Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, October 9, 2015 - 7:20am

Four people were shot at Northern Arizona University early this morning, and one of them died, the university announced.

The university also announced that the shooter is in custody. A subsequent statement from the university called the event an "isolated shooting incident." The second statement identified the suspected shooter as Steven Jones, a freshman at the university.

The shooting took place outside a dormitory, and the first calls with reports of gunfire came at 1:20 a.m. Friday.

The university has since announced that the person killed was a student, Colin Brough (photo at right from his LinkedIn profile). The university also released the names of the three shooting victims currently hospitalized, Nicholas Prato, Kyle Zientek and Nicholas Piring, also students at the university.

Brough's LinkedIn page says: "I am a freshman at Northern Arizona University, my first semester here I received over a 3.5 G.P.A. This semester I started working towards a business degree. My major as of now is business marketing, but I am looking into finance as well. I am associate member of the Delta Chi Fraternity, and a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society."

The shooting comes about a week after a lone gunman killed nine people and injured seven more at Oregon's Umpqua Community College in the third-most-deadly mass shooting ever to occur on a college campus.

The Northern Arizona and Umpqua shootings come amid a growing debate over guns on campus. Many states have moved to end restrictions on guns on campus, but many faculty and student groups oppose these actions. This week, an emeritus professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who still teaches there, announced he will no longer do so when a "campus carry" law goes into effect next year.

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 2:33pm

Texas Southern University is on lockdown after two people were shot, one fatally, at an apartment complex at or near the campus, The Houston Chronicle reported. The university announced that all classes today are called off.

On Tuesday, The Houston Chronicle reported, a person was shot in an argument on campus.

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Defense has suspended the University of Phoenix's participation in the federal tuition-assistance program for members of the U.S. military, the for-profit chain's holding company disclosed in a corporate filing. A Defense Department website said the University of Phoenix is on probation.

The sanction appears to be related to allegations about the for-profit chain paying for preferential recruiting access to veterans and service members. The nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting published an article in July asserting that Phoenix has paid the U.S. military $250,000 over the last three years to sponsor 89 recruiting events, including concerts, a chocolate festival and a fashion show. The center also reported that Phoenix produced a commemorative coin, which it distributed on military bases, that included the Defense Department's seal.

The Defense Department's inquiry also cited investigations of Phoenix by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and California's attorney general. Those investigations, both of which revolve around student recruiting and marketing, are still ongoing.

Apollo Education Group, which owns Phoenix, said it had fixed its military student-recruiting compliance issues and that the Defense Department had acknowledged that corrective action.

“The university intends to continue its cooperation with federal and state agencies to respond to their requests. We will continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards of accountability, transparency, ethics and compliance," Timothy Slottow, Phoenix's president, said in a written statement. "The Department of Defense in its letter acknowledged the corrective actions taken by the university to date. University representatives had been working closely with DoD leaders and we all expected a different response from DoD.

"It is troubling that the DoD has used requests for information from other governmental agencies as grounds for placing the university’s DoD MOU in a probationary status. At this time, the university will not accept new students who wish to use Tuition Assistance Program funds.”

Roughly 4,000 Phoenix students receive military tuition assistance, Apollo said, accounting for about 1 percent of the university's revenue.

Senator Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, praised the Defense Department's decision to put Phoenix on probation, which he said would prevent the university from enrolling new service members under the tuition-assistance program. Durbin called for an investigation of the university based on the center's reporting. “This is a decisive action by the Department of Defense to protect service members and taxpayers from a company that offers degrees of questionable value,” he said in a written statement.

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Several more universities recently rescinded honorary degrees they awarded to Bill Cosby, turning what was once a trickle into a growing trend.

Baylor University announced Thursday that its board of trustees voted unanimously to rescind the degree it awarded the comedian and star of The Cosby Show. "Baylor University is working to confront the scourge of interpersonal and sexual violence wherever it occurs. As a result, Baylor’s Board of Regents has voted to rescind an honorary doctor of humane letters awarded to Mr. Bill Cosby in 2003," the university said in a statement. "Because acts of interpersonal and sexual violence contradict our very mission and values, Baylor University is investing significantly to ensure the safety of our campus …. It is against this backdrop that Baylor’s Board of Regents has decided to take this action."

