Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 13, 2010

Japanese enrollments in the United States are in decline, The Washington Post reported. Many students say that they prefer to stay home, and many employers say that they seek more "harmony" by hiring those educated in Japan, who are believed to be harder workers than those educated in the United States.

April 13, 2010

Efforts to build China's academic stature may be hindered by widespread plagiarism, the Associated Press reported. The article noted that experts blame weak punishments and a system that seems to value the quantity of work produced over the quality. One ghostwriter is quoted saying: "My opinion is that writing papers for someone else is not wrong.... There will always be a time when one needs help from others. Even our great leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping needed help writing."

April 13, 2010

The University of California at Berkeley has released a consultant's report recommending $75 million in savings through better management, including streamlined business systems and the elimination of "redundant" management positions, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Berkeley officials commissioned the report -- and say they will try to carry out its recommendations -- in response to large cuts in state support (that far exceed the projected savings).

April 13, 2010

The University of Wyoming, which called off a talk by William Ayers, the one-time Weather Underground leader who is now a leading education researcher, is facing new criticism over the move. While Ayers has been canceled before, Wyoming officials were frank about their concerns over political fallout from a visit (as opposed to claiming security or scheduling problems). As a result, a Colorado lawyer, David Lane (also the lawyer for Ward Churchill), announced that he will sue the university for free speech violations unless it invites Ayers, the Associated Press reported. The suit would be filed on behalf of a student who wanted to see him talk on campus.

April 12, 2010

Marymount College in California, like many colleges, is frustrated by delays in getting local approval for building and expansion plans. The college's unusual response? It is taking its proposal directly to its local voters, by placing a referendum on the fall ballot to bypass normal reviews, the Los Angeles Times reported. College officials say that after 10 years of delays, they have no choice if they want to move ahead with ambitious campus growth plans, but some residents see a danger that any developers who face opposition to their plans may now try for their own ballot measures.

April 12, 2010

Blackboard plans to announce today the release of a new version of its widely used e-learning suite, with an emphasis on incorporating social networking tools such as wikis, YouTube, Flickr, and Slideshare. "We provided a very intuitive process to search for and add content from YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare to a course without ever having to leave the LMS," said Stacey Fontenot, a Blackboard vice president, in an e-mail. "And this content can be leveraged not only as stand alone course content but used in different places like discussion boards posts and assessment questions to provide educators with more dynamic ways to engage and assess learners." Version 9.1 also has tools that will help better organize and evaluate student contributions to course wikis, Fontenot said. Certain parts of the new version were designed "with WebCT clients in mind," she added, as part of an effort to "create a familiar environment" for those campuses that used WebCT for their learning-management needs before Blackboard bought the competitor in 2005.

April 12, 2010

Ten years after Florida eliminated affirmative action in admissions for its university system, the gaps have grown between both the black and Latino share of high school graduates and of enrolled university students, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Under the plan -- championed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush -- universities wouldn't consider race and ethnicity in admissions, but would offer spots to those at the top of their high school classes, regardless of test scores. Bush said that the plan offered a legal way to promote diversity -- at a time when some doubted (incorrectly, in turned out) that courts would continue to allow affirmative action in admissions.

April 12, 2010

Over faculty objections, Missouri State University's board has authorized administrators to reassign faculty members to other jobs, without their consent, in certain circumstances, The News-Leader reported. Faculty members said that the move took away important due process rights, but administrators said that they sometimes need to respond to situations in which they need to move someone. University officials have cited the controversy over their social work program, from which they removed four faculty members from teaching duties in 2008, which set off lawsuits, some of which have been settled.

April 12, 2010

The National Endowment for the Humanities faced a storm of online criticism this weekend over a report -- first posted on the Feminist Philosophers blog -- about how a grant recipient reportedly was treated. The report said that the woman, a single mother, indicated to the NEH that she wanted to bring her son with her to the European city where an NEH financed seminar will take place. She was told, according to the blog item, that she had 12 hours to “demonstrate that she has full-time child-care arrangements for her son" and that failure to get these arrangements approved would result in her losing her spot in the program. The readers of the blog were outraged and posted comments calling the NEH's conduct "outrageous," illegal, sexist and more. Some readers suggested that word be spread about the situation, and it promptly turned up on Facebook and at other blog sites, again drawing outrage. While some bloggers noted their lack of direct knowledge of the situation, more criticism was heaped on the endowment.

A spokeswoman for the NEH said that efforts over the weekend to identify which recipient was involved -- to figure out exactly what was said and why -- were not successful. The spokeswoman said that the endowment would never ask mothers or fathers about child care in the way described -- and that the NEH works hard to make sure its programs are open to all. In some cases, she said, someone running a program might give a tight deadline to a grant recipient to indicate whether he or she would be attending a program, so that alternates may be offered the place if someone isn't able to attend. The spokeswoman said that, lacking all the facts, there were limits on what she could say -- but that the facts, as described in the blog posts, were not consistent with NEH policies.

April 12, 2010

Faculty members have voted no confidence in Provost Gary Olson, The Idaho State Journal reported. Olson wasn't available for comment about the vote. He has been the chief proponent of a reorganization plan that would merge many of the university's colleges, a move he maintains would save money. Many faculty members either dispute the estimated savings or say that the plan would increase administrative oversight in ways that would not help the university.

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