Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California at Berkeley, barred by the state from considering race in admissions, is today announcing a major, privately supported effort to create an inclusive curriculum and campus. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a $16 million gift -- which could grow considerably with matching funds -- will pay for a variety of efforts. Among them: five endowed chairs, including one on disability and one on gay rights; funds to revise 30 courses to emphasize community and public service; and scholarships for transfer students from community colleges, who are more likely to be black, Latino or from low-income families than are students who enroll as freshmen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

High schools in eight states have agreed to participate in a project aimed at using a system of "board examinations" to get high achieving students to do college-level work as early as 10th grade, the National Center for Education and the Economy announced Wednesday. Under the plan, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, high schools in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont will give volunteering students one of a series of exams (such as ACT’s QualityCore, the College Board’s Advanced Placement exam, or Pearson/Edexcel’s IGCSE and A-level programs) near the end of 10th grade, and those who pass will earn a high school diploma and the chance (if they choose) to enroll in any open admissions college in their state the following fall. Students can also opt to stay in high school and take courses designed to prepare them for admission to a selective college. Students who fail the exam will be prepped to help them pass it the next time they take it. “By introducing these Board Examination Systems in pilot high schools in these states as early as the 2011-2012 school year, we will begin a process that will ultimately prepare dramatically more students for college success and greatly reduce the high number of students who now take remedial courses in college,” said Marc Tucker, president of the national center.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

A committee studying enrollment strategy at the University of Texas at Austin has recommended that undergraduates be required to finish their degrees in 10 semesters, the Associated Press reported. The current average length of time is 8.5 semesters. Students enrolled in programs for which the expected completion time is longer than 8 semesters would be exempt, and appeals could be filed for special circumstances. The rationale for the proposal is that the university can't meet demand for space if too many students take too long to graduate.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

Taking a page from President Obama's recent criticism of Wall Street bankers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sharpened his rhetoric about the student loan industry in urging Congress to pass an overhaul of federal student aid programs during a telephone news conference with reporters Tuesday. Student loan providers "had a free ride from taxpayers for too long," Duncan said, calling for passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act that has passed the House and has been stalled for months behind health care legislation in the Senate. "It's a simple choice: subsidize banks or invest in children," Duncan said of the legislation, which would stop the origination of loans by banks and compel all colleges to participate in the department-run direct loan program. The administration would use savings from the change, which were originally estimated at $87 billion but have arguably shrunk since then, to increase Pell Grants, buttress community colleges, and invest in early childhood education, among other things. Lenders have challenged many aspects of the president's plan and have been working hard to win over enough Democratic senators to threaten passage of the legislation and build support for an alternative.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

George Washington University accidentally sent about 200 applicants it was rejecting an e-mail congratulating them and welcoming them to the institution, The Washington Post reported. The university followed up a few hours later with an explanation, no doubt disappointing the early decision applicants, for whom GW was their first choice college.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:00am

Historians -- some with ties to the Kennedy family and some who have studied the family -- have created a Web site to denounce the History Channel for a forthcoming mini-series that they say is full of distortions. The site features a petition that says: "The script for the upcoming 'The Kennedys' miniseries on The History Channel is right-wing character assassination, not 'history.' Until The History Channel stops running politically motivated fiction as historical 'fact,' I will refuse to watch their programming." Steve Kronish, the primary writer for "The Kennedys" and a co-executive producer of "24," told The Huffington Post that the script that led the historians to organize was still evolving. "My feeling is, if you want to take the position that we are doing a hatchet job on the Kennedys why don't you wait until we show it," Kronish said. "Then you can decide if we have been salacious or unfair... that is the time to make the criticism. Not when we are in the very beginning stages of this project."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:00am

Faculty members at the University of Alberta agreed to accept six furlough days in return for more access to information about university finances, The Edmonton Journal reported. Under the agreement, a new committee -- with equal representation of administrators and professors -- will review finances (including data previously unavailable to faculty members). Walter Dixon, president of the faculty association, told the Journal that the arrangement was "not a matter of having any sort of veto power,” but about the “ability to report on those activities and comment on them publicly. If we think it’s the wrong decision, we can actually say so before that decision is made so that there may be some sober second thought.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:00am

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday accused a former researcher at the State University of New York at Buffalo of attempting to defraud the state by allegedly deceiving investigators in a misconduct case against him several years ago. According to the broad series of felony charges that Cuomo's office laid out against William Fals-Stewart, the researcher was accused in 2004 of scientific misconduct for falsifying data in federally funded studies. He was cleared during that inquiry, and promptly sued the state and SUNY for $4 million in damages, according to Cuomo's account. But in the process of defending itself against Fals-Stewart's accusations, Cuomo alleged, the attorney general's office found evidence that Fals-Stewart had arranged for actors to pose as three witnesses, providing false testimony, during the investigation into his misconduct. The researcher allegedly told the actors that they were participating in a mock trial training exercise. Fals-Stewart, who worked at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions, was charged with attempted grand larceny, perjury and identity theft, among other things. He could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:00am

Many University of California at San Diego students are outraged over a "Compton Cookout" party held by fraternity members to mock Black History Month, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Attendees were encouraged to wear chains and cheap clothing. A guide for women attending the event said: "For those of you who are unfamiliar with ghetto chicks — Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal jury ordered the University of Oregon to pay Paula Rogers $164,000 after finding that she was a victim of adverse treatment and a hostile work environment in the East Asian languages and literatures department because she is half-Japanese and not entirely Japanese, The Eugene Register-Guard reported. The university declined to comment on the verdict. Since her contract was not renewed, Rogers has taught in Taiwan, resulting in an extremely long-distance marriage with her husband, who teaches at Oregon.

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