Higher Education Quick Takes
The board of Boston University announced Monday that it has rejected a proposal from a campus group that the university sell investments in companies that produce guns for civilians. The board also released policies on when the university should sell investments for non-financial reasons. Those policies place a particular emphasis on the dangers of the appearance of the university as a whole taking a political position.
"A fundamental goal of Boston University is to create an environment in which an academic community can productively consider, discuss, and debate a variety of viewpoints on social and political issues and that encourages freedom of inquiry. Such conditions allow scholars to pursue knowledge according to standards of evidence and logic without the encumbrance of an institutional position that may dampen discussion of alternative views," the statement said. "When the university, as an entity, adopts a single viewpoint or takes action relating to divestment, it risks undermining that goal. Therefore, non-investment or divestment actions based on social or political principles should be very rare and occur in only the clearest of circumstances.... Such circumstances exist only when (i) the degree of social harm caused by the actions of the firms in the asset class is clearly unacceptable; and (ii) any potential negative consequences of the decision (including the risk of censorship of competing views within the university or the risk that the wisdom of the decision will fail to withstand the test of time) are clearly outweighed by the importance of taking the divestment action in order to lessen or mitigate the social harm."
A new study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a research organization that focuses on income inequality, argues that efforts to close education inequality would have a huge impact on the economy. The study runs through a series of scenarios involving moving children from the bottom three-quarters socioeconomically to the levels of education achievement of those in the top quarter. In each scenario, there would be dramatic gains in income, tax payments and other measures of economic well-being.
California's community colleges and the California State University System continue to make "notable progress" in creating smoother transfer pathways for students, according to a new report from the state's Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO). The two systems have been working to comply with 2010 legislation that requires the creation of associate degrees for transfer, which are designed to help clear away some of the "maze of academic requirements that vary across campuses," the report said. The LAO recommends setting specific reporting and data requirements to make sure the public institutions stay on track.
Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges on Monday announced a project to help adult students earn more credit for their prior learning, such as for work training and experience. The College Credit FastTrack is a new Web site for adult students to start that process. The move by the state's community colleges follows a similar initiative the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which is the regional public university system, began in 2012.
Israeli authorities are investigating the practice of a former professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz of listing his academic affiliation in his journal articles as Ariel University, an institution he has never visited, Haaretz reported. The professor listed Ariel as an affiliation on seven articles in 2014 and two this year. Ariel is a controversial Israeli university, located on the West Bank and criticized by many (including Israeli academics), who question the appropriateness of building an Israeli university there. The question of journal articles and their ties to a university is important because the government in Israel evaluates its universities, in part, on the research output of its faculty members. Ariel said that the professor collaborates with one who is on campus.
In 2011, Science reported that some Saudi universities were boosting their apparent research output by creating extremely loose affiliations with scholars in other countries who were being hired on the condition that their journal articles list their affiliation with Saudi universities before others.
Guilford College has moved a lecture by Steven Salaita, the controversial scholar whose hiring was blocked by officials of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but not called off the event. The family of donors who paid for the building where Salaita was scheduled to speak objected to his appearing there. A statement from the college said that, in consultation with faculty members who organized the appearance, a new site was found. The statement said that had a new site not been found, the original location would have been used.
Online, supporters of Salaita are criticizing the change of venue as a violation of academic freedom.
But Hank Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors' Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and a professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay, said via e-mail that he disagreed. "I think donors have rights, even after they make their donation, and the institution's leaders and its faculty are certainly well advised to try to accommodate donor wishes, but only if they can do so without violating fundamental principles of academic freedom and free expression more generally," he said. "It sounds like, in this instance, they were able to do this."
The Princeton Review announced Monday that it is taking additional action against the University of Missouri at Kansas City, in the wake of the release of an audit Friday that confirmed that the business school at the university had provided false information for ratings. On Sunday night, the Princeton Review announced it would remove the business school's listing as among the top entrepreneurial programs for 2014. But based on a full review of the audit, which revealed the submission of false data for several years, the Princeton Review is also removing the business school's listing as among the top entrepreneurial programs for 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who served jail time for procuring an underage girl for prostitution, currently finds himself the focus of lawsuits saying that he arranged for various prominent people to have sex with underage girls. An article by Reuters notes that Epstein has also donated to many colleges and backed the work of various professors. Some researchers and charity officials said that they would not accept any more money from Epstein. But others defended him. "His interest is in interesting people and interesting ideas," Lawrence Krauss, an Arizona State University physicist, told Reuters. Krauss directs a program on the origins of life -- a program that Epstein has supported. Krauss said he would feel cowardly if he turned away from Epstein, given that he doesn't know anything about the accusations.
Another professor who has received funds from Epstein and defended him was Robert Trivers, a Rutgers University biologist who received about $40,000 from Epstein to study the link between knee symmetry and sprinting ability. Trivers questioned how bad the charges are, noting that girls mature earlier than used to be the case. "By the time they're 14 or 15, they're like grown women were 60 years ago, so I don't see these acts as so heinous," he told Reuters.
Inside Higher Ed e-mailed Trivers and Rutgers for elaboration or comment, and did not hear back.