Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 21, 2021

Today on the Academic Minute, part one of two of our Oxytocin Series, Sara Freeman, assistant professor in the biology department at Utah State University, explores which regions of the brain affect social behavior. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 20, 2021

The Education Department should examine if it is getting accurate information from those receiving TRIO funds to see if the money is leading to results, the Government Accounting Office said in a report Monday.

The department relies on data provided by those receiving the grants, which are aimed at increasing the graduation rate of low-income, first-generation college students. But it does not check to see if the information from the grantees, 92 percent of which are colleges and universities, is accurate. Because receiving new grants is based in part on having used previous grants effectively, grantees have an incentive to give the department inaccurate information, the report said.

The Education Department largely agreed it should take steps to make sure the information it receives from those getting grants is accurate.

January 20, 2021

The new episode of The Key, Inside Higher Ed's news and analysis podcast, examines the disturbing data on fall 2020 enrollment and the particularly damaging impact the pandemic and recession have had on students traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

In the episode, "The Fall Enrollment Picture and Peril for Post-Traditional Students," The Key's host, Doug Lederman of Inside Higher Ed, interviews Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, and Juana Sánchez, senior associate on the HCM Strategists postsecondary team.

They analyze the clearinghouse's data on postsecondary enrollment and discuss the worrying situation facing some demographic groups -- students from underrepresented minority groups and low-income backgrounds, community college transfers, working learners, and adults.

January 20, 2021

Google CEO Sundar Pichai will meet with five presidents of historically Black colleges and universities next week after two former Google employees accused the company of racial discrimination, CNN Business reported.

Last month, two Black former Google employees -- April Curley, a diversity recruiter, and Timnit Gebru, an artificial intelligence researcher -- tweeted that they were fired from the tech giant after voicing concerns about how few Black people worked at Google and how those employees were treated. Curley oversaw HBCU recruitment and said several of her superiors believed HBCU computer science graduates didn’t have the technical skills to work for Google.

HBCU leaders were troubled by these allegations.

“We were not willing to stand by on this issue and let it go,” Larry Robinson, president of Florida A&M University, told CNN Business. “When our students have the opportunity to go into the world of work and the world of work has an opportunity to work with our talented students, it’s important they are provided an environment that is appreciative and respects who they are.”

Robinson will be at the meeting with Pichai next week, along with presidents from Howard University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University and Morgan State University.

January 20, 2021

Students at North Carolina State University held a demonstration Tuesday afternoon against employee Chadwick Seagraves, a desktop support manager.

Seagraves has been accused of having ties to the Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups, harassing an N.C. State student, and helping publish and distribute personal information on left-wing activists in Oregon.

N.C. State announced last week that disciplinary action could not be taken against Seagraves because an investigation by the university "did not substantiate any significant allegations" or provide evidence that Seagraves had broken the law or university policy.

“We call upon Chadwick Seagraves to directly address the NC State community and denounce all forms of white supremacy and acknowledge the harm caused to students, specifically students of color and student activists, that can occur when supporting white supremacists,” student government president Melanie Flowers wrote in the "executive order" organizing the demonstration. The order also called on Seagraves to resign.

Seagraves has denied that he is associated with the Proud Boys or white supremacists. “I categorically denounce white supremacism and, as a Constitutionalist and Free Speech Absolutist, I abhor the concept of fascism and authoritarianism of any sort,” he said in a statement last month. He called the accusations against him an “organized campaign of slander.”

Students and faculty have voiced concern about Seagraves's access to their personal information as part of his job at the university. University investigators determined that Seagraves “did not have access to the protected personal information of any NC State student or any staff members other than those supervised by the employee,” a spokesperson told The News & Observer.

January 20, 2021

An academic journal's editorial team was unable to contact scammers who'd convinced them to pursue a special issue because fake email accounts the scammers used to impersonate well-respected scientists in the field had expired, according to an account published Monday in Chemistry World.

