Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 28, 2016

A federal appeals court this week overruled another court's ruling that would have allowed a merger between the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System, a private hospital operator. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Pennsylvania's attorney general have opposed the merger, citing monopolistic concerns. A district court had denied the FTC and the AG's office's request for a preliminary injunction to block the merger, saying the legal challenge failed to properly define the relative geographic market the merged hospitals would serve. The appeals court, however, reversed that decision, saying an injunction would be in the public interest.

September 28, 2016

Enterprise software provider Workday on Tuesday launched its full cloud-based student information system, Workday Student, after about three years of development. The company, known for its finance and human resources software, in 2013 announced that it would enter the student information system market, and has since then rolled out components such as curriculum management and enrollment on an annual basis.

Speaking to Inside Higher Ed, Liz Dietz, Workday's vice president of student strategy and product management, said the company is "betting on the unified platform." While other newcomers in the enterprise resource planning software market say colleges will want to "unbundle" their software, picking components from a variety of vendors, Dietz said Workday's customers are telling the company they don't want to spend the time making sure software from different providers can connect to one another. Following the rollout of the full system to Workday's customers, the company plans to focus on multimedia and student success features, Dietz said.

September 28, 2016

Education company Cengage Learning on Tuesday announced it had acquired WebAssign, a homework platform provider that spun off from North Carolina State University. In its announcement, Cengage positioned WebAssign as a third offering alongside MindTap, its learning platform, and the online program management service provider Learning Objects.

September 28, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute: Stephanie Pfirman, professor of environmental sciences at Barnard College, explores whether making a game of it will help spread the information. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 27, 2016

The College Board today announces average scores on the SAT for last year's high school graduating class -- and such announcements are typically a time of debate over the state of education, the value of standardized testing, educational inequities and more. This year's results are somewhat difficult to analyze, because some students took the old version of the SAT and others the new. The College Board reported declines in the average scores from the class, but those averages are for those who took the old SAT. The ACT also reported declines this year, noting that more students are taking the test. Both the College Board and the ACT are pursuing more contracts with states to require high school seniors to take one test or the other, and that means more test takers may not in fact be prepared for or preparing for college.

In comparing the old SAT's scores for the class of 2016, compared to 2015:

  • The average for critical reading was 494, down from 497.
  • The average for math was 508, down from 512.
  • The average for writing was 482, down from 487.

Full results are available here, but readers are cautioned by the many caveats about comparisons because of the transitional year.

September 27, 2016

Racist fliers appeared on the University of Michigan campus Monday. The fliers criticized interracial dating and urged "European Americans" to stop "living in fear." The Black Student Union posted photos of the fliers to Twitter, asking the university to respond.

The university issued a statement denouncing the fliers.

The statement said in part, "Messages of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination have no place at the University of Michigan. Targeted attacks against groups of people serve only to tear apart our university community. While we continue to defend any individual’s right to free speech on our campus, these types of attacks directed toward any individual or group, based on a belief or characteristic, are inconsistent with the university’s values of respect, civility and equality. We also have a responsibility to create a learning environment that is free of harassment. These are core values and guiding principles that will help us as we strive to live up to our highest ideals."

September 27, 2016

Dozens of colleges may have had their websites hacked in a wide-ranging scheme by one gambling site to boost its own search engine ranking. The SEO and web marketing firm eTraffic last week discovered that a number of search terms involving online gambling -- including "real money slots," "online slot casino" and others -- had been inserted into other websites to boost the gambling site's ranking. For example, in a lecture posted about two years ago on the website of the University of Washington's Center for Child and Family Well-Being, the text now reads, "Dr. Schonert-Reichl noted that within the classroom, children shouldn’t merely be focused on real money slots academics but also encouraged to explore who it is they are going to be" [emphasis added]. Dartmouth College, Nassau Community College, Stanford University and the University of Florida are among the many institutions affected.

September 27, 2016

Inside Higher Ed and its editors, Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman, have been awarded the 2017 Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in Higher Education by the University of Pennsylvania's Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management program. The award announcement states, "IHE has been a game changer in the media market by increasing reader accessibility to higher education news, diversifying the audience and raising awareness about this sector of education."

The Zemsky Medal is named for Robert Zemsky, the longtime University of Pennsylvania researcher, professor, administrator and author. The award "recognizes individuals whose leadership in higher education has resulted in transformational change in colleges and universities in the context of their missions and their global markets."

Inside Higher Ed is deeply honored to receive the award.

September 27, 2016

Some South African universities remain closed amid continuing protests over tuition rates, which have in some cases involved violence.

Among those universities that have closed, the University of Pretoria moved up its upcoming recess period and plans to reopen Oct. 10. In a statement Monday the university said protesters blockaded entrances and disrupted classes. A statement from Pretoria’s vice chancellor and principal, Cheryl de la Rey, also described “incidents of arson and other violent behavior.”

Other universities that have suspended classes or have moved up scheduled breaks include Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Rhodes University, Tshwane University of Technology and the Universities of Cape Town and Witwatersrand.

The latter institution, known as Wits, has suspended all university operations until further notice and plans to poll staff and students on whether to reopen on Monday “if the appropriate security measures are in place.”

"If the majority of students and staff support the reopening on Monday, 3 October 2016, the university will call upon government and the police to meet their obligations to protect the university’s property and to safeguard the lives of students and staff," the university's statement on the matter said.

Three petrol bombs were found on the Wits campus over the weekend. Eyewitness News reported Monday that a cleaning worker died after inhaling fumes from a fire extinguisher allegedly released last week by student protesters in a Wits residence hall. The university said in a statement expressing its sympathies that the worker had been "rushed to the Campus Health and Wellness Centre and then taken to hospital, where the worker was treated for a few days. The worker was discharged from hospital and then passed away."

The university said the cause of death has not been determined.

September 27, 2016

The University of Cambridge on Monday nominated as its new vice chancellor Stephen Toope (right), a Canadian university leader and international law scholar.

Toope is the director of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and formerly was the president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia. He will assume the top leadership post at Cambridge on Oct. 1, 2017, pending approval by the British university’s governing body.

The University of Toronto said in its press release that Toope is believed to be the first non-Briton to assume the Cambridge vice chancellorship. A Cambridge spokeswoman said the university cannot confirm this, as it does not have a centralized record of the nationality of every vice chancellor in its 800-plus-year history. At least one is believed to have had dual citizenship.

In 2010, Toope was co-author of a "Views" essay in Inside Higher Ed that argued that Canada was gaining on the United States in higher education.


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