Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 19, 2018

Sibling relationships can predict similarities and differences in higher education completion, according to a new study at Pennsylvania State University.

The study found that siblings who show more warmth toward each other during childhood are more likely to complete similar levels of education later in life. When two siblings felt that parents' treatment of them or their sibling was unfair, or when a father spent more time with one child than the other, they completed different levels of education.

Researchers followed the two oldest siblings from 152 families in central Pennsylvania and first interviewed the siblings when they were an average of 11.8 and 9.2 years old to ask questions about their sibling relationships, preferential treatment from parents and how much time each child spent alone with each parent. The researchers checked in with the families again at 26 years old to ask about each sibling's highest level of completed education.

"When two people are closer to each other, they tend to treat each other as role models," Xiaoran Sun, a doctoral candidate in human development and family studies, said in a press release. "And this could be for better or for worse. They can be 'partners in crime,' as some prior work suggests, or partners in achievement, as we found. It's not that siblings who are close are more likely to graduate from college, they're just more likely to end up with the same level of education, either graduating from college or not."

June 19, 2018

At a time when the numbers of new international students coming to the U.S. has declined, the United Kingdom is making it easier for many international students to get visas to study there. Times Higher Education reported that the immigration ministry has added China and 10 other countries to a 28-country list of nations whose citizens are eligible for a “streamlined” student visa application process in which they are asked for less documentation. The immigration ministry said it will continue to request full documentation for a random sample of applications.

China sends more students to the U.K. than any other country. Not included on the list for streamlined visa processing is India, another major sending country.

June 19, 2018

The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities Board of Regents will hear a revised plan Thursday for how the system plans to save money and consolidate the state's 12 community colleges.

In a letter to the system, President Mark Ojakian wrote that the revised plan extends the timeline for a single accredited community college to 2023 and maintains the current department chair structure as a way to gradually transition away from 12 separate colleges. The previous proposal would have shrunk the community college side of the system from 12 presidents to one vice chancellor, and 36 administrative positions would be reduced to 16. It also would eliminate campus financial and academic officers. Each of the community colleges would have been operated by a vice president and clustered into three groups led by a regional president. The original plan was expected to save the system $23 million.

The new plan is estimated to save $17 million. It would also create three regional president positions to be filled in 2019 but maintain the current 12 chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief academic officer positions at each of the colleges.

The proposal also includes implementing guided pathways, centralizing shared services and hiring for new positions to help raise new money for the system.

"We will implement the immediate next steps of regionalizing the college structure, selecting new leadership, integrating and centralizing administrative functions, implementing Guided Pathways and aligning curriculum statewide," Ojakian said in the letter. "We will keep NEASC staff apprised of our efforts and invite them to attend future [Board of Regents] Academic and Student Affairs committee meetings so that we may discuss our progress and prepare for the single accreditation process."

Ojakian and the system's administration were forced to revise the consolidation plan after the system's accreditor, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, warned that the proposal would be rejected. Since NEASC's warnings, a few of the state's colleges and university faculty leaders have called for an end to the plan and for Ojakian and the board's departure for proposing it.

June 19, 2018

A forthcoming study in Technology and Innovation, the journal of the National Academy of Inventors, suggests that women benefit from technology transfer support efforts. Researchers compared the number of invention disclosures and patents filed by female faculty members at Washington University in St. Louis before and after the 2014 creation of campus's Women in Innovation and Technology program. Some 27 percent more female faculty members interacted with the university’s Office of Technology Management between 2013 and 2016 than in the previous three-year period. The number of patents filed by women increased by about 129 percent. Researchers also saw a slight uptick in female representation on invention disclosures over the same period.

Among other assistance, the university’s Women in Innovation and Technology program invites female scientists to participate in technology transfer and the commercialization of scientific work, training and networks of peers inside and outside the institution. “We are still one of the few universities that has a program dedicated to tracking female engagement,” co-author Nichole Mercier, director of technology management at Washington University, told the campus news service, encouraging institutions to tailor their own support system to their particular transfer trends.

June 19, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Taryn Morrissey, associate professor in the school of public affairs at American University, explores how to make childcare affordable. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 18, 2018

Two more professors involved in a legal case against the University of Rochester over its handling of the Florian Jaeger case have resigned. Celeste Kidd and Steven Piantadosi, married assistant professors of brain and cognitive sciences, announced on Twitter that they’re moving their labs to the University of California, Berkeley, saying they leave not with anger but with “unshakable sadness” that students on campus “have no one in the administration who will support them.”

