Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - 3:00am

A federal appeals panel on Tuesday challenged parts of a lower court's ruling for Carnegie Mellon University in a patent lawsuit against Marvell Technologies, ordering a new trial on a key question that could significantly reduce the lower court's massive award for the university. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit directed a lower court to review its 2012 order that Marvell pay $1.169 billion because it had willfully infringed two Carnegie Mellon patents for a chip technology.

The appeals court's ruling upheld the finding of patent infringement against Marvell but questioned whether the court had accurately calculated the damages. The appeals court affirmed just $278.4 million of the damage award, and ordered a new trial to re-calculate how much more the university is due. Carnegie Mellon maintains a website about the case here.

 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - 3:00am

Dozens of education, interest, library and technology groups on Tuesday called for the Obama administration to make federally funded instructional and training materials available as open educational resources. In a letter, the organizations offered an example of what such a policy might look like, writing that the materials should be reusable, adaptable and made available online. A copy of the letter can be seen here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Iowa must negotiate with its graduate student employee union over the reimbursement of student fees, according to a state court. The Iowa District Court for Polk County upheld an earlier Public Employee Relations Board finding that the university must bargain with graduate teaching and research assistants over the reimbursement of such fees, which equal several hundred dollars or more annually, depending on one’s program.

The Board of Regents for the State of Iowa had sought to overturn the board’s ruling, arguing that student fees should be exempt from mandatory bargaining as they pertain to union members’ student — not employee — status. But Judge Karen A. Romano ruled late last week that student fee reimbursements were supplemental pay, and therefore a mandatory bargaining topic in Iowa. Moreover, Romano wrote in her decision, supplemental pay is “triggered” by union members' status as employees, not students. Ruth Bryant, a master's of fine arts student and a spokeswoman for the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students (COGS), which is affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, said the ruling “validates and strengthens” the union’s fight.

Tom Moore, a spokesman for the university, said the Board of Regents was “evaluating the decision and considering its options.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - 3:00am

Alpha Omicron Pi will no longer recognize the University of California at Berkeley chapter's house, the women's fraternity announced Tuesday, saying it would strip the house of its letters, drop the house's insurance and bar any official activity from taking place there.

But the de-recognition is not because of any misconduct committed by the chapter's members. Rather, the house will lose recognition over an ongoing dispute between the chapter corporation's board and the international organization over who should control the property.

"This chapter was the first one west of the Mississippi and is one of the oldest still in existence," Sandy Jaeger, president of the Berkeley chapter's board, said. "And basically they're saying, 'we don't want you anymore.' We have been negotiating in good faith, but everything just comes back to that they want our property."

In 2005, Alpha Omicron Pi's Council voted to amend its governing documents to transfer the "property management responsibilities" of each chapter's house to the international organization. According to the organization, 134 of 135 Alpha Omicron Pi's corporations agreed to the new "coordinated management system." The lone holdout was the board at Berkeley, known as Sigma 1916.

After years of discussions, the international organization offered the Berkeley chapter a settlement proposal: the local chapter's corporation could keep the title for the house and local alumni could retain representation on the board, but it would have to yield majority control of the board to nonlocal representatives of the organization. After a chapter-wide vote, the local members declined the settlement in February, saying they did not want nonlocal representatives to make decisions about the house -- including about repairs and whether to mortgage the property.  

This week, the chapter's members and alumni received an email from the organization's executive board announcing that the house would no longer be recognized as an Alpha Omicron Pi facility.  In a statement Monday, Gayle Fitzpatrick, international president of Alpha Omicron Pi, said that the decision came after "more than 30 points of communication and many years of tireless efforts for resolution."

"We understand and appreciate the rich history of Sigma 1916, the Sigma collegiate chapter house and those who dedicated countless volunteer hours," Fitzpatrick stated. "However, by and through the AOII Executive Board, every corporation is obligated to uphold Council's decision to coordinate management for the benefit of the entire fraternal organization."

