Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 10, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Senate last week unanimously approved a resolution commemorating the 125th university of the Second Morrill Act that led to the creation of 19 historically black land-grant universities. The resolution celebrates that 1890 law and designates Aug. 30 as 1890 Land-Grant Institutions Quasquicentennial Recognition Day.

Those institutions collectively enroll more than 110,000 students, according to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which praised the resolution’s passage.

Monday, August 10, 2015 - 4:31am

The University of Western Sydney has announced plans to change its name to Western Sydney University, setting off considerable debate at the Australian university, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The university announcement about the change says that it is about "putting Western Sydney first." Officials told the Morning Herald that the new name and logo (at left) would help the university with its branding internationally. But many students are rallying around the old name and logo (at right), saying that they were not consulted on the name change and that they like the logo and its bird. So they are campaigning on social media and elsewhere to "save the bird."

Monday, August 10, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Oksana Chkrebtii, a statistician at Ohio State University, offers an interesting analysis of whether we are about to be overrun by earthworms. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, August 7, 2015 - 3:00am

Did archaeologists from the University of Missouri at Columbia steal dozens of artifacts from a national forest? The Associated Press reported that R. Lee Lyman, professor and chair of archaeology at Missouri, was charged with second-degree theft, second-degree malicious mischief and making false or misleading statements to a public servant regarding an investigation into missing artifacts from Washington State. Matthew T. Boulanger, a research specialist, also has reportedly been charged. The men allegedly took some 93 artifacts -- including arrowheads and other byproducts of toolmaking -- without permission from the Umatilla National Forest and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in southeastern Washington during a 2013 research trip. The artifacts, taken from seven different sites, were protected by the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Dave N. Schmitt, a researcher affiliated with Southern Methodist University, also faces charges and has pleaded not guilty. He told the Columbia Daily Tribune that the charges are “a thorn in our side and completely unfounded.” Lyman and Boulanger were arraigned in July but did not enter a plea. Lyman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Boulanger said he had no comment "regarding pending legal action."

The investigation report cites an article the men wrote about the research trip. It says that no excavation was done but some artifacts were collected because they were visible and could be removed by passersby, according to the Associated Press. A university spokesman said the university was aware of the charges but couldn’t comment further.

Friday, August 7, 2015 - 3:00am

Vanderbilt University's football program tweeted an image Thursday declaring that its players "don't need your permission," prompting a backlash on Twitter. Earlier this year two Vanderbilt football players were found guilty of gang-raping another student. The trial was later ruled a mistrial on a technicality, and the case will go to trial again at a later date. "We are relentless, tough and intelligent, and …" the since-deleted tweeted read, followed by an image that stated, "we don't need your permission." Users on Twitter criticized the tweet as tone-deaf and upsetting. The university later responded, apologizing for the tweet.

"It's not a comment about sexual assault," the university stated. "Sex without permission is always wrong and not accepted. Sexual assault is not acceptable at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt athletics and Vanderbilt football."

Friday, August 7, 2015 - 4:12am

Community colleges are starting programs in four California prisons, The Los Angeles Times reported. The move comes amid a push from the Obama administration and others to add college-level prison programs that were largely wiped out when Congress barred Pell Grants from going to prisoners.

Friday, August 7, 2015 - 3:00am

The White House this week hosted officials from business schools and businesses for a meeting on expanding opportunities for women. The discussion covered the recruiting, training and retention of leaders as well as the importance of policies that work for families, according to a fact sheet from the White House.

The administration's Council of Economic Advisers released a report to set the stage for the event. It described how women comprise only 5 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. In addition, female graduates of M.B.A. programs earn 30 percent less than their male counterparts after five years, the report said, and 60 percent less after 10 years.

In connection with the meeting, 45 business schools have agreed to a set of principles to help women succeed through school and their careers.

Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, attended the White House event. She said the "collective action" taken by the 45 institutions was rare for the relatively competitive business school sector. Davis-Blake's institution last year began its own initiative to encourage women to seek careers in finance.

Friday, August 7, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Gokcen Coskuner-Balli, a professor at the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University, explores the growth of yoga culture. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, August 6, 2015 - 4:26am

Liberty University on Wednesday announced the schedule for the many outside speakers it will bring in this fall for student convocations. It was at such a convocation in March that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas kicked off his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, and Liberty was criticized because student attendance is mandatory at convocations. Liberty, a fast-growing evangelical university, regularly receives visits from Republican politicians.

This fall, Liberty will hear from many prominent Christians and conservatives, and another candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Ben Carson. But the list of speakers released by Liberty quickly captured attention for another name on the list: Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders released this statement on his plan to visit Liberty Sept. 14: “Liberty University was kind enough to invite me to address a convocation and I decided to accept. It goes without saying that my views on many issues -- women’s rights, gay rights, education -- are very different from the opinions of some in the Liberty University community,” he said. “I think it is important, however, to see if we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues. It is very easy for a candidate to speak to people who hold the same views. It’s harder but important to reach out to others who look at the world differently. I look forward to meeting with the students and faculty of Liberty University.”

Thursday, August 6, 2015 - 2:12am

A bipartisan duo of U.S. senators on Wednesday introduced legislation that would overhaul a key way the government holds colleges accountable for student outcomes and also create a new risk-sharing program. The bill, offered by Senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, a Democrat, and Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican, would get rid of the government's student loan default rates and replace them with a student loan repayment rate.

Instead of tracking whether a college's former students default on their federal loans three years after the loans become due, under the bill the government would look at whether former students are making progress in repaying their debt (defined as reducing the principal loan balance by at least one dollar). Colleges with loan repayment rates more than 10 percent below the national average over a three-year period would lose access to federal aid.

In addition, the bill would create a risk-sharing program in which colleges have to pay the federal government a share of the total federal loan dollars that their former students are not successfully repaying. The precise threshold would be adjusted according to the unemployment rate in any given year. That money would be used for grants to colleges that have a “strong record of making college more affordable and increasing college access and success for low-income and moderate-income students.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, has indicated that he wants some type of risk-sharing proposal to be included as part of the rewrite of the Higher Education Act.

He issued a statement Wednesday praising the effort. “We’ve been studying closely the question of how best to ensure that all of our more than 6,000 institutions of higher education have more ‘skin in the game,’ helping to prevent student overborrowing while at the same time helping to reduce the cost of college,” Alexander said. “We are working to find the right balance in our bipartisan legislation, and I commend Senators Hatch and Shaheen for their proposal.”

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