Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - 3:00am

An article in The Globe and Mail examines concerns in Canada over the growing gender gap in enrollments in higher education. An example: 80 percent of veterinary students at the University of Guelph are women.

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

A New York States appeals court has ruled that New York University did not violate the terms of an agreement resolving a tenure dispute when it admitted the son of a former faculty member to a two-year program and not to the four-year program into which he wanted to enroll. Under the agreement, the university agreed to give the former faculty member's children the same privileges in admissions that faculty members receive. While the court found some flaws in the way the university carried out the obligations, the ruling found that, in the end, the university did meet the requirements of the contract. The problem for the plaintiff in the case was that NYU's courtesies for faculty members amount to a second read of rejected applications and consideration for the two-year program, but don't provide for admission of applicants who are judged to lack the overall qualities of admitted students. The court said that the university cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the son from the four-year program and allowing the case to go to trial would have invited courts to second guess academic decisions. The decision was published by Leagle.com.

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

A revised report on Virginia Tech's response to the deadly shootings there in April 2007 is drawing lots of headlines for the information that some officials warned their families about the incident in progress before the campus was told, but university officials say that the implications being drawn are incorrect. The Roanoke Times reported that the new timeline does mention these notifications. But the Times quoted a Virginia Tech spokesman as saying that both were staff assistants, one of whom spoke to her son, while calling to wake him up to go to class, and mentioned the incident. The other, he said, was an assistant who was dropping her children off at her mother's house and mentioned to her mother that she had been called about the shootings. Neither of these cases represented "a concerted effort by university staff to notify their own families of danger in advance of notifying the campus community," the spokesman said. But a lawyer for two families suing Virginia Tech said he wasn't impressed by the distinction the university spokesman made. "It was people who were given the facts and took it as a serious potential risk, and the students who were not given the facts didn't have a way to protect themselves," the lawyer said.

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

The Arizona Board of Regents voted Friday to raise the ceiling on the number of credits that students can transfer from a community college to a four-year degree program, The Arizona Daily Star reported. The shift -- from 64 to 75 credits -- will allow some students to earn four-year degrees for which they have spent five semesters at a community college and only three at a four-year institution. The lower tuition rates and other expenses at community colleges (compared to four-year institutions) should make the option attractive to some, officials said.

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

Two articles in The Dallas Morning News examine issues related to the increased emphasis on Advanced Placement courses at many high schools, at a time that the College Board has encouraged many more schools to participate in the program. One article notes that as the program has grown in Texas, students in the state now fail more than half of the final exams in the program. (Defenders of the program note that, as the program reaches more high schools, and not just those with the best programs and students, the failure rate is bound to rise, and that the courses may still be raising the rigor of these schools.) The second article notes that, even with the expansion, vast gaps exist in the availability of the courses at high schools.

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani, a graduate student in anthropology at the State University of New York at Binghamton, has been charged with second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Richard T. Antoun, an emeritus professor of anthropology, The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported. Al-Zahrani, 46, is a Saudi national and he is being held without bail. Antoun was stabbed Friday in a campus building, stunning the campus. Several students at Binghamton -- including students from the Middle East -- told reporters this weekend that they had had unnerving confrontations with Al-Zahrani. The New York Times reported that Antoun served on Al-Zahrani's dissertation committee, and that at least one student at the university was so concerned about Al-Zahrani's behavior prior to the alleged attack that he told a professor and the university's counseling center about it. Gannett News Services reported that about 30 minutes before the alleged attack, Al-Zahrani approached another professor to complain about financial problems and to ask about switching doctoral programs.

While physical attacks by students on professors are rare, they are not unheard of. Experts say that there is a common pattern in such tragedies: The attacker is male, the attacks happen on campus, and the source of the students' anger goes well beyond a grade (although that may be a spark).

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

Colorado State University's board on Friday voted to adopt policies that will lead to a ban on the carrying of concealed weapons on campus, The Denver Post reported. Most colleges ban the carrying of concealed weapons, and faculty leaders backed the decision. But the student government had urged the board not to impose a ban, saying that concealed weapons promoted safety for everyone. Several states this year have been debating gun bans for college campuses.

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

At the 2008 annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools, a presentation on the evaluation of doctoral programs by the National Research Council featured some jokes about the delays in the project, with the expectation that by the time the 2009 meeting came around, the rankings would be out. The 2009 meeting came and went last week -- and while the council released its methodology in July, the rankings themselves still have not been released. Charlotte Kuh, who is overseeing the project for the NRC, said via e-mail that "the report and its database are about to go into review," but she acknowledged that nothing would be forthcoming in 2009. Beyond saying that she did expect release sometime in 2010, she said that "we have decided not to announce a publication timeline until we can be quite certain about it."

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of Colorado's ban on weapons extends to simulated weapons. As a result, The Daily Camera reported, students at the Boulder campus who want to play Humans vs. Zombies, a popular student game that typically involves Nerf guns, must do so with balled up socks instead of the Nerf guns. "The university doesn't want to come across as a giant institutional killjoy," a spokesman said. "But if a student has a Nerf gun in their pocket pants or coat, and only the handle is showing, a cop or a passerby wouldn't know what it is."

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

Miami University of Ohio announced Friday that it will return about $5 million that it received from Thomas Petters, who last week was convicted of running a mammoth Ponzi scheme, The Oxford Press reported. Petters pledged a total of $15 million in honor of his son, John, a Miami student who died during a visit to Italy in 2004, and his daughter, Jennifer. Based on the gifts and pledges, the university created the John T. Petters Center for Leadership, Ethics and Skills Development and the Jennifer Petters Chair in Asian Business. “The university has no interest in keeping money that Mr. Petters obtained by fraud or deceit,” said David Hodge, Miami's president.

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