-show prompt miss this basic point entirely and confuse the literal topic with the task of writing the essay. Everything a student needs to write a successful essay is included in the prompt itself; one need not have spent any time watching a 'reality' television program to write a strong essay," Bunin wrote. "If the topic had been about balancing the risk of climbing a mountain with the reward of reaching the summit, for example, you could write that essay without ever having done so. It’s about the balance, not the mountain climbing. Students tell us that they can relate to popular-culture references. Using such references is not only appropriate, but potentially even more engaging for students."

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Matthew Cucchiaro, a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has resigned from his position as diversity director of the student government after the dean of students approached him with concerns about a blog post, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. Officials at the student government confirmed that Cucchiaro was asked to resign and did so. The post, which Cucchiaro said was "clearly satirical," ran on his blog, StupidHumanBeings.com. In the post (currently labeled as satire), he identifies women as that day's "stupid" subject for the blog. Part of the post: "Guys, I don’t need to tell you this: women are not as smart as men. Now before all you chicks look up from your gossip mags and yammer on and on as you do about how that’s sexist, I don’t mean all women – I’m sure there are a couple of heffers in congress or the senate who are about on par with the average male. Also, that Asian character on Grey’s Anatomy knows some big words but she obviously doesn’t count because … well, she’s Asian. In your defense, look at who your options are for role models on TV: Tyra Banks, the cast of Friends, The Hills, Sex and the City, and women on Lifetime."

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 3:00am

A Texas state representative has filed legislation that would bar public colleges from penalizing students or faculty members based on their research or beliefs that reject evolution, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. It is unclear what impact the bill would have on grading. Anti-evolution groups say that academic freedom should allow people to argue that evolution is not accurate, despite the consensus among scientists.

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