Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 7, 2012

The Modern Language Association's Executive Council has approved a statement on the importance of language learning to U.S. policy. The statement calls the learning of foreign languages "vital" and goes on to explain why. "We believe this view should be uncontroversial; anyone interested in the long-term vitality and security of the United States should recognize that it will be detrimental for Americans to remain overwhelmingly monolingual and ill informed about other parts of this increasingly interdependent world," the statement says. "We are therefore deeply alarmed by the drastic and disproportionate budget cuts in recent years to programs that fund advanced language study. We believe that advanced language study is important for the same reasons many policy makers, advisers, and elected officials do: Americans need to be literate about the languages and cultures of the United States’ major trading partners, and Americans need to be literate in the so-called strategic languages important to national security."

 

June 7, 2012

The Iowa Board of Regents voted Thursday to create a committee to find ways to phase out the use of tuition revenue for student aid, The Des Moines Register reported. Colleges and universities have for generations used some tuition revenue from those who can afford it to provide scholarships to those who would be otherwise unable to enroll for financial reasons. But this year, Republicans in several states have challenged the practice, saying it creates a burden on the middle class. In Iowa, about 20 percent of tuition goes to such uses, and it is unclear how the state universities would replace those funds to preserve financial aid, which is a goal the board members said they have.

 

 

June 7, 2012

Some academics and consumer advocates are worried about a shift in support for agriculture research, the Associated Press reported. Citing data from a recent report from Food and Water Watch, the AP noted that nearly 25 percent of the funds for agriculture research now come from corporations, foundations and trade groups, an all-time high. Meanwhile, federal support has dropped to 15 percent, the lowest level in nearly two decades.

 

June 6, 2012

Barbara Walters apologized Tuesday when e-mail records revealed her efforts to help Sheherazad Jaafari, an aide to Syria's president, get a job or get into Columbia University's journalism school, The Telegraph reported. Walters got to know Jaafari when the journalist was pushing to interview Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president whose government has been holding on to power in the country with brutal crackdowns on protesters. The e-mail records indicate that Walters approached a Columbia professor, praising Jaafari, and that he then offered to help.

Richard Wald, the professor, said he would try to get the admissions office "to give her special attention." Wald told the Telegraph that Jaafari had not applied so he didn't do anything on her behalf, but he said that "I would ask the admissions office to give special attention to anyone with a recommendation from Ms. Walters or anyone else in journalism." Walters issued a statement in which she said: "In the aftermath [of the Assad interview], Ms. Jaafari returned to the U.S. and contacted me looking for a job. I told her that was a serious conflict of interest and that we would not hire her. I did offer to mention her to contacts at another media organization and in academia, though she didn't get a job or into school. In retrospect, I realize that this created a conflict and I regret that."

 

June 6, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, John Parmelee of the University of North Florida reveals how Twitter is reshaping the relationship between politicians and their constituents. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

June 6, 2012

A North Carolina appeals court has ruled that private colleges' police records are not public records. The ruling came in a case brought by a one-time student journalist who filed an open records request seeking records from Elon College about a student's arrest. The appeals court said that the private institution was not covered by the open records requirements. The Student Press Law Center criticized the ruling. Frank LoMonte, executive director of the association, said, "Getting more information about crime into the public’s hands does nothing but good. There’s no good argument why a crime that takes place in the quad of a private college should be kept secret, while the same crime would be public if it took place in the middle of a Pizza Hut."

June 6, 2012

The College Board, facing widespread criticism, on Tuesday announced that it was abandoning plans to test out an August administration of the SAT this year. Many high school students want a summer option for taking the SAT, but many college and high school officials were upset by the College Board's plan to try out the idea with a summer program of the National Society for the Gifted and Talented -- a program whose $4,500 price tag led many educators to call the pilot a "rich kids SAT."

Initially the College Board defended the idea of using that group to test an August SAT. But on Tuesday, the board issued a statement that said in part that "certain aspects" of the summer program whose participants would gain the August SAT opportunity "run counter to our mission of promoting equity and access, as well as to our beliefs about SAT performance." The statement added, however, that the organization was "still very much committed to exploring the concept of a summer administration," and would look for ways in the future to do so "in a manner that better aligns with our mission and the students we serve. Steps also are being taken internally to ensure that future initiatives receive the appropriate level of senior management review."

June 6, 2012

New York State's highest court on Tuesday ruled that Shawn Bukowski did not have the right to sue Clarkson University over injuries he suffered during a baseball practice. Bukowski was a pitcher who -- in his first "live" practice -- had a ball hit right back at him, striking his jaw and breaking a tooth. His suit argued that he was not fully introduced to the circumstances and dangers he would face in practice. But the court found otherwise. "[P]laintiff was an experienced and knowledgeable baseball player who assumed the inherent risk of being hit by a line drive," the court ruled.

June 5, 2012

Tel Aviv University announced Monday that it was canceling the reservation made for a university auditorium for a concert this month of the works of Richard Wagner, Haaretz reported. While Wagner's works are revered by many music lovers (including the Israel Wagner Society, which planned the event), playing his music is taboo in Israel, where his anti-Semitic writings and his many Nazi fans (well after his death) have made his works controversial. The university said that the auditorium was reserved without revealing the purpose, and that it was facing outrage over agreeing to the booking. Uri Chanoch, deputy chairman of the Holocaust Survivors Center, wrote to the president of the university, saying of the planned concert: "This is emotional torture for Holocaust survivors and the wider public in the state of Israel."

June 5, 2012

College and university presidents are expected to announce at the White House today a new system to promote clarity of financial aid packages, The New York Times reported. Starting in the 2013-14 academic year, students will be provided with a "shopping sheet" with easily understandable aid packages, detailing costs after grants, and estimating monthly payments on any loans. Details will be released today.

 

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