Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Sarah Johnson, a postdoc at Florida State University, discusses the benefits of consuming blueberries. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 3:00am

Newly introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives would enable the linking of student-level enrollment information with data on employment and wages. The bipartisan bill would provide postgraduate earnings averages at both the institutional and academic program levels, wrote Amy Laitinen, deputy director of New America's higher education program. It would make public these and other performance data about higher education by overturning the ban on a federal “student unit record” system and freeing up existing but currently unavailable information.

Representative Mia Love, a Utah Republican, introduced the bill -- her first -- with Representative Duncan Hunter, a California Republican. Representative Paul Ryan, the powerful Wisconsin Republican, is a co-sponsor. Dubbed the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, it mirrors a companion bill that a bipartisan group of senators previously introduced, including Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. The House bill would lead to graduation figures for more than just first-time, full-time students, which are the constraints federal data currently face, Laitinen wrote. It also would provide loan-debt information for both graduates and students who drop out.

Previous versions of the Senate bill also called for a federal student unit record system, which would track students through higher education and into the workforce. Conservative lawmakers and private college groups have opposed the system, however, citing privacy issues and other concerns. But support for it appears to be building.

“Going to school to learn new skills is one of the best ways to improve your quality of life. But it's also one of the most costly,” Paul Ryan said in a written statement, according to UtahPolicy.com. “Know Before You Go could help cut costs by giving students access to useful information that would help them make better informed decisions about their education. I’m excited to co-sponsor this commonsense reform.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 3:00am

Parts of the commencement speech at Lincoln University of Missouri were plagiarized, The News Tribune reported. The newspaper found eight instances in which Patricia Russell-McCloud, a motivational speaker, used words or phrases that were first written or spoken by others, without attribution. Among the authors whose work was copied were Mark Twain, Gloria Steinem, Buckminster Fuller and Mother Teresa, although some say that the latter quote came from someone else. Russell-McCloud told the News Tribune she would review her materials and call back, but did not do so. She did not respond to a Facebook message from Inside Higher Ed seeking comment.

Lincoln University at first indicated that it was not concerned. A university spokesperson, Misty Young, sent an email to the newspaper in which she said: “In this current age, speakers and speechwriters draw inspiration from varied sources. This should not be considered an attempt to pass off original thoughts as one’s own, but understood as a new way of sharing ideas.” Young did not respond to requests about how much the university paid for the speech.

Later, the university's president sent the newspaper an email with a different view. “I believe that the speech was quite inspirational. I am not aware of how professional speakers give attribution for others in their speeches. I do not believe that it was Russell-McCloud’s intention to deceive our campus as I had heard some of those points from various speakers in the past. I believe that credit should be given to the originators of thought as when one writes a piece. Unfortunately, this didn’t occur and it’s a lesson learned for Lincoln University. But the main focus should be the beauty of the day and the approximately 400 students who worked very diligently to achieve their degrees from Lincoln University.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 3:00am

Minnesota's state budget for the next year includes a pilot of the idea of free technical college education, The Star Tribune reported. While the plan started as a proposal for free community college, an idea that the Obama administration has promoted, it was scaled back to a pilot. The state will waive tuition and fees for about 1,600 students in high-demand technical college fields over the next two years. The scholarships will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis for those enrolling in eligible programs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 3:00am

A budget committee of Wisconsin's Legislature last week voted down a proposal by the state's Republican governor, Scott Walker, to eliminate Wisconsin's oversight board of for-profit institutions, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. In February Walker proposed nixing the Educational Approval Board as part of his budget plan. Cutting the small state agency would "decrease the regulatory and fiscal burden" on for-profits, he said at the time.

After the Legislature committee voted down the proposal last week, David Dies, the board's director, said the recent attention has been beneficial. "Ironically I think this whole process has helped create visibility and awareness for the agency," he told the State Journal.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 3:00am

Evan Rowe, an adjunct at Broward College, has sued the college in federal court, charging that his free speech and other rights were denied when he was not given courses after he published articles criticizing the college's treatment of adjuncts, Broward New Times reported. The articles, such as this one, also appeared in New Times. The lawsuit notes a pattern in which publication was followed by denying Rowe sections to teach. A Broward spokeswoman said that the college does not comment on pending litigation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 3:00am

A faculty member who is considered one of five black philosophers at universities in Britain is alleging that University College London rejected a proposal for a new master's degree in black studies because it would have promoted research and education that was highly critical of white people, Times Higher Education reported. The faculty member -- Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman (who writes his last name with a line through it to symbolize the way the name was selected for him and his family by slave masters in Jamaica) -- is now expected to lose his job because his position was contingent on the creation of the new program. He said his approach for the program was to teach "critical white studies" and that “white hegemony was… to be put under the microscope."

Jonathan Wolff, executive dean of University College London's Faculty of Arts and Humanities, said that the proposed master's program was rejected because “it became apparent that UCL is not yet ready to offer a strong program in this area."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 3:00am

A federal appeals court on Friday ordered the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore to defend itself on charges that it retaliated against a female police officer because she accused a colleague of sexually harassing her. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit partially overturned a lower court's decision dismissing all charges brought against the university by Iris Turner, who alleged that administrators dismissed her in 2007 after she complained repeatedly (formally and otherwise) about a male officer's groping and suggestive comments. The Fourth Circuit panel said that a reasonable jury could conclude that Maryland-Eastern Shore fired her because of the complaints, and that Turner should have a chance to make that case.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 4:21am

Criticism is growing over Rancho Santiago Community College District's $105 million contract to help two technical schools in Saudi Arabia, The Los Angeles Times reported. Faculty members have worried that the contract is supporting discriminatory policies. Now the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, has weighed in with a letter to the college warning that it must abide by federal and state anti-bias laws even when it operates outside the U.S. “While we support programs that seek to establish collaborative relationships with universities in the Middle East, we do believe that special care must be taken when establishing programs where there are restrictions on the activities of programs based on characteristics such as religion, gender, national origin or sexual orientation,” said the letter.

Raul Rodriguez, chancellor of the district, said that it was in compliance with laws, but acknowledged that the Saudi government's policies are discriminatory. The technical schools that Rancho Santiago is helping educate only male students and bar the hiring of female instructors to teach male students. But Rodriguez said that Rancho Santiago doesn't do the faculty hiring. Of the college's view of Saudi Arabia's policies, he said, “It's not an endorsement. We're in no way condoning the views and stance of the Saudi government.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 3:00am

Dartmouth College researchers say a new app they have created can predict with great precision the grade point averages of students. The app tracks student behaviors associated with higher or lower GPAs. Students need to report their activities, as the app infers what they are doing and can tell when students are studying, partying or sleeping, among other activities. The findings will be presented this week at the International Conference on Web and Social Media. The research may be found here, and a Dartmouth video that explains the findings is below.

 

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