Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

At Wheelock College, the philosophy of the athletic program is to pay relatively little attention to whether games are won, and to focus on such issues as improvement and character. The Boston Globe reported that while Wheelock may not be a powerhouse, the approach has resulted in its number of athletes -- and wins -- increasing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Citing a larger number of violations affecting dozens of athletes over a five-year period, the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday imposed a set of penalties on Boise State University, including barring its women's tennis team from postseason competition for one season. The association's Division I Committee on Infractions found a panoply of violations of different sorts in different sports: free housing given to several dozen freshman football players in the summer before they enrolled, financial benefits given to a men's track athlete who was academically ineligible to receive them, the provision of housing and other benefits to prospective international athletes in women's tennis and men's track before they enrolled at Boise State, and an extra year of eligibility granted to a female tennis player.

In addition, the former women's tennis coach violated the NCAA's ethical conduct standard by knowingly breaking rules and then lying about it, the infractions panel found. Among the penalties imposed on Boise State by the NCAA and the university itself: recruiting and scholarship reductions, a prohibition in the recruitment of international athletes in men's and women's cross country and track and field, limitations on the duties of two former coaches if they are hired at other NCAA colleges, and the vacation of victories in women's tennis.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Watch what you tweet. The student government of the College of Charleston voted 15-to-14 (short of the two-thirds required) on Tuesday to impeach Ross Kressel as student body president, The Post and Courier reported. Kressel nearly lost his job amid campus debate over his Twitter account, where he expressed views about women, black people, his student government colleagues and others that offended many on the campus. The controversy set off a debate over the appropriateness of his tweets and of holding student leaders accountable for what they write online. After the vote, Kressel offered the following advice for those who use Twitter: "If it would upset your mom, don't post it."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Poets & Writers magazine has released its annual rankings of M.F.A. programs -- in the face of an open letter from 190 faculty members in writing programs who are questioning the methodology behind the effort. The rankings feature some factual data (on such issues as job placement, fellowship availability and so forth). But the main ranking -- of popularity -- is based on a survey of prospective applicants on where they plan to apply.

The open letter takes issue with this approach. "To put it plainly, the Poets & Writers rankings are bad: they are methodologically specious in the extreme and quite misleading. A biased opinion poll — based on a tiny, self-selecting survey of potential program applicants — provides poor information," says the letter. Leslie Epstein, one of the organizers of the effort, and a novelist who is director of the Boston University creative writing program, said the idea of letting applicants rank programs was "analogous to asking people who are standing outside a restaurant studying the menu how they liked the food. Why wouldn’t you ask those who’ve actually eaten there for an informed opinion?”

The magazine is standing behind the rankings -- while noting that it shares its methodology, and urges potential applicants to look at a wide range of information in deciding on programs to consider. Mary Gannon, editorial director, released a statement in which she defended the use of an applicant survey and rejected the idea of focusing on faculty quality, as some have suggested. "To continue the analogy Leslie Epstein used to describe our approach in the press release, that would be like asking diners who only frequent their favorite restaurant to assess the quality of all restaurants," she said.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Wade Robison of the Rochester Institute of Technology examines the philosophical assumptions at the heart of sustainability ethics. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

A recent incident at Canada's York University illustrates the reason students may want to listen to what gets said in class -- at least before seeking anyone's dismissal. The Toronto Star reported that Cameron Johnston, a social sciences professor, was talking to students about the difference between facts and opinions, and the role of dangerous opinions. As an example of a dangerous opinion, he offered the idea that "all Jews should be sterilized." A female student, who heard the statement as the professor expressing his own view, quickly left class, alerted Jewish groups on campus and elsewhere, and websites started demanding the professor's dismissal. Not only doesn't Johnston believe the statement, but he is Jewish.

 

Sheldon Goodman, co-chair of Toronto's Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told the Star: "This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The programs that train special education teachers for K-12 systems will lose up to half of their faculty members to retirements in the next five years, according to the Special Education Faculty Needs Assessment, a report being issued today by researchers at Claremont Graduate, Vanderbilt and Western Carolina Universities. These retirements pose a significant danger because special education programs already have a shortage of faculty members. The report outlines ways that programs can produce more Ph.D.'s, who in turn can meet the demand for trained teachers for schools.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Long Island University's Faculty Federation has voted to ratify a five-year contract for full-time and adjunct faculty members at the university's Brooklyn campus, clearing the way for an end to a faculty strike that started Wednesday. Classes are expected to be staffed normally today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The Authors Guild on Monday sued the HathiTrust (a consortium of universities) as well as Cornell and Indiana Universities and the Universities of California, Michigan and Wisconsin, charging widespread copyright violations. The universities and the trust have worked with Google on its project to digitize books (a project now on hold) and on a recent effort to release to their campus communities digitized copies of "orphan works" on which copyright has expired. The suit charges the universities with moving ahead without being sure that the works are truly copyright-free. “This is an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors’ rights,” Angelo Loukakis, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, said in a statement about the suit. “Maybe it doesn’t seem like it to some, but writing books is an author’s real-life work and livelihood. This group of American universities has no authority to decide whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection. These aren’t orphaned books, they’re abducted books.”

John Wilkin, executive director of the HathiTrust, said that the organization hasn't received official notice of the suit yet. But he said via e-mail that the organization was surprised because "we've been in communications with the Authors Guild and had scheduled a meeting to discuss our efforts on orphan works determinations and uses." He said that the trust and its members "have only made lawful uses of the digitized volumes we store online. Our proposed uses of the orphan works are lawful, as well, and constitute important scholarly and academic uses." He added that it is important to note the parameters of use planned: "Only in those cases where we are unable to determine a rights holder for an in-copyright work will we provide access, and then only to authenticated users at partner academic institutions that have purchased corresponding print copies of those works."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Fred Stielow of American Public University reveals how university libraries are adapting to the demands of the information age. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

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