Higher Education Quick Takes
Rumors have been circulating for months that Albany State University, a historically black institution in Georgia, was planning a major retrenchment of academic programs. On Monday, the university confirmed these reports by announcing that 15 academic programs would be “deactivated” so the university could shift funds to other programs. The university said programs were targeted for elimination based on low enrollment levels (falling below an average of 10 graduates a year). Among the undergraduate majors being eliminated: English, history, speech and theater, music, music education, and science education.
In an effort to prevent racial bias, university applications in the U.K. will be “name blind” starting in 2017, Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian. In his op-ed, Cameron argued that anonymized applications prevent reviewers from being influenced by the ethnic or religious background an applicant’s name might imply.
"Some research has shown that top universities make offers to 55 percent of white applicants, but only to 23 percent of black ones," Cameron wrote. "The reasons are complex, but unconscious bias is clearly a risk. So we have agreed with UCAS [the centralized application processing service] that it will make its applications name blind, too, from 2017."
The University of Mississippi Police Department quietly lowered the state flag early Monday from its position atop a flagpole in the center of campus, removing a symbol that students and faculty have decried as divisive because it features the Confederate battle emblem.
“The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others,” Morris Stocks, the university's interim chancellor, said in a statement. “Since that time, we have become a stronger and better university. We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag.”
The decision followed months of protest on campus. Last week, Mississippi's Associated Student Senate, the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Student Council and the Staff Council all passed measures requesting that the university remove the flag. The flag will be stored in the university's archives, along with the resolutions that called for its removal.
The state is currently debating changing the flag's design following the racially motivated massacre of nine members of a black church in Charleston, S.C. The shooting led to many colleges and universities removing the battle emblem and other Confederate symbols from campuses.
A majority of Americans surveyed by WGBH News said they would encourage high school students to attend community college rather than take out loans to attend a four-year college. The poll, conducted for the radio station's On Campus program and a special “College Material” series, asked a representative sample of Americans how they would advise a high school student who either had inherited $200,000 or was planning to take out loans for a postsecondary education. In both cases, majorities of respondents said they would encourage the student to enroll at a community college. The rest of the survey's results can be seen below.
The College of Charleston has announced that it will start a "top 10 percent" plan for admissions. Unlike the Texas percentage plan, which is statewide, Charleston's will apply only to seven counties (including the county in which the college is located and those that surround it). Applicants will still be required to submit SAT or ACT scores but they will not be considered in admission, which will be automatic for those in the top 10 percent of public high school classes. Officials hope to send a message to students about preparing for college, and also expect to see gains in minority enrollment.
The North-American Interfraternity Conference -- whose members are no strangers to racist parties and costumes -- posted a series of Halloween tips on Friday to "ensure that member organizations make responsible decisions regarding event themes, costumes and social media that reflect their values and morals." In a blog post, Devin Hall, coordinator of IFC services at the NIC, suggested that campus Interfraternity Councils "introduce the concept of cultural appropriation" through diversity education, select an inclusive social event and require chapters to register any parties and their themes with the IFC.
"Viewed as funny, ironic, trendy or an opportunity to be retweeted by [Total Frat Move], dressing up as a Native American, painting oneself with blackface or dressing as a homeless person is not only offensive behavior, but also correctable," Hall wrote. "Our goal is for fraternities to avoid promoting concepts that reinforce historical stereotypes and mock or offend various cultures, races, ethnicities or identities."
Two university associations plan to recognize institutions that engage in campuswide activity aimed at assessing and improving student learning, for the sake of internal improvement rather than accountability. The Excellence in Assessment designation is a joint program of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, working in conjunction with the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.
To earn the designation, regionally accredited institutions must show that they have integrated assessment approaches across their campuses, provide evidence of learning outcomes and used the results to guide their decisions and improve student performance; the focus is not on student performance itself. One designation will reward institutions that have recently adopted excellent practices, while another, for "sustained excellence," will identify those that have focused on assessment for years but continued to seek improvements.
Campuses will engage in a self-study and then be reviewed by outside faculty experts.
Florida Gulf Coast University will host a Halloween haunted house on Wednesday called Zombiefest. But The News-Press reported that no zombies will be allowed in. The university will not allow anyone in a costume, mask or face paint to enter. Officials said that a recent shooting at a zombie-themed event (not held on a college campus) has raised safety concerns. So the event at Florida Gulf Coast will be limited to students, who will be required to show identification cards with photographs that match their noncostumed faces.
Radical Islamists have threatened to bomb a university in southern Yemen if it does not segregate the sexes on campus, Al Arabiya News reported. Students at the University of Aden said armed militants distributed leaflets signed by ISIS containing the threats. The authenticity of the leaflets signed by two Yemeni branches of the Islamic State has not been verified.