Last year, Kidd, Piantadosi and seven other past and present students and professors in the brain sciences department sued Rochester for what they described as an inadequate response to the sexual harassment concerns they raised about their department colleague, Jaeger, whom the university cleared of misconduct. Other professors involved in the case already have left the department to join other institutions.

A university spokesperson said that Rochester’s commitment to campus safety is “evident in the many policy revisions and programmatic and organizational enhancements” that are part of new president Richard Feldman’s Culture of Respect initiative.

June 18, 2018

Female academics from around the world showed solidarity last week with Fern Riddell, an historian based in Britain, by changing their Twitter display names to say “Dr.” They did so after Riddell was criticized online for tweeting about her title in relation to news that The Globe and Mail planned to use “Dr.” only in reference to medical doctors.

After being called immodest by some commentators, Riddell also started the Twitter hashtag #ImmodestWomen. Women in academe soon began to share their experiences with gender bias or express pride in that descriptor.

Riddell wrote about the criticism and support for the NewStatesman, saying “In the last 48 hours I have been continually told that wanting my professional title to be acknowledged in a public setting, where I work as a public expert, is ‘vulgar’ and ‘immodest,’ and that I lack ‘humility.’ References to my body, my expertise being a ‘turn off,’ and whether or not I was sexual [sic] active, all came from men who seemed unable to accept female expertise and authority in the public domain.”

In “retaliation to this, and knowing how often qualified women in every industry down play their own expertise,” Riddell continued, “I started tweeting with the hashtag #ImmodestWomen. I wasn’t planning a revolution, but it became a call to arms for experts across the world. My timeline is now full of women with their titles and expertise proudly on display, supported by men both in and outside of their industries, and I could not be more surprised and excited to see what they do next. We need experts more than ever today, to combat the dangerous rise of ignorance and animosity that sits at the centre of our governments. We need to know who to trust, and just maybe, this is a starting point.”

June 18, 2018

The American Anthropological Association on Friday announced a new Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault. It defines both harassment and assault as “professional misconduct” that hurts anthropologists individually, as a group and as a discipline. The policy echoes a recent report on misconduct in the sciences from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in emphasizing that harassment can be sexist as well as sexual and is linked to negative work and health consequences for targets. It also echoes the National Academies report in recommending fixes to the harassment problem that are not primarily based on complying with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender-based harassment. The new policy says it exists in tandem with the AAA’s Principles of Professional Responsibility and applies to members as well as nonmembers who participate in any AAA program or activity, anywhere. The association also encourages the application of the zero-tolerance policy in other settings.

While the AAA is not an adjudicating body, the policy says, the AAA Ombudspeople for Sexual Harassment and Assault will receive complaints of harassment in the context of AAA settings and activities, starting in October. They will ask about complainants’ desired outcomes, referring them to the police when appropriate, and serve as a resource by in various ways. If a complainant wishes for the ombudspeople to actively participate in resolving a complaint, the policy says, they will (with consent) discuss the complaint with the alleged harasser. The ombudspeople also may “facilitate discussion between both parties to achieve an informal resolution that is acceptable to the complainant,” and then follow up on the case, according to the policy. The policy recommends reporting misconduct that occurs outside AAA events to individual institutions.

June 18, 2018

An Elon University student is suing the university for breach of contract after he was suspended for fighting with another student, who, he claims, received much lesser punishment, according to the Greensboro News and Record.

Samuel Shaw was suspended for one year after a physical fight with Spencer Schar in October. According to the lawsuit, Schar, the son of Martha and Dwight Schar, who have donated $12 million to Elon, had assaulted two women and punched another man before Shaw intervened. Police determined that Shaw had acted in self-defense. Randall Williams, director of student conduct at Elon, found Shaw responsible of fighting or acts of physical aggression and disorderly conduct and suspended him for one year due to the severity of Schar's injuries.

Shaw claims that Schar received a lighter suspension and that a fair student conduct process is part of a contract between students and the university. In statement given to the Times-News of Burlington, Elon disputes Shaw’s claims and says it plans to defend itself in court.

June 18, 2018

Sweet Briar College, which has generally boasted of a speedy recovery from its near closure in 2015, has been placed on warning status by its accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Meredith Woo, president of Sweet Briar, said in a statement to the campus that the warning related to the college's financial condition, but she said that the position is strong and has continued to improve. Sweet Briar has struggled to meet enrollment targets and has reduced faculty positions as part of a curricular redesign.

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