Boston-area colleges -- normally reluctant to declare snow days -- had no choice this year. Now they are figuring out how to make up all the missed time. WBUR reported on some of the strategies: Saturday sessions, online classes and extra material in each class.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Scholars in Hong Kong are concerned that the Chinese government is attacking their academic freedom in the aftermath of last year’s pro-democracy protests, The Washington Post reported. Concerned that the Chinese government is attempting to rein in critics, hundreds of academics have signed a petition raising concerns about “political intervention” in Hong Kong universities.
On the latest "This Week," Inside Higher Ed's free news podcast, Pima Community College's Lee D. Lambert and Stephen Katsinas of the University of Alabama join Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik and the moderator, Casey Green, to analyze Arizona's decision to end state funding for Pima and the Maricopa County Community College districts. In the other segment, Daniel Greenstein of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Claremont Graduate University's Scott Thomas discuss the major foundation's new higher education strategy. Sign up here to be notified of new "This Week" podcasts.
Many colleges are adding shooting teams, either for intercollegiate or club competitions, The Washington Post reported. Much of the money for these new teams comes from gun industry-supported groups, such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has awarded more than $1 million in grants since 2009, contributing to the launch of about 80 programs.
The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University -- two top institutions in Japan -- are making a major shift in admissions policies, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported. Traditionally admissions have been based solely on entrance exam scores and essays designed to test intelligence. But now each high school will be permitted to recommend one male and one female student, based on qualities that might not be apparent in the traditional system.
The nonprofit research organization Ithaka S+R is back with another look at the many studies that compare student outcomes from face-to-face and online or hybrid courses, and once again, the results show "no significant differences" between the two modes of delivery. Questions about the studies' methodology also remain. D. Derek Wu, an analyst at Ithaka, also noted that the "majority of studies still fall short in their efforts to fill in the gaps left by the prior literature -- particularly those related to the cost implications of online and hybrid delivery formats."
This year, Ithaka looked at 12 studies conducted in 2013 and 2014, but Wu found that many of them "are vulnerable to methodological limitations that endanger the robustness of their results." Wu suggested future research should focus on four areas: cost implications, individual features' impact on outcomes, online upper-level and humanities courses, and long-term results such as graduation and retention rates. Ithaka first began to track studies on student outcomes by delivery in 2012.
The push by some student government members at the University of California at Irvine to ban the U.S. flag from the student government office areas -- though unsuccessful -- has attracted widespread criticism. Many have noted that the flag symbolizes American ideas of equality and freedom of expression, and have objected to the views of those student government members that the flag is a sign of imperialism and hate. But much of the criticism of the students has also been of the "America -- love it or leave it" variety, and the students behind the measure have received rude e-mail and threats.
In response, some faculty members are circulating a petition expressing support for the students. "We write to support the six members who offered the resolution to remove national flags from the ASUCI lobby," the petition states. "The university ought to respect their political position and meet its obligation to protect and promote their safety. The resolution recognized that nationalism, including U.S. nationalism, often contributes to racism and xenophobia, and that the paraphernalia of nationalism is in fact often used to intimidate. This is a more or less uncontroversial scholarly point, and in practice the resolution has drawn admiration nationally from much of the academic community."
The petition goes on to say that the criticism of the students backs up their point. "Over the weekend, UCI has been inundated with racist, xenophobic comments and death threats against the students from people who are, precisely, invested in the paraphernalia of nationalism," the petition adds.
The Los Angeles Times reported that some faculty members and students think the administration at Irvine was too involved in the debate, speaking out repeatedly against the anti-flag resolution before the student government process had time to play itself out.
Howard Gillman, the Irvine chancellor, has updated a statement he issued on the flag controversy. In his statement, he criticized the idea of banning the flag from any part of campus and said that some students sometimes embrace ideas that are "unconventional and even outrageous."
In the update, he criticizes the threats against these students. "Regardless of your opinion on the display of the American flag, we must be united in protecting the people who make this university a premier institution of higher learning," he said. "Our campus must be a place for safe and civil discourse. We continue to call on everyone to condemn all harassment and threats of violence."
Federal immigration agents have indicted three individuals in connection to an investigation into a network of four schools in the Los Angeles area accused of admitting foreign nationals who were not bona fide students and never had any intention of taking classes. The four schools involved in the alleged "pay-to-stay" (in the U.S.) scam -- Prodee University/Neo-America Language School, Walter Jay M.D. Institute, An Educational Center and the American College of Forensic Studies, all located in Los Angeles's Koreatown, and Likie Fashion and Technology College, located in Alhambra, Calif. -- took in an estimated $6 million per year in fraudulent tuition payments. The owner of the schools, Hee Sun Shim, and two others who assisted in their management, Hyung Chan Moon and Eun Young Choi, have been charged with conspiring to commit immigration fraud and the use or possession of an immigration document procured by fraud. Shim also faces charges of money laundering.
Faculty members at Northwestern Michigan College voted 65 to 16 to form a union affiliated with the National Education Association, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. The new bargaining unit includes 90 full-time and part-time faculty members who are not supervisors. The college said in a statement that it “will begin negotiations with the [union] for an agreement that will cover wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.”