Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 21, 2016

Terence Crutcher last week became another in a string of unarmed black men shot and killed by white police officers. He was a student at Tulsa Community College.

Leigh B. Goodson, the college's president, released a statement Tuesday in which she said that everyone at the college was saddened by the death. She said some employees have been asked questions by local police officials and are cooperating.

"It is important to me that I share what Terence Crutcher represented to our college community," Goodson said. "He was a student who had openly expressed to our advisement staff and to others his desire to be successful in college. Like so many of the thousands of students at TCC, he brought to TCC his talents, hopes and dreams of creating a successful life by dedicating himself to completing a degree."

September 21, 2016

The American Historical Association weighed in Tuesday on a heated debate over a proposed textbook on Hispanic Americans for Texas public schools. Critics say it’s racist and unscholarly, and the association expressed its own “deep concern” over the book’s content in a letter to the Texas State Board of Education. “This textbook does not adequately reflect the scholarship of historians who have worked in the field of Mexican-American history, or measure up to the broad standards of history as a discipline,” the association wrote to the board, which approves books for use in Texas public schools. The historical association urged the Texas board to reject the book as unsuitable, based on the findings of a recent customary review committee convened by one of the board's members.

Among other criticisms, the committee said that lack of “critical dialogue with current scholarship,” resulted in “a polemic attempting to masquerade as a textbook.” The book, Mexican-American Heritage, was the only one submitted based on the board’s call for a book on Hispanic Americans. It’s been controversial since excerpts were published earlier this year. Among them are assertions that leaders of the Chicano movement wanted to “destroy this society,” and a passage that describes Mexicans as lazy.

“Industrialists were very driven, competitive men who were always on the clock and continually concerned about efficiency,” the book says. “They were used to their workers putting in a full day's work, quiet­ly and obediently, and respecting rules, authority and property. In contrast, Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day's work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of ‘mañana,’ or ‘tomorrow,’ when it came to high-gear production. It was also traditional to skip work on Mondays, and drinking on the job could be a problem.”

There’s also this: “Pressure exists that those of Mexican origin are not ‘Mexican enough’ or do not have enough sympathy and respect for their roots if they venture beyond the Spanish-speaking world. This belief, along with the idea that Latin culture must be held up as superior and separate from American culture, holds many back today.”

The book’s publisher, Momentum Instruction -- which is run by a former Texas education board member -- has stood behind it, saying the stereotypes were included to expose students to historical biases, not to reinforce them. Some parts are being rewritten. The Responsible Ethnic Studies Textbook Coalition has disagreed, saying the book perpetuates stereotypes.

The historical association in its letter also said it worried that no professional historians were involved in the writing of the book.

Most of Texas’s approximately 1,000 school districts use board-approved books, and because the state is so populous, its choices have an outsize impact on the national market. A number of Texas textbooks have proved controversial in recent years, including one that referred to enslaved people as “workers.” The board votes on the Hispanic heritage book in November. Some members already have spoken out against it.

September 21, 2016

Two more colleges -- Whitman College and Saint Joseph's College, in Indiana -- announced Tuesday that they are ending the requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores.

On Monday, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a critic of standardized testing, released data showing that half the colleges on U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 liberal arts colleges list are test optional.

Also this week, ACT released a report questioning the rationale behind colleges going test optional. The report says that these policies are based on false assumptions and that test scores add to the information admissions officers need.

September 21, 2016

Boston University announced Tuesday that it will avoid investments in coal and tar sands oil, citing those as "the most carbon-intensive fuels." A statement from the university noted that divestment may not be complete because of the policies of some mutual funds in which the university has holdings.

September 21, 2016

A student at Kennesaw State University has been arrested after he accessed the university's student information system to change grades and steal the personal information of several students and professors this summer, FOX 5 Atlanta reported. Chase Arthur Hughes reportedly used faculty members' usernames and passwords to log into the system, where he was able to view financial and personal information and bump his and four other students' grades in two classes up to an A. Hughes has been charged with computer forgery, invasion of privacy and trespassing.

September 21, 2016

South African police fired stun grenades and arrested 31 students in Johannesburg as protests have erupted at universities across the country, disrupting classes and forcing the closure of some campuses, the BBC reported.

Students are protesting in support of free higher education and in opposition to the government's Monday announcement that tuition fees can increase by as much as 8 percent in 2017. A year ago, large-scale student protests were successful in bringing about a temporary freeze on fee increases for 2016.

September 21, 2016

Getting a job in academe can be dog-eat-dog. But for Professor Beauregard Tirebiter, it was just dog-be-dog. The black goldendoodle has been hired by the University of Southern California as the institution's first-ever full-time facility dog, according to USC News. (Note: Earlier versions of the USC News story and this story reported that the animal was academe's first full-time facility dog. Both posts have since been updated to reflect that he is one of several.) Facility dogs are similar to therapy dogs, but they work with changing groups of people rather than one person who needs assistance. Beau, as he’s nicknamed, works out of USC’s Engemann Student Health Center. His official title is wellness dog, and he has office hours, business cards and a Twitter account.

Students are invited to drop by to pet Beau throughout the day to relieve stress and anxiety. USC also hopes Beau will help students seek additional health services they might otherwise feel uncomfortable accessing. Beau is funded by the Trojan League of Los Angeles, an alumni group that is interested in student wellness.

September 21, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Andrew VanLoocke, assistant professor in the department of agronomy at Iowa State University, explores strategies involving annuals and perennials to improve soil. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 20, 2016

Students at Quinnipiac University have launched a petition to protest a new university logo that does not capitalize the "U" in university. "The outrageous decision not to capitalize the 'U' in university (a proper noun), reflects poorly on everyone affiliated with this institution of higher learning. We feel that the most basic components of English grammar must be recognized in all settings, regardless of stylistic intentions," says the petition.

Lynn Bushnell, the vice president of public affairs at the university, told WTNH News that there are no plans to reconsider the logo. “We have no intentions of looking back, only forward as we work to improve Quinnipiac’s stature and visibility in the higher education community," she said.

September 20, 2016

Hundreds of students at American University held a protest Monday to demand suspensions of white students they believe are involved with recent incidents targeting black women, The Washington Post reported. In one incident, a black female student says, someone threw a banana at her. In another, someone left a rotten banana outside the dormitory room of another black female student. Those protesting also say there have been other racial incidents, but those involving bananas prompted the protest, with many carrying signs saying "Racism at AU Is Bananas."

American University President Cornelius M. Kerwin released a statement in which he called the banana incident and another “explicit racist incident” in a residence hall “unacceptable student behavior … that left our African-American students and others shaken, upset and even feeling unsafe.” The incident involving the thrown banana has been investigated and those responsible “have been held accountable through the student conduct process,” the statement said.

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