Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Twenty-plus faculty members and alumnae of Sweet Briar College announced Thursday that they want to keep the institution alive but shift its focus to science, mathematics and technology. The plan would have the college focus on STEM, with seven majors in those fields. The college would remain a women's institution and thus become the only one to focus on STEM. Students would earn a bachelor of arts degree in three years, during which they would also take general education courses and have internships. The plan would require a $62 million investment and an entering class of 120 students.

A college spokeswoman said that the board was committed to hearing out groups with ideas about the college's future and would meet with backers of this plan next month.

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 4:34am

A black woman who is a student at Duke University reported to officials there that last weekend a group of while male students taunted her with the racist chant used by a University of Oklahoma fraternity. That accusation has led to a larger debate at Duke. A group called the People of Color Caucus issued an online statement that said that the chant was not an "isolated incident," but part of a pattern of racist incidents at Duke and elsewhere. A hashtag -- #whatweneedfromduke -- has become a forum for people to share thoughts on these issues, while others have been putting up posters (at right) on what they believe the university needs to do.

Duke President Richard H. Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth issued a joint statement Thursday in which they said that the reported incident with the racist chant was being investigated. Their statement said in part: "In the face of this situation both nationally and close to home, we want to underline Duke’s fundamental values. Inclusivity and mutual respect are core values for any civil society, but they have a special meaning in a university. Thinking in stereotypes is a failure of intelligence. Education begins the day we learn to pass beyond crude and distorting simplifications. Further, a university is based on the premise that we are all here to learn from each other, which requires a broad measure of inclusion and openness to others’ experience and points of view."



Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The National Association of College Bookstores on Tuesday filed a lawsuit to obtain Purdue University's contract with Amazon, after a public records request produced a redacted copy, The Indianapolis Star reported. Purdue in August announced a partnership with the retailer to give students expedited shipping options and a physical location on campus to pick up and drop off orders. The university claims the redacted parts of the contract are trade secrets, which are not covered by open records laws in Indiana.

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 4:26am

A private investigator -- whose client has not been identified -- is looking into critics of New York University's Abu Dhabi campus, The New York Times reported. Among the targets: Andrew Ross, an N.Y.U. professor who has been an outspoken critic of the campus, a a New York Times reporter who has written critically of it. A spokesman for the university said that it had no knowledge about the investigator, but that "it’s reprehensible and offensive on its face, and we call on whoever is involved to desist immediately.”

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Education needs to do a better job of managing the federal grant program for teachers, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

The TEACH Grant program provides up to $4,000 a year for students who commit to teaching low-income school districts for at least four out of eight years after graduation.

Recipients who don’t follow through on that commitment have their grants converted into loans. About 36,000 of the TEACH Grant’s more than 112,000 recipients have fallen into that category, the G.A.O. found.

In some cases, though, those conversions were the result of the government's or its contractors’ error.

G.A.O. investigators found that between August 2013 and September 2014, 2,252 TEACH Grant recipients had their grants erroneously converted into loans by the company hired by the Education Department to manage the program.

The department said that it mostly agreed with the G.A.O.’s recommendations, which included establishing performance measures for the program and studying why so many TEACH Grant recipients fail to fulfill their service commitment.

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Thousands of University of Wisconsin System advocates put together 12,000 pages of petition signatures and public comments that were submitted to a legislative finance committee considering massive cuts to the system, a group of system supporters said Thursday. The outpouring is just the latest sign of opposition to cuts proposed by Governor Scott Walker, a Republican with presidential ambitions. Walker proposed cutting the system's budget by $300 million over the next two years. The head of the university system, Ray Cross, has said he would resign if he cannot do something to reduce the size of the cuts.

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00am

Many press reports have indicated that the accreditation of Gordon College, a Christian institution, is in danger because of concerns the New England Association of Schools and Colleges has about the college's policies barring sex except between married heterosexual couples. But Barbara Brittingham, president of N.E.A.S.C., told CBN that Gordon's accreditation is not in danger, and that reports currently being prepared are "routine." Brittingham confirmed the statement to Inside Higher Ed.



Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00am

U.F. Online, the University of Florida's online arm, has after a yearlong search found a new director. Evangeline Cummings, director of the strategic management division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will replace founding director Elizabeth D. Phillips, who resigned two months after U.F. Online launched in January 2014. W. Andrew McCollough, associate provost for teaching and technology at the university, has served as interim director during the last 12 months. Cummings, who according to a LinkedIn profile received her bachelor's degree from U.F., will assume the position July 1.

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The late Dean Smith, the legendary basketball coach who died last month, left $200 to each of the basketball players he coached over 36 years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sports Illustrated reported. The players are receiving the checks with a note encouraging them to "enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith."

Friday, March 27, 2015 - 3:00am

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is continuing to fund projects that tackle digital scholarship and publishing in the humanities, and on Friday the foundation announced another round of such grants. Among the recipients are university presses at the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, Indiana University, Northwestern University and Pennsylvania State University, which will cooperate on developing a publication and preservation platform for digital scholarship. "The ultimate goal is to create a shareable, open-source solution for born-digital complementary monograph materials as well as a working model that maximizes the publishing strengths of university presses and the preservation expertise of libraries," a Michigan spokeswoman said in a press release.


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