Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 30, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Yellowlees Douglas, associate professor at the Center for Management Communication at the University of Florida, examines if reading more polished writing can make you a better writer. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 29, 2016

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania announced Wednesday that a student whose racist Facebook post (at right) upset many on the campus is no longer enrolled. The university did not say whether he withdrew voluntarily.

After the Facebook post circulated, the university released this statement: "Last week, university officials were notified that a screenshot of a Facebook post from a university student, using derogatory and hateful language, was circulating on social media. Once notified, the dean of students and Shippensburg University Police addressed the student, and the post was deleted. The university received a sincere letter of apology from the student." Some have criticized the university for seeming, in their view, to be satisfied with the apology but that was before Wednesday's announcement that the student is no longer enrolled.

September 29, 2016

Two international-student recruiters pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit visa fraud in relation to their recruitment of foreign nationals to the University of Northern New Jersey, a sham “pay-to-stay” college created by the federal government as part of a sting operation.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey said in a press release that Harpreet Sachdeva, 26, of Somerset, N.J., and Sanjeev Sukhija, 35, of North Brunswick, N.J., were employed by an international student recruiting agency called Right OPT, where they advised foreign nationals that they could, for a fee, enroll in UNNJ without having to attend classes as a way to fraudulently maintain their visa status in the U.S.

Sachdeva and Sukhija were also accused of conspiring to obtain fraudulent work authorizations for some of their clients, and, according to the press release, “admitted that their intention was to profit from the scheme by outsourcing these foreign individuals through Right OPT as information technology consultants with various businesses in the United States for commissions.”

“In total,” the release states, “Sachdeva, Sukhija and others fraudulently maintained and attempted to obtain approximately 45 student visas and/or work authorizations.”

Sachdeva and Sukhija are scheduled to be sentenced in January. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit visa fraud is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


September 29, 2016

Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric throughout the presidential campaign has pushed a string of high-profile Republicans to back his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and led to two historic newspaper endorsements of the Democratic candidate.

Now, University of Pennsylvania alumni are demanding that their alma mater repudiate Trump as well.

The real estate developer and reality TV star holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School, which he has made a frequent habit of mentioning in media appearances.

Alumni who say Trump is using the school to confer legitimacy on his brand of politics have started a Change.org petition asking Penn President Amy Gutmann and the university’s Board of Trustees to publicly state that the values articulated by Trump’s campaign do not reflect those of the university.

The petition, launched by 1991 graduate Nathaniel Popkin, acknowledges that as a tax-exempt institution the university is barred from making a political endorsement. But it asks that Penn leaders make a statement of its values in contrast to the GOP nominee.

“This statement will serve as clarification of Penn’s signature culture of openness, diversity and the advancement of rights of women and minority groups,” the letter said.

Clinton's alma mater, Wellesley College, has shown no reservations about embracing its link with the first female presidential nominee of a major party, promoting the connection on its website and releasing audio excerpts of her 1969 commencement speech. Wharton, meanwhile, has kept its distance from Trump, with administrators avoiding public comment on his candidacy. And Penn indicated that it wouldn't be weighing in on this petition, either.

“The university doesn’t involve itself in partisan political races, so we would not have anything to offer on this,” said Ron Ozio, a spokesman for the university.

September 29, 2016

A fraternity at the University of Missouri at Columbia was suspended Wednesday after its members were accused of using gendered and racial slurs against two black women, according to a statement from the university’s Legion of Black Collegians. Missouri's chapter of Delta Upsilon was “placed on emergency suspension” by its national organization. Students and faculty gathered in the Student Center midday to demonstrate and to denounce the incident.

“We have zero tolerance for actions like this; if any student is found in violation of the Student Code and/or the university’s nondiscrimination policies, they will be subject to discipline, up to and including suspension and/or expulsion,” Hank Foley, the university's interim chancellor, said in a statement released Wednesday.

This is one of a slew of recent racist episodes across U.S. campuses, and Missouri is no stranger to racial controversy. Nearly one year ago, a similar incident occurred: racial slurs were directed at members of the black student legion as they rehearsed for homecoming, and in November, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigned after protests roiled the campus.

