Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 24, 2009

Leon R. Kass, a bioethicist, was named Monday by the National Endowment for the Humanities to give the 2009 Jefferson Lecture. The lectureship is one of the top honors the federal government sponsors for humanities scholars. Kass, a professor at the University of Chicago, was involved in several controversies during the Bush administration, when he served as chair of the President's Council on Bioethics and was viewed by some as too quick to regulate science. The lecture by Kass, " ‘Looking for an Honest Man’: Reflections of an Unlicensed Humanist," will take place on Thursday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the Warner Theatre in Washington.

March 24, 2009

The Institute of International Education on Monday released a paper on promoting study abroad in science and technology fields, the latest of a series of papers on study abroad capacity and participation. The report notes that about 16 percent of American study abroad students are in STEM fields, while they make up about 26 percent of the undergraduate population. "The academic benefit of study at a foreign university is less immediately obvious in engineering than, say, in languages or history. Engineering professors tend to be more reluctant than others to grant credit for studies conducted with international colleagues. And the students themselves typically are not fluent in foreign languages," states the report. "Still, both European and, more recently, American experience shows these obstacles can be overcome through innovative programming. The international mobility of German (and other European) engineering students has increased dramatically over the last 15 years. This is to a great extent due to exchange programs involving faculty on the departmental level. Through specific agreements on courses and credits, they better understood each other’s educational principles and developed trust in the quality of their partners’ teaching, the indispensable basis for more flexible and generous approach to curricular differences."

March 24, 2009

Hockey is to Minnesota as football is to Alabama and basketball to North Carolina -- and not easily trifled with. But these are troubled economic times, bad enough to force the University of Minnesota-Crookston to discontinue its Division II men's hockey program, the university announced Monday. Campus officials said the state's financial situation and the challenges of fielding a Division II program in a region where few others exist had made continuing the team impossible.

March 24, 2009

Alexander McPherson has finally taken training on how to avoid and prevent sexual harassment. McPherson, a biologist at the University of California at Irvine, had refused to take the training, which is required by state law for all state employees with supervisory responsibilities. McPherson, noting that he has never been accused of harassment, questioned the idea of mandatory training for all supervisors, noted the wealth of information provided by the university about harassment issues, and threatened to leave the university over the issue. The Orange County Register reported that McPherson relented when he realized that if he left the university, other scientists would also be affected. He told the newspaper that the training "is seriously flawed, is insulting to the intelligence at best, a demeaning fraud at worse."

March 24, 2009

The University of Winnipeg, carrying out the results of a student vote, will ban bottled water from the campus. Winnipeg is the first Canadian university to take the step. Washington University in St. Louis kicked off the movement in the United States, and campus activists are trying to spread the idea, which focuses on energy and materials wasted in the production and distribution of bottled water.

March 24, 2009

Faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have voted to make all of their scholarly articles available to the public, free and online. MIT and faculty members will let others use the articles in any way except to make a profit. Individual authors may opt out on an article-by-article basis. "The vote is a signal to the world that we speak in a unified voice; that what we value is the free flow of ideas," said Bish Sinyal, chair of the MIT Faculty and the Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning.

March 24, 2009

Christine Kopinski, the only journalism professor at Clark College, is credited with advising student journalists there on how to improve their newspaper, which in recent years has focused on such issues as campus security, flaws in student advising, and budget choices facing the college. Now Kopinski has been denied tenure: the college's trustees voted down her bid, despite support from her department, The Columbian reported. Typically at Clark, departmental votes are respected, although the final decision rests with trustees. The faculty union is preparing a grievance. The union president told the newspaper: "This is huge. Tenure is sacred. It's as if someone just burned the Constitution, for academics."

March 24, 2009

Texas lawmakers are questioning the authority under which Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, moved funds from one state fund to another so that the latter fund could award a $50 million grant to Texas A&M University for a new research facility on drug treatments and vaccines, The Dallas Morning News reported. Legislators aren't questioning the potential value of the research at Texas A&M, but the process by which Perry moved the funds away from an account that is supposed to be used to close deals to bring new businesses to Texas. The governor's office maintains that there was nothing inappropriate about the transfer. Texas A&M is the governor's alma mater.

March 23, 2009

Under the new GI Bill, which covers veterans' tuition up to the most expensive resident rate at a public college in the state, private colleges have the option of entering into a matching program with the federal government to cover the balance. How many colleges will participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, and to what extent, has been an open question as many institutions await final regulations. Significantly, the University of Phoenix, which serves more veterans than any other college, does plan to participate in the new GI Bill's Yellow Ribbon program at the maximum 50 percent match, for 30,000 students or more (which would cover current veteran enrollment), according to Patrick Sutliff, who oversees veterans affairs at the institution.

March 23, 2009

The board of the College of DuPage last week adopted a series of policies that effectively give the board more explicit authority over daily management of the college -- including many matters that professors say should primarily be handled by the faculty and the administration. The dispute has been going on for months and focused on a revision of the college's policy handbook. The board did delay a vote on including David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" as college policy -- a measure that was included in earlier draft -- but board members indicated that they may come back to that issue at future meetings.

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