Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 3:00am

LeTourneau University, a Christian university in Texas, has adopted an athletes' handbook that bars athletes from "same-sex dating behaviors and public advocacy for the position that sex outside of a biblically defined marriage is morally acceptable." The handbook's language was revealed by the website Outsports. It is not known if there are any gay athletes at the university. A spokesperson said via email to Inside Higher Ed that "our policy has always reflected who we are as a private Christian university. That’s not new."

Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 3:00am

We're a little late this month with our monthly Cartoon Caption Contest.

You can play in multiple ways.

Submit a caption for this month's cartoon here.

Vote for your favorite here from among the three nominees chosen by the panel of judges for our March cartoon.

And the winner of our February caption contest wished to remain anonymous. But we will send the winner a gift certificate and a signed copy of the cartoon nonetheless.

Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Katharine Gelber, professor of politics and public policy at the University of Queensland, profiles free speech in the years following the terrorist attack. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 3:00am

Three professors and a graduate student at China’s Tianjin University are among six defendants charged with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets regarding wireless signaling technology, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday. The indictment alleges that trade secrets stolen from U.S.-based Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions -- both of which design and develop a technology known as FBAR that filters wireless signals -- enabled Tianjin University "to construct and equip a state-of-the-art FBAR fabrication facility, to open ROFS Microsystems, a joint venture located in PRC state-sponsored Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA), and to obtain contracts for providing FBARs to commercial and military entities.”

Hao Zhang, a full professor at Tianjin and a Chinese citizen, was arrested on May 16 upon entry to the U.S. and is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, economic espionage, and theft of trade secrets. The five other indicted defendants include two former classmates of Zhang’s in a graduate electrical engineering program at the University of Southern California.

Zhang's defense attorney did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 4:23am

A new study has found that 18.6 percent of women at a university in upstate New York who started there in 2010 experienced either rape or attempted rape in their freshman year. The study has just been published in The Journal of Adolescent Health. Numerous studies on campus sexual assault -- with varying definitions of sexual assault -- have prompted much debate over how prevalent rape and sexual assault are on campus. This study used a narrow definition of rape as “vaginal, oral or anal penetration using threats of violence or use of physical force, or using the tactic of victim incapacitation.” Critics of some other studies have cited broader definitions -- including unwanted advances or verbal abuse -- as inappropriately conflating different kinds of sexual misconduct.

Over the year in which students were surveyed, 9 percent of surveyed women reported an attempted or completed forcible rape and 15.4 percent reported an attempted or completed rape while incapacitated. (Some women reported more than one kind of rape.)

Kate Carey, professor of behavioral and social sciences in the Brown University School of Public Health and Brown's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, and one of the authors, said the research pointed to the need to focus on freshman year. “People are usually moving away from home for the first time, they are experimenting with a lot of freedoms including the use of alcohol and other drugs and learning how to live by themselves,” she said. “We have a better sense after our research of what are the risks within that first transition year.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 3:00am

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a women's college in Indiana, announced Tuesday that it will start to admit men. Applicants to be commuter students may apply to enroll in the fall, and applicants to be residential students may seek to enroll in fall 2016. The college cited the dwindling numbers of female students who will seek out a women's college. Undergraduate enrollment at the college is about 1,000, with more than two-thirds of that in the form of online enrollments.

On the college's Facebook page, many alumnae said they understood the pressures facing the college, but were still devastated by the news. Wrote one alumna: "Heartbroken. I can understand why some feel this is the only way to go, and yes, it is better than closing the college, but it goes against everything the college stands for and is. Things change and people adapt, but so many key things that make the Woods the Woods will be lost forever."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 4:29am

The board of the University of Virginia has extended the contract of President Teresa A. Sullivan by two years, through 2018, The Washington Post reported. Sullivan was named president in 2010, and narrowly avoided ouster by some board members in 2012, but a protest movement by students, alumni and faculty members kept her in office. In recent months, Sullivan's contract negotiations have taken place against a backdrop of difficulties for the university -- such as the now discredited article in Rolling Stone about an alleged rape -- that were not of Sullivan's making. While board members expressed strong support for Sullivan in extending her contract beyond 2016, they included a clause that would permit her term to end in fall 2017 if a successor has been selected. One board member -- Helen Dragas -- abstained from the vote. She led the effort to oust Sullivan in 2012.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 3:00am

Despite the administration's attempt to ban "large objects" from Columbia University's Class Day ceremonies Tuesday, a student carried a mattress with her on stage in protest of the university's handling of sexual assault complaints.

Emma Sulkowicz has carried the mattress around campus all year as her senior art thesis and was expected to bring the mattress with her to the Class Day ceremony, an event separate from the main commencement ceremony. The day before the ceremony, the university sent an email to Columbia's seniors, warning them of a new rule that barred students from bringing "large objects which could interfere with the proceedings or create discomfort to others in close, crowded spaces shared by thousands of people."

Sulkowicz brought the mattress on stage with her anyway, prompting cheers from the crowd. Her alleged rapist, a fellow graduating senior who was never charged and is suing the university for allowing the art project to go on, was listed on the Class Day program. Many students and activists praised Sulkowicz for seeing her project through to the end. Other students criticized the university for not forcing Sulkowicz to follow the rules it set.

“We communicated to all students that the shared celebratory purpose of Class Day and commencement calls for mutual respect for the security and comfort of graduating students and their families in attendance,” Columbia said in a statement. “We are not going to comment on individual students; it is a day for all members of the Class of 2015. We were not going to physically block entry to graduates who are ultimately responsible for their own choices.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 3:00am

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who is running for president, on Tuesday unveiled more details about his plan to make public higher education debt-free for students.

Sanders introduced legislation that calls for the federal government to dole out $47 billion per year to states that agree to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at their public colleges and universities.

The federal government, according to his office, would pick up the tab nationwide for about two-thirds of the cost of eliminating tuition, and states would have to chip in the remaining third.

Sanders proposes to pay for the debt-free college program by raising taxes on the financial transactions of large investment firms.

The debt-free-college proposal, which goes beyond the Obama administration’s free community college plan announced earlier this year, has increasingly caught on among liberal lawmakers and progressive groups. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager gave a nod to the idea earlier this month.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 3:00am

Sixty-five percent of parents expect to be providing some financial support to their children after they graduate from college, according to a survey released Tuesday by Upromise, a savings-related division of Sallie Mae. Significant numbers of parents seem to assume that the support will be needed more than a few months after graduation. The proportion of parents who believe they will need to provide some support for two years or longer is now 36 percent, double what the share was in a similar survey a year ago.

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