Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department has told state officials in California that the federal government will terminate its agreement with EdFund, the state agency that guarantees federal student aid, and replace it with another entity, the Sacramento Bee reported. The department's decision could threaten Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to sell the troubled agency, which has been in turmoil for years.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has revived concerns at the University of California at Berkeley over the institution's ties to BP. The oil company gave the university $500 million for energy research in 2007 -- and many faculty members questioned the deal at the time. On Friday, a rally at Berkeley drew attention to the deal in light of recent events, with those at the rally saying it was time to revisit the university's ties to BP, the Associated Press reported. But Berkeley officials said that now isn't the time to walk away from the research. "The horrible events in the Gulf should only strengthen our commitment to find alternatives to fossil fuels," Graham Fleming, vice chancellor of research, told the AP. "Why would anyone's interest be served by stopping this research?"

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The long-awaited rankings of doctoral programs by the National Research Council -- years behind schedule and with an evolving methodology -- aren't coming this month, but are apparently due soon. NRC officials have been declining to give public indications of when the rankings will be released, but the Web site for the project posted a notice last week that indicated some campus officials were asking about the timing of August vacations in light of the potential release of the project. According to the notice, the rankings won't come out in August, but universities should find out in August when they will receive the data and when the public will receive the data -- at a later point also not in August.

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

The AAUW (formerly the American Association of University Women) has awarded $11,500 to the Women’s Law Project in support of a key gender equity lawsuit against Delaware State University. The suit was filed by members of the women’s equestrian team who argue that the institution violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by cutting their team and replacing it with a competitive cheerleading team. The circumstances of the suit closely resemble those of a recently-decided suit against Quinnipiac University. In that case, a federal judge determined that the university had violated Title IX by cutting its women’s volleyball team and replacing it with competitive cheerleading, an activity the judge determined cannot be counted as a sport to determine gender equity compliance.

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

As Facebook has faced one criticism after another for the last year over its various privacy failings, many educators have worried that students were oblivious to the need to keep private some of the information they post about themselves. New research in the journal First Monday, however, suggests students may be more aware of privacy issues than they are given credit for. The research followed college students during 2009 and 2010 and found that as news spread of Facebook's privacy issues, more students started to modify their privacy settings, suggesting both awareness of the public debate and concern about its ramifications.

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

The Educational Testing Service has announced that it is resuming registrations in Iran for the Test of English as a Foreign Language and the Graduate Record Examination. New United Nations sanctions against Iran led ETS to cut off registrations as the testing service could not process funds coming from the country. Now, ETS has a new arrangement in place to process credit and debit cards in Iran in ways that do not violate U.S. enforcement of the sanctions.

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

Even though women now make up half of medical school enrollments, they lag in assuming leadership roles in the classroom -- but that need not be the case, according to new research led by Nancy Wayne, a professor of physiology at the University of California at Los Angeles. For the research -- results of which are appearing in the August issue of Academic Medicine -- Wayne tracked the roles of men and women in small group discussions in medical school courses requiring such discussions and presentations by team leaders. Leaving the roles to volunteers, she found, very few women assume leadership positions. But when a brief pep talk is given to students about the importance of trying out leadership roles in small groups, she found, women are significantly more likely to go for the leadership position.

Wayne said the finding is important because the medical school curriculum is shifting away from lectures toward more group work, and also because many people assume that once women achieve a critical mass in enrollments, no further issues related to gender will need addressing. "People assume that if you have parity in the numbers of men and women training to become physicians, then everything else will fall into place," said Wayne. "Surprisingly, we found that wasn't the case."

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted to pass along the 2011 budget bill that includes Education Department appropriations with no changes to the higher education provisions approved Tuesday by a subcommittee. As it stands, the bill keeps funding unchanged from 2010 levels for most financial aid and access programs, and boosts the National Institutes of Health's budget by $1 billion, to $32 billion. Also unchanged from the subcommittee bill is the absence of funding to make up for the $5.7 billion Pell Grant shortfall. The House of Representatives' appropriations bill included that money, but the Senate committee's Democratic members said that a means for addressing it would have to wait until it goes before the full Senate this fall, or when it is combined with the House measure in conference.

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

Students at the Calcutta campus of Aliah University, a Muslim institution, have barred a female instructor from teaching without wearing a full burqa, the Associated Press reported. University officials deny that they enforce a dress code, but report that they have asked the instructor to consider teaching at another campus. Sirin Middya, the instructor, said that she is a devout Muslim. "I don't have a problem wearing the burqa, but when I wear it, it will be of my own free will," she said.

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

Chicago City Colleges could see a series of reforms -- and also 225 layoffs of non-instructional employees -- under a budget announced Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. To save money, the two-year college system is eliminating positions, and centralizing many administrative functions at its seven campuses. With those savings and increased tuition revenue (due to enrollment increases), a series of enhancements are planned. More funds will be provided for technology and job training, with an emphasis on matching job training with actual jobs.

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