The national leadership of the Kappa Alpha Order has banned members from wearing Confederate uniforms to "Old South" parties that have been a tradition for many chapters, the Associated Press reported. At some campuses, the parties and uniforms have been seen as racially insensitive. A statement from the executive director announcing the rule said: "In today's climate, the order can ill afford to offend our host institutions and fend off significant negative national press and remain effective at our core mission, which is to aid young men in becoming better community leaders and citizens."
Higher Education Quick Takes
California needs to revise its famous master plan for higher education by admitting many more students to universities, according to a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California. The report argues that the relatively small percentages of students the plan envisions receiving a bachelor's degree are insufficient in today's economy. The analysis calls for the University of California to serve the top 15 percent of the state’s high school students (compared to today's goal of the top 12.5 percent) and for the California State University campuses to serve the top 40 percent (as opposed to the top 33 percent today). The report also calls for stricter rules to assure smooth transfers from the state's community colleges to its universities.
The University of Oregon has "reassigned" its general counsel to teach at the law school, The Eugene Register-Guard reported. University officials aren't commenting on the reasons behind the switch, but it follows a controversy over the departure package negotiated by the university with its athletic director.
Faculty members at Columbus State University have voted no confidence in President Tim Mescon and Provost Inessa Levi, by wide margins, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported. Faculty members cited a number of grievances, including tenure decisions and shifts in library oversight, and administrators have pulled back on some of the decisions that angered professors.
Kathryn A. Martin, chancellor of the University of Minnesota at Duluth, on Thursday denounced as “horrendous and despicable” a Facebook discussion among two white female students that was read by many students at the institution, The Duluth News Tribune reported. The discussion, on the students' Facebook pages, took place as a black student entered a study lounge where the white students were working (and chatting on Facebook). Among the comments, according to several news accounts: “ew-w-w a obabacare is in the room, i feel dirty, and unsafe. ... keep a eye on all of your valuables and don't make direct eye contact.” After the comments spread, they became the topic of widespread discussion on the campus and a university investigation.
Robert J. Sternberg, a prominent psychologist who has pioneered alternative approaches to college admissions, has been named the next provost of Oklahoma State University. Sternberg spent most of his academic career at Yale University and since 2005 has been dean of arts and sciences at Tufts University. In an e-mail interview, Sternberg said that many have been surprised by his decision to move to Oklahoma State, but that he had decided he wanted to work in public higher education. (He pulled out of being the sole finalist for the position of provost of the University of Colorado at Boulder to accept the Oklahoma State job.)
Access is the key issue facing higher education today, Sternberg said, and he worries that elite private higher education -- though doing a great job in many respects -- may not be where the action is. "I think that our society has a real problem but does not recognize it -- that its obsessive preoccupation with test scores has sowed the seeds of its own destruction. We need to be concentrating on developing wise and ethical leaders -- instead we are developing people who are consummate multiple-choice test-takers who do not necessarily have the wisdom to lead," he said.
"This is not to dump on the elite schools -- they are doing the job they believe they should do," he said. "But is it the right job? Society as a whole has, I think, drifted in the wrong direction. I believe that the state schools, with their emphasis on service and 'giving back,' represent a crucial direction for this country. We need to emphasize wisdom and giving back, not just narrow academic intelligence and how to use it to take more. Oklahoma State, I found, had the same core values I do."
American college students -- cut off from social media for 24 hours -- use the same words to describe their feelings as as associated with those addicted to drugs or alcohol, according to a new study by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, at the University of Maryland at College Park. In the study, 200 Maryland students were asked to abstain from using social media for 24 hours and then to write their feelings. The words frequently used: in withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, extremely antsy, miserable, jittery and crazy.
Susan D. Moeller, a journalism professor at Maryland and the director of the center that conducted the study, said that students see social media as key to their relationships with others. She said that researchers "noticed that what they wrote at length about was how they hated losing their personal connections. Going without media meant, in their world, going without their friends and family."
The new union for non-tenure-track faculty members at Western Michigan University has negotiated a first contract with the university. The union, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, hasn't released details of the contract yet. A statement from Karl Schrock, the president of the union, said: "We are pleased with the improvements to our working conditions that will occur as a result of this first contract. At a time when other state employees have experienced wage reductions, reduced security and take-backs, we have been able to secure modest gains on all fronts."
The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday announced an agreement with Troy University that resolved a complaint that the institution had violated federal law by terminating Cleopatra Jones from a position in human resources while she was on military leave, and then failing to give her a position upon the conclusion of her military service. The university has agreed to pay Jones $36,960 and to take steps to avoid future violations of laws regarding the employment rights of those in the military.
The Michigan Senate on Wednesday passed legislation to regulate stem cell research, barring the sale or purchase of human eggs and requiring universities to file annual reports on how many embryos they are using, The Detroit News reported. University officials in the state opposed the measures -- backed by anti-abortion politicians who oppose stem cell research -- saying that they would needlessly complicate doing research that is regulated by federal agencies and that has great potential for yielding medical breakthroughs.