Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Jon Pierce-Shimomura, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses his worm intoxication research on treating alcoholism. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Monday, March 9, 2015 - 3:00am

The national headquarters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon closed its University of Oklahoma chapter on Sunday after a video surfaced online showing its members singing a racist song about not allowing black students to join the fraternity. 

"There will never be a nigger at SAE," the students sang to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It," while dressed in formal attire and riding a bus. "You can hang him from a tree, but he'll never sign with me. There will never be a nigger at SAE." (The video clip is at the end of this article.)

In a statement Sunday, David Boren, Oklahoma's president, called the behavior "reprehensible," and promised an investigation. "If the reports are true, the chapter will no longer remain on campus," Boren said prior to SAE's announcement. Unheard OU, the student activist group that publicized the video, said it planned to protest on campus Monday. 

Touted as the only national fraternity founded in the antebellum South, Sigma Alpha Epsilon members agree to memorize and follow a creed known as The True Gentleman.

In 2013, the Washington University in St. Louis chapter of SAE was suspended after some of its pledges were instructed to direct racial slurs at a group of black students. Last year, 15 SAE members at the University of Arizona broke into a historically Jewish off-campus fraternity and physically assaulted its members while yelling discriminatory comments at them. In December, Clemson University's SAE chapter was suspended after the fraternity hosted a "cripmas" party where students dressed up as gang members.



Monday, March 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Alumnae of Sweet Briar College, who are preparing a legal challenge to its decision to shut down, on Saturday issued a request to current students not to transfer. Since the college's announcement last week, it has announced agreements to allow for expedited transfer to some institutions, and other colleges have also expressed interest in enrolling Sweet Briar students.

But Saving Sweet Briar, which has announced that it has retained a law firm to help block the college's closure, is concerned that if the students transfer, there may not be much of a college left to save. "As we advance our legal strategy and develop alternatives to the closure of Sweet Briar College, it is critical that current students give our efforts time to bear fruit before they commit to attending other institutions," said a statement from the group. The organization said that it appreciated the way other colleges were trying to help Sweet Briar students, but said that "we also ask our sister colleges to give our efforts time to succeed."

A group spokesman declined to provide any details on the legal strategy Saving Sweet Briar will pursue.

A spokeswoman for Sweet Briar strongly disagreed with the request from the group. "It is important for students and parents not to delay developing their transfer plans for the fall semester," she said via e-mail. "Students who delay the timely selection of a new academic home limit their collegiate options and their potential access to financial aid from other institutions. It is important to remember that our accreditation ends as of August 25, further supporting our students' need to find a new institution now."

Monday, March 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Senior officials in student affairs at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville accused the athletics department of intervening in student conduct investigations to encourage leniency for athletes, The Tennessean reported. While Tennessee officials denied that this happened, the newspaper published documents (whose authenticity has been confirmed) in which student affairs officials raised these concerns.

Monday, March 9, 2015 - 3:00am

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the admissions office is always excited about the day applicants are notified. There is extra excitement this year because that will take place on Pi Day (March 14, since it is represented by the digits that start pi -- 3.14 -- and which is notable this year as one can extend it for more of pi, 3.1415). But even amid all of that excitement, M.I.T. is imagining a world where applicants won't have to log on to a Web site to learn decisions, but will be notified by drone. While this video, released by M.I.T., features some simulation, the star of the first half is Stu Schmill, IRL dean of admissions at M.I.T.



Monday, March 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Nationwide community college enrollment numbers continue to decline. But student completion rates in the sector are higher than many people think. Those are the two primary findings in a new report the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) released last week. 

The report is based on data from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. It found that enrollments at two-year colleges are down for the third consecutive year, dropping by 3.5 percent during the year prior to last fall. That decline is largest among older students, who may be returning to the workforce, the report said.

Full-time community college students graduate at a rate of 57 percent within six years, according to the report, either from the institution where they originally enrolled or another college. The Clearinghouse's six-year completion rate for all community college students is 39 percent.

Monday, March 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Officials at Wheaton College in Illinois are criticizing a skit by members of the football team who dressed up in Ku Klux Klan robes as part of an off-season event in which team members do comic sketches, The Chicago Tribune reported. The students -- who also used Confederate flags -- say that they were trying to mock racists, not be racist. But many are concerned that the students didn't know how offensive their costumes and props were to many on campus.


Monday, March 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Teaching assistants at the University of Toronto went on strike last week, preventing some sections from being taught. The main point of disagreement is over compensation. The university and the union late last week each issued open letters outlining their views of the conflict.


Monday, March 9, 2015 - 4:23am

Administrators and student journalists at Northern Michigan University have seen relations deteriorate since the student newspaper The North Wind started to be more aggressive in its coverage, The Detroit News reported. Some administrators are not responding to requests or are forcing the newspaper to pay for open records requests. The source of the anger is tough coverage of a range of campus issues and creative approaches that may not go over well with everyone. For instance, the university is proud that the C.E.O. of Starbucks is an alumnus, but the newspaper ran a coffee taste test that was won by another coffee provider on campus.


Monday, March 9, 2015 - 3:00am

Nine people were injured early Saturday when a garage roof on which they had been participating in a large party near California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo collapsed, The Los Angeles Times reported. The injuries were not life threatening. Hundreds of students and others were at the block party, scheduled to avoid the double fines that San Luis Obispo issues within a week of St. Patrick's Day. The following video shows some of the party and -- at the very end -- the roof collapse.




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