Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 4:18am

Harvard University, which has lagged other colleges in selling naming rights for academic colleges, has done so twice in recent years, in return for large gifts. That has prompted debate at its medical school over whether an extremely large gift (not yet on the table, but people are talking about a $1 billion gift) would justify renaming the medical school, STAT reported. Proponents say a gift of that size could bring the already prestigious institution to a new level.

But some faculty members worry about the implications. “If the school sells naming rights, it makes the school feel like it’s a football stadium,” David Jones, a professor, said. When faculty members publish articles with the new name of their medical school, “everyone on the faculty, and all of the students, become an advertisement for whoever bought the naming rights.” He added that professors also fear that they may not like the record of the donor, given that there are relatively few people with the ability to donate a gift of the size Harvard would want. “If they named it the Trump School of Medicine, half of the faculty would resign,” Jones said.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:00am

A popular lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley has filed a wrongful termination complaint against the university's board after openly criticizing his department's policies.

In the complaint, a self-identified mathematics lecturer accuses Berkeley of opting, improperly, not to renew his appointment after, among other things, he wrote an open letter critical of the math department. “I believe my employer discriminated and retaliated against me on the basis of my disability, medical leave and engagement in protected activities,” the complaint reads in part.

Though the lecturer’s name was redacted from a copy of the complaint provided to Inside Higher Ed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Alexander Coward wrote such a letter, in which he also revealed he had been hospitalized for depression, and then expanded on it in an October blog post. In the post, Coward, who is widely loved by students,we know this how? is this something we should attribute/try to quantify? dl asserts that he wasn’t reappointed because the department was uncomfortable with his teaching style and suppressed evidence of its success.

Both Coward and the university, whose officials said they had not yet seen the complaint, declined to comment. California's fair employment department accepted the complaint and officially granted a right to sue notice.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:00am

The GED Testing Service today announced that it will lower the passing score for the GED, a test that serves as the equivalent of a high-school degree. At the same time the service, which Pearson and the American Council on Education own jointly, said it was adding two new, optional levels above the passing score (and the previous passing level) that will allow students to signify college readiness or to earn ACE recommendations for college credits.

The testing service said it decided to "recalibrate" the GED's scoring after comparing the educational success of GED program graduates and high school graduates. The GED two years ago unveiled a new computer-based test. It also has faced new competition.

“The scoring enhancements are based on an extensive analysis of test takers’ performance data from the past 18 months, conversations with state policy makers and elected officials, and external validation with experts,” said GED Testing Service President Randy Trask in a written statement. “This is part of our ongoing commitment to make data-based decisions and continually improve the efficacy of the GED program.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:00am

Melissa A. Click, who was roundly criticized after she blocked a student journalist and called for "muscle" to block others at a protest at the University of Missouri at Columbia, has been charged with misdemeanor assault, The New York Times reported. Click teaches communications at the university. She did not respond to a request for comment. She has previously apologized for her actions but said they were motivated by a desire to help the minority students who were protesting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:00am

Three portraits of Yale University’s Calhoun College namesake came down Monday as a larger debate over whether or not to rename the college itself continues.

"I think it broadens the symbolic space for discussion because it underlines the openness of the moment," said Julia Adams, professor of sociology at Yale and master of Calhoun College, about her decision to take the portraits down. A broader conversation about the name of the college -- which honors the pro-slavery South Carolina politician John C. Calhoun -- and how best to preserve and remember the darker elements of Yale's past is ongoing. (Pictured above is David Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of History and Professor of African-American Studies and of American Studies, delivering a lecture on Calhoun's life and the meaning of Confederate symbols at an event in September.)

Adams also noted that "the portraits are in desperate need of cleaning and artistic valuation … I have to admit, it’s also practically helpful to be taking care of them right now."

A decision about the college's name is expected sometime before summer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:08am

Mills College announced last week that it will no longer require the SAT or ACT for admissions. College officials cited research showing that many minority and low-income students want the option to be judged on measures other than test scores.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Martin Gerdes, professor of biomedical sciences at the New York Institute of Technology, delves into a new treatment that could help us live longer and better lives. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Jordan Kurland, who worked for more than 50 years at the American Association of University Professors, died Saturday morning at the age of 87. He worked for the AAUP up until Jan. 8. His title at the AAUP was associate general secretary, and his job focused on conducting investigations into alleged attacks on faculty rights and academic freedom. As an AAUP resolution honoring him noted, Kurland played a role in more than 90 percent of all of the investigations conducted in AAUP history. Last year, as part of the AAUP's celebration of the organization's centennial, Kurland compiled a list of AAUP investigations he considered particularly significant in each decade of the group's history.

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Massive open online course platform Coursera is removing the option to complete some of the courses offered on its platform for free. Coursera has previously offered a free track and a paid track that awards an identity-verified certificate, but as of last week, learners will have to pay a fee in some courses to have their assignments graded. Learners in those courses who choose not to pay can still browse the course materials, including discussions and assignments.

"We are on a mission to change the world by providing universal access to the best learning experience," Coursera said in a blog post. "To do this, we also need to have a business model that supports our platform, our partners, our content and everything we do for learners. The changes that we are making this year will move us toward sustainability and enable continued investment in our learning experience, without compromising our commitment to transforming lives for people around the world."

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

The University Senate at Loyola University New Orleans voted 38-10 to pass a measure of no confidence in the president, the Reverend Kevin Wildes, The New Orleans Advocate reported. Professors say cuts Father Wildes has announced are in large part due to poor decisions he made when the university faced earlier financial and enrollment problems. The board has expressed confidence in the president, and board leaders spoke to the University Senate before the vote.

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