Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 9, 2018

Two former senior executives of ITT Educational Services Inc., a for-profit university, agreed to settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC announced Friday.

The SEC alleges that Kevin Modany, the former CEO, and Daniel Fitzpatrick, the former CFO, fraudulently concealed the financial condition of ITT from investors. The company settled fraud charges with the SEC for similar behavior in 2015.

Modany and Fitzpatrick are both barred from holding senior positions at public companies for at least five years and must pay fines of $200,000 and $100,000, respectively. They agreed to the settlements without admitting to or denying any wrongdoing.

July 9, 2018

The University of Wyoming's new slogan -- "The world needs more cowboys" -- is drawing criticism from professors who say that it is racist, sexist and counterproductive to recruiting out-of-state students, The Laramie Boomerang reported.

Christine Porter, an associate professor at the university, said that "boy" in the word "cowboy" clearly excludes anyone who doesn't identify as male. She also noted that the university has already made this distinction with its sports teams: the women's teams are referred to as Cowgirls while the men's are Cowboys.

In a survey, Porter asked faculty members to picture a cowboy and describe what the word means to them. Seventy-five percent of those who responded thought first of the Marlboro Man. Some respondents offered new slogan suggestions. Porter's favorite is "the world needs more trailblazers."

Chad Baldwin, director of communications at the university, said that the goal of the campaign was to redefine the word "cowboy" to represent anyone at the university. The slogan is part of a $1.4 million investment to advertise to prospective students in and outside Wyoming. The university paid a Colorado marketing firm $500,000 to develop the campaign.

July 9, 2018

The Middle East Studies Association has sent a letter to Egyptian authorities protesting the detention and arrest in Cairo of Waleed Khalil el-Sayed Salem, a University of Washington Ph.D. student. The association's letter states that Salem was conducting important research at the time on the interaction of judges and lawyers in Egypt. "Mr. Salem is a young scholar, but he has already established a reputation among those who know him for the serious and scholarly nature of his work," the letter said. The Seattle Times reported that Salem's lawyers said he was facing charges of "spreading fake news" and of ties to a terrorist group -- charges they said were false.

The embassy of Egypt did not respond to a request for comment.

A University of Washington spokesman, asked for comment, sent the following via email: "I cannot provide or confirm any information on this individual. However, in a case such as this one, our paramount interest is the safety of any member of our community, whether student, faculty or staff. The university would do everything in its power to contact the appropriate authorities in an effort to advocate for and protect a student. We would, of course, issue a statement if and when we believe it would serve this interest."

July 9, 2018

As accusations grow that U.S. representative Jim Jordan knew and did nothing about alleged sexual abuse of wrestling team members at Ohio State University, President Trump is backing him and calling the allegations part of an effort by "deep state" conspirators who want to bring down the president, The New York Times reports. Jordan, a leading Republican in the House, was a coach at Ohio State at the time of alleged abuse.

“Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington,” Trump said to reporters Thursday. “I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind.”

Jordan continues to deny any knowledge of wrongdoing, even as more former players have come forward with details about the abusive environment they trained in. A Politico story published Thursday reported that the misconduct extended beyond Richard Strauss, the former team doctor currently being investigated by Ohio State for sexual misconduct, to other "male voyeurs" and "gawkers" in Larskin Hall, the Ohio State building that housed athletic teams. Six wrestlers have said Jordan had to have known about the misconduct.

July 9, 2018

The American Historical Association this week launches Where Historians Work, an online tool tracking career outcomes for the more than 8,500 historians who earned their Ph.D.s at U.S. institutions between 2004 and 2014. Where Historians Work is the fullest picture of Ph.D. careers available in any discipline, according to AHA, and signals the association’s “commitment to transparency and breadth in discussions of careers for history Ph.D.s.”

The association says the tool will help “answer long-standing questions about the discipline and prompt new conversations about where historical work happens, what it means to ‘do’ history, and ultimately what it means to be a historian.”

A key finding is that more than two-thirds of history Ph.D.s end up as college and university faculty members, despite declines in academic hiring. The vast majority work at teaching-focused institutions. History Ph.D.s have low rates of unemployment, and those who work outside academe do so across a wide variety of fields. Specialization and degree-granting institution do appear to affect career outcomes, while gender appears to have little to no effect, according to the AHA’s analysis.

