Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 30, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Kristin Brethel-Haurwitz, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, digs into the brain to find the answer to why some are more altruistic than others. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 29, 2018

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, repeatedly criticized the academic discipline of philosophy during his campaign to become the GOP's presidential candidate in 2016. "I don't know why we have stigmatized vocational education," Rubio said during one debate. "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers."

That statement in some ways anticipated recent comments by President Trump, who has suggested that community colleges change their names to vocational schools.

Rubio, however, has changed his tune -- partially, at least.

March 29, 2018

Hobart and William Smith Colleges have begun an investigation after an anonymous emailer accused President Gregory J. Vincent of plagiarism in the 2004 dissertation he wrote to receive his doctorate in higher education.

The email, sent from an anonymous account and signed by “A Professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges,” was first sent March 21. It was addressed to reporters at two national publications, an Upstate New York newspaper, leaders at Hobart and William Smith, and leaders at the University of Pennsylvania, where Vincent received his Ed.D. The anonymous writer forwarded the email to publications focusing on U.S. higher education Tuesday.

The tipster identified several passages of the dissertation that contained direct quotations that were not properly attributed, the email said. Inside Higher Ed was able to check three of those cases. In each, the dissertation contains sentences that are identical or largely identical to language in other works but are not enclosed in quotation marks. The dissertation passages in question appear in paragraphs, however, that contain parenthetical citations to the original works.

Vincent continues to perform all presidential duties, according to a spokeswoman at Hobart and William Smith. She also provided a statement from Thomas S. Bozzuto, chair of the institution’s Board of Trustees.

“Hobart and William Smith Colleges are aware of the allegations in the anonymous email and are committed to thoroughly and seriously investigating them,” the statement said. “This process to examine the issue fully and fairly has already begun.”

The anonymous emailer did not respond to a request for comment. The email disavows any desire to comment further.

An example of the language in question can be found on p. 26 of Vincent’s dissertation:

… combination of government and private action (Massy and Denton, 1993). Hyper segregation may be conceptualized in terms of five distinct dimensions of geographic variation. Blacks may be distributed so that they are overrepresented in some areas and underrepresented in others, leading to different degrees of unevenness; they may also be distributed so that their racial isolation is ensured by virtue of rarely sharing a neighborhood with whites. In addition, however, black neighborhoods may be tightly clustered to form one large contiguous enclave or scattered about in checkerboard fashion; they may be concentrated within a very small area or settled sparsely throughout the urban environment. Finally, they may be spatially centralized around the urban core or spread out along the periphery (Massy, and Denton, 1993).

That is largely the same language that appears on p. 74 of the 1993 work cited in the parentheticals, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, by Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton:

In fact, segregation -- or the general tendency for blacks and whites to live apart -- may be conceptualized in terms of five distinct dimensions of geographic variation. The first two have already been discussed: blacks may be distributed so that they are overrepresented in some areas and underrepresented in others, leading to different degrees of unevenness; they may also be distributed so that their racial isolation is ensured by virtue of rarely sharing a neighborhood with whites. In addition, however, black neighborhoods may be tightly clustered to form one large contiguous enclave or scattered about in checkerboard fashion; they may be concentrated within a very small area or settled sparsely throughout the urban environment. Finally, they may be spatially centralized around the urban core or spread out along the periphery.

Another dissertation passage Inside Higher Ed reviewed begins in a sentence immediately after a citation of the work where the language appears to have originated. The third is in a paragraph with citations of both the work where the language appears to have originated and another work, although the language is separated from each citation by several sentences.

Vincent, called a national expert on social justice and civil rights, became president at Hobart and William Smith in 2017.

March 29, 2018

Statue of Thomas Jefferson at Hofstra.Some student groups at Hofstra University plan a rally Friday to call for the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, Newsday reported. Jefferson's ties to slavery are the rationale for those seeking to have the statue removed. They outline their views in an online petition. A counterpetition seeks to keep the statue. Hofstra released this statement to Newsday: “The right to peaceful protest and assembly is at the core of our democracy. Hofstra supports our students’ right to engage in peaceful demonstrations about issues that matter to them. We look forward to continuing a civil exchange of ideas and perspectives on the subject.”

March 29, 2018

Six Howard University employees were fired last year for stealing money from the financial aid department, the president confirmed Wednesday.

An external auditor found that six staffers received grants and tuition remission that exceeded the total cost of attendance and took the difference, Howard president Wayne Frederick announced in a statement. The fraud took place between 2007 and 2016.

Allegations of fraud surfaced this week in an anonymous blog post on Medium, which has since been removed. The post claimed the employees misappropriated almost $1 million.

Howard did not reveal how much money was stolen. “We don’t have a final amount but we are working with our outside experts to ensure every dollar is accounted for and the university will exercise all of our options to recoup the funds,” Alonda Thomas, a Howard spokesperson, told The Washington Post.

The president launched an internal investigation in 2016 after learning that funds might have been misused by the office of financial aid. External auditors gave the president the results in May. Two months later, in July, the president “self-reported” the findings to the Department of Education.

After the university finished investigating individual employees in September, six were fired for “gross misconduct and neglect of duties.”

The college also hired a financial aid consultant to investigate any misuse of federal funds. The company hasn’t found anything yet.

Howard’s student association met with the administration yesterday to discuss the matter, according to a post on Twitter.

In response to the fraud, the college has tightened its financial aid approval processes, Frederick wrote.

“The financial integrity of Howard University’s operations is paramount and strong measures have been taken following the [outside auditor's] investigation to ensure this never happens again,” Frederick wrote. “While this has been a very difficult and disappointing situation, I know our campus community deserves better and I am committed to ensuring that each of our campus offices operate with integrity and are the best that higher education has to offer.”

March 29, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Chelsey Kivland, assistant professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College, examines how climate change could reopen gaps in health-care access for vulnerable populations around the globe. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 28, 2018

A video circulating online shows members of the women's lacrosse team at Virginia Tech singing the N-word multiple times as they ride in a bus back from a victory. They are apparently singing a song by a white rapper featuring the slur.

John Sung, the coach, told The Roanoke Times that team members were apologetic and that he had met with them to discuss the matter.

“This is a teachable moment,” Sung told the newspaper. “It’s not something that we’re proud of. The team is very apologetic and sorry. There’s nobody of any color that should say it. Period. There’s nobody that should say it.”

March 28, 2018

H. Fred Walker will resign as president of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, effective this Friday. The news came from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, of which Edinboro is a part. He has been president since 2016.

Walker has been pushing for major changes -- some of them controversial -- in the enrollment strategy and program offerings at Edinboro. But faculty members and others have been calling for his resignation since he was quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education as saying that he needed to bypass the faculty in order to make necessary changes. "I knew I would never be able to reason with the faculty," he said.

March 28, 2018

A new report from the Institute of Education Sciences points out that focusing on postsecondary degrees alone excludes a significant section of the labor market.

The report found that when researchers include the number of working adults who have postsecondary certificates and occupational licenses, the percentage of working adults with some credential increases from 45 percent to 58 percent. It also found that the most common nondegree credential is an occupational license.

March 28, 2018

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, "New Models for Educational Materials." You may download a copy free, here. And you may sign up here for a free webcast on the themes of the booklet, Wednesday, April 18, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

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