Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 13, 2016

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud has revealed that the university is spending $6 million -- of which only $2 million is expected to be paid in gifts -- on a new promenade, Syracuse.com reported. The beautification project (drawing at right) has been controversial with faculty members and others who have questioned why millions should be spent in this way at a time when programs many on campus consider vital are being cut. Syverud said that part of the project included necessary utility and sewer repairs that would have been made regardless. Up until now, while faculty critics have speculated that the spending on the promenade could reach $6 million, the university has questioned that figure.

October 13, 2016

Bob Dylan was this morning named winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. The announcement said he was honored for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." (The photo at left is of a performance in 1963.)

The notes on Dylan released by the Nobel committee state, "Besides his large production of albums, Dylan has published experimental work like Tarantula (1971) and the collection Writings and Drawings (1973). He has written the autobiography Chronicles (2004), which depicts memories from the early years in New York and which provides glimpses of his life at the center of popular culture. Since the late 1980s, Bob Dylan has toured persistently, an undertaking called the 'Never-Ending Tour.' Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature."

Among the university press books on Dylan, recommended by the Nobel committee, are:

Many other scholars have written about Dylan. A new center for Dylan Scholarship is likely to be the University of Tulsa, home of the Bob Dylan Archives. The university, along with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, purchased the materials that make up the archives, which include 6,000 items from 60 years in which Dylan has been writing.

Academics may also be interested in this interview with Eric Lott of the City University of New York Graduate Center about the relationship between one of his books and a Dylan album.

For years, Dylan's fans (some of them scholars) have pushed for him to win the Nobel. But as they have pushed the nominations, many have speculated that an American was unlikely to win or that Dylan shouldn't win. An article in The Atlantic in 2013 said, "What would awarding Dylan the Nobel Prize even accomplish, anyway? Draw some deserved attention to a woefully underrecognized artist? Feed his sorely battered ego? It's unclear what the end goal is here."

And The New Republic has the misfortune of having published this headline for an article last week:

October 13, 2016

A student at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who last week was suspended over a racially charged threat has now been arrested and charged with harassing communications, AL.com reported. The student is accused of writing on Twitter, "I'll kick your black [expletive]. I'll kill you [racial slur], don't speak to me wrong." The student posted bond and is not in jail.

October 13, 2016

Three-quarters of recipients of graduate degrees said their graduate program was worth the cost and that they were applying the knowledge and skills they gained in the program in their jobs, according to a Gallup study of Americans with graduate degrees. The survey, which was commissioned and released by Walden University, questions graduate-degree holders who also participated in the Gallup-Purdue Index, which aims to measure and link graduates' sense of well-being to their college experiences.

The new survey examines how graduate-degree recipients are faring in their careers and their views on their graduate programs. Walden, which is part of Laureate Education and offers graduate programs online, commissioned Gallup to survey its own graduates and compare them to the national sample and to a cohort of students who got graduate degrees in which at least half of the course work was done online.

October 13, 2016

A new analysis from the Center for American Progress shows black and Latino students are underrepresented in the country's most selective public research universities. As many as 193,000 black and Latino students would have enrolled in these selective colleges in 2014 if student representation was proportional, according to the report.

The study finds that minority students are overrepresented in less selective public four-year colleges, community and technical colleges. Approximately 9 percent of black students and 12 percent of Latino students attend top public research universities.

"Disparities in college enrollment matter, as the type of school a student attends plays a substantial role in their likelihood of successful completion," says the report. "The most elite public colleges conduct high levels of academic research, have selective admissions and produce strong outcomes. At these colleges, the average graduation rate is nearly double those at less selective public colleges."

October 13, 2016

Leaders of more than three dozen companies signed an advertisement in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday expressing their support for funding of basic scientific research. The ad, sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, notes the many societal innovations that have flowed from basic research, such as smartphones, cancer proton therapy and magnetic resonance imaging. More about the campaign can be found here.

October 13, 2016

A coalition of 20 groups -- including unions, consumer groups and the loan servicing company Navient -- this week wrote to federal agencies to call for a streamlined and simplified process of reapplying for income-driven student loan repayment plans. They asked the feds to allow borrowers to automatically re-enroll in the plans each year through increased information sharing between the U.S. Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies.

“As student advocates, we hear from borrowers all the time who are already struggling with repayment, and then they’re hit with additional fees because they failed to recertify for [income-driven repayment],” said Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress, which is a youth-focused division of the Center for American Progress, in a written statement. “This is such an easy fix for the departments and the IRS to undertake, and they don’t even need Congress to pass any new laws. It would benefit both borrowers and servicers and save the government needless paperwork.”

October 13, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Chris Ferguson, associate professor of psychology at Stetson University, examines this question. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 12, 2016

Northwestern University is not allowed to restrict how its football players use social media and speak with reporters, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Northwestern had previously barred its football players from freely tweeting or discussing team matters, a policy that the NLRB said -- in a memorandum obtained by ESPN -- was "overly broad." The memorandum does not establish an official ruling but would likely apply to other private colleges with similar policies if athletes were to challenge them. Northwestern updated its policy earlier this year.

In the memorandum, the NLRB's general counsel referred to the players as "employees." The NLRB's regional office in Chicago ruled in 2014 that Northwestern's football players were employees after players there attempted to unionize. The university appealed the ruling to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, urging the board to reverse that decision. Last year, the NLRB declined to assert jurisdiction over the matter, ending the drive to unionize at Northwestern, but leaving the possibility that athletes at private colleges are actually employees open to further debate.

October 12, 2016

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday vacated a July ruling by a three-judge panel of the court that denied a lesbian former adjunct to sue Ivy Tech Community College for alleged discrimination based on her sexual orientation. The ruling, which alarmed many advocates for gay and lesbian people, said that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion and other factors, cannot be used to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation because Congress did not intend to ban such bias.

The former adjunct in the case, Kimberly Hively, sued the college in 2013 after having worked as an adjunct instructor in mathematics for 14 years, during which she not only received good reviews from her supervisors but won an award from the college for outstanding teaching. She sued after repeatedly applying for and being rejected for permanent positions at the college and being rejected for continued employment as an adjunct. In an interview, she said that she traced the rejections to her sexual orientation after hearing about administrators who had commented to others about her being a lesbian in a relationship with another woman. The college has denied that it engaged in discrimination.

Tuesday's order sets aside the earlier ruling and says the full court of appeals will reconsider the case.


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