Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 14, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Trinity College Week, Dan Lloyd, professor of philosophy, discusses how repetition is shared between the language of music and our brains. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 13, 2019

A former student at Louisville’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has accused a former professor of grooming and sexually abusing her for more than a decade, the Courier-Journal reported. Jennifer Lyell said the professor, David Sills, first “sexually acted” against her on a mission trip in 2004 when she was a 26-year-old master of divinity student and that the relationship continued until she was 38. Sills resigned last May from the seminary; he did not respond to the Courier-Journal’s request for comment. The president of the seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr., described Lyell’s decision to go public with the allegations as a "brave and right thing to do."

March 13, 2019

A business professor at the University of Maryland who accused a group of Chinese students of cheating on a test has resigned after students filed a discrimination complaint against him, the National Public Radio affiliate WAMU reported. Several students said they felt targeted by their race and national origin and that David Weber made statements like “All Chinese students cheat their way into the U.S.” Weber said statements attributed to him were misquoted or taken out of context and that he was trying to uphold Maryland's academic honesty policies.

March 13, 2019

Coding boot camp Fullstack Academy has been acquired by Bridgepoint Education, the company behind for-profit online Ashford University, which is currently seeking nonprofit status.

Fullstack Academy, which has campuses in New York and Chicago, will maintain its brand and leadership. Bridgepoint has previously stated its desire to become an online program management company and hopes to move into technology education.

The acquisition will cost Bridgepoint around $20 million.

March 13, 2019

Norway is the latest European country to cancel its subscription deal with Elsevier, following Germany and Sweden.

In a press release, the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT) said that Elsevier’s offer was “far from fulfilling the requirements of Norway for open access.”

Norwegian universities were seeking a “read and publish” deal. The University of California System, which recently canceled its Elsevier deal, was seeking the same kind of agreement.

In a statement, Elsevier said it had offered “multiple low-cost options for a rapid transition to gold open-access publishing, but open access is a service that has to be funded in some form. Norway is essentially asking to receive two services for the price of one.”

Norway currently publishes around 2,000 articles each year in Elsevier’s journals. In 2018, participating institutions paid over $9 million in subscription fees.

March 13, 2019

Digital content provider VitalSource is adding accessibility icons to its digital marketplace so that students and professors can more easily find accessible etextbooks.

Working with over 30 publishers over the past 18 months, VitalSource has so far identified more than 5,000 titles with accessibility features such as captions and alternative text.

Rick Johnson, vice president of product strategy at VitalSource, said that in future users may be able to search VitalSource’s whole catalog by their desired accessibility features. “This is a first attempt, and it’s going to get better,” he said in an interview.

“There shouldn’t be a separate place anyone has to go get their content -- it should be the same for everyone,” said Johnson. More and more publishers are making commitments to accessibility, meaning that over time all new content will be “born acceptable -- not have to be fixed later,” he said.

March 13, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Trinity College Week, Sarah Raskin, professor of psychology and neuroscience, discusses how different disorders affect memory and which treatments can be effective. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 12, 2019

Georgetown University's law school announced Monday that Cedric Asiavugwa (at right), a third-year student, was among those killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 near Addis Ababa. He was 32. He was on his way home to Nairobi, Kenya, following the death of his partner’s mother.

The New York Times reported that two academics at Kenyatta University in Kenya were also killed in the crash.

March 12, 2019

A new study of dedicated lactation spaces in U.S. colleges and universities, published in Breastfeeding Medicine, finds that nearly all (94 percent) of 105 institutional respondents to a survey had a least one such space. Two-thirds reported having a policy for creating such spaces. Just 28 percent included them in campus construction standards, however. Some 80 percent of spaces were enclosed, lockable and accessible and had open electrical outlets and in-room light control.

March 12, 2019

West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit University, which sold its campus in 2017 to help pay down millions in debt, has declared financial exigency, Michael Mihalyo, the university’s president, said Monday.

In a letter to campus, Mihalyo wrote that “continued financial challenges” required the move. The university, he said, doesn’t have the resources “to bridge the gap between highly discounted enrollment, associated academic and athletic programming costs, and the revenue needed to support the institution’s operational expenses.”

Traditionally defined as an “imminent financial crisis which threatens the survival of the institution as a whole,” financial exigency has been used in the past to terminate long-standing, often tenured faculty.

The American Association of University Professors has said institutions should lay off such professors “only as a last resort, after every effort has been made to meet the need in other ways and to find for the teacher other employment in the institution.”

Mihalyo said the Board of Trustees approved the move in a special session held Friday. Board members and others at the university will work with state and government officials, as well as regional leaders and Wheeling’s accreditor, “to determine the best path forward,” he said.

Wheeling in 2017 offered early retirement to about one-tenth of its 400 employees in a bid to balance an estimated $30 million annual budget.

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