The statement noted that the other 134 chapter corporations "embraced" the coordinated management system. In 2013, however, the University of Minnesota corporation of Alpha Omicron Pi sued the international organization over similar issues. In that case, a federal judge ruled in a preliminary decision that the international organization could not "take over" the chapter's house.

The win was largely symbolic, as the corporation had already agreed to transfer management -- though not total ownership -- of the property to Alpha Omicron Pi. In June,  the two groups agreed on a settlement, similar to what was offered to the Berkeley chapter.

"Some chapters have probably embraced this system because they don't have alumni who are willing to take on managing the property," Jaeger, president of the Berkeley chapter's board, said. "But this chapter built this house and have always managed this house, and there have always been very diligent alumni who are perfectly happy to give up their free to time to be in here making decisions and doing day-to-day stuff. They just want to use this property as a cash cow."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - 4:09am

Western New England University has dropped its requirement that all applicants submit either SAT or ACT scores. However, those applicants who opt not to submit test scores will be required to do an additional essay.

 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Michael Kofler, a psychologist at Florida State University, presents new research on the condition. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 3:00am

Did The Harvard Crimson endorse Donald Trump? What would have been a coup for the Republican presidential candidate turns out to be a prank by the humor magazine The Harvard Lampoon. The magazine regularly steals a formal chair of the president of the Crimson. This time, the Lampoon took the chair to Trump Tower, where Trump posed in it for the endorsement, which then appeared online, as if from the Crimson, with matching style.

Of Trump, the faux editorial says in part: "His endless dedication to widening employment opportunities extends beyond the Trump Organization and into his many entertainment endeavors. The creative methods and avenues through which Trump has created jobs would likely make (former Crimson editor-in-chief) Franklin D. Roosevelt ‘03 smile. For instance, his work at "The Celebrity Apprentice" has allowed him to reach out to celebrities who have been inactive or troubled and help them to redefine their careers through business education and brand building. These same celebrities are able to create jobs after their exposure on his show, a creative domino effect of job building that almost every other GOP candidate aside from Texas’s Rick Perry fails to match."

The more serious Harvard publication has disavowed the endorsement, stressing that it has not made one in the 2016 race.

Trump was apparently not amused. Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the candidate, told The Hill: “The students who perpetrated this are fraudsters and liars, but frankly it was a waste of only a few minutes."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 3:00am

The employment data of several law schools will start to look very different after two American Bar Association decisions Friday.

The ABA affirmed a decision from earlier this year that requires law schools, starting next year, to count school-funded positions and fellowships separately from other employment. Critics of this process claimed that schools with large fellowship programs had inaccurately inflated employment figures. 

Meanwhile, the ABA also defined "long term employment," another indicator of a school's employment success, as a position that lasts a year or longer and pays at least $40,000 a year. The change was hotly contested, as it will force many schools who offer fellowships with salaries under $40,000 to count those as short term employment.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 3:00am

Textbook and student services provider Chegg will later this year launch a test preparation service, CEO Dan Rosensweig announced during the company's quarterly earnings call Monday afternoon. The paid service will initially cover the ACT and SAT tests, and will be made available to high school students later this year. A Chegg spokesperson said the services will later expand to cover more standardized tests and students. Details on the cost of the service were not announced on Monday.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been named the number one party school in the country by the Princeton Review -- and the chancellor isn’t happy about it. The university claimed the top spot on the list Monday for the first time in more than a decade, knocking Syracuse University -- the previous winner -- down to No. 5. The University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Bucknell University rounded out the top four.

Phyllis Wise, chancellor at Urbana-Champaign, slammed the ranking, calling it a “promotion for the Princeton Review” in a statement, but said it presented an opportunity for university officials to discuss safety with students and parents. This is the institution’s first time landing the No. 1 spot.

“Our student body is comprised of the brightest, most hard-working students anywhere. Their graduation rates and achievements in their careers and lives demonstrate that they take their studies seriously and that they are at Illinois to get a world-class education,” Wise said. “It’s disappointing that, once again, Princeton Review is promoting this pseudo ranking as though it were meaningful. It’s insulting to all of our students, since they are here to prepare to become leaders of their generation.”

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