Higher Education Quick Takes
The Middle East Studies Association has written a letter to the Ministry of Justice in Bahrain to object to the treatment of students and faculty members in the country. The letter details the arrests of numerous students on "ambiguous" charges, as well as arrests and suspensions of professors at the University of Bahrain. "The appalling maltreatment of these university personnel is part of what we are forced to conclude has been an orchestrated campaign of assaults upon academic freedom," the letter says. Bahrain's embassy in the United States did not respond to a request for comment.
The Canadian government has slashed funds that have supported Canadian studies programs in the United States, The Vancouver Observer reported. "This is the first year in history that the government has denied funding dozens of grant applications from across the U.S.," said Nadine Fabbi, associate director of Canadian studies at the University of Washington. "These grants have significantly strengthened Canada's voice in the U.S. on issues that range from the Keystone XL pipeline to water resources to Arctic sovereignty."
The former student editors of the University of Missouri at Columbia newspaper had faced campus discipline because their April 1 parody edition included a slur against lesbians, the Student Press Law Center reported, before the university canceled those hearings. The managing editor, Abby Spudich, resigned this week after apologizing for jokingly retitling The Maneater as The Carpeteater. She said she didn't know that was an offensive phrase for lesbians. The editor in chief, Travis Cornejo, resigned shortly after that.
That seemed to be the end of it until Missouri's Office of Student Conduct contacted both former editors to schedule disciplinary hearings. The Maneater is an independent student publication. It wasn't immediately clear what university policy Spudich and Cornejo were accused of breaking. Students convicted of violating the university's standards of conduct can be suspended or expelled. The Student Press Law Center called on Missouri to drop the hearings, saying the language in the newspaper is protected by the First Amendment even if it was offensive. University officials didn't say why they canceled the disciplinary hearing.
StraighterLine today announced that it is building a "next generation market" for its low-price online offerings, according to a news release. Burck Smith, the founder and CEO, said via e-mail that the new platform would allow students to "build their own course pathways by choosing different elements at varying prices." That could mean choosing between self-paced or professor-led courses, whether or not to use tutoring services or, in the future, selecting courses from other content providers, potentially even other colleges, Smith said.
For now, StraighterLine is adding nine new courses to its 38 self-paced, general education offerings. The provider also said it had received $10 million in private financing to help build the new platform. StraighterLine's courses cost $99 a month, and the American Council of Education recommends that other institutions recognize StraighterLine credits.
As expected, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday that Baylor University, newly crowned Division I women’s basketball champion, has been cited for violating recruiting rules. News leaked Monday that the men’s and women’s basketball programs sent about 750 impermissible recruiting text messages and made more than 500 impermissible phone calls to students they were courting. But the men’s coaches were also found to have lied during the investigation and impermissibly used talent scouts at basketball clinics, and the women’s program employed prospects at university camps and made impermissible inducements and contacts with two recruits.
The violations occurred over a four-year span, the NCAA said, and their frequency and longevity led the association to slap Baylor and its men’s basketball coach with serious “failure to monitor” charges. The coach, Scott Drew, has been suspended for next year’s first two conference games and is under telephone call recruiting restrictions, while the women’s coach, Kim Mulkey, may not participate in off-campus recruiting this summer. Assistant coaches face additional penalties. Under sanctions self-imposed by Baylor, men’s basketball will get one fewer scholarship next year and the women’s team will get two fewer. The NCAA placed Baylor on three years’ probation. See the full public infractions report here.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is working to create greater awareness among borrowers about student debt, has launched an early version of a financial aid comparison tool that lets students compare the cost of a certificate, associate degree or bachelor's degree at up to three institutions. The results are based on average grants per student and assume the student will borrow the remainder of the sticker price, leading to high total debt loads and monthly payments. They also include an option for veterans looking to attend college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
A man from New York State was arrested Wednesday and charged with making e-mail threats to current and retired University of Pittsburgh professors, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The arrest comes as students and employees at Pitt are dealing with more than two dozen recent bomb threats at buildings there. According to a police report, the man who was arrested said that he has met the person behind the threats.
The State University of New York at Binghamton on Wednesday ordered a halt to all pledging activities of fraternities and sororities, The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported. The university said it was acting because of "an alarmingly high number of serious hazing complaints." Officials did not offer details on these complaints.
Nine people in China are on trial for selling fake degrees to universities in the United States, China Daily reported. The charges state that those on trail sold more than 30 people fake degrees, for a total of 3.4 million yuan ($540,000). The alleged victims include senior executives of some businesses.