Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 9, 2016

Here's another opportunity to cast your vote -- to pick a winner for our October Cartoon Caption Contest. You can pick your favorite from among three finalists here.

If you're feeling creative, click here to suggest a caption for this month's new cartoon. We've already got a bunch of great submissions.

And please congratulate Louise Freeman, a professor of psychology at Mary Baldwin College, whose caption for the cartoon at right -- "There must be some mistake! The boosters who bought me that car told me Coach would take care of any parking tickets." -- was voted our readers' favorite. She will receive an Amazon gift certificate and a signed copy of the cartoon.

November 9, 2016

The University of Colorado at Boulder is revamping doctoral studies in  languages and literature, it announced Tuesday. The change -- in an effort to recruit top talent -- entails restructuring support for six Ph.D. programs into a new Consortium of Doctoral Studies in Literature and Cultures. Programs involved are those in French/Italian, Spanish/Portuguese, German, classics, English and Japanese/Chinese. Accepted consortium students will be guaranteed five years of funding, with the first and fifth years including cost-of-living stipends and zero teaching obligations. Middle years carry a reduced teaching load and a summer stipend.

“With a fifth year dedicated to writing their dissertations, less teaching in the intervening years and support during the summers, students will be able to complete their degrees and enter the job market much earlier than they are able to do now,” Helmut Muller-Sievers, director of Boulder’s Center for Humanities and the Arts, said in a statement. Students also will be encouraged to choose mentors from outside their departments, emphasizing a more cross-disciplinary approach, according to information from the university.

Proponents of the consortium also stressed its inclusion of English, classics and Asian literatures. “Often, universities try to streamline their literature offerings into a generic program in modern European languages, or such,” said Muller-Sievers. “Having Chinese and Japanese in the mix gives students an understanding of non-European traditions and cultures. Also, the inclusion of classics -- of ancient Greek, Latin and classical archaeology -- deepens our students’ understanding of our literary heritage, as well as of the materiality of texts and artifacts. The presence of English gives students access to faculty who are working on today’s most hotly debated topics.”

The Modern Language Association suggested in a 2014 report that humanities graduate programs do what they can to cut time to degree to five years. Stanford University already has moved forward with the idea.

November 9, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Ann Gordon, associate professor of political science at Chapman University, examines if the country's emergency preparedness could use a tune-up. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 8, 2016

Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, on Monday apologized for the way the university responded to an incident last month when two fans at a football game wore costumes and had props depicting the lynching of President Obama (at right). Authorities at the time asked the two fans to stop using the noose, and the fans complied, but many said the university should have done more.

At a Faculty Senate meeting Monday, Blank said the university would have new rules in place before the next football game. Further, she said action had been taken about the incident, hinting that this action involved the fans who brought the noose, although she did not say that explicitly. “I’m limited in how much I can say today, but can announce that we’ve indefinitely revoked the season tickets of a pair of individuals related to this situation,” she said. “We took this action because the person using the tickets brought a prohibited item into the stadium and failed to follow the direction of our event staff.”

Blank also apologized.

“I am personally very sorry for the hurt that this incident and our response to it has caused. I have heard from students, faculty and community members who are dissatisfied with our response, and I understand why,” she said. “A noose is a symbol of some of the worst forms of racial hatred and intimidation in our country’s history. We understand this and we should have communicated this more forcefully from the beginning. A noose displayed in this fashion has no place in Camp Randall.” (Camp Randall is the football stadium.)

November 8, 2016

In an opinion piece alleging that Laureate Education may have been spared from the Obama administration's crackdown on for-profit higher education because of its ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, The Wall Street Journal's editorial board noted that information about Laureate's Walden University is missing in the relatively new federal College Scorecard.

"Laureate is also a rare major for-profit college in the U.S. that has been spared from President Obama’s war on the industry," the article said. "Laureate may have an impeccable compliance record and provide a world-class education. But it’s hard to know since the Obama administration’s College Scorecard doesn’t include a graduation rate for Laureate’s largest U.S. college, the online Walden University, which makes up the majority of its U.S. enrollment."

Walden's graduation rate is not included in the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) because of a mundane reason: the federal database's graduation rate tracks only first-time, full-time undergraduates, and Walden lacks enough students who fit that profile to generate a meaningful rate. The Journal editorial itself mentions Walden's first-time, full-time issue, citing a department spokesperson.

The university is heavily tilted toward graduate students, who comprise more than 80 percent of Walden's overall enrollment. And roughly 85 percent of the university's undergraduates are at least 25 years old, meaning many likely are not first-time college students. That's partially because Walden's undergraduate academic programs until recently were focused on degree completion for returning college students.

The Education Department's College Navigator, the companion to the College Scorecard, explains Walden's lack of a federal graduation rate. "Data reported in the IPEDS Graduation Rate survey is based on a cohort of first-time, full-time undergraduates," a footnote in the entry says. "Undergraduate students enrolled at Walden University do not typically fall into this group."

November 8, 2016

Among Americans, those who are Hindu are the most likely (77 percent) to have a college degree, according to new data from Pew Research. They are followed by Unitarian Universalists (67 percent), and Jews and Anglicans (both 59 percent). The following table from Pew shows the data for all religious groups (and atheists).

November 8, 2016

A federal jury on Monday said that Rolling Stone and one of its writers must pay a former University of Virginia associate dean $3 million for defamation, The New York Times reported. The ruling came in a suit was brought by Nicole Eramo, an administrator who was in charge of handling sexual violence cases in the period covered by a now discredited article about an alleged gang rape at Virginia. On Friday, the jury found that Eramo had been defamed, but a subsequent hearing and deliberations led to Monday's award.

November 8, 2016

San Jacinto College, a community college in Texas, announced Monday that it is dropping four intercollegiate athletic teams: men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and men’s soccer. The college will keep its baseball and softball teams.

College officials cited the expenses associated with the eliminated teams, which involve about 150 students. Annual spending is about $2.6 million, and athletics facilities currently require about $25 million in renovations.

November 8, 2016

The Vassar College faculty has approved a plan to shrink the teaching load to four classes per year, from five, while adding a new student supervisory requirement. The plan, referred to as 2-2-1, also includes cutting the number of units students need to graduate. The vote was 135 in favor and 40 opposed, with one abstention. Though it passed by a relatively wide margin, with faculty proponents emphasizing a renewed commitment to one-on-one interaction with students, the plan has been controversial and remains so, to some. “My fear that Vassar's bad example could start a trend” among selective colleges, Donald Foster, Jean Webster Professor of Dramatic Literature, said via email.

November 8, 2016

The Houston College of Law, formerly known as the South Texas College of Law, has a new name: South Texas College of Law Houston. The law school announced its new name Monday, shortly after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction ordering the Houston College of Law to stop using that name, citing potential confusion with the University of Houston Law Center, which sought the injunction. The University of Houston Law Center noted issues beyond the name -- such as a similar color for the logos -- that could lead to confusion. The South Texas College of Law Houston also said it planned to change the color used in the logo, away from a red similar to the University of Houston's, and to instead use navy.

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