Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, July 25, 2016 - 4:02am

Today on the Academic Minute: Jonathan Wynn, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, discusses how more performances and less concrete can lead to fewer problems for cities. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Friday, July 22, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan's Board of Regents chairman and his wife are rescinding a $3 million gift toward a new multicultural center because their names would go on the structure, raising worries the only building on campus named for an African-American was being replaced.

Chairman Mark Bernstein and his wife, Rachel Bendit, will withdraw the gift, originally announced in April. University of Michigan protocols called for the building to be renamed Bernstein-Bendit Hall. But the university's current multicultural center, named for newspaper founder and equal rights activist William Monroe Trotter, is the only building on Michigan's Ann Arbor campus named for an African-American. The center would still have been called the Trotter Center, but many objected to having the name taken off of the building, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"We spent time with faculty, students, staff and alumni who shared with us their sense of loss and who expressed their fear that the only African-American name on a building at U-M would be diminished or erased," the newspaper quoted Bernstein, who is chair and managing partner of a Michigan law firm, as saying. "There are hundreds of buildings on this campus, and only one, Trotter, honors the name of an African-American. This is wrong. … We did not want to silence Trotter -- this one, lonely African-American voice on our campus. This was, of course, not our intention, but it could have been the result."

The new building is planned to total about 20,000 square feet and open in 2018 at a cost of $10 million. Its construction was included in demands from the university's Black Student Union during 2014 protests -- the university's current center has been criticized as being run-down and located away from Michigan's core campus, while the new facility is planned for a more central location. A Michigan spokesman said the project will move forward, although sources of replacement funding are unclear. The Trotter Center's name is now set to remain as it is today.

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 4:20am

The board of the Vermont State Colleges on Thursday approved a concept proposal to combine the administrations of Johnson State College and Lyndon State College, The Burlington Free Press reported. A more detailed proposal may now be presented in September to carry out the idea. Officials stressed that the two state colleges would maintain separate identities.

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 3:00am

A new paper from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College at Columbia University examines the use of integrated planning and advising for student success initiatives, or iPASS, at six colleges. iPASS is a type of reform that uses technology to redesign advising and student support services.

Three of the six colleges using iPASS made significant steps in transforming their student support delivery in the 18 months the study took place, while the other three were unable to change their structures, behaviors and attitudes simultaneously, according to the paper.

The findings "underscore the fact that the type of change lauded and encouraged by today's policy makers, grant makers and reformers is not simple. They also remind stakeholders that change can occur in absence of deep transformation, but to achieve the desired results, it is necessary to look beyond structural redesign to a broader, more culturally and behaviorally oriented notion of reform."

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 3:00am

Three leaders of the massive 2014 student-led pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have been convicted for their roles in the events, The New York Times reported. Joshua Wong, 19, and his fellow student leader Alex Chow, 25, were found guilty by a Hong Kong court of unlawful assembly. Another leader of the "Umbrella Movement" protests, Nathan Law, 23, was found guilty of inciting people to take part in the assembly.

The three men have been released on bail pending sentencing scheduled for Aug. 15. They face up to two years in prison.

“No matter what penalty or price we need to pay, we will still continue to fight against suppression from the government,” Wong told reporters on Thursday.

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 4:11am

EverFi, a company that provides colleges with online training programs on issues such as financial literacy and sexual assault prevention, on Wednesday announced the purchase of LawRoom. LawRoom provides compliance education and includes a higher education division, CampusClarity, that provides training programs for new students.

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 3:00am

Today in the Academic Minute, Helen Kim, associate professor of sociology at Whitman College, examines if combining cultures, races or religious backgrounds can make both members of an intercultural couple stronger in the long run. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 3:00am

Turnitin, the company known for its plagiarism detection software, this week took a look at Melania Trump's much-debated convention speech at the Republican National Convention, finding examples of language "that an educator would flag as … examples of plagiarism." After her speech Monday evening, Trump was accused of stealing passages from Michelle Obama's speech during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Trump's speech contained both examples of "cloning" (copying passages word for word) and "find-and-replace" plagiarism (copying a passage but changing a few key words), Turnitin found.

"No matter what the intent, copying another’s work is plagiarism, but educators do consider intent when weighing how to handle instances of plagiarism in student papers," the company wrote. "More than just the copying of words, a comparison of [the] speeches follows the same sequence of thoughts and ideas. To an educator, this belies intent."

Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 3:00am

More than 30 presidents of historically black colleges on Wednesday issued a joint letter calling for "peace and unity" after the shootings of black men and of police officers in several cities. The presidents pledged to organize a symposium on gun violence and to raise awareness about "the debilitating impact of trauma on the lives of those who have been exposed to loss as a result of gun violence."

"HBCUs, by virtue of their special place in this nation, have always understood the hard work and sacrifices that must be made in order for America to live up to its ideals," says the letter. "From the moment that our doors first opened in 1842, the roles that our institutions have played were never narrowly confined to educating the men and women who sat in our classes and walked our campuses. Instead, ours was a much broader and more vital mission. We were charged with providing a light in the darkness for a people who had been constitutionally bound to the dark. Our very creation, existence and persistence were and always have been a duality of collaboration and protest. In this respect, America’s HBCUs were the birthplace of the idea that black lives matter to our country."

Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 3:00am

The crackdown on Turkish academe following last week’s failed coup continued on Wednesday, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency, a measure that will expand his powers to pursue suspected coup plotters.

Among the education-related developments reported Wednesday by Turkish and international media:

  • The Washington Post reported on a blanket ban on professional travel for Turkish academics.
  • The Hürriyet Daily News reported on the suspension of four university rectors, one of whom was detained, as well as the suspension of 95 academic staff at Istanbul University.
  • At the K-12 level, the Associated Press reported that the education ministry is closing 626 private schools “and other establishments” that the agency said are linked to Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric whom Turkish officials accuse of orchestrating the attempted coup (Gülen denies any involvement).

These developments followed large-scale purges in the education sector on Tuesday, when the Council of Higher Education demanded the resignation of 1,577 university deans. In addition, more than 15,000 education ministry officials were suspended and 21,000 schoolteachers had their licenses revoked in what critics see as a piece of a vast effort to remake state institutions, including educational institutions, in the image of Erdoğan’s party.

The international arm of the state broadcaster, TRT World, reported late Wednesday that about 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended or detained or are under investigation as Erdoğan has (in the broadcaster’s characterization) “vowed to clean the ‘virus’ responsible for the plot from all state institutions.”

A letter circulating among American academics, expected to be released Friday, calls on the Obama administration “to strongly criticize the Turkish government’s violation of human rights, academic freedom and the rule of law and to refuse to accept anything but a reversal of these authoritarian policies.”


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