Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Oxford announced Monday that it is temporarily blocking access to Google Docs, citing a series of "phishing" attacks in which people have used Google Docs to collect e-mail addresses linked to the university's network. A statement from Oxford said: "We appreciate and apologize for the disruption this caused for our users. Nevertheless, we must always think in terms of the overall risk to the university as a whole, and we certainly cannot rule out taking such action again in future, although our thresholds for doing so may be somewhat higher. We are meanwhile investigating several possible technical measures for reducing the risks to the university with less impact on legitimate network usage, and will be reviewing our emergency communications procedures. We will also be pressuring Google that they need to be far more responsive, if not proactive, regarding abuse of their services for criminal activities."
Some students at Susquehanna University are questioning a decision to remove 11 members from the football and track and field times because of their participation in a "Harlem Shake" Internet video, WNEP 16 News reported. Many students around the country are filming videos in which they dance to a hip-hop song. The objection at Susquehanna was to simulated sexual acts during part of the video. The university said that the athletes' behavior was "disappointing," but added that they were given plans that, if completed, would allow them to return to their teams. Some students thought the university overreacted.
The video is below and does feature (clothed) simulated acts, so please view only if you are comfortable doing so.
We can't say we're sure why this is taking off at Boston University or whether it will spread, but the hot Facebook page for BU students is Banana University, featuring photographs of and commentary about students eating bananas. And, of course, Banana University also has a Tumblr and a Twitter feed.
The Cooper Union, which has traditionally awarded full scholarships to all students but which last year started charging tuition to graduate students, is again considering tuition for undergraduates, The New York Times reported. The move to start charging graduate students was designed to keep undergraduate education free, but officials at Cooper Union said that financial challenges may make it impossible to remain tuition-free. Many student and alumni critics, however, say that an important tradition is at risk, and some question spending priorities by administrators.
Amid controversy about one of two finalists’ involvement in military prison systems, the University of Missouri at Columbia has halted its search for a new division executive director in its College of Education.
Dan Clay, college dean, sent out an email last week saying he "decided to not fill the position at this time" after receiving a recommendation from a faculty search committee and "input from other stakeholders,” The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
The announcement followed a protest and additional community backlash related to retired Col. Larry James’ consideration for the post, after his name surfaced as a strong candidate earlier this month. Opponents cited the former Army psychologist’s work at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as disqualifying for an academic position. James, dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University, wrote about his experiences reforming both prisons’ treatment of detainees as their director of behavioral health in a memoir called Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib. He maintains that numerous independent investigations have revealed no wrongdoing on his part.
A spokeswoman for Mizzou’s College of Education, told the Tribune it was "really a decision about both candidates," which also included Matthew Burns, a faculty member of the University of Minnesota Department of Educational Psychology. "Neither of the individuals was the right person at this time.”
James did not respond to a request for comment.
A new report from the American Sociological Association considers whether the discipline should embrace postdoctoral fellowships. Currently, postdocs are not common in sociology, although a few, small postdoc programs are successful. The question for the field, the report suggests, is whether expanding postdoc options could be done while preserving the high quality of the experience of those in the relatively few programs that exist now.
Morehouse College announced Saturday that President Obama will be its commencement speaker this year, Politico reported. Morehouse's new president, John Silvanus Wilson Jr., was executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities during President Obama's first term. U.S. presidents have in recent years appeared at three commencements a year -- one public institution, one private institutions and a U.S. service academy.
Last year -- with strong support from students, professors and alumni -- William Powers Jr. held on to his job as president of the University of Texas at Austin, fending off a bid to oust him by some members of the University of Texas Board of Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry. Texas publications are reporting signs that the regents' anti-Powers campaign may be resuming. The Austin American-Statesman reported on unusually tough questioning of Powers by a regents committee last week. Further, the article noted, the terms of three regents who have been supportive of Powers recently ended, and Perry is expected to name new regents soon. The Texas Monthly reported that "regents unfriendly to Powers have reopened a review of the University of Texas Law School Foundation and its practice of granting large, forgivable loans to administrators and faculty at the law school. My source indicated that the regents appear to be trying to find evidence that could be used to discredit Powers, who is a former dean of the law school but was not connected with the problems of the foundation."
Two California community colleges received good news from their accreditor this week, with an easing of possible sanctions from the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, which is part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. But another two-year college in the state, College of the Sequoia received a stern rebuke from the commission and learned that it would need to "show cause" that it should not have its accreditation stripped. Cuesta College and the College of the Redwoods had their show cause orders dropped. Meanwhile, City College of San Francisco continues to work toward fixing problems that led to its show cause status. (Note: This article has been changed from an earlier version to correct a reference to Cuesta College's current accreditation status.)
A new paper based on survey data from scientists in 16 countries compares the relative strengths of the United States and other countries in attracting top Ph.D. talent. For obtaining a Ph.D. and selecting a postdoc, American universities continue to be highly regarded and benefit from the prestige of their academic programs and a perception that an American Ph.D. will help the careers of non-American scientist, the study found. But the survey found that Australia, Germany and Switzerland have made gains in recent years, relative to the U.S., in attracting Ph.D. students.
In selecting postdoc locations, non-Americans are discouraged from positions at universities in the U.S. by concerns over working conditions and fringe benefits, relative to opportunities elsewhere. "This finding will hardly come as a surprise to postdocs in the United States who lack paid health insurance coverage -especially for their families- and a formal family leave policy and have few if any specified holidays or vacation days," says the report, released today by the National Bureau of Economic Research. (Abstract available here.)
As a result, countries gaining against the U.S. in competition for top postdocs are Australia, Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland.
The authors of the paper are Paula Stephan of Georgia State University, Chiara Franzoni of Politecnico di Milano and Giuseppe Scellato of Politecnico di Torino.