Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 7, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Damayanthie Eluwawalage, assistant professor of fashion design at Albright College, looks back at flying fashion in the days before pilots had uniforms. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 6, 2017

The British government this week announced a 100-million-pound fund (about $129 million) to attract international researchers to the United Kingdom. The Ernest Rutherford Fund will provide fellowships for early-career and senior researchers, according to the government’s announcement.

The London-based Times Higher Education noted in its coverage of the announcement that many are concerned that fewer foreign researchers will come to the U.K. as a result of potentially stricter immigration controls and perceptions of xenophobia associated with Britain's planned exit from the European Union. "The Rutherford Fund will send a strong signal that, even as we leave the European Union, we are open to the world and will reinforce our ambition of making the U.K. the go-to country for innovation and discovery," Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, said at a launch event.

The U.K. is not the only country with a new pot of money to lure foreign researchers. The government of Canada recently announced an initiative worth 117 million Canadian dollars (about $90.8 million) to attract up to 35 internationally based researchers to Canadian universities for seven-year terms at salaries of either 350,000 Canadian (about $270,000) or one million Canadian (about $772,000) per year. The Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, named to celebrate Canada's sesquicentennial, is open to foreign-based researchers from all disciplines, including Canadian researchers based outside the country.

Meanwhile, France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, is trying to lure climate researchers with grants of up to one million euros (about $1.1 million) for junior researchers and €1.5 million (about $1.7 million) for senior researchers. The French initiative is termed Make Our Planet Great Again, in a clear jab at the slogan favored by President Trump, who recently announced plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

July 6, 2017

Willamette University and the Claremont School of Theology are announcing today that they are discussing "moving and embedding CST within Willamette University on its campus in Salem, Ore." The theology school is currently in California. Leaders of the two institutions said that their academic programs could benefit from collaboration. The move comes at a time when a number of freestanding theology schools have merged into or formed relationships with larger and broader institutions.

Claremont Theology is one of 13 official theological schools of the United Methodist Church, but also has relationships with a number of other Protestant denominations, as well as with Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim groups.

July 6, 2017

A new Maryland law that took effect at the beginning of July prevents public colleges from practicing scholarship displacement -- the practice of shifting financial aid away from students after they receive outside scholarships.

The law makes Maryland the first state in the country to ban scholarship displacement by public institutions, according to The Baltimore Sun. Its supporters say they are considering attempts to expand the law to cover private colleges.

They contend it is unfair for institutions to take away financial aid because a student took the initiative to seek and win scholarship money in order to make college more affordable. But backers of scholarship displacement argue the practice allows colleges and universities to move their finite financial aid dollars to other students who suddenly demonstrate greater need than scholarship recipients.

Maryland’s new law includes some conditions under which public institutions can decrease financial aid. Those conditions include when a scholarship provider gives permission and when a student’s total aid exceeds the cost of college.

July 6, 2017

The University of Southern Mississippi is eliminating 17 faculty jobs and 16 staff positions, all vacant, as it deals with a 10 percent budget cut, the Hattiesburg American reported. Four additional employees were laid off this spring. One has since been rehired for the upcoming academic year with one-time funding. The university has lost about $8 million in state funding this year, according to the American. The university also cut nine filled staff positions in 2015-16 due to budget cuts stemming from a decline in enrollment. Even tenured professors were included in a previous round of layoffs, in 2010.

July 6, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission began mailing more than $49 million in refund checks to former DeVry University students Wednesday as part of a settlement between the for-profit institution and the agency. DeVry agreed to the $100 million settlement after the FTC sued the institution for its use of employment statistics in advertising.

The 173,000 refund checks will go to students who attended the college between 2008 and 2015; paid at least $5,000 with cash, loans or military benefits; did not benefit from debt or loan forgiveness; and completed at least one class credit. The checks, however, will expire 60 days after they are mailed.

In a separate settlement, former DeVry students in Massachusetts will also receive about $455,000 in refunds due to a suit against the institution for allegedly misleading students about job placement rates.

July 6, 2017

Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and an outspoken critic of what he calls “compelled speech,” is making nearly $39,000 U.S. per month through crowdfunding, the Toronto Star reported. Donors support the professor’s opposition to politically correct speech, such as the mandatory use of the gender-neutral pronoun “they.”

Peterson has been using the fund-raising platform Patreon since last year to subsidize the costs associated with making his YouTube lectures on such subjects, according to the Star, but donations have surged as he’s faced public criticism for his views -- including being shouted down during a talk at McMaster University in March. He now plans to offer an online university degree in the humanities that is free, except for exam fees.

“I’m fighting this as a battle of ideas,” Peterson told the Star. “Hopefully I can bring high-quality education to millions of people -- for nothing. Wouldn’t that be cool.” Calling universities “the next best thing to a cult” due to their “postmodern” focus on equity, Peterson said his new project will provide a more straightforward humanities education.

A university spokesperson said that Toronto is not concerned about Peterson’s current YouTube productions, but said it was too early to comment on his future plans. Peterson does not intend to leave his faculty position.

July 6, 2017

The student union at Toronto’s Ryerson University is divided over a demand to rename the university due to the views of its namesake, Egerton Ryerson, on the education of indigenous children, The Globe and Mail reported.

As the university says in a brief biography on its website, Ryerson, who died in 1882, helped establish free and compulsory education in Ontario but believed in separate systems of education for Native and non-Native children, a view that influenced the development of the residential school system for Canada’s indigenous children. A 2015 report by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, described here by The New York Times, documented widespread abuses at the residential schools and described the practice of forcibly removing First Nations children from their families as amounting to "cultural genocide." (The university says on its website that Ryerson was not involved in administering the schools, but that "his ideas were used by others to create their blueprint.")

The Globe and Mail reported that a July 1 post on the student union’s Facebook page included 11 demands, including renaming the university and taking down a statue of Ryerson (at right), and was signed by the "Indigenous Students Association, Continuing Education Students' Association of Ryerson [and the] Ryerson Students' Union.” But some leaders of the student union said in a subsequent Facebook post that the campaign was not approved through the student union’s governance channels.

"Although the campaign holds immense value and significance to truth and reconciliation, as board members we were not consulted and have continued to remain in the dark about what exactly is happening with this campaign," a post signed by three of the five members of the student union’s executive committee and 20 of its 37 directors said. "This campaign has not been approved at committee or board level, and was launched before having approval of the executive … we were not and continue to not be a part of the decision-making process."

July 6, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Christopher P. Brown, professor in the department of curriculum at the University of Texas at Austin, examines whether less playtime is a good thing for kids. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 5, 2017

Many academics have been having fun with a hashtag -- #shortacademichorrorstory -- suggested this week by Jonathan Peelle, a cognitive psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. Among the horrors shared are the following.

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