Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 3:00am

Colleges have seen a surge in the rates at which students are being diagnosed with H1N1 or similar flu illnesses, according to new data from the American College Health Association. The association has been using a national sample of 270 colleges and universities to track the spread of H1N1, and, in the last week, the rate of cases increased by 34 percent. In addition, several regions where H1N1 had appeared to be in decline -- the Northeast, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest -- saw increases. Of the colleges in the survey, 97 percent reported new cases. Details on the latest data are available here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 3:00am

The higher ed technology group Educause on Wednesday released its based on the results of its "Core Data Service Fiscal Year 2008 Summary Report," annual survey of 930 colleges and universities. This year's installment focuses on information technology trends on campuses between 2004 and 2008. Centralized IT funding rose, but only in proportion to enrollment and inflation. Outsourcing became more popular: In 2008, 70 percent of colleges used an external supplier for at least one IT function, and the use of homegrown systems decreased for all categories except library information systems. Colleges have increasingly turned to commercial vendors for learning management systems and e-mail clients, with a number of campuses considering dropping institutional e-mail addresses altogether, the report says.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 3:00am

Monday, Butler University formally withdrew the libel and defamation lawsuit it had filed against Jess Zimmerman, an undergraduate student who kept an anonymous blog that criticized senior administrators. The case did not name Zimmerman directly, and instead was filed against “Soodo Nym,” the moniker he used to write the blog. Even after Zimmerman went public and admitted he was “Soodo Nym,” Bobby Fong, Butler's president, told faculty multiple times, as he did in one statement, that “The university did not, has not, and will not sue Jess Zimmerman.” By university administrators' logic, because they had not named Zimmerman directly in the suit, they had not technically ever sued a student. Zimmerman and many professors and other students took issue with this stance in the days following his public outing. On Zimmerman's new blog, he even kept a running tally of the number of days the lawsuit remained active in Marion County court following Fong’s statement that the university was not suing him. Ultimately, the suit remained in force for a week.

Michael Blickman, the university’s attorney, noted in a statement that the university had begun an “internal disciplinary process” to punish Zimmerman last week, before the suit was dropped. Of the move, Blickman said, “The university and its administrators strongly support freedom of speech and academic freedom. The free exchange of ideas is fundamental to academic life. However, the University also has a commitment and duty to protect the safety of all its members and ensure the opportunity to teach and to learn freely.” Zimmerman, by contrast, criticized how the disciplinary process was being handled in his blog: “I worry about them since the president, on numerous occasions, has seen fit to pronounce me guilty. I would have hoped that we could have the trial first and the verdict second, but that isn’t the way Butler has decided to operate."

Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 3:00am

An article in The Huffington Post explores continuing concerns over whether oversight of research subjects is sufficient to protect participants. While some instances of insufficient protection have received widespread public attention, the article says, others have not and the Obama administration has suggested interest in the issue by appointing a critic of oversight to lead the Office of Human Research Protections.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 3:00am

The lawyer for a woman who has accused three University of Arkansas basketball players of rape is demanding a special prosecutor in the case after local officials declined to prosecute. The Associated Press reported that the lawyer cited conflicts of interest by the university, which conducted initial investigations into the allegations. For instance, the lawyer noted that a university police officer -- in a videotaped interview -- said "I don't do anything to an athlete that I'm not comfortable with the fact that this is going to become national news." Further, the request noted that the local prosecutor who declined to bring charges is the son-in-law of the former Arkansas athletics director, Frank Broyles, an icon in the state, and the brother-in-law of an athletics department spokesman. The prosecutor said that his relatives played no role in his decision, which he said was motivated by a lack of evidence.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - 3:00am

Those frustrated by the numerous errors in the new edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association will be able to get a correct version. Until now, the association has insisted that it would be wasteful to issue new editions, and it urged those who bought the book to just use an online compilation of corrections. But on Tuesday, an organizer of a boycott movement for the error-laden version announced that the association had agreed to offer corrected versions.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - 3:00am

Congressional negotiators completed work Tuesday on a compromise spending bill that would provide $167.5 million apiece in the 2010 fiscal year to the National Endowments for the Humanities and for the Arts. The compromise legislation, which would fund the Department of the Interior and several other agencies, would give the two cultural agencies more than the $161.3 million that the Senate proposed providing, but slightly less than the $170 million that the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee would have provided.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department published final regulations Tuesday to carry out changes Congress made to federal law governing higher education accreditation. The rules, which were published in the Federal Register, deal with a wide range of issues involving the relationships between the federal government and accrediting agencies, and between the agencies and the colleges they accredit. Among them: new standards for distance education, requirements on transfer of credit policies, and plans for how colleges should "teach out" when they close campuses. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation published an analysis of an earlier version of the rules in August; the final version of the regulations released Tuesday has changed little from the proposed rules.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - 3:00am

Two of the five finalists to become president of New Mexico State University recently left chancellorships elsewhere amid considerable controversy. One of them is Richard Herman of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who resigned amid a furor over an admissions system (no ended) that gave preferences to politically connected applicants. The other is James Oblinger of North Carolina State University, who resigned amid a debate over a highly paid position for the ex-governor's wife.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - 3:00am

The United States is losing ground in the world economy because of declines in educational attainment, according to a new report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The report cites data showing that the United States and Germany were the only two nations in which those aged 25–34 have attained less education than their parents’ generation.

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