Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed invites you to participate in our monthly Cartoon Caption Contest.

There are multiple ways to play. Click here to suggest a caption for this month's drawing by Matthew Henry Hall.

On this page you can vote for your favorite from among the three finalists for last month's caption as chosen by our judges.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Erin Hanlon, research associate and assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago, explains that lack of sleep can make your body go haywire, causing you to want to overeat. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 3:00am

Court documents last week set off new discussion of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Pennsylvania State University -- in ways that are highly damaging to Penn State. New court rulings suggest that Penn State's insurer may not be liable for all the settlements the university has reached with those who as children were molested and raped by now imprisoned former assistant football coach Sandusky. As The New York Times recounted, the latest legal documents contain allegations that Joe Paterno, the now deceased Penn State head football coach, may have been told about Sandusky's abuse as far back as 1976 -- not in 1998 or 2001, the dates that have been assumed since the scandal broke. Because Penn State did not inform the insurer of the potential liability in a timely fashion, the insurer is not responsible for paying the claims brought by Sandusky's victims, the court documents indicated.

Paterno's family members have denied the allegations that Paterno knew of the abuse, which have prompted many to say that the tragedy has become much worse, with the idea that much of the abuse might well have been prevented had Paterno acted in 1976.

Adding to the discussion about the scandal, the Associated Press reported that payments Penn State has made cover alleged abuse as far back as 1971, 40 years before Sandusky was arrested.

On Sunday, Penn State President Eric Barron released a statement in which he reiterated that he is "appalled" by what Sandusky did.

But Barron said that there was no evidence to back up the latest allegations, and he criticized the press coverage. "I want you to know I am appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment that have accompanied the media stories surrounding these allegations. All too often in our society, people are convicted in the court of public opinion, only to find a different outcome when all the facts are presented," he said. "In contrast, over the last two days we have worked to be diligent in reanalyzing the record of reports and depositions to ensure that our reactions and comments are both responsible and trustworthy …. The allegations related to Penn State are simply not established fact. The two allegations related to knowledge by Coach Paterno are unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence other than a claim by an alleged victim. They date from the 1970s. Coach Paterno is not alive to refute them. His family has denied them."

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 3:00am

The editor of The Antioch Review, responding to widespread criticism of an essay the literary journal published, has published a statement of "regret" about the pain that was caused by the piece. The essay is sharply critical of the transgender movement and uses language that many have decried as ignorant and bigoted. While some have called for the removal of the article, Antioch College has declined to do so, citing principles of free expression.

In a statement published on the Review's website, Bob Fogarty has now responded to the controversy. "The views and values espoused in the article represent those of the author, Daniel Harris, and are not those held by the editor, the Antioch Review or Antioch College," Fogarty wrote. "However, as the editor, I recognize and acknowledge the criticisms and outrage for the views represented in Harris’s essay. Perhaps more importantly, I sincerely regret any pain and hurt that the publishing of this piece has caused to members of our own community, transgender people, the LGBTQ community and their families and supporters."

The statement said the journal plans to publish responses to the essay in a future issue.

Via email, Fogarty said he did not regret publishing the piece. Citing the reactions to last week's Inside Higher Ed article, he said, "I gather there are two camps: one which vehemently objected and hated it and another who appreciated and applauded it."

Via email, Daniel Harris, the author of the essay (who could not be reached for the earlier article), said he stands behind his essay. "I regret that so few of my critics seem to have read the piece to the end. Almost all of the quotations used from my essay come from the first two pages," he said. "There is absolutely nothing about the revelations I make later in the piece, which makes me think that people simply didn't get that far and are responding without being fully informed. I regret that the discussion has been so uncivil, devolving into what seems to be a flame war. It is difficult to answer specific criticisms when they rarely amount to much more that I am transphobic and that my essay was an example of hate speech. I am neither hateful nor transphobic. I am tolerant of all people, save Republicans."

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 3:00am

Apollo Education Group Inc. announced Friday that its shareholders have approved a deal for the company to be purchased by a consortium of investors, including the Vistria Group, funds affiliated with Apollo Global Management and the Najafi Companies. Apollo, as the owner of the University of Phoenix, is a major player in for-profit higher education. Earlier this week, Apollo announced that the revised offer from the investors was worth $1.14 billion. The sale remains subject to review by the U.S. Education Department, the Higher Learning Commission (Phoenix's accreditor) and various other state and specialized accreditation bodies.

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 3:00am

Harvard University announced plans Friday that would discourage students from joining final clubs -- off-campus organizations, many of which bar women from membership -- and unrecognized fraternities and sororities. Starting with new students next year, those who join these clubs will be barred from leadership positions in other student organizations and on athletic teams, and will not be eligible to be endorsed for top fellowships and scholarships. The move follows debate at Harvard, and a report noting that the clubs create an environment in which many students feel unwelcome and in which sexist treatment is common. “A truly inclusive community requires that students have the opportunity to participate in the life of the campus free from exclusion on arbitrary grounds,” said a statement from Drew Faust, president of the university.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education denounced Harvard's policy as "a stunning attack on freedom of association."

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 3:00am

John Knapp seems secure in his position as president of Hope College. Following a meeting of the college's board, Hope released a statement Friday that said, in part: "The Board of Trustees reaffirms its commitment to support President John Knapp as leader of Hope College. The board and the president are strongly united in the mission of building a better Hope. Together, they will continue meeting challenges collaboratively and championing the college’s strategic plan, Hope for the World: 2025. The board remains wholeheartedly and unanimously supportive of the vision and goals laid out in the strategic plan. The Board of Trustees and President Knapp are moving forward in a spirit of unity, working toward clarification of mutual expectations. Communication between board leadership and the president has been restored, and President Knapp and the trustees are looking forward to better processes and more fluent communications."

The statement marks a reversal from a board push last month to fire Knapp, who has strong support from students, faculty members and alumni, who have been rallying on his behalf.

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 3:00am

An airline passenger reported a professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania for suspicious activity after mistaking a complex equation he was working on for possible terrorism, the Associated Press reported. Guido Menzio, the Italian-born professor, said a woman sitting next to him passed a note to a flight attendant expressing concerns that he was a terrorist as he scribbled calculations on a piece of paper. He was soon interviewed by airline and security personnel as the plane was delayed on the tarmac. The woman, who'd claimed she was ill, was removed from the flight.

Menzio, who was flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse, N.Y., on an Air Wisconsin-operated flight en route to Ontario, Canada, for a conference at Queen’s University, initially thought he was being questioned about his seat mate's stated illness. But Menzio said he was told the woman was concerned about the “strange” things he was writing. He explained what he was doing and the plane took eventually took off -- minus the concerned passenger. Yet Menzio told the Associated Press he was bothered that the conversation had escalated to such a degree. "Not seeking additional information after reports of 'suspicious activity' … is going to create a lot of problems, especially as xenophobic attitudes may be emerging," he said.

A spokesperson for American Airlines, which ran the flight, said the crew followed protocols to take care of a sick passenger and investigate allegations. The woman was rebooked on a later flight.

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 3:00am

Ashok Goel, a professor of computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology, gave his students an unusual lesson in an artificial intelligence course this semester. The Wall Street Journal reported that Goel used IBM's computer analytics programs to create a robot -- with the name of Jill Watson, in honor of the IBM Watson system -- to work as a teaching assistant in the course. Jill Watson prompted students about deadlines and provided information and encouragement in the online discussions for the course.

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 3:00am

The program for Texas Christian University's commencement Saturday had an unfortunate typo, a misspelling of the word "university," which was promptly shared on social media. A spokeswoman told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the university was investigating the mishap.

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