Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 21, 2017

More than 560 college and university presidents have signed a letter urging President Trump to keep in place protections for “Dreamers,” a term for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children -- many of whom are now college students. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by President Obama, more than 700,000 Dreamers have been able to obtain work permits and temporary protection from the risk of deportation. During the campaign, Trump called for an end to DACA, but he has since softened his tone, saying he would like to “work something out” for Dreamers, without offering specifics.

“Unfortunately, many of these young people now live in fear that the program [DACA] will be rolled back or revoked,” states the letter, which was organized by the American Council on Education. “In order to lift this cloud of fear, we ask that you commit to allowing these productive and high-achieving individuals to continue to work and study while your administration and Congress arrive at a permanent solution. The higher education community is eager to work with you to find a path forward.”

March 21, 2017

A new report on students' college searches and social media notes the importance of search-and-review sites, where colleges are included (sometimes based on fees they pay) with information that may or may not reflect what colleges would put in front of prospective students. The report, by Chegg, NRCCUA and Target X, found that 93 percent of students use one of these sites at least once while searching for a college. The ever-growing list of such sites makes it challenging for colleges to keep up and to focus attention, the report says. Students report using these sites to search for information about scholarships and financial aid and for general admissions data. The report notes that, regardless of what college officials think of the sites, nearly 70 percent of students find them useful. The full report is available here.

March 21, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Melissa Armstrong, assistant professor in the department of neurology at the University of Florida, explores shared decision making and how it can affect your health. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 20, 2017

Robert S. Eitel is working as a special assistant for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos while he is on unpaid leave as vice president for regulatory legal services at Bridgepoint Education Inc., The New York Times reported. It is not uncommon for some people with experience in the for-profit sector to take positions in the Education Department, but it is unusual for this to take place while they are on leave. A department spokesman said Eitel would recuse himself from any questions about Bridgepoint.

March 20, 2017

Howard University is investigating an alleged incident in which a white professor asked his class to engage in a mock slave auction. News of the exercise was first reported by the Caged Bird blog, which did not name the professor or his department. The instructor reportedly was teaching Frederick Douglass’s slave narrative earlier this month and asked one of two black men in the class to stand up and be examined because he looked “healthy,” according to the blog.

“He asked me to show my butt to the class so that he could get a better sense of my worth and had the audacity to say that it was uncomfortable for him, too, because he’s a white man,” the unnamed student reportedly told Caged Bird. “He started propping my body up as if we were on a slave auction block.” The student said the professor told him he could stop participating when he felt uncomfortable but that he stood up “because I didn’t expect him to do or say the things he said and did. I didn’t sit down sooner because I was so shocked.”

Other students allegedly asked the professor to stop, and the entire class objected to the buttocks remark, according to Caged Bird. The blog did not name the professor because it does not want him to be fired, but does want him to stop teaching that particular lesson, according to an editor’s note.

A spokesperson for Howard said the university is aware of the report and is currently investigating.

March 20, 2017

At least 100 anti-Semitic fliers were distributed across the University of Illinois at Chicago campus last week, according to The Chicago Sun-Times, adding to the litany of anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred on college campuses in recent months.

The fliers suggested that Jews control a disproportionate amount of wealth in the country -- it says Jews make up 2 percent of the population, but that 44 percent of them are among the top 1 percent of Americans.

The creators of the flier appear to be citing two Pew Research Center studies, with links provided at the bottom of the page, but the numbers used do not match the data on Pew’s website.

In large font, the flier also says, “Ending White Privilege Starts With Ending Jewish Privilege.”

Eva Zeltser, a UIC student and president of a Jewish organization on campus, said she found about 100 fliers strewn throughout the library and student centers.

She posted a picture of one of the fliers to her Facebook page, and as of Sunday, it had been shared over 4,000 times.

“My heart is broken,” she wrote in the post. “These are acts of pure hatred and intolerance.”

The university also released a statement condemning the fliers.

“Such actions do not reflect the values we hold as a community,” the statement said. “As we investigate this recent event, we strongly encourage all members of our university to exercise their right to free speech in a manner that recognizes these principles and avoids prejudice or stereotypes.”

March 20, 2017

Taskstream, a New York City-based company that works with colleges and higher education associations on assessment, accreditation and e-portfolios, this week announced that it is merging with Tk20, an Austin, Tex.-based firm that also provides services related to learning assessment and accreditation.

The new company, Taskstream-Tk20, will be an assessment management platform focused on helping colleges "measure, analyze and report learning data to improve student and institutional outcomes." (Disclosure: Last year Quad Partners invested in Taskstream. Quad is a private equity firm that since 2014 has had a controlling ownership share in Inside Higher Ed.)

March 20, 2017

The City University of New York is making changes in its approach to remedial education, The New York Times reported. Among the changes are less reliance on testing for placement of students in remedial courses, including providing automatic retesting for those who score just below the level needed to be placed in college-level classes. In addition, those who pass remedial courses will now be able to move to college-level work in the subjects. In the past they had to pass both the courses and a test.

March 20, 2017

Internet speeds at colleges have nearly tripled since 2012 as IT departments have fought to keep up with students bringing new internet-connected devices to campus, streaming music and video, and gaming online, a new study found. ACUTA (the Association for College and University Technology Advancement) and the Association of College and University Housing Officers International surveyed administrators at 320 colleges and universities in the U.S. for the 2017 State of ResNet Report, which is now in its seventh year. Major findings include:

  • About two-thirds of business officers (68 percent) said they are concerned about budgeting for the costs of offering wireless internet. About 60 percent of them said they expect costs will grow over the next two years; 30 percent believe costs will grow by more than 10 percent.
  • Only 14.3 percent of colleges offer around-the-clock help-desk services for technical issues, but the share is growing steadily. In 2012, just 9 percent did.
  • Colleges are focusing on offering solid Wi-Fi coverage in administrative offices, classrooms and dorms and are less worried about the qualify of Wi-Fi coverage outdoors. Only 11.9 percent of respondents described Wi-Fi coverage in outside areas as "robust."
  • Netflix and other video-streaming services are the largest bandwidth hogs on campus, 87.7 percent of respondents said, followed by rich web content (78.2 percent), music streaming (61.3 percent) and gaming (51.7 percent).
  • Desktop and laptop computers consume the most bandwidth (according to 62.3 percent of respondents), but smartphones (61.8 percent), tablets (54.2 percent) and video-streaming devices (50 percent) are not far behind.
March 20, 2017

Princeton University filed a lawsuit against the Education Department on Friday in an effort to stop the release of hundreds of pages of documents that would reveal some of the university’s private admissions procedures, Politico reported.

The documents were obtained by the Education Department as part of a seven-year civil rights investigation into whether Princeton was discriminating against Asian and Asian-American applicants.

The investigation was closed in 2015 after the department found insufficient evidence to support the claims of racial discrimination, but a group called the Students for Fair Admissions has been trying to access the Princeton documents under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Princeton’s lawsuit seeks to halt the release of those documents on the grounds that they contain sensitive and confidential demographic data, university policies and admissions practices that “would cause substantial competitive harm to the university if disclosed.”

The university has already attempted to stop the FOIA request from being granted once before. Earlier this month, the Education Department rejected Princeton’s request for FOIA exemption, explaining that such an exemption is not appropriate given the nature of the materials the university handed over during the department’s investigation.

In the rejection letter to Princeton, officials from the Education Department wrote that, should the documents be released, they would redact any identifiable information about individual applicants.

The department released 868 documents related to Students for Fair Admissions’ FOIA request earlier this year. The remaining set includes 861 documents.

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