Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 9, 2012

A government report suggests that many Indian universities have enough room on their campuses to double enrollments in the next five years, Mint reported. "The 43 central universities, except a few like Delhi University, are functioning with disproportionately low student enrollment compared to the campus area," the report said. "A 100 percent increase in intake is feasible in 30 of these university campuses." The report suggests that a new measure of university efficiency be students-per-acre of campus.

Deepak Pental, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi, called the proposal "ridiculous," adding that "authorities should not equate number with quality, though we understand that a service economy needs to get enough human capital to sustain the growth rate."

April 9, 2012

Gay students and gay issues have become unusually visible at Brigham Young University, an institutions that bars students from sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that gay students last week released a video in the "It Gets Better" series talking about being gay at the university. Also last week, estimates are that up to 600 students attended a meeting in a room with seating for 260 to hear four students talk about balancing their gay identities with life at the university, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We’re trying to live it and create new spaces for us to be gay and Mormon and be active in the church," said Adam White, who was on the the panel and appeared in the YouTube video. The university says that gay students do not face punishments from the university as long as they don't have physical intimacy with members of the same sex.

 

 

April 9, 2012

A lengthy Bloomberg article outlines a series of incidents that have alarmed security officials and some university leaders who fear that some countries are attempting to use American universities' foreign connections for the purpose of spying. The article notes numerous incidents, including an American researcher who was invited to give a talk abroad. Then someone there asked for a copy of her paper, inserted a thumb drive into her laptop, and downloaded every document she had. In another instance, Michigan State University was approached by a Dubai-based company about providing funds and students for the university's Dubai campus, which was struggling financially. Lou Anna K. Simon, president at Michigan State, contacted the Central Intelligence Agency because she was afraid the company might be a front for Iran. When the CIA couldn't confirm the company's legitimacy, Simon passed on the deal and shut down the Dubai campus.

The article also quoted from a 2011 Pentagon report that said that attempts by East Asian countries to obtain classified or proprietary information through "academic solicitation" (requesting to see academic papers or discuss work with professors), jumped eightfold in 2010.

 
April 9, 2012

The University of Oregon has filed objections to a proposed union of faculty members organized jointly by the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers. Potentially the most significant challenge is to the idea of having in the same bargaining unit tenure-track faculty members, adjuncts, postdocs and others. The university filing with the state labor board states that there is not "a sufficient community of interest" in these various groups. Union organizers criticized the university's action. "The university administration appears to be headed down a long and contentious path of using every legal mechanism and a lot of public money to deny us the basic right to decide our union future for ourselves,” said Michael Dreiling, associate professor of sociology.

April 9, 2012

Old Dominion University has ended a policy adopted in 1977 that students had to pass a writing examination to graduate, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The university came to the conclusion that the test wasn't working. The percentage of students who failed the first time they took the test (they were allowed to retake it) stayed the same, at about 25 percent. And professors continued to complain about poor student writing skills. University officials said they were now focusing on embedding writing requirements within the curriculum, an approach they believe may have more impact than a single three-hour test.

April 9, 2012

The Record has exposed more cases of New Jersey colleges reporting incomplete information on SAT scores to U.S. News & World Report to inflate rankings. Ramapo College has been excluding about 22 percent of its new students (generally the most disadvantaged students) when reporting average SAT scores to U.S. News & World Report. As a result, the SAT average reported by Ramapo was more than 50 points higher than it should have been. New Jersey City University has also been inflating its SAT scores, the Record reported. Ramapo, shortly after the article was published Friday, said it would start reporting the averages for all students. New Jersey City University officials said that they were unaware of the practice.

 

 

April 9, 2012

What's so funny about a 68-year-old classics and religious studies professor -- decked out in a blue flannel shirt, navy dress pants pulled up to a generous height and sporty black shoes -- cruising around campus on a skateboard? Tom Winter still isn't sure, but the University of Nebraska at Lincoln instructor is playing along now that a photo of him riding an Arbor Pocket Rocket skateboard has gone viral, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The picture, apparently taken by a Nebraska student, was the most-viewed item on Reddit.com one day last week and has been the subject of dozens of mock captions on Imgur.com.

Winter, who rides his bike to work every day, opts for a skateboard when he moves around campus. "I'm 19, but my joints are all of 68 years old," he told the Journal Star. "Sometimes, walking is simply unpleasant."

Imgur caption writers wrote "He has a Ph.D. in epicness" and "Tony Hawk in his senior years." Others were less kind: "Suddenly, broken hip," reads one comment. Sights of Winter weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic as his gray hair and decorative ties flap in the wind have long made him a cult celebrity in Lincoln. But the former roller skating champion who has spent more than 40 years on the Nebraska faculty seems to be taking his newfound global fame in stride.

"It's a pretty good photo," he told the Lincoln newspaper.

 

April 6, 2012

Chicago State University has told its faculty members that they can't talk to the press without permission from university officials, and that permission may be required for various other forms of communication, including writing opinion pieces and using social media, The Chicago Tribune reported. An e-mail message Sabrina Land, the university's director of marketing and communications, sent to faculty members said that the new rules would assure that communications were "strategically deployed" in a way that "safeguards the reputation, work product and ultimately, the students" of the university. Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors, told the Tribune that the new policy "is an obscenity and absurdity and is not tolerable."

 

April 6, 2012

The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team will have to sit out the 2012-13 postseason, after it failed in its final effort to appeal a National Collegiate Athletic Association decision that banned the team from the tournament because of poor academic performance. The team is ineligible because it didn’t reach the (newly raised) minimum NCAA Academic Progress Rate of 930, which would indicate that half its players were on track to graduate. That measurement is a cumulative one, meaning the APR that got Connecticut banned from the 2013 tournament actually reflects the academic performance of players on the team from 2007-11. Connecticut appealed to an NCAA committee after its initial request for a waiver was denied in February.

The university issued a statement Thursday pointing to the improved academic performance of its past two men’s basketball teams. “It is disturbing that our current players must pay a penalty for the academic performance of students no longer enrolled,” Connecticut President Susan Herbst said in the statement. “As I have said repeatedly, no educator or parent purposefully punishes young people for the failings of others.”

This is the first year the NCAA has issued postseason bans for poor APR scores. The new rule is part of a series of Division I reform efforts that NCAA President Mark Emmert pushed through in October.

April 6, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut explains the biochemistry of highly targeted chemotherapy drugs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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