Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 3:00am

Two more colleges have announced that they are ending requirements that all undergraduate applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. The two latest to do so (with links to their announcements) are Cornell College, in Iowa, and Rivier University, in New Hampshire.

Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 3:00am

American colleges should expand opportunities for their students to participate in national service programs, the Center for American Progress recommended in a paper released Wednesday. The paper, "Credit for Serving," envisions yearlong service programs integrated into the college’s existing degree plans. Students would work 20 to 30 hours a week at a nonprofit organization, for example, related to their field of study alongside about five hours of weekly course work. The programs should be for credit and structured so participants are eligible for financial aid, the paper says, so low-income students can participate and benefit. does it define service? how many hours a week? Aid for participating? -sj that's as close as it gets to defining service, some examples,

“Given the importance of service learning, colleges cannot keep treating service as merely an extracurricular add-on,” the paper says. “Students from all income backgrounds would benefit from receiving college credit, so they do not have to choose between service and taking longer to graduate.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Richard Pak, a psychologist at Clemson University, considers when relying on computers has unintended consequences. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 3:00am

After months of uncertainly about the future of tenure at their institution, faculty members at the University of Wisconsin at Madison received a draft tenure policy proposal this week asserting that the faculty holds the authority to make academic program changes of the sort that could lead to layoffs under a new state law, Madison.com reported. Proponents of the policy say its protections of tenure put it line with peer institutions and guidelines established by the American Association of University Professors.

The university’s administration pledged earlier this summer that it would find ways to preserve tenure as it’s known at Wisconsin, despite recent legislative changes in the state that make it easier for tenured faculty members to be terminated. The executive committee of the university’s Faculty Senate said the new policy “is solidly grounded in the strong tenure tradition at Madison, codifying existing practice of broad involvement in program change and clearly delimiting the narrow parameters under which such change could lead to faculty dismissal.”

Also this week, some faculty members within the University of Wisconsin System objected to a survey of their views on tenure sent from William Howell, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Howell obtained faculty members’ email addresses via an open records request, but professors complained that he didn’t sufficiently disclose funding sources for the survey, which includes such questions as how much professors would accept in terms of a pay increase for giving up tenure. On Tuesday, the secretary of the faculty at the Madison campus emailed professors to say that the survey was funded by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a think tank that describes itself as nonpartisan but which has promoted conservative ideas and has ties to Governor Scott Walker. Faculty members expressed their concerns on Twitter and elsewhere.

Howell said via email, “The only purpose of the survey is to characterize faculty opinion on tenure policy and some policy alternatives to it. This is a live issue in Wisconsin, and I am only hoping to make sense of the range of opinions that faculty have about it.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 3:00am

President Obama spoke at an Iowa high school this week and was asked about proposals to cut off federal funds to "politically biased" colleges. The president didn't think such a plan was workable or desirable, but he gave a strong statement about the value of being exposed in college to new ideas, including those that are different from one's own and even appear offensive. "The purpose of higher education is not just, as I said before, to transmit skills. It's also to widen your horizons … to help you to evaluate information, to help you make your way through the world," Obama said. "The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide and people are having arguments and people are testing each other's theories, and over time people learn from each other. … They are getting out of their own narrow point of view."

Obama said that when he was in college, he met "folks who didn't think at all like me," and that, as a result, "sometimes I changed my mind." He said some students -- liberal as well as conservative -- "aren't listening to the other side." And he added of some on campus: "They don't want a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don't want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or sends a demeaning signal to women …. I don't agree with that …. I don't believe you, when you become students at colleges, need to be coddled and protected." Obama added that there is nothing wrong with students challenging ideas with which they disagree, but urged students not to say, "I'm too sensitive to hear what you have to say."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Yale University's proposed online physician assistant program, which raised ire among students and alumni earlier this year, will move forward, administrators at the School of Medicine have decided. The plans for the online program hit an accreditation snag earlier this year after the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant decided Yale could not treat the hybrid program as an expansion of the face-to-face version. Yale's plan, according to the Yale Daily News, is to treat the hybrid program as separate from the residential program. Students and alumni have argued that offering the program online will hurt the reputation of the highly selective face-to-face program.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 4:16am

Rock Valley College, a community college in Illinois, called off classes today in anticipation of a strike by the faculty union. The college posted a statement that faculty members would be cut off from college email and unable to communicate with students during the strike. The college said it would consider scheduling makeup classes, depending on the duration of the strike. The Rock Valley College Faculty Association has argued on its Facebook page and elsewhere that the college's salary offers have been too low and that professors aren't paid a fair wage. The union also says it was prepared to negotiate through the night but that the college refused to do so and declared an impasse to force the strike. The college says that it has made fair offers and that it can't afford to meet the union's proposals.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 4:30am

Women starting careers in biomedical research receive less start-up support than do men, according to a new study in JAMA (second study discussed in this link). The study was based on data collected by the Medical Foundation Division of Health Resources in Action as part of two programs that support biomedical research in education. Institutions provided data on their faculty members who were applying for grants, and the programs attracted applicants equally likely to have terminal degrees and similar lengths of time from earning those degrees to the time of the grant application. Male applicants reported much higher levels of start-up support (median of $889,000) than female applicants (median of $350,000). Forty percent of men and only 12 percent of women reported support of more than $1 million.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today "Teaching Ethics: A Key Role for Educators," our latest print-on-demand compilation of articles. The booklet features articles about a range of institutions and approaches. This compilation is free and you may download a copy here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. Eastern about the themes of the booklet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Three more former tenured professors at the now-defunct University of Texas Pan American have filed lawsuits against the University of Texas System, saying they deserve jobs at the new University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley campus, The Monitor reported. Junfei Li, former associate professor of engineering; Alexander Edionwe, former associate professor of health and sciences; and Leila Hernandez, former assistant professor in the arts and humanities, all say the university didn’t provide them solid reasons for why they didn’t make the cut as the system opened a new campus this year. All three professors had been working at the shuttered university for more than a decade. Each is seeking $1 million in relief and other damages, as well as reinstatement.

Rio Grande Valley officials declined to comment on the claims, saying they were a legal matter. Another former faculty member has filed a similar suit against the university system, according to the The Monitor.


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