Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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.

September 27, 2016

A Canadian professor detained in Iran since June has been released. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on the release of Homa Hoodfar, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Montreal’s Concordia University. Hoodfar, who has Canadian, Iranian and Irish citizenship, studies issues related to women in Muslim societies and was in Iran to visit family and conduct research on women's participation in public life.

Hoodfar, who has a rare neurological disease that causes severe muscle weakness, had been hospitalized at one point during her detention, the CBC reported, citing her family. She had reportedly been charged with collaborating with a hostile government against national security and with propaganda against the Iranian state. A prosecutor was quoted in the Iranian press accusing Hoodfar of “dabbling in feminism.”

September 27, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Richard Stevens, a professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut, examines the effects of electric light on our circadian rhythms. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 27, 2016

Eric Schwitzgebel, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, has written several articles on the concept of jerks. On his blog, he has posted a "jerk quiz" to help you find out if you are a jerk.

Here's one question:

At the staff meeting, Peter says that your proposal probably won't work. You think:
(a) Hmm, good point, but I bet I could fix that.
(b) Oh, Loretta is smiling at Peter again. I guess she agrees with him and not me, darn it. But I still think my proposal is probably better than his.
(c) Shoot, Peter's right. I should have thought of that!
(d) Peter the big flaming ass. He's playing for the raise. And all the other idiots here are just eating it up!

For all the questions and a scoring guide, check out the blog.

September 26, 2016

Ken Starr (right), who resigned as president of Baylor University amid a scandal over its handling of sex assault allegations against athletes, on Saturday defended the university and its ousted football coach. Starr gave his first extensive interview to The Texas Tribune. In the interview, Starr characterized Baylor as facing similar problems to those confronted by other colleges and universities. And he said Art Briles, who was ousted as football coach, was a victim of inaccurate press reports.

An outside review commissioned by the university -- delivered to Baylor's board shortly before Starr and Briles left -- found numerous problems at Baylor. Among them were university administrators discouraging people from reporting allegations of sex assaults. Specifically, the report said that "football coaches or staff met directly with a complainant and/or parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct" and that the football program operated its own "internal system of discipline" that "resulted in conduct being ignored or players being dismissed from the team based on an informal and subjective process."

September 26, 2016

Military and veteran students who attend colleges that are accredited by the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) should be able to continue receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend those institutions, at least for another 18 months. 

The U.S. Department of Education last week said it would back a federal panel's decision to eliminate ACICS, a national accreditor that oversees 245 colleges that collectively enroll roughly 600,000 students. The accreditor also is the gatekeeper for federal aid at 700 GI Bill-approved programs, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said last week in an email to students who are enrolled in those programs. However, the U.S. Congress has passed legislation to allow GI Bill recipients to continue attending ACICS-accredited colleges. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation.

"At this point nothing changes for you for at least the next 18 months," said Curtis Coy, deputy under secretary for economic opportunity at the VA, in the email to students. "We would, however, suggest you may want to re-evaluate your educational goals and decide that your current school and program will either meet your need for the next 18 months or that you may want to consider other options, courses and/or schools."

September 26, 2016

Students at Washington State University are objecting to an administration plan to have each of them pay an additional $50 per semester as part of a plan to deal with an athletics department deficit, The Spokesman-Review reported. The athletics department has a $13 million deficit and the student fees would generate at least $1.7 million annually. The student government would have to authorize a referendum and many student leaders are balking, saying that they shouldn't be forced to pay for financial mistakes of the athletics department.

An editorial in The Daily Evergreen, the student newspaper, said that imposing the fee is "unfair to students and rewards financial irresponsibility."



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