Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 10, 2018

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a Northern Irish astrophysicist who discovered radio pulsars in 1967 when she was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, was snubbed when her male collaborators received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1974 for that work. She was recently awarded a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery, and she has announced that she’s donating the nearly $3 million award to fund female, underrepresented minority and refugee students becoming physics researchers, BBC News reported.

"I don't want or need the money myself and it seemed to me that this was perhaps the best use I could put to it," Burnell said, adding that physics hiring still suffers from “unconscious bias” and that underrepresented groups will bring new ideas to the field. "I found pulsars because I was a minority person and feeling a bit overawed at Cambridge," she said. "I was both female but also from the northwest of the country and I think everybody else around me was southern English. So I have this hunch that minority folk bring a fresh angle on things and that is often a very productive thing. In general, a lot of breakthroughs come from left field."

September 10, 2018

During a rally in Montana Thursday, President Trump attacked Maryland Democrat Ben Jealous's plan to offer free community college tuition to all of the state's residents, including undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and are known as Dreamers, according to The Washington Post.

Jealous is running for governor against Republican incumbent Larry Hogan, who has his own plan to expand scholarships to community colleges and supports the ability of Dreamers to qualify for tuition aid at two-year institutions.

“In Maryland, the Democrat candidate for governor wants to give illegal aliens free college tuition, courtesy of the American taxpayer,” Trump said, to a booing audience. “Come on in, free college.”

Jealous's plan would cost an estimated $3 million a year to cover about 700 undocumented immigrants.

September 10, 2018

Following the College of the Ozarks' Wednesday announcement that it would cut ties with Nike, some other universities are reconsidering their contracts with the athletics apparel company after it debuted its latest “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick is featured on billboards, commercials and apparel with the slogan “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” in reference to his decision to kneel during the national anthem before football games to protest police brutality against black people. He remains an unsigned free agent since beginning his protest in 2016.

Truett McConnell University said in a statement Friday that they will no longer purchase or carry athletic apparel by Nike, “an athletic company that uses someone to market their products who ‘mocks our troops.’”

“If Nike chooses to apologize to our troops and to our law enforcement officers, then -- and only then -- will TMU reconsider their brand,” Emir Caner, university president, said in a press release.

Liberty University is considering dropping the brand, but will decide after university officials have had a conversation with Nike about contract termination clauses and “what they’re trying to accomplish” through the Kaepernick campaign, the News and Advance reported.

“If the company really has animus toward police officers, or if they’re intentionally disrespecting our flag, our veterans, our national anthem, as part of some mission of the company and using their resources to do it, then why deal with them when there are plenty of other good athletic companies out there,” Jerry Falwell Jr., university president, told the News and Advance. “On the other hand, if they are just trying to make money off the attention that former quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been receiving then we understand that that’s just marketing and we’ll probably overlook it.”

September 10, 2018

Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, has been criticized for defending Pope Francis against accusations that he knew about sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and failed to act, the Naples Daily News reported.

Towey released a statement in August that characterized the accusations against the pope as a “rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the church hierarchy,” and suggested that Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who has criticized the pope, “may still be smarting from the Holy Father’s decision to remove him from his prominent position as head of the Holy See’s highest ecclesiastical court.”

Towey has since apologized and removed parts of the statement. He said he supports an investigation into allegations of abuse but remains supportive of the pope.

Steve Ray, a former member of the Ave Maria Board of Regents, resigned because of Towey’s remarks. A spokesperson for the university confirmed Ray’s resignation but told the Naples Daily News that the Board of Regents was honorary and not a governing body.

A priest, Father John Paul Echert, condemned Towey's statement and said he would no longer recommend Ave Maria University to students and parents unless Towey issued a formal retraction. A group of 70 alumni also wrote Towey calling for a retraction.

September 10, 2018

Acadia University in Canada fired Rick Mehta, associate professor of psychology, following an investigation into comments he made on social media and in the classroom, CBC News reported. Mehta has said that multiculturalism is a scam, that there is no wage gap between men and women, and that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has created a victim narrative regarding those who attended Indian Residential Schools.

Mehta said he is disappointed in the decision and has filed for arbitration and wants his job back. "By the collective agreement they do have to say that it's just cause, but I guess I would disagree with that," Mehta reportedly said Friday, declining to offer details on his termination. Acadia confirmed the dismissal but also declined further comment, saying it’s a private personnel matter.

Acadia informed Mehta in a February letter that students, faculty members and others were concerned about some of his views, and that the university had “a legal responsibility to provide an environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment and personal harassment.” Mehta previously made public a letter from his department, which said that some students were anxious about class or had stopped attending due to his comments. He's said he takes issue with being told how to run his class. The Acadia University Faculty Association announced last week that it plans to pursue arbitration on Mehta’s behalf. "The termination of a tenured professor is very serious," it said, noting it will "examine the administration's disciplinary procedures and evidence."

