Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 3:00am

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology told applicants whether they got in this year last Sunday, at 1:59 p.m. Why? As The Boston Globe reported, the date was 3/14 -- or Pi Day, an ideal time to learn about a future at the institute. Next year, however, with Pi Day falling on Monday, officials won't do the same thing, as they don't want students distracted during the school day.

Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 3:00am

The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations have written to Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, urging him to assure that the Office for Civil Rights protects Jewish students from harassment or intimidation based on their ethnicity or religion. OCR under the Bush administration gave conflicting signs about whether it considered that it had authority to explore such issues. A statement from the ADL said: "ADL has significant concerns about harassment and intimidation of Jewish students on college campuses – including in the context of heated debate over Israel. We believe the Department of Education should use its civil rights enforcement power to investigate and remedy serious incidents in which Jewish students are threatened, harassed, or intimidated to the point where their college experience is impaired."

Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 3:00am

In a news conference on the eve of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he would like to see teams whose graduation rates are below 40 percent banned from postseason play. Duncan issued an identical challenge in a high-profile speech at the NCAA's annual convention in January. By Duncan’s proposed standard, 12 teams with poor four-year average graduation rates would miss this year’s men’s basketball tournament: Baylor University (36 percent), Clemson University (37 percent), Georgia Institute of Technology (38 percent), New Mexico State University (36 percent), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (29 percent), University of California at Berkeley (20 percent), University of Kentucky (31 percent), University of Louisville (38 percent), University of Maryland at College Park (8 percent), University of Missouri at Columbia (36 percent), University of Tennessee at Knoxville (30 percent) and University of Washington (29 percent). These graduation rates do not punish teams for players who leave college early as long as they leave in good academic standing. Though the NCAA began banning teams from postseason play for poor academic performance for the first time just last year -- based on its system of Academic Progress Rates -- Duncan said these reforms do not go far enough. The NCAA, however, defended its method of holding teams accountable for their academic performance. “The NCAA shares Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s concern over some institutions that have low graduation rates among their basketball teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament,” Erik Christianson, NCAA spokesman, explained in a statement. "However, imposing a ban on teams for the academic performance of student-athletes who entered as freshman 8-11 years ago is probably not the best course of action. Basing post-season bans on graduation rates penalizes the wrong students."

Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 3:00am

Faculty members in Tennessee are objecting to proposed legislation that would bar them from collecting royalties on their own books, if they assign them for their courses, The Tennessean reported. The professors say that they are entitled to the compensation they earn on book sales, given the long hours involved in producing the works. But the state legislator who is pushing the bill says that such payments are "kickbacks."

Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 3:00am

Columbia University on Wednesday announced this year's winners of the Bancroft Prize, considered one of the most significant honors for historians. The winners are:

Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 3:00am

Madonna Constantine, the former faculty member at Teachers College Columbia University, has lost one of her three lawsuits against the institution, the Associated Press reported. Constantine was first in the news when she reported finding a noose outside of her door -- a noose that authorities could never trace to anyone. Then the news emerged that the noose incident took place while she was being investigated for plagiarism charges, which later resulted in her dismissal. She responded to the dismissal with three lawsuits, one of which she lost when a judge ruled that Teachers College officials acted within their authority in firing her.

Thursday, March 18, 2010 - 3:00am

Congressional Democrats and the White House reached agreement Wednesday on the higher education portion of revamped budget reconciliation legislation, the text of which is available here. The measure would provide $36 billion in new spending on Pell Grants (allowing the maximum grant to reach $5,975 by 2017 and linking increases in the grant to the inflation rate, but only from 2013 to 2017), $2.55 billion for historically black and other minority-serving institutions, and $750 million for college access completion grants. And in a turnaround from a few days ago, when it became clear that the legislation would not finance the community-college focused American Graduation Initiative, the measure would provide $2 billion for a competitive grant program for two-year community college and career training programs, aimed at supporting careers of the future. The legislation would also funnel $9 billion to help pay for the health care provisions in the overall budget legislation, and another $10 billion to reduce the deficit. A fuller report on the legislation will appear on Inside Higher Ed Friday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Interior Department issued final rules this week on an issue of concern to Native Americans, anthropologists and many campus museums: the repatriation of the remains of Native Americans that have been held by museums. Earlier rules covered situations where remains could be traced to a specific tribe, and gave tribes considerable rights to demand repatriation. The new rules require museums to reach out to those tribes whose lands are or were near the sites where certain remains were found, in cases where those remains are deemed to be from Native Americans, but where no conclusive link could be established to a given tribe. Some universities are expecting that they will now need to review considerable holdings of Native American remains, and quite likely to turn over many of these remains. A spokesman for the American Anthropological Association said that it appeared the rules were "somewhat improved" over earlier drafts, but that the organization was continuing to study the new rules.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 3:00am

College students love Wikipedia, and a study published in the journal First Monday offers details on how they use the Web encyclopedia. Among the findings of a survey at six different colleges:

  • A majority frequently used it for background information, but less often than they used course readings and Google.
  • Architecture, engineering, and science majors were more likely to use Wikipedia for course research than were those in other majors.
  • Wikipedia is generally used in combination with other information, not alone.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 3:00am

New Jersey's governor on Tuesday proposed an austere budget for higher education (and most everything else), recommending a cut of about 15 percent in operating funds and a reduction of nearly 5 percent in financial aid for students. But the most stunning aspect of the governor's 2011 budget plan for public college officials was its proposal (see page 33) to strip Thomas Edison State College of $5.6 million in state funds and merge the online education institution into Rutgers University. The governor's budget plan bills the merger as a logical way to bring Rutgers's brand of classroom-based learning to Trenton, which is home to Thomas Edison, while "leveraging the two institutions' distance learning programming." Under the merger, Rutgers would also take over the State Museum and Library that Thomas Edison now oversees, for a total savings of $8.4 million. Public college officials, though, note that Trenton already has a classroom-based public institution, the College of New Jersey, and that enormous, research-oriented Rutgers would make an unlikely and discordant overseer of Thomas Edison's unusual brand of personalized education for adult students and overseas military personnel. Thomas Edison officials reportedly did not learn about the proposed merger until early Tuesday, and could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

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