Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 9, 2017

Nobel Prize medalRichard H. Thaler was named this morning the winner of the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. Thaler, a professor at the business school of the University of Chicago, was honored "for his contributions to behavioral economics."

October 9, 2017

An assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas has apologized for blaming President Trump for the recent shooting massacre in the city after a student secretly recorded her comments and shared them with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In the video, Tessa Winkelmann tells an upper-level class that when Trump was elected, she told students “that some of us won’t be affected by this presidency, but others are going to die.” Winkelmann says that Trump has “threatened to declare violence against North Korea and other places” and that “words, especially if they’re coming from someone who is the president, have consequences.” She adds, “I don’t know that these events would have inevitably happened whether or not he got elected, but he has rhetorical powers; every president has to encourage or to discourage [violence]. So far all he’s done is to encourage violence.”

The anonymous student who shared with video with the newspaper reportedly said classmates began arguing the point with one another. The Review-Journal quotes Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, as saying that Winkelmann “should be ashamed of herself, and the university should look into it. What a terrible example to set for students.”

Winkelmann told the newspaper that last week was “very difficult for members of our community, and we have allowed students space in our classes to discuss how they have been affected and to openly convey their feelings.” She added via email, “I regret that my comments caused more pain during this difficult time. Emotions were running high and I wish I would have been more thoughtful in how I directed the conversation.”

Tony Allen, university spokesperson, in a statement called Winkelmann’s comments insensitive but did not address the possibility of disciplinary action against her.

“While we respect academic freedom in the classroom and the right to free speech, we believe the comments were insensitive, especially given the series of events this week and the healing process that has begun in the community.”

October 9, 2017

Jodi Whitaker, a scholar of communication whose Ph.D. was revoked in August, has apparently been demoted from assistant professor at the University of Arizona, Retraction Watch first reported. Whitaker’s faculty bio at Arizona, which formerly listed her as a tenure-track professor, now says she is a lecturer. References to her doctorate, which Ohio State University revoked this summer after an investigation into claims of falsified data, also have been removed -- as have references to a contested and eventually retracted paper on the real-world effects of violent video games.

Whitaker co-wrote the retracted paper at Ohio State with her supervisor there, who said he was not aware of any inappropriate data manipulation. Whitaker did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Arizona has said it does not comment on personnel matters.

October 9, 2017

The majority of graduate business programs in the U.S. reported declines in international applications this year compared to last year, even as the majority of programs in Canada and Europe reported increases, according to a survey of 965 graduate business programs in 45 countries conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council, which owns and administers the GMAT entrance test.

The report hypothesizes that “recent political events in the United States may have played a role in the drop in international candidates applying to U.S. programs.”

“Only a third (32 percent) of U.S. programs reported growth in the international pipeline this year, down from 49 percent in 2016,” the report states.

By comparison, 77 percent of Canadian graduate business programs and 67 percent of European graduate business programs reported increases in international applications this year.

The European figure excludes the United Kingdom. The survey found that in spite of concerns about a negative impact on applications caused by Britain's planned exit from the European Union, about two-thirds (65 percent) of graduate business programs in the U.K. reported growth in international applicants.

October 9, 2017

Two sororities at Texas State University were accused of choosing racist themes for a Greek life event last week.

In an essay for the student newspaper, a student activist ripped the stereotypical Native American and Mexican costumes donned by two sororities for their bid day celebrations, writing that the organizations “cannot seem to get the memo that racism is bad now.”

Responses to the costumes on social media, as the Houston Chronicle reported, were split, with some defending the costumes.

The incident is not the first time Greek-life organizations across the country have been accused of racist themes, with more egregious offenses, for example, calling on guests to dress in ways that drew on African-American stereotypes for Martin Luther King Day parties.

October 9, 2017

After condemning reports of a noose left in a dorm last week, Michigan State University leaders are now saying the incident was a misunderstanding. The noose in question, they said, was a peculiarly packaged shoelace.

“After investigating, MSU Police have determined the object was a packaged leather shoelace and not a noose,” Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody said in a statement.

A matching shoelace was found outside the dorm, and officers located the student to whom both belonged. That student lives on the same floor where that the original shoelace, which was “packaged in a way that someone could perceive [it] to look similar to a noose,” was found, the university said.

The shoelace was not targeted at any individual, the university said. Police believe the shoelace was dropped on the ground and then a passerby hung it up on a door handle, presumably in an innocent gesture.

The update came after Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon issued a stern statement after the university found the original “noose.”

“I want to be clear: this type of behavior is not tolerated on our campus,” Simmons said in the original statement. “No Spartan should ever feel targeted based on their race, or other ways in which they identify. A noose is a symbol of intimidation and threat that has a horrendous history in America.”

October 9, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Jill McCorkel, associate professor of sociology and criminology at Villanova University, examines how a jailed family member can affect everyone. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 6, 2017

Carmen Puliafito was last year edged out of the medical school deanship of the University of Southern California amid reports about boorish behavior -- behavior that later turned out to allegedly include illegal drug use and association with criminals. Now the man selected to replace him has been forced out.

The university announced that it had lost confidence in Rohit Varma and that he was no longer dean, the Los Angeles Times reported. The university acted after the Times told officials it was about to publish an article about how Varma treated a female medical school fellow. According to the Times: "The woman accused Varma of making unwanted sexual advances during a trip to a conference and then retaliating against her for reporting him, according to the records and interviews. USC paid her more than $100,000 and temporarily blocked Varma from becoming a full member of the faculty, according to the records and interviews." Varma did not respond to requests for comment on the article.

October 6, 2017

The University of Florida announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement under which Richard Spencer, an outspoken white supremacist, will appear on campus Oct. 19. The university rejected an earlier request for him to speak, citing security concerns. While university leaders have repeatedly condemned the ideas Spencer advocates, the university said that security issues were the reason for the earlier rejection. Additional security arrangements have since been made. While Spencer's group will pay a rental fee and a basic security fee to hold the event, the university said it is anticipating spending up to $500,000 on additional security costs.

October 6, 2017

Three higher education associations issued a joint statement Friday on student transfer and the awarding of college credits -- an area that has drawn increasing criticism in recent years. The guidelines from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and the American Council on Education is based on an "essential principle" that every college and university determines its own approach to the transfer of credit. The groups said the guidelines should be used as a tool to develop institutional policies but should not be used in lieu of those policies.

Institutions should regularly review their transfer practices -- with an eye toward fairness to students -- while taking into consideration "new sources for learning and alternative assessment methods," the statement said.

"Transfer and award of credit is a concept that increasingly involves transfer between dissimilar institutions and curricula and recognition of extra-institutional learning, as well as transfer between institutions and curricula with similar characteristics. As their personal circumstances and educational objectives change, students seek to have their learning, wherever and however attained, recognized by institutions where they enroll for further study," the groups said. "It is important for reasons of social equity and educational effectiveness for all institutions to develop reasonable and well-articulated policies and procedures for the consideration of credit for such learning experiences, as well as for the potential transfer of credits earned at another institution."

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