September 10, 2018

Five faculty members at the University of Manitoba in Canada are being investigated for misconduct, three of them for alleged sexual harassment or assault, the Winnipeg Free Press reported. President David Barnard announced last week that sexual violence won’t be tolerated and confirmed that multiple investigations are in process. He did not name the accused. According to the Free Press, Steve Kirby, professor of music, left Manitoba last year amid multiple student reports of sexual harassment. "I’m here to apologize to students who have experienced such inappropriate behavior. I’m sorry. I’m deeply sorry," Barnard reportedly said in a news conference last week.

Two of the faculty members currently under investigation are on leave, a university spokesperson said. One of the five investigations involves allegations of sexual assault and personal harassment. Two others involve alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment. One involves alleged sexual harassment and two more cases involve allege human rights violations. Jakob Sanderson, president of the campus students’ union, said, "I think it's clear over the past several years this university has done a poor job of being as transparent and accountable as possible to students. That's something that needs to improve -- and I'm glad that they're willing to recognize that now, and it's an opportunity for us all to move forward."

September 10, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Fred Ledley, professor in the department of natural and applied sciences at Bentley University, explores how basic research can be an essential step in finding new medicines. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 7, 2018

One in five college students reported thoughts of suicide in the previous year, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which is associated with Harvard Medical School.

The report, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety (abstract available here), includes responses from 67,000 college students from more than 100 American institutions. Racial, sexual and gender minorities are particularly vulnerable to suicidal thoughts, the study found. It relied on data from the annual survey conducted by the American College Health Association.

About one in four students reported being diagnosed or treated for a mental health condition, according to the findings, with one-fifth thinking about suicide and 9 percent of the students surveyed attempting it.

In an interview with The Boston Globe, the lead author of the report, Cindy Liu, said the current generation of college students is “pulled in many directions” and “expected to succeed in all of them.” Social media has also skewed their perceptions, Liu told the Globe.

“I think that there is pressure to achieve,” Liu said.

September 7, 2018

The Federal Trade Commission has reached agreements to shut down several copycat military websites that targeted people looking to join the armed services and then used their personal information to market for-profit colleges, the commission announced Thursday.

The websites, which were operated by Alabama-based companies, used domain names like army.com, armyenlist.com, and air-force.com and appeared to be official recruiting pages. But the companies sold the information generated from the sites to colleges for $15 to $40 for each lead, the commission said in a complaint filed by the Department of Justice. Telemarketers who called to follow up on leads would continue to impersonate members of the military, the complaint said.

The FTC reached settlements against the operators of the sites, Sunkey Publishing Inc. and Fanmail.com, to relinquish the website domains. The orders also included civil penalties against both companies that are suspended because of inability to pay.

The orders are part of a larger effort at the commission to crack down on fraud targeting military consumers.

According to Veterans Education Success, an advocacy group that has been critical of for-profit colleges, the army.com homepage as of 2015 included a list of partner schools, among them: Ashford University, University of Phoenix, Berkeley College, Colorado Technical University, Le Cordon Bleu, Sanford Brown College, Virginia College and the now defunct Heald College and Westwood College.

September 7, 2018

Indiana University at Bloomington responded Tuesday to an anti-Semitic comment about Jewish students "taking over" the campus.

The comment was posted by an anonymous user on Greekrank, a website where students can review and comment on sororities and fraternities at different universities.

“OMG so first of all I don't want to sound racist or anything.. but like wtf why are there so many jews here at IU now wat happened?” the post (reproduced here unedited) read. “where being takin over by a bunch of hairy stink rude obnoxious jews … the girls acts so damn exclusive and if ur not jewish u can't hang out with them or even talk to them.. they give us looks like were below them and not worthy of talking too...this must end or this school is gonna go to ****!”

The post has since been removed. The university condemned the post and issued the following statement to Inside Higher Ed:

"We were deeply saddened to learn about the hateful, racist, anti-Semitic remarks made online targeting members of our IU community, both within and outside of the Greek system. The language used by these anonymous posters is hurtful and offensive. Hoosiers are better than this," the statement read. "Indiana University and the IU Greek Community stand with our members of every race, religion, creed, color and sexual orientation. It is our differences that make our community so vibrant. The work that is done by our diverse group of student organizations only adds to the vitality of our campus. Contributions made by these dedicated Hoosiers highlights the positive environment that is IU. We believe every person has the right to be treated with respect as an individual rather than be reduced to a stereotype."

Chuck Carney, director of media relations, said that the university's Bias Response Network is looking into the matter and that student affairs personal are counseling students who may have been affected.


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