Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 2, 2014

An investigation by Bloomberg has found that there have been a total of 60 fraternity-related deaths since 2005, and that 9 of those deaths have been at events linked to a single fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Colleges have suspended or closed at least 15 chapters in the past three years, and have disciplined more than 100 chapters since 2007. The article by Bloomberg also details hazing practices, describing an eight-week initiation at Salisbury University, for example, in which a pledge alleged and the university confirmed that fraternity members "forced pledges to drink until they almost passed out and dressed them in women’s clothing and diapers.... Fraternity members confined recruits for as long as nine hours in a dark basement without food, water or a bathroom, while blasting the same German rock song at ear-splitting volume."

Frank Ginocchio, SAE’s general counsel, told Bloomberg that the the deaths linked to events at the fraternity reflected a "perfect storm," not a problem with the organization. “We try, and we keep on trying,” Ginocchio said. “I don’t think our procedures, our rules and risk management are much different from any other fraternity. We’ve all had some bad cases and sad occurrences.” The fraternity says that it does not tolerate hazing.

 

January 2, 2014

The proportion of faculty members who work part time fell slightly in 2012 from the previous year, although it remained close to half, according to data published this week by the National Center for Education Statistics. The Education Department report, which also includes statistics on fall 2012 enrollments and graduation rates, among other things, shows that of the 1,565,493 postsecondary faculty members employed in fall 2012 by institutions that award federal student aid, 800,212, or 51.2 percent, were employed full time, and 765,280 worked part time. In fall 2011, 784,639 were full time and 780,865 were part time.

January 2, 2014

A new study in Academic Medicine notes the differing career options being used by men and women on medical school faculties -- at a time that women making up an increasing share of medical school students. Of traditional tenure track programs (in which professors engage in teaching, research and patient care) only 20 percent of medical schools report that there are more women than men in this category. But of medical schools offering a clinician-educator track (in which faculty focus only on patient care and teaching), 77 percent report having more women than men. A key issue, however, is that those on the tenure track are more likely than those on the clinician track to be promoted, the study finds.

 

January 2, 2014

Critics charge that the Educational Credit Management Corporation uses "ruthless" tactics to collect student loans, ignoring legitimate and serious medical issues (such as cancer) in evaluating borrowers' ability to repay, The New York Times reported. Educational Credit is the main entity used by the federal government to contest borrowers' right to try to declare bankruptcy. Officials of Educational Credit defended their analyses and its defenders say that other borrowers and taxpayers benefit when everyone repays loans.

 

January 2, 2014

With the Modern Language Association meeting a week away, the Internet is full of discussion about the academic job market and rumors about how the Israel boycott may or may not come up. Some people are even excited to talk about books. But there is also humor. Inspired by this tweet, a new website allows you to put in your name and receive an (unofficial) MLA name badge complete with a specialty.

I couldn't stop at one. See what research focus the website has for you.

January 2, 2014

Lars Hinrichs of the University of Texas at Austin explains why many features of Texas-English are disappearing. Learn more about the Academic Minute here. And if you missed the last 10 days' worth of Academic Minutes, you can catch up on them here.

January 2, 2014

The Kansas Board of Regents has ordered a review of its recently adopted and highly controversial rules on social media. The rules outline situations in which faculty members could be dismissed or disciplined in other ways over statements they make on social media -- and numerous faculty and civil liberties groups have said that the rules violate basic principles of academic freedom and the First Amendment rights of professors.

A statement issued by the Kansas Board of Regents did not withdraw the policy, but announced a review of it: "Because of concerns expressed regarding the Board of Regents’ policy regarding the improper use of social media, Board Chair Fred Logan has asked Andy Tompkins, president and CEO of the Board, to work with the university presidents and chancellor to form a workgroup of representatives from each state university campus to review the policy. Regent Logan requests that any recommendations for amendments to the policy from the workgroup be presented to the board’s Governance Committee by April 2014."

 

January 2, 2014

Chinese parents who can afford to do so continue to make huge investments in their children's education by paying tuition for them to attend colleges and universities in the United States and other Western nations. But Financial Times (registration required) noted that some experts in China are questioning the (financial) value of the degrees earned abroad by Chinese students. There is no longer much of a wage premium for those who return. Further, the growing numbers of Chinese students going abroad means that it's no longer just the best and brightest. And some are questioning whether the Chinese students end up with enough knowledge of either the West or their home. Zong Qinghou, the second wealthiest man in China, who sent his only daughter to study abroad, recently said at a press conference that she "knows neither the current situation for Chinese enterprises nor the situation abroad."

 

January 2, 2014

The past few weeks have seen a series of rulings on whether some parts of the new federal health law requiring employers to provide coverage that includes birth control should apply to religious institutions that oppose birth control or some forms of birth control. The new law exempts churches from birth control requirements that conflict with their beliefs, but this does not extend to religious institutions such as colleges and social service organizations. Under a compromise proposed by the Obama administration, such institutions will not have to pay for birth control coverage, but their employees and students will be able to obtain birth control through arrangements with insurance companies.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary stay of the birth control requirement for religious institutions, and asked the Obama administration to file a response on Friday. The ruling came in a suit brought by an order of nuns that operates nursing homes for low-income people. Also in December, several religious colleges won injunctions against parts of the health care law, while the University of Notre Dame was denied such an injunction. Notre Dame is vowing to appeal. A Supreme Court ruling in the case involving the nuns could resolve many of these disputes. Justice Sotomayor's injunction was not a ruling on the merits of the case.

 

 

 

December 30, 2013

The American Council on Education's president, Molly Corbett Broad, has issued a statement strongly condemning the movement to boycott Israeli universities. “In recent weeks, several scholarly associations have voted on formal motions to boycott activities involving faculty and staff at Israeli academic institutions. Such actions are misguided and greatly troubling, as they strike at the heart of academic freedom," Broad's statement says. "Many of these same scholars would decry efforts by trustees, governors or state legislators to infringe on faculty teaching and research activities at their own institutions, and yet these boycotts involve more sweeping repercussions, impeding global academic relationships and the constructive exchange of ideas among countries and cultures. One could easily see such boycotts moving to other countries and scholarly pursuits, which would only lead to a further erosion of academic freedom and free thought in a world that is so desperate for it.



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