The association notes that Where Historians Work focuses on outcomes, not motivations, but that the findings reveal important questions about the “agency” of Ph.D.s. Many history Ph.D.s remain in the cities or regions where they earned their degrees, for example, suggesting location plays a role in educational and career decisions. Where Historians Work is part of a national trend toward increased transparency about Ph.D. employment outcomes.

July 9, 2018

A Charleston, S.C., police advocacy group requested the removal of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas from high school summer reading lists, The Post and Courier reports.

The novel opens with the narrator’s firsthand account of a white police officer shooting and killing a 16-year-old black boy named Khalil. While the book is a work of fiction, the exposition mirrors the real-life shootings of Tamir Rice and Antwon Rose. The Charleston-area Fraternal Order of Police chapter, Tri-County Lodge #3, claims the book is an indoctrination of distrust of police.

In response, Wando High School in Mount Pleasant has kept the book on college preparatory lists but added four more options.

The book is also assigned summer reading for incoming freshmen at the College of Charleston. At least one parent has voiced opposition to the book, calling it "heavy duty indoctrination with dire consequences" in a letter to the editor to The Post and Courier.

Sara Peck, an English teacher at the University School of the Lowcountry, has taught the book before and came to the book’s defense.

"Maybe [the Fraternal Order of Police] could spend less time censoring books and more time teaching empathy among themselves -- or how to not kill black people," Peck said to the Post and Courier. "It seems there could be a better use of their time."

July 9, 2018

A professor of political science at St. Cloud State University sued the institution and its faculty union Friday, arguing that forcing her to pay union fees violates her First Amendment rights in light of a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Star Tribune reported. The professor, Kathleen Uradnik, is a not a member of the union but pays it fees and agrees to its exclusive representation as terms of her employment on campus.

Uradnik is seeking a court order declaring that forcing her to submit to exclusive representation by the union violates her rights, as well as a judgment against discrimination toward nonunion instructors. The recent Supreme Court decision on unions, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, held that public employees do not have to pay unions agency fees if they don’t want to. But it did not go so far as to call into question a federal law on exclusive representation. Uradnik’s case argues that union membership is essential to advancement and taking part in meaningful shared governance on her campus, and that it no longer should be. A university spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

July 9, 2018

The University of Cambridge, in Britain, is being criticized for hiring Aron Wall, currently a postdoc at Stanford University's Institute for Theoretical Physics, for a position teaching mathematics, starting in January, The Cambridge News reported. Critics say that gay students could not feel comfortable that they would be treated fairly by Wall. The students point to a blog post by Wall, denouncing the idea of allowing nonstraight couples to marry. In the post, he commented on the "notoriously promiscuous, reckless, and obscene lifestyle characteristic of the cultural venues of the gay community."

Wall referred questions on the matter to Cambridge, which released this statement on his behalf: “As a lecturer I take my responsibility to share knowledge, encourage innovation and challenge, and foster new learning very seriously. I know well that this can only happen in an environment where people show one another mutual respect and can work and study without fear of discrimination. I am privileged to join such a community and have never, nor will I ever in future, allow my personal views to adversely affect my working or teaching interactions. I am committed to upholding a culture where all members are valued and views respected.”

The university also released its own statement, which said, “While we do not comment on individual employment issues, all employees are subject to University policies and procedures from their first day in post, and are expected to uphold our values. These include showing mutual respect and consideration to all other members of our community.”

July 9, 2018

A new search engine that aims to connect nonacademics with open-access research will be launched this fall.

Get the Research will connect the public with 20 million open-access scholarly articles. The site will be built by Impactstory -- the nonprofit behind browser extension tool Unpaywall -- in conjunction with the Internet Archive and the British Library.

Funded by a $850,000 grant from Arcadia, the search engine will be a place where “we can tell lay readers, ‘here’s where you can read free, trustworthy research about anything,’” said Jason Priem, Impactstory's co-founder. He added that artificial intelligence techniques will be used to annotate and summarize materials, making them easier to understand.

July 9, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Lisa Fazio, assistant professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, discusses how our fact-checking may not be as good as we think. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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