Amazon is famous for a lot of things, but foremost among them is the customer reviews that are appended to virtually every product it sells (the company went so far as to patent its approach). The company sells books, but it isn't a publisher, so it has an interest -- at least theoretically -- in letting its customers say what they don't like as well as what they like about specific titles. That's less obviously true about SAGE Publications, but that hasn't stopped the scholarly/professional publisher from adopting its own form of customer comment function on the Web pages for all of its books. Lecturers who receive inspection copies of SAGE books will have the option of submitting online comments or reviews that will appear on the titles' product page -- whether they are positive or negative, SAGE officials say. “If a review has constructive criticism, it has as much right to be there as a review that is heavily in favor of a title,” said Clive Parry, sales and marketing director. ("Inappropriate" reviews will come down, SAGE reports.) Based on the handful of comments that appear on SAGE titles such as Researching Health and Key Issues in Education Policy so far under the new system, the reviews definitely lean toward the positive.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Following a series of controversies, including the murder trial in Italy of one of its students, the University of Washington has tightened rules for study abroad, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Among the new rules: Department chairs must sign off on study abroad programs, students must have insurance and a cell phone, and program funds can't be used to buy alcohol.
Australia's government has issued a report criticizing its treatment of foreign students, and noting that violent attacks on some Indian students have damaged the country's reputation with potential students, Bloomberg reported. Britain, meanwhile, is getting criticized in Pakistan over visa delays that have prevented thousands of students from starting their classes on time this semester, The Guardian reported.
The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics is being shared by three researchers. Half of the award is going to Charles K. Kao of the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories, in Britain, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was honored for "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication." The other half will be shared by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, both of Bell Laboratories, "for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor."
A state judge on Monday dismissed many of the key charges against Ray Sansom, former speaker of the house in Florida, and Bob Richburg, former president of Northwest Florida State College, in a case that cost both of them their jobs, The Northwest Florida Daily News reported. The case focuses on allegedly inappropriate ties between Sansom and the college. Sansom directed state funds to the college to build an airport hangar for one of his donors and the college gave Sansom a job. Judge Terry Lewis, in dismissing the charges, stressed questions about the legality of indictments that were based on legislation that Sansom advanced, and suggested that this may be a case of misconduct that just isn't illegal. "Not every wrongful conduct is a crime. Sometimes the remedy for such conduct must be political rather than judicial. This is one of those situations," the judge said.
Colleges that play big-time basketball set ticket prices for their men's teams significantly higher than for their women's teams, and the differential seems to be explained at least partially by institutional discrimination, says a new paper published by the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. The paper, a summary of which can be found here, says that the sizable gap in ticket prices charged by colleges in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association occurs even at institutions where the women's teams are highly successful and have big fan followings and "is not accounted for by differences in attendance." The authors of the paper seek to rebut the argument that colleges charge less for events involving women because there is less demand for them. "Because athletics, and particularly college basketball, have an increasingly prominent cultural profile, the practice of effectively de-valuing women on the court has implications off the court as well," they write. "The results support the broader contention that women athletes -- as women in traditionally male arenas -- continue to face institutional discrimination that is camouflaged as sensible economic practice."
The Obama administration on Monday said it was concerned about a Senate spending bill that would provide about $200 million less for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology than President Obama has sought. The White House made its concerns known in a Statement of Administration Policy about a spending bill for science programs and the Commerce and Justice Departments passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which the full Senate began debating Monday. "These two agencies are key components of the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation and the Committee’s reductions would affect important research activities and agency operations in the near term and make it increasingly difficult to achieve the doubling goal for basic research in future years," the statement said.
Last year's collapse on Wall Street has left many state prepaid tuition plans in unhealthy shape, The New York Times reported. Some states are imposing new fees on families, while others are developing scenarios for what to do if they close, and still others are receiving bailouts from their states. The plans, designed to assure families of the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities, were promoted as a completely secure way for families to save money and for states to promote higher education.
The Phi Beta Kappa Society has voted to allow four more colleges to create chapters. The society admits new chapters only at its triennial meeting, and this year has accepted applications from Butler University, in Indiana; the College of Saint Benedict-Saint John’s University, in Minnesota; Elon University, in North Carolina; and James Madison University, in Virginia. The honorary society declined to name the colleges that were not successful in their bids to start chapters. Among the selection criteria: "evidence that the educational programs and academic environment of an applicant institution effectively quicken the mind and spirit of its students and faculty by encouraging the full development of their human capacities," "primary emphasis to curricula liberal in character and purpose and that courses distinguished by these qualities shall constitute the principal requirements for the bachelor's degree," "appropriate academic demands on those enrolled in its classes, including opportunities for honors studies for those who are especially capable" and "due precautions to prevent issues of governance, athletics, religion or politics from subverting the integrity of the institution's dedication to liberal education."
The Community College of Allegheny College has ended a rule requiring students seeking to distribute materials on campus to first have the material reviewed by administrators. The rule set off a dispute this year when college officials cited it to threaten to punish a student trying to organize a "gun rights" group on campus. The student received assistance in demanding a change in the rule from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.