Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 6, 2014

A group of seven faculty members from the six public institutions governed by the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday released its draft of a new social media policy for the system, which if enacted would give employees of the institutions broad freedom to communicate online.

"In keeping with the Kansas Board of Regents’ commitment to the principles of academic freedom, the Board supports the responsible use of existing and emerging communications technologies, including social media, to serve the teaching, research, and public service missions of Kansas universities," the draft reads. "These guidelines shall recognize the rights and responsibilities of all employees, including faculty and staff, to speak on matters of public concern as private citizens, if they choose to do so."

The debate about social media and academic freedom has raged in the state in the last six months. Last September, the University of Kansas suspended journalism professor David W. Guth after he accused the National Rifle Association of causing the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard massacre. The board quickly adopted rules that made "improper use of social media" a fireable offense, then later said it would review those rules.

The policy closely adheres to the American Association of University Professors' 1940 Statement of Principles, which states faculty members "should be free from institutional censorship or discipline" but also mindful that they speak as individuals, not representatives of their institutions. Specifically, proposed definitions of improper social media include speech not protected by the First Amendment and speech that violates polices on professional misconduct and privacy law. Speech related to research and teaching should not be classified as improper use of social media, the draft states.

Commenters have until March 28 to submit their input, after which the working group will revise the draft.

March 6, 2014

Kennesaw State University, under fire for removing an art installation because it would not have been "celebratory" at the opening of a new museum, on Wednesday issued a new statement about its views on the issue. The art that was removed dealt with a woman whose land the university obtained and whose writing have led many to call her an apologist for lynching. The art installation did not focus solely on this issue, but included it among many parts of the woman's story.

The new university statement said: "The exhibit does not exist in a vacuum; it is connected to a sensitive controversy in Kennesaw State’s recent past, which remains extremely raw for many university constituents.Given that the opening of the Zuckerman Museum of Art was intended to be a celebration of new space dedicated to the arts, withdrawing the exhibition was a difficult decision that we knew would not be well received – and one which was unfortunate due to the administration’s late knowledge of the subject matter. This was the result of communications breakdowns in our internal processes, which are being addressed." The statement added that the university is "holding conversations with the artist to explore re-instating" the artwork, "accompanied by related programming."

The artist is Ruth Stanford, associate professor of sculpture at Georgia State University. She said Wednesday that the university called her to talk about restoring the installation "with context," but has yet to provide details on what that means.


March 6, 2014

Stanford University has revoked the M.B.A. of Mathew Martoma, who was recently convicted of insider trading, but that's not why he lost the degree, The Wall Street Journal reported. During his trial, it was revealed that Martoma was kicked out of law school at Harvard University for falsifying transcript grades, and Martoma didn't report this to Stanford when he was applying there. Stanford applicants sign a statement saying that offers of admission can be revoked for certain actions, such as "a serious lack of judgment or integrity” prior to enrolling. As a result, Stanford has now revoked his offer of admission, which has the impact of making his degree invalid.


March 5, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Ken Sheldon, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, explains why many professional athletes have trouble living up to expectations after the deal is signed. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


March 5, 2014

Pennsylvania State University on Tuesday announced plans to auction off some of its intellectual property. Like most research universities, Penn State holds patent rights on many inventions, and many of these patents haven't been taken to market in a meaningful way with new products or services. Penn State believes that its auction is the first of its kind and could provide the university with revenue and allow more patents to be used to their fullest potential.


March 5, 2014

The National Coalition Against Censorship -- which includes numerous academic groups -- has written to Kennesaw State University to demand the restoration of an installation that administrators ordered removed from an exhibit last week. The installation was about land once owned by Corra Harris (1869-1935), who was a prominent author and whose homestead the university accepted as a gift to preserve in 2009 -- over the objections of some faculty members. Part of the installation dealt with a racist letter Harris wrote -- a letter that launched her careers and that has had her identified ever since as an apologist for lynching. The university said that the installation was ordered removed from an exhibit in the new art museum at Kennesaw State because the work was "not aligned with the celebratory atmosphere of the museum’s opening."

The letter from the National Coalition Against Censorship says in part: "The removal of Ruth Stanford's [the artist's] work is not only a missed educational opportunity, it also raises serious constitutional concerns. As a public educational institution, Kennesaw State has an obligation under the First Amendment not to discriminate against particular ideas, no matter how controversial they might be."

A spokeswoman for the university said that she did not know of a response from the institution.


March 5, 2014

Lawrence Mitchell, who is facing complaints of harassment, has resigned as law dean at Case Western Reserve University, The Plain Dealer reported. Mitchell and the university were sued by a professor who said that he faced retaliation when reporting complaints that Mitchell has harassed women at the law school. Mitchell has denied the allegations, but said that "I have concluded that I cannot return to my job as dean with the same energy and enthusiasm that characterized my earlier service." He will continue on the law faculty.


March 5, 2014

Fabrice Tourre, the former Goldman Sachs trader known as "Fabulous Fab" and as someone found liable for defrauding investors, won't be teaching economics to undergraduates at the University of Chicago. While he had been scheduled to do so, The Wall Street Journal reported that Chicago has yanked that course away from him. Tourre is a Ph.D. student at the university, and he will instead fulfill his teaching assignments with graduate courses.


March 5, 2014

Managers, chefs and other employees of the dining service at Cornell University are on special diets this week. To understand the dining needs of different groups of students, the dining officials are eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in different campus facilities, and are adhering to various diets: vegetarian, vegan, kosher, dairy-free, gluten-free and both dairy- and gluten-free. Officials want to see the challenges of adhering to different diets in various campus dining halls.

March 4, 2014

A high school senior in New Jersey is suing her parents to try to force them to commit to paying her college tuition, The Daily Record reported. The student maintains that she was kicked out of the house, while her parents say that she is welcome to live at home if she will abide by their rules. They don't like her boyfriend. The suit seeks to require the parents to treat her as dependent, even after the age of 18, and argues that it need not be the case that parents can stop supporting those who reach 18. The student has been admitted -- with some scholarship funds -- to the University of Vermont, William Paterson University, Lynn University and Wells College. But the suit says she could not enroll without parental help or significant borrowing.



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