In the past week, both the University of San Francisco and Wilkes University also rescinded degrees they awarded Cosby, bringing the total number of revoked degrees to six. Still more institutions are actively considering making the same move.

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Could blind analysis of data — meaning that an investigator or computer program obscures data values or labels, or both, and that, more generally, as much analysis as possible is done “in the dark” in relation to expected results — help decrease bias towards certain research findings? Robert MacCoun, a professor of law at Stanford University, and Saul Perlmutter, the Franklin W. and Karen Weber Dabby Chair in physics at the University of California at Berkeley, say yes in a new essay in Nature that’s getting a lot of attention, including on Twitter. The authors say that blind analysis is commonplace in several physics subfields but that it holds lots of potential for the biological, psychological and social sciences, as well — the latter two of which especially have weathered recent data legitimacy scandals. 

“Many motivations distort what inferences we draw from data,” say MacCoun and Perlmutter, who is the 2011 Nobel Prize winner in physics. “These include the desire to support one's theory, to refute one's competitors, to be first to report a phenomenon, or simply to avoid publishing 'odd' results. Such biases can be conscious or unconscious. They can occur irrespective of whether choices are motivated by the search for truth, by the good mentor's desire to help their student write a strong Ph.D. thesis, or just by naked self-interest. …Working blind while selecting data and developing and debugging analyses offers an important way to keep scientists from fooling themselves.” 

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating Wells Fargo over its student loan servicing practices, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Citing multiple anonymous sources, the Journal reported that the consumer bureau’s inquiry into the bank goes back at least to late last year. It’s not clear what loan-servicing issues the CFPB is investigating.

The CFPB has recently stepped up its scrutiny of servicing of both private and federal loans. Officials at the consumer bureau last month said they were exploring new regulations for the industry.

The bureau has also said it is prioritizing enforcement efforts of student loan servicers.

In July, Discover Bank agreed to pay $18.5 million to resolve the CFPB’s allegations of illegal loan servicing practices. The CFPB is also considering legal action against Navient, the company disclosed to investors last month.

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Two Christian colleges -- Hope International University and Nebraska Christian College -- announced Thursday that they will merge. Hope International, in California, is the larger of the two institutions, with about 1,300 students. Nebraska Christian's enrollment is under 200.

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Black students at the University of California protested -- online and at the chancellor's office -- over a fraternity party that had a "Kanye Western" theme and at which many students wore blackface and mocked Kanye West and black people generally, The Los Angeles Times reported. Students chanted "Black Bruins Matter," and used that phrase as a hashtag to spread the word on Twitter.

Jerry Kang, vice chancellor for UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, said, "It’s one thing to suggest you are actually focusing on one celebrity who is African-American. It’s another thing to take it as a license to perform every attribute, every stereotype, every grotesque minstrelsy that you see."

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell is ending a requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. An email to high school counselors said that "we feel this more inclusive approach is fairer to students and will help more of them find a right fit at UMass Lowell."

The new program, a pilot, is only an option and students who wish may continue to submit test scores.

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00am

There are multiple ways to participate in our monthly Cartoon Caption Contest.

Click here to propose a caption for our October contest -- and yes, it has a Halloween theme.

On this page you can cast your vote for your favorite from among three finalists chosen by our panel of judges for last month's competition.

And please join us in congratulating Douglas Noltie, associate professor of fish ecology and behavior at the University of Missouri at Columbia and winner of our August competition.

His caption for the cartoon at right -- "Hmm -- orcs and dragons -- were you copying Tolkien without copyright clearance?" -- received the most votes from our readers. He will receive an Amazon gift certificate and a copy of the cartoon signed by Matthew Henry Hall.

Thanks to all for playing.


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