Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 30, 2012

Bassel Al Shahade, who was a Fulbright Scholar from Syria pursuing an M.F.A. at Syracuse University, was killed Monday in Homs, Syria, the site of government assaults on protesters and civilians. He was killed while filming the attacks by government security forces. "This is a terrible tragedy for Bassel’s family and friends in Syria and for all his fellow students, faculty and friends here in Syracuse who knew him. His death is also a tragedy for the Syrian people, who have suffered many months of tragic violence as they seek greater freedom for their nation," said a statement from Nancy Cantor, the chancellor at Syracuse. "As a university community, we must deplore the senseless violence by Syrian government forces that took the life of Bassel, and countless others over these many months."

May 30, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, David Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University examines the role methane may have played in warming the Earth during the time of the dinosaurs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

May 30, 2012

High schoolers who make overnight visits to colleges they are considering are engaging in potentially dangerous or illegal behavior, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Center for Adolescent Research and Education at Susquehanna University and the group Students Against Destructive Decisions. A survey of more than 1,000 teens who said they had been on an overnight college visit found that:

  • 16 percent reported drinking alcohol on the visit.
  • 17 percent had sex or engaged in "intimate sexual behavior" during the trip.
  • 5 percent reported using drugs other than alcohol.
  • 2 percent drove while impaired.
May 30, 2012

Faculty members at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are debating whether too many students are earning A grades, The Star Tribune reported. One proposal under consideration is that transcripts should indicate the share of each class receiving a particular grade, so that an A might have less value in courses in where many such grades are awarded.

 

May 30, 2012

Pericles Lewis has been named the inaugural president of the Yale-NUS College, a new institution jointly created by Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Lewis is a Yale professor whose work focuses on British and European literature who has been involved in designing the academic programs of the new college.

 

May 30, 2012

The U.S. Education Department's top-ranking postsecondary education official is heading back to campus.

Eduardo M. Ochoa, assistant secretary for postsecondary education, will leave the Obama administration to become interim president of California State University at Monterey Bay, the Cal State system announced Tuesday. Ochoa, who had been provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma State University before President Obama nominated him for the Education Department job two years ago, will succeed Monterey Bay's current president, Dianne Harrison, who has been named to lead California State University Northridge.

Ochoa is the second member of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's higher education political team to leave the administration leading up to the 2012 election, following James Kvaal's decision last fall to join Obama's campaign staff. Political appointees are typically discouraged from leaving in an election year, for fear of signaling lack of confidence in the incumbent's prospects. As assistant secretary, Ochoa has had a typically broad portfolio as assistant secretary, helping carry out (and defend) the administration's gainful employment and other program integrity rules, encouraging the collection of better data about higher education performance and productivity, and urging college leaders to bring their spending and prices under control.

 

 

May 30, 2012

Attorneys general in more than 20 states sent a letter Tuesday urging Congressional leaders to tighten federal rules in ways that could limit the ability of some for-profit colleges to enroll military service members and veterans using government aid. The letter, signed by 21 attorneys general and one state consumer protection official, calls on Congress to enact legislation that would count military and veterans' education aid along with Education Department student grants for the purposes of a federal rule that requires for-profit colleges to derive at least 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than federal aid. Right now military and veterans' educational aid is excluded from that total. Changes in the rule are unlikely given the current makeup of Congress.

May 29, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Brick Johnstone of the University of Missouri explains efforts to pinpoint the location of the religious experience through brain imaging. In Monday's Academic Minute, Bridget Chesterton of the State University of New York College at Buffalo discussed the common experience of European immigration to the Americas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 29, 2012

The University of Michigan is seeking to join a federal suit challenging a new Michigan law that bars graduate research assistants from unionizing, The Detroit Free Press reported. The move to join the suit is somewhat unusual in that Michigan's senior administrators have spoken out against the unionization of research assistants during a recent organizing drive at the university. The administrators maintain that the graduate students who work as research assistants should be seen as students, not employees. And that was the same rationale cited by Republican legislators who pushed the new law. But the University of Michigan Board of Regents is controlled by Democrats, who back union rights for the graduate students, and who opted to have the university join the suit.

 

May 29, 2012

A new website called Not in My Country has been created to allow for reports of corruption, harassment or incompetence at universities in Uganda, The Wall Street Journal reported. The idea behind the website -- which also includes faculty ratings similar to RateMyProfessor.com in the United States -- is that a system for anonymous reporting is badly needed for higher education in the country.

 

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