Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Pacific Union College students continue to protest the rumored possible termination of a tenured professor of psychology over his decision to invite an atheist and well-known critic of the Seventh-day Adventist church, with which the college is affiliated, to campus to speak. About 60 students marched across campus and several hundred attended a town hall about the matter last week, the St. Helena Star reported. Others have been active on social media over concerns that the professor, Aubyn Fulton, may be fired for asking Ryan Bell -- a former Seventh-day Adventist turned atheist who is critical of the church's position on such issues as gay rights -- to address a class he was teaching in the fall. The talk never happened, as Heather Knight, college president, canceled the event days prior, according to the Star. But Fulton wrote recently on his Facebook page that he would be fired at the end of the spring quarter for his role in the matter.

Fulton, who has previously clashed with administrators over comments about homosexuality, according to the Star, declined comment. Knight said the professor’s online comments had been “misleading,” and that she had not told him he’d be fired. She also said the college had set up a Academic Freedom Task Force to examine the college’s academic freedom policy. But she said that Fulton had praised Bell as “courageous” and “honest” in his Facebook post -- and that’s a problem.

“If you’re going to bring someone like that who’s repudiated church doctrine, who has publicly attacked the church and publicly attacked God, you wouldn’t want to seem like you’re making this person into a hero,” Knight said. Ideally, she added, faculty members would consult with colleagues or administrators before inviting controversial speakers to campus. There might have been an appropriate way for Bell to address students, she told the Star, but “there wasn’t enough time to figure it out. … We’re not saying students shouldn’t be exposed to these ideas.”

Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 3:00am

A Florida man accused of recruiting international students to the U.S. on false pretenses to further a prostitution business has been indicted on charges of sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking by fraud, wire fraud, importation of aliens for prostitution or immoral purposes, and use of a facility of interstate commerce to operate a prostitution enterprise.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment of Jeffrey Jason Cooper, of Miami Beach, on Wednesday. The indictment alleges that Cooper recruited students from Kazakhstan through the U.S. Department of State’s Summer Work Travel Program with false promises of clerical jobs in a fictitious yoga studio. The foreign students learned after their arrival in the U.S. that no yoga studio existed and that they were expected to perform erotic massages and sex acts in exchange for money.

Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 3:00am

A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, by a team of 253 scientists, identified 74 genetic variants that are associated with educational attainment. The researchers cautioned that the link was a small one, and that environmental factors were also at play. In a statement, Daniel Benjamin, corresponding author and an associate professor in the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California, said, "The very small effects of individual genetic variants is itself an important finding, which echoes what we've seen in our own earlier work. It means that simplistic interpretations of our results, such as calling them 'genes for education,' are totally misleading. At the same time, despite the small effects of individual genetic variants, the results are useful because we can learn a lot from studying the combined effects of the genetic variants taken all together."

Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 4:17am

The University of Southern California has announced a $200 million gift from Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle. The gift will support a new interdisciplinary center on cancer research and treatment.

Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of California Board of Regents is expected to approve a new policy that will triple the number of athletes who are guaranteed to continue receiving financial aid even after a career-ending sports injury. The proposed change was recommended by a working group of the system's athletic directors, the Associated Press reported. Because they are members of the Pac-12 Conference, UC Berkeley and UCLA already offer such scholarship protections to athletes. The new policy would expand the guarantee to athletes at the University of California's Davis, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara and San Diego campuses.

The policy was unanimously approved by a Board of Regents committee Wednesday. The full board will consider adopting the policy on Thursday.

Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Northland College, in Wisconsin, announced that it will no longer require all applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Anyone with a 3.0 grade point average in high school may opt not to submit.

Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Vernon Barnes, assistant professor of pediatrics, nursing and graduate studies at Augusta University, explains how mindful eating may be a healthy way to lose weight. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Authorities at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have charged Yibo Hwang, a freshman, with 14 criminal counts, including nine counts of felony theft, after finding more than 100 stolen items in his room. The value of the objects -- including laptops, hard drives, cameras and much more -- is more than $100,000. Some of the items appear stolen from the university, and others from individuals. A graduate student is credited with leading police to the suspect.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Female Ph.D.s in science and engineering earn 31 percent less than their male cohorts one year after graduation, according to a new study in American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings. When controlling for the fact that women tend to earn degrees in fields that pay less than those in which more men earn degrees, the observed gap dropped to 11 percent. And the gap disappeared when controlling for whether the women were married and had children. "There's a dramatic difference in how much early-career men and women in the sciences are paid," Bruce Weinberg, co-author of the study and professor of economics at Ohio State University, said in a news release. "We can't tell from our data what's going on there. There's probably a combination of factors. Some women may consciously choose to be primary caregivers and pull back from work. But there may also be some employers putting women on a 'mommy track' where they get paid less."

Weinberg’s co-authors were Catherine Buffington and Benjamin Cerf of the U.S. Census Bureau and Christina Jones of the American Institutes for Research. The researchers used previously unavailable data regarding 1,237 students who received Ph.D.s from four U.S. universities from 2007-10 and were supported on research projects while in school. Data included federal funding support the Ph.D. graduates received as students, the dissertations they wrote (used to determine their field of study) and U.S. Census data on where they worked and how much they earned one year after graduation -- as well as their marital and parental status.

Some 59 percent of women completed dissertations in biology, chemistry and health, compared to just 27 percent of men. Men were more likely to complete degrees in fields that tend to be more lucrative, according to the study, including engineering, computer science and physics. About equal percentages of men and women were married, and more men had children. But married women with children saw lower pay one year out of graduate school, according to the study.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 3:00am

The Emory University Senate Standing Committee for Open Expression has issued an analysis of the recent incidents in which "Trump 2016" and similar statements were chalked on campus, angering many minority students and setting off a debate on free speech. The panel found that the chalkings were free expression. Further, the panel said that the complaints of some students that the chalkings were intimidating was not relevant.

"[A] statement like 'Trump 2016' is core political expression," the analysis said. "If any expression is protected under the [university's] policy, clearly this includes expressions of support for or opposition to candidates or their policies. This is true whether the statement is made honestly, ironically (e.g., 'Billionaires for Bush'), or with any other subjective intent. Therefore, whether the chalkings were made to intimidate or 'merely to advocate for a particular candidate' is not relevant to whether they are protected expression under the policy."

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