Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 11, 2016

A large private college chain in India is expanding into the U.S., having purchased a campus in New York and proposed to buy two more, the Associated Press reported. But Amity University’s proposal to buy a for-profit art college near Boston has run into opposition from Massachusetts’s attorney general, who is asking the state’s Board of Higher Education to block the sale.

“We are very, very skeptical about this,” Attorney General Maura Healey is quoted as saying. “It's hard to imagine that this outfit from overseas, which has never done any education work here in this country, is well suited to provide any kind of education to these students.”

October 11, 2016

Microsoft's education team on Monday unveiled five massive open online courses on digital pedagogy and leadership aimed at administrators in the K-12 sector. The MOOCs, which will be offered through edX, bear Microsoft's stamp of approval but are created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan and the University of Queensland. The courses will launch in the first quarter of next year. Microsoft has over the last several weeks been active on the education front. Last month, LinkedIn -- the professional network the company acquired in 2015 -- launched its own learning platform.

October 11, 2016

Which is scarier -- zombies or college rankings?

Matthew Henry Hall's new cartoon lets you decide -- and gives you an opportunity to let your creative juices flow.

Click here to suggest a caption for this month's cartoon.

And on this page, you can vote for your favorite from among three nominated captions for last month's cartoon.

October 11, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Auriel Willette, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, says the immune system has a role to play beyond fighting off illnesses. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 10, 2016

The Washington Post article and recording of Donald Trump boasting about how he tried to have sex with women and groped them without asking is having major reverberations in the political world. And it is also prompting considerable discussion in higher education, where a major part of the campaign against sexual assault has centered on the idea that sex without consent is rape.

Laura L. Dunn, founder and executive director of SurvJustice, which promotes efforts to prevent and punish sexual assault on campus and elsewhere, said via email that the group avoids statements that could be seen as partisan. But she said that the comments from Trump in 2005 merit a response. She said that the group would comment on statements that are "antithetical" to its work, statements "such as a national figure making comments that suggest his fame entitles him to 'do anything,' to a woman such as 'grab them by the pussy.' Of further concern is his suggestion that their silence (which he knows is driven by his fame) further allows him to take such advantage. This kind of speech and mentality promotes and condones sexual aggression and male entitlement over the bodies of women."

On Saturday, Alexandra Smith, national chair of the College Republicans, announced that she would no longer support Trump.

October 10, 2016

The course material provider Rafter has shut down, according to a message on the company's website. Rafter spun off from the textbook rental company BookRenter and became an early provider of flat-fee course material services that allowed colleges to include the cost of textbooks in tuition, ensuring access to all students.

"For our small part, we sought ways to make books and other course materials -- which are essential to the learning experience and the ability to earn a college degree -- more affordable and accessible for every student," the company said in the statement. "We worked hard. We dreamed big. And we are eternally grateful for the privilege we were given to learn from and serve this market. In the end, we did not have the time or resources needed to complete what we started."

October 10, 2016

The 2016 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics was awarded this morning to Oliver Hart, the Andrew E. Furer Professor of Economics at Harvard University, and Bengt Holmström, the Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They were honored for their work on contracts. "Modern economies are held together by innumerable contracts. The new theoretical tools created by Hart and Holmström are valuable to the understanding of real-life contracts and institutions, as well as potential pitfalls in contract design," said the Nobel announcement.

The Nobel Prizes tweeted Hart's reaction this morning.

With the awards to Hart and Holmström, six professors at American universities have won Nobels this year (with the literature prize still to come later this week). All six were born outside the United States, five in Britain and one (Holmström) in Finland.

October 10, 2016

The website of New York University's business school last week accidentally posted an announcement of a press conference with Paul Romer (right) on his winning the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Bloomberg reported. One problem is that the Nobel hadn't been announced. (That happened this morning and Romer didn't win.) Romer is regularly listed among possible honorees, but NYU made clear after the release went public that it had no inside information; rather, it was just trying to be ready in case he did win.

On his blog, Romer wrote about the advance preparations from public relations people that accompany being considered a Nobel possibility. "For more that 20 years, October has been the time when the eager beavers in the university PR department get a little too excited as they drill in preparation for the possibility that I might receive a Nobel prize," he wrote. "I used to try to explain how low the odds are, but found that this was like talking to someone who has just been given a ticket for the upcoming $100 million lottery. All they can think about is how they’ll spend the money. Then I tried telling them that I’ve been through this many times and nothing happens. This does not work, either. Somehow, they convince themselves that 'this time is different.' Now I just try to be a good sport and let them have their fun."


October 10, 2016

Lisa S. Coico (right) quit as president of City College of the City University of New York on Friday, a day after The New York Times raised new questions about her personal expenses and management of federal grants, the Times reported. Coico, president since 2010, did not say why she resigned. The newspaper reported that its investigation deals in part with whether Coico's expenses were recorded properly or were postdated.

On Sunday, CUNY asked the state inspector general to conduct an investigation about whether Coico has misused funds from a foundation with ties to CUNY, The Wall Street Journal reported. A CUNY lawyer told Coico to return the funds, which she is alleged to have used on personal expenses, four years ago, but CUNY officials have now reported to the state  that they “discovered that in fact she did not return all the funds, despite her representations to the contrary.” Coico, who has denied wrongdoing, declined to comment to the Journal.


October 10, 2016

Many readers were saddened by the story last week of Sharon Gray, a plant biology postdoc at the University of California, Davis, who was killed by a stone-throwing protest (having nothing to do with her visit or work) while she was on a research trip to Ethiopia.

Her husband and other relatives have created a fund in her memory to support the mentoring of young women in science. You can find more information, and donate, here.

Her departments at both UC Davis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received her bachelor's degree and Ph.D., created photo galleries of Gray.


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