Higher Education Quick Takes
Mills College announced last week that it will no longer require the SAT or ACT for admissions. College officials cited research showing that many minority and low-income students want the option to be judged on measures other than test scores.
Jordan Kurland, who worked for more than 50 years at the American Association of University Professors, died Saturday morning at the age of 87. He worked for the AAUP up until Jan. 8. His title at the AAUP was associate general secretary, and his job focused on conducting investigations into alleged attacks on faculty rights and academic freedom. As an AAUP resolution honoring him noted, Kurland played a role in more than 90 percent of all of the investigations conducted in AAUP history. Last year, as part of the AAUP's celebration of the organization's centennial, Kurland compiled a list of AAUP investigations he considered particularly significant in each decade of the group's history.
Massive open online course platform Coursera is removing the option to complete some of the courses offered on its platform for free. Coursera has previously offered a free track and a paid track that awards an identity-verified certificate, but as of last week, learners will have to pay a fee in some courses to have their assignments graded. Learners in those courses who choose not to pay can still browse the course materials, including discussions and assignments.
"We are on a mission to change the world by providing universal access to the best learning experience," Coursera said in a blog post. "To do this, we also need to have a business model that supports our platform, our partners, our content and everything we do for learners. The changes that we are making this year will move us toward sustainability and enable continued investment in our learning experience, without compromising our commitment to transforming lives for people around the world."
The University Senate at Loyola University New Orleans voted 38-10 to pass a measure of no confidence in the president, the Reverend Kevin Wildes, The New Orleans Advocate reported. Professors say cuts Father Wildes has announced are in large part due to poor decisions he made when the university faced earlier financial and enrollment problems. The board has expressed confidence in the president, and board leaders spoke to the University Senate before the vote.
The Pentagon has asked the American Psychological Association to reconsider a ban it enacted last year on psychologists participating in national security investigations, such as those at Guantánamo Bay, The New York Times reported. The ban was adopted after many psychology professors and practicing psychologists expressed outrage over some of their colleagues helping the military in ways many viewed as unethical. The APA said it would meet soon with the Pentagon to discuss its policies. Military officials have said they don't object to the association adopting ethical standards, but urged the group to avoid a "blanket prohibition" on helping with national security interrogations.
An influential Republican state senator has criticized Ray Cross, president of the University of Wisconsin System, for meeting with student leaders last week to talk about how to improve the climate for minority students, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Steve Nass, vice chairman of the Senate University and Technical Colleges Committee, issued a press release in which he said Cross shouldn't have held the meeting. "President Cross needs to stop wasting time appeasing the political correctness crowd demanding safe spaces, safe words, universal apologies for hurt feelings and speech/thought police," Nass said in a press release he issued.
A university system spokesman declined to comment on the statement.
From 2005 to 2014, inflation‐adjusted expenditures on humanities research and development increased in every year but one, and in 2014 the total was 75 percent higher than it was in 2005, according to new Humanities Indicator data from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The rate of increase is far greater than for most science and technology fields. But the base for humanities spending is much, much smaller than that of other fields. In 2014, spending for humanities research equaled 0.6 percent of the amount dedicated to science and engineering. Unlike most other forms of research in higher education, humanities research does not rely on federal spending for a majority of its support. In 2014, federal support made up only 19 percent of humanities funding. Details may be found here.
A University of Virginia student is being detained in North Korea for allegedly committing an unspecified “hostile act” against the state, The Washington Post reported. Otto Frederick Warmbier was detained Jan. 2 after participating in a five-day trip organized by Young Pioneer Tours.
An account in North Korean state media accused Warmbier of having entered the country “for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.”
A U.S. State Department spokesman said the agency is aware of media reports that an American citizen has been detained and that it is working with the Swedish embassy, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea. “The welfare of U.S. citizens is one of the department’s highest priorities,” said Mark Toner, the department's deputy spokesman.
The current rule governing a popular postgraduation work program for international students will remain in place until May 10.
The regulation governing the STEM OPT program, which grants students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields the right to spend an additional 17 months working in the U.S. on top of the 12 months available to all international students, was set to expire Feb. 12 after a federal judge ruled the regulation invalid on procedural grounds. In a decision issued Saturday, however, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the Department of Homeland Security’s request that the ruling be stayed for an additional 90 days, which the agency argued would give it time to implement a new proposed rule for the program and prevent disruption or hardship for participating students and employers.
“The significance of that hardship cannot be overstated,” Judge Huvelle wrote. “According to DHS, there are approximately 23,000 STEM OPT participants, 2,300 dependents of STEM OPT participants, 8,000 pending applications for STEM OPT extensions and 434,000 foreign students who might be eligible to apply for STEM OPT authorizations … If the stay is not extended, many of these people would be adversely affected, either by losing their existing work authorization, not being able to apply for the OPT extension or not knowing whether they will be able to benefit from the extension in the future. And of course, the U.S. tech sector will lose employees, and U.S. educational institutions could conceivably become less attractive to foreign students.”