Italian authorities announced Friday that they had discovered a fake university operating in Verona, AFP reported. About 10 students were paying $9,600 for courses that they were falsely told told would be recognized elsewhere. The university was called Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne).
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Oxford has agreed to let a furniture manufacturer attach the names of various buildings and alumni to such items as bookcases, desks and sofas that it sells. The Telegraph reported that some faculty members find the money-making venture a bit tacky. Peter Oppenheimer, an emeritus professor, said: “Words fail me. It is vulgar, inappropriate and unauthorized by the university at large.... This does absolutely nothing for the university other than cheapen its image.” Perhaps those faculty members who are upset can take comfort that Oxford has yet to go as far as many American universities when it comes to where they will let their names and logos appear.
The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges last week declared a state of financial emergency, based on state budget cuts. The move authorizes any of the 34 community and technical colleges to use an expedited process for layoffs of tenured faculty members. A spokeswoman for the board stressed that the board wanted the colleges to have the option, but that this does not mean the colleges will use it. She noted that the last time the board took this action, only one college used the authority for layoffs of tenured faculty members.
A global survey of international students found that only 4 percent of them used social media in deciding to select a university outside of their home country, and only 6 percent were influenced by staff members at various campus fairs, Times Higher Education reported. The survey was conducted by i-Graduate, which conducts research and consults on international education issues. William Archer, director of i-Graduate, presented the results last week at a meeting of the European Association of International Education. He said that the findings suggest that many universities are spending too much money on social media, and in-person fairs.
Colleges and universities face major security flaws with Blackboard Learn, potentially leaving systems vulnerable to students who want to change their grades, or others seeking private information, SC Magazine reported. According to the magazine, which is based in Australia, university officials there had to threaten to issue a security alert to get Blackboard to do so.
Matthew Maurer, a spokesman for Blackboard, told Inside Higher Ed via e-mail that the article was correct that there was a security flaw, and that this problem was not unique to Australian universities. But he said that the article (which has been circulating among some American IT officials) had an "exaggerated fashion" in describing the problem. "There's not a single reported case of exposure, just the theoretical," he said. Maurer said that many of the issues were very quickly fixed, and that the company is now providing information to colleges and universities so they can see that there are not serious problems remaining.
He acknowledged that the magazine article played a role in the timing of an alert that went out last week to colleges that use Blackboard Learn. But he said that the company didn't notify everyone immediately only because the normal practice is that "we would never do so until the investigation is complete lest we spread bad information." He added: "We've had a lot of client questions in the last few days as you can imagine, but once they get their hands on the facts most have acknowledged that these are not huge issues."
Australian universities have been experiencing major security flaws with Blackboard Learn, potentially leaving systems vulnerable to students who want to change their grades, or others seeking private information, SC Magazine reported. According to the magazine, university officials in Australia had to threaten to issue a security alert to get Blackboard to do so.
The Internal Revenue Service formally declared last week that employers -- including colleges and universities -- can provide cell phones to workers for business purposes without the worker paying any tax on the benefit. The issue has been raised in IRS audits of several major universities, and colleges had been hopeful that this change was coming in the wake of a provision included in the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 last fall, which removed cell phones from the definition of listed property, a category that normally requires additional recordkeeping by taxpayers. But the IRS declaration provides a formal measure of relief to college officials.
In today’s Academic Minute, Chris Impey of the University of Arizona explores ancient light in an effort to better understand the lifecycle of supermassive black holes. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has apologized for comments he posted on a blog in May, "Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?" Times Higher Education reported that he apologized as the the London School of Economics released a critical review of the incident, finding that he had "ignored the basic responsibility of a scientific communicator to qualify claims made in proportion to the certainty of the evidence."
The U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved legislation that would slice 2.8 percent from the 2012 budget for the National Science Foundation. The measure, which allocates funds for several science-related agencies, would provide $6.7 billion for the NSF, and also include a cut for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.