The Delta Upsilon chapter has been cited for alcohol violations since the beginning of the semester, according to a news release from the university.

September 29, 2016

From the 2009-10 school year to 2015-16, enrollment at the University of Houston increased 18 percent, as the university also moved to boost research spending and athletics. But during that same time period, black enrollment fell 17 percent, The Texas Tribune reported. Black students went from making up 15 percent of the student body to 10 percent. Some black leaders have charged that the university has ignored the issue. Houston officials said that they are in fact paying more attention, and hope to reverse the trend.

September 29, 2016

A California jury on Wednesday ordered San Diego State University to pay Beth Burns, a former women's basketball coach, $3.35 million, The Los Angeles Times reported. Burns is the winningest women's basketball coach ever at the university, but was fired in what the jury found was a wrongful termination. The university said she was fired for mistreating her subordinates. But Burns and her lawyers argued that the real reason was that she complained numerous times about what she saw as inequitable treatment of female athletes.

September 29, 2016

Many in Nebraska have been highly critical of three football players at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln who dropped to their knees during the playing of the national anthem on Saturday, joining athletes nationwide in a protest against police brutality. As some called for the students to be punished in some way, Hank Bounds (right), president of the university, said that they had the right to express themselves and wouldn't be punished.

He followed that with a statement Wednesday in which he more fully discussed the value of free speech in higher education. Here are some excerpts from the statement:

I have served in the military. I understand love of country and love of the flag and I know that freedom is not free. I recognize that some are upset by what they saw on Saturday night. But let me be clear. The University of Nebraska will not restrict the First Amendment rights of any student or employee. Our position on this issue is abundantly clear. As stated in Board of Regents policy, which has been in place for almost a half century: “Members of the academic community have the right to extensive latitude in making their opinions known …. The public exploration and resolution of differing views can be successful only when groups and individuals discuss the issues in forums where the right to disagree, speak freely and be heard is preserved.”

The same freedoms that protect the speech of those who have joined the conversation in recent days also protect our students' speech -- whether they're kneeling during the national anthem, holding the American flag on the field, praying after a game or expressing their opinion during class or on campus. All of that speech falls under the same category. All of it is protected.

Our nation is dealing with difficult issues today, as we have for virtually our entire history. Each of us will react differently. College campuses, as much as any space, must be places where robust, even uncomfortable, debate is welcomed and encouraged.

The full statement may be found here.

September 29, 2016

SAGE Publishing is today releasing a white paper with the results of a survey of more than 9,000 social scientists around the world on their use of big data. Some of the findings:

  • Thirty-three percent of respondents said they had been involved in big data research of some kind and 49 percent said they were “definitely planning on doing so in the future” or “might do so in the future.”
  • Sixty percent of respondents who are doing big data research had done so within the last 12 months.
  • While 79 percent of those doing big data research have collaborated with other academics, the majority of researchers had not shared the code or software they developed with other researchers.
September 29, 2016

The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, joined with her primary rival Senator Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire Wednesday to promote a tuition-free college plan they said would open access to higher education and free young people to pursue their goals without burdensome student loan debt.

After spending much of the primary campaign sparring over Sanders's proposal to make public colleges and universities free, Clinton in July revised her own plan to make four-year public institutions free to students with family incomes up to $125,000 by 2021. Clinton's proposal, Sanders said, "tells us that if you are a low-income family, a working-class family, if your kid works hard and studies well -- regardless of the income of your family -- your kid will be able to make it into college. That is a big deal."

The Democrats appeared at a campaign event at the University of New Hampshire. The state of New Hampshire ranks second over all for the average debt of graduates of four-year colleges and universities.

Clinton said her plan would also address the challenges of borrowers repaying student loans by allowing them to refinance their debt at lower rates. She specifically identified high student loan interest rates as a major obstacle for recent college graduates looking to start a business or take other risks. She also used the event to point voters toward the college cost calculator released by her campaign earlier this month. "We are trying to make it as specific as possible, because I don't want anybody to miss out on what this plan can do for you," she said.

Sanders said the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which he is a member, would pass Clinton's tuition-free college plan. "I will work with President Clinton to make sure that this legislation is passed as quickly as we possibly can," he said. "And to make that happen we need your help."


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