Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 3:00am

Leaders of the State University of New York and the state's Education Department unveiled a plan Wednesday aimed at expanding and improving the training of teachers in New York. The effort, announced by Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and the state's commissioner of education, MaryEllen Elia, is designed to promote the profession of teaching and strengthen how teacher ed programs train prospective teachers, by expanding clinical practice, investing in career-long professional development and creating regional councils to focus on local needs.

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 3:00am

The French coding academy 42 is coming to Silicon Valley with a goal of teaching 10,000 students how to code over the next five years, TechCrunch reported. Established in Paris in 2013, 42 is backed by a $100 million investment from the French entrepreneur Xavier Niel. The coding academy does not employ faculty members -- it uses project-based and peer-to-peer learning -- nor does it charge students tuition fees.

Registration opened on Tuesday, and the first students will begin studying in November after a summer of testing their coding skills. The campus will be located in Fremont, Calif.

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 3:00am

Colleges with high-profile sports programs may say they put the academic performances of their players first, but a new study suggests that the organizational culture of those programs prioritizes athletic success at the expense of academics -- and that athletes are unfairly blamed for the academic failures that result from such a system.

In the study, to be published in the Journal of Higher Education, the University of California at Riverside's Uma Jayakumar and Eddie Comeaux interviewed and observed athletes, coaches and other athletics employees at an unnamed Football Bowl Subdivision public university. The researchers found that coaches "emphasized personal control and choice, deflecting the pressure of the inherent tension on the athlete." Even athletes who came into the program wanting to focus equally on academics and athletics found that it was difficult to do so with the 40 hours per week they were devoting to their sport, and thus shifted their focus to athletics.

According to the study, the disconnect between the athletic program's stated focus on academic support and what actually happens on the campus creates what the authors call "a cultural cover-up."

"Support services, coupled with state-of-the-art facilities and stated organizational commitment to academics, taken at face value, suggest that the institution is strongly committed to supporting college athletic success," the authors wrote. "This messaging lends itself to the perception that athletes do poorly in school because of inadequate time management and study skills, rather than the excessive time demand required (whether officially or unofficially) by their sport and of a culture that actually pushes them toward athletics over academics."

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 4:12am

A report being issued today will criticize the University of Massachusetts System for admitting an increasing number of out-of-state students, The Boston Globe reported. The system has been growing enrollments, both from inside and outside Massachusetts. In 2015, for the first time, the flagship campus at Amherst admitted more out-of-staters (although only by six). UMass officials have responded to the report with some anger, accusing the Pioneer Institute, which is issuing the report, of having an agenda of undercutting public higher education to support the state's private colleges.

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Melbourne, in Australia, is currently restricting three mathematics faculty jobs to female applicants, ABC Australia reported. Officials said mathematics departments struggle to attract female applicants. Australian law permits discrimination (in this case against male applicants) designed to promote equal opportunity.

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Devyn Spence Benson, assistant professor in the department of history at Louisiana State University, examines the challenges faced by Afro-Cubans and whether President Obama's visit to the Caribbean island portends change. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 3:00am

The Institute for Higher Education Policy is today releasing a series of papers that, taken together, are designed to point the way toward a more vibrant set of national data on student outcomes.

The papers, which come from a wide range of policy experts, cover an array of topics, such as the possibility of creating a federal student-level data system, how to link existing federal data systems, strategies for protecting privacy of students and the possible role of the National Student Clearinghouse. The release is in conjunction with an event today in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 3:00am

Colleges and universities are required under federal laws to offer accommodations to students who can demonstrate that a learning disability poses difficulties for their academic success. But as a new study notes, students must demonstrate that they have a disability, and this frequently involves paying for testing. The study, published in the journal Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, surveyed undergraduates at 11 doctoral-granting universities, and found that only about a third of those reporting learning disabilities received accommodations. Finances may be at play. Half of the wealthiest students with learning disabilities reported receiving accommodations, a much higher rate than for students of more modest means. "Accommodations are free, but the tests to prove you have a learning disability are not," said Karla McGregor, a professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Iowa and lead author of the study.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 3:00am

Local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have ruled that an altercation involving a black University of Iowa student last month was not a hate crime.

The Iowa student told police that he was walking in an alley in downtown Iowa City on April 30 when three men began punching him and yelling racial slurs. Iowa students criticized the university for failing to notify the campus of the attack until days later. Iowa officials said they did not learn of the Saturday incident until that Tuesday, when they were contacted by a television news station in Chicago, where the student’s family lives.

Iowa City police said this week that, after reviewing surveillance footage and interviewing witnesses, the altercation was revealed to be an "isolated incident that stemmed from an ongoing disagreement" between two fraternities. According to police, the student, Marcus Owens, was involved in three separate fights that night related to the disagreement.

"According to witnesses, the N-word was used by one individual at the time of the second altercation," police said in a statement. "This investigation was referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for review to assist in making the determination if this matter was defined as a hate crime. The FBI determined that the facts of this investigation did not meet the criteria necessary to be labeled as a hate crime."

In a statement released Tuesday, the family of Owens apologized to the university and the police department.

"Upon learning more details of the case, and while racial slurs served to fuel the violence, Marcus now knows that his account of events was inconsistent with police findings, in part due to alcohol being involved, his embarrassment at his behavior, as well as the injuries he sustained," the family said. "In light of this, it was concluded that this incident was not a hate crime as originally believed, but rather a case of excessive underage drinking and extremely poor judgment on the part of many people, Marcus included."

University of Iowa officials also released a statement, saying that "regardless of the outcome, this incident highlighted a level of fear and distrust on our campus that must and will be addressed."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 3:00am

Some 30 percent of female medical academics have experienced sexual harassment on the job, compared to 4 percent of their male counterparts, according to a new research letter in The Journal of the American Medical Association. A majority (59 percent) of women who’d experienced harassment said it hurt their confidence in themselves as professionals, and 47 percent said the experiences limited their career advancement.

The study, led by Reshma Jagsi, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan, is based on survey responses from 1,066 recent recipients of career development awards from the National Institutes of Health regarding their career and personal experiences. Women were much more likely to than men to report both perceptions of and experiences with gender bias in their careers. Common harassment experiences include sexist remarks or behavior and unwanted sexual advances, while a much smaller proportion of respondents reported experiences with bribery or threats to engage in sexual behavior or coercive advances.

The study notes that a similar 1995 survey found strikingly similar results, indicating more reform is needed. ”Although a lower proportion reported these experiences [sexual harassment] than in a 1995 sample, the difference appears large given that the women [in this new survey] began their careers after the proportion of female medical students exceeded 40 percent," it says. "Recognizing sexual harassment is important because perceptions that such experiences are rare may, ironically, increase stigmatization and discourage reporting. Efforts to mitigate the effect of unconscious bias in the workplace and eliminate more overtly inappropriate behaviors are needed."

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