Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 23, 2012

Indiana University at South Bend has dismissed Otis B. Grant, a tenured professor, for "serious personal and professional misconduct," The South Bend Tribune reported. Grant could not be reached, but is appealing the decision. While the university did not detail the misconduct of which Grant was accused, the Tribune has previously reported on allegations that he allowed non-employees to grade some student work, canceled classes, and dismissed students from classes without due process.

February 23, 2012

Following a major e-textbook pilot last year, the California State University System announced Wednesday that it has cut a deal with Cengage Learning that could give students steep discounts on that publisher's e-textbooks. “Beginning in the fall, students will have the choice to rent digital versions of [Cengage] texts… at a cost savings of 60 percent or more compared with the cost of purchasing the same text as a new printed version,” the Cal State system office said in a release. Students who want to benefit from the discount but still prefer to read ink on paper will be allowed to print out the pages, according to the release.

Importantly to faculty groups, the university does not plan to mandate that professors adopt e-textbooks. Cengage is not requiring that California State promise a certain number of professor adoptions or student purchases as a condition of the discounts, according to Bill Rieders, executive vice president of global strategy and business development for Cengage. (Publishers, perennially undercut by a booming secondary market for used copies of their printed textbooks, have for years been pushing universities and their constituents to adopt electronic versions that cannot be resold.) For now, the 60-percent discount will only apply to e-texts — not the digital homework tools and other learning applications that Cengage and its fellow publishers see as the future of their products. The company’s hope is that the uptake of Cengage’s digital texts will happen organically as a result of lower prices and better availability, Rieders said. California State is planning a campaign to “increase awareness” of the discounted Cengage e-textbooks on its 23 campuses, according to a system spokesman. 

February 23, 2012

A draft of new regulations proposed as part of the Education Department's negotiated rule making process for teacher preparation programs would require states to report data on such programs' employment outcomes (for their newly graduated teachers) and student learning outcomes (for those teachers' students). The draft regulations, which will be discussed and modified at the rule making panel's meeting next week, also would require states to make "meaningful differentiations in teacher preparation program performance," based in large part on learning outcomes for their graduates' students. So far, the regulations leave the definition of a "high quality teacher preparation program," a key point in the panel's discussions, to individual states to determine.

February 23, 2012

WASHINGTON -- The Georgetown University law student who one week ago wasn't permitted to speak at a Congressional hearing on whether President Obama's birth control mandate violates religious liberties spoke here Wednesday night at a gathering of the American Association of University Women. In an interview before the pro-choice panel event, Sandra Fluke lamented that the student voice has been largely absent from a national debate that has tempers flaring over whether Roman Catholic and other religious institutions should be required to cover contraception in their insurance policies, including student health plans. "I think that unfortunately, some folks assume that young people's reproductive health is less important or less of a priority than other adults'," said Fluke, who chose Georgetown despite its policy, she said, because she didn't want to forgo a quality education and the other values she shares with the university. "Students have been invisible in this." About 2,000 colleges offer student health plans, and estimates of how many students are enrolled in them range from 1.1 million to 4.5 million. (The health care overhaul's effect on such plans has been controversial for other reasons as well.)

Students are also marginalized, Fluke said, because of their often precarious personal financial situations and a campus political structure that allows administrators to brush them off easily. "They know that each one of us is there for three years and they can outlast us," said Fluke, who has been lobbying her administration on this and other women's health coverage issues for as many years. "[Students] need to know that this kind of treatment on college campuses is not acceptable and they should come out fighting." Even though students are active on the issue on campuses across the country and are paying great attention to the dialogue at the federal level, she said, they're not yet organized enough to connect and advocate nationally. Panelists said students should write letters to editors and continue using social media to put pressure on legislators, particularly by posting their local representatives' contact information.

February 23, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University reveals the positive and negative side of exposure to video games. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 23, 2012

A Virginia jury on Wednesday convicted George Huguely V of second-degree murder in the death of Yeardly Love in 2010, The Washington Post reported. The case, involving lacrosse players at the University of Virginia, attracted national attention to the issue of domestic violence among college students. Huguely did not deny that he played a role in Love's death, but his lawyers had urged a conviction of manslaughter, while prosecutors sought a first-degree murder conviction.

 

February 22, 2012

The University of Utah has changed its admissions policy for older applicants -- those who have been out of high school for seven years and who have not previously enrolled in a college -- following a complaint that it violated the rights of one such individual, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The new policy specifies exactly which courses in high school applicants must have completed, earning certain minimum grades. The complaint concerned an applicant who was rejected -- without as clear a system in place -- when he mentioned having only a fourth grade reading level.

 

February 22, 2012

California's community colleges face an unexpected $149 million budget cut this year because of low property tax revenue and a "dramatic" increase in the number of students who qualify for tuition waivers, Jack Scott, chancellor of the 112-college system, said in a written statement. The shortfall, which would represent a 2.75 percent decrease in the system's overall budget, follows $502 million in previous cuts. Scott said colleges would have to cope by further reducing course offerings, borrowing more money and eliminating jobs.

The Community College League of California told the Los Angeles Times that the state typically picks up the slack when the system's tuition and tax revenue lag. But a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown's Department of Finance said the gloomy predictions were premature, according to the newspaper.

February 22, 2012

Rick Santorum last week told an audience at the Detroit Economic Club that President Obama "had a war on private education" and that his administration has unfairly attacked private-sector, or for-profit colleges, that do most of the worker training for new jobs, according to a transcript published by The Detroit Free Press. The surging Republican presidential candidate promised that his administration would have a different attitude.

"He believes that private sector schools are somehow evil and they're abusive, and his Education Department has done everything they could to make it harder for them to compete for loans and other things and to stay in business," Santorum said. "Yet they are going to be the principal tool, along with community colleges, to respond to this, what I believe will be exploding demand for skilled and semi-skilled workers to do the jobs of the future."

February 22, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Mario Macis of Johns Hopkins University examines how compensating blood donors could increase the blood supply. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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