The Journal of Nanoparticle Research revealed last month that it was the victim of an attack by an “organized rogue editor network.” As a result, the journal accepted 19 articles that did not meet the publication’s quality standards and published several of them online.

In September 2019, the journal received a pitch for a special issue on the “Role of Nanotechnology and Internet of Things in Healthcare.” The proposal was well written and came with a list of potential contributors, the journal wrote in an article about the attack. The journal checked the headers of the emails it received, and they appeared to be generated by university accounts.

Months after accepting the proposal, the journal received a large number of submissions for the issue. Upon further inspection, the journal learned many of the submissions were of low quality or did not fit with the topic of the issue. At that point, 19 of 80 submissions had already been accepted or published.

Through an internal investigation, the journal learned the academics who had supposedly proposed the special issue had nothing to do with it. In August 2019, the rogue group bought domain names similar to those of the universities they impersonated. In one email, "univ" was used instead of "uni" and in another, "-ac.uk" was used in place of ".ac.uk."

“Have we been careless? Probably,” the journal wrote, “but who would have thought scientists would go to that extent, i.e., to organize a whole rogue network and propose a sound and interesting special issue in a scientific journal, just to get a few articles published?”

The journal has rejected all remaining submissions that can be clearly linked to the rogue network. Some articles that had been accepted will not be published, and published papers that fit the scope of the issue were undergoing post-publication peer review.

"All of the evidence points to an organized network that tries -- in this case successfully -- to infiltrate scientific journals with the objective of easily publishing manuscripts from pseudo-scientists or less productive researchers who want to appear in respectable journals," the journal wrote.

The journal has implemented more strict processes to prevent future hacks, it said.

When the journal's editorial team looked into the scam, it found the fake email accounts were expired, Nicola Pinna, the journal’s executive editor, recently told Chemistry World.

"There was no way we could even try to contact them back via these domain names -- they don’t exist anymore," Pinna told Chemistry World.

January 20, 2021

Today on the Academic Minute, Alexandros Tsamis, assistant professor of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, envisions how cities might look after COVID-19. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 19, 2021

The College Board on Tuesday morning announced that it is eliminating the SAT Subject Tests and the optional essay for the main SAT.

Both exams have been fading in importance, as few colleges require them. Nonetheless, many students take the exams and write the essay.

"The pandemic accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students," said a statement from the College Board.

The College Board also said that it is "investing in a more flexible SAT -- a streamlined, digitally delivered test that meets the evolving needs of students and higher education."

Inside Higher Ed will have a full story on these developments tomorrow.

January 19, 2021

Male students speak in college classrooms 1.6 times as often as women, according to a new academic article published in Gender & Society based on 95 hours of observation in nine classrooms across multiple disciplines at an elite institution.

The researchers found that, compared with female students, male students are more likely to speak without raising their hands, to interrupt and to engage in prolonged conversations. The language of the male students was more assertive, while the language of the women students was more hesitant and apologetic.

The study, entitled "Who Speaks and Who Listens: Revisiting the Chilly Climate in College Classrooms," was done by Janice McCabe, an associate professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, and Jennifer J. Lee, a 2017 Dartmouth graduate whose senior thesis focused on this research. Lee is now a Ph.D. student at Indiana University.

January 19, 2021

Temple University has hired a law firm to investigate complaints about the leadership of Gregory M. Anderson, dean of Temple’s college of education and human development, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

About half of the 70 full-time faculty members signed a July letter saying they were “deeply concerned about faculty members’ loss of voice in our own college, and about a growing climate of fear, mistrust, and intimidation.” Ten current or former Temple faculty members interviewed by the Inquirer said that Anderson verbally berated employees at meetings and created a hostile work environment where employees, junior faculty members in particular, were afraid to speak freely.

Anderson said in a statement he is cooperating with the review.

“As a Black academic whose research focuses on access and equity, I am particularly committed to accountability,” he said. “University deans must make difficult, and sometimes unpopular, decisions each day. I believe once the process has concluded, the facts will show that all my decisions adhere to university policies and contractual obligations.”

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