Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, July 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday that an ordinance of Michigan State University -- which states that "no person shall disrupt the normal activity" of a university employee -- is unconstitutional because it is too broad, The Detroit Free Press reported. The case started with a challenge by a student who was cited for violating the ordinance after a nonviolent dispute with an employee charged with enforcing parking rules. The state's high court ruled that the ordinance was so broad that it covers constitutionally protected speech.

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The biggest factor in setting the pay levels of for-profit CEOs is corporate profitability, according to the preliminary findings of an investigation by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat. Cummings examined the compensation of executives at 13 publicly traded for-profits, asking for documentation on whether the companies linked executive pay to the performance of students. Only three companies provided specific references to how they weigh student achievement in setting compensation, according to a statement from Cummings.

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Oxford, responding to concerns about equity for transgender students, has dropped the dress code that has been in place for students at some formal academic events, BBC News reported. The current rules, which will end August 4, require male students to wear a dark suit, black shoes and a white bow tie and a plain white shirt and collar under their black gowns. Women must wear a dark skirt or trousers and a white blouse. The rules were criticized as forcing transgender students into traditional gender roles.

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Laura Bix of Michigan State University explains efforts to increase the visibility of warning labels on medication. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 3:00am

A plea agreement has led to charges being dropped against the University of California System over the 2008 lab fire that killed Sheri Sangji, a research assistant at the University of California at Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Times reported. The system agreed to follow new safety measures and to endow a $500,000 scholarship in Sangji's name. Charges remain against Patrick Harran, a chemistry professor who was the lab supervisor.

 

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 4:23am

Authorities arrested a Kent State University sophomore Sunday after he allegedly posted a message on Twitter threatening to shoot up the campus, The Plain Dealer reported. The student was charged with inducing panic and aggravated menacing.

 

Monday, July 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s tuition reimbursement program, which pays for employees to take college-level courses, has garnered some criticism from an Iowa senator who said the agency doesn’t provide students with enough information about college options. WMATA -- which is funded by the federal government, the District of Columbia, and state and local jurisdictions -- spent almost $500,000 on the program in fiscal year 2010, according to The Washington Times.

“I am increasingly concerned that many government agencies, not just WMATA, are using taxpayer dollars to send students to low-quality, high-cost for-profit colleges with terrible student outcomes,” said Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, in a statement. “Most troubling is that these agencies do not provide students with sufficient information to protect themselves or perform adequate due diligence regarding the schools’ value.”

According to The Washington Times, which received documents about the program from an open records request, many WMATA employees opted to take courses at for-profit institutions, such as the University of Phoenix and Strayer University. Employees also took courses at some area institutions, such as the University of Maryland University College and Prince George's County College.

The documents also revealed that some employees took courses with no apparent professional correlation -- on video games, black history and parenting, for example.

Friday, July 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Portland State University expelled and banned from campus a graduate student who a classmate said had made threatening remarks involving guns and a professor, The Oregonian reported. The article describes how the university acted quickly after receiving the report and about how Henry Liu says the university unfairly viewed him as, in his words, a "crazy Asian shooter." Liu denies making the remarks attributed to him, and a psychiatrist concluded that he poses no danger to himself or others.

Friday, July 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Britain's University of Manchester has unveiled a "pray-o-mat," a small booth in which people can listen to, and join in, 300 pre-recorded prayers from a range of faiths, in 65 different languages. The project is part of study on multi-faith spaces. Ralf Brand, the lead researcher, said that "though the pray-o-mat is a bit tongue-in-cheek, there is a serious message to what we're doing. Successful multi-faith spaces do not need to be flashy or expensive. In many places a small, clean and largely unadorned space can serve adequately."

Friday, July 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The Pew Research Center today released a survey of academics, entrepreneurs, I.T. workers and various other "experts and stakeholders" that was designed to glean whether colleges and universities are likely to undergo significant changes by the year 2020.

The survey's 1,021 respondents were asked to choose which of the following scenarios is more likely to come true in the next seven and a half years: a) Not much will have changed, aside from the proliferation of certain mobile and classroom technologies, and "most universities will mostly require in-person, on-campus attendance of students most of the time at courses featuring a lot of traditional lectures" and assessment methods; or b) Self-paced learning, online "hybrid" courses will have become par for the course at most universities, and assessment will have shifted to "more individually oriented outcomes and capacities that are relevant to subject mastery."

Sixty percent of respondents predicted that the latter is more likely to be true, and 39 percent endorsed the former, more conservative prospectus. (The remaining 1 percent did not respond to the question.) The survey, administered by Pew's Internet & American Life Project in concert with Elon University, framed the questions as a stark dichotomy in order to provoke strong responses. But it noted that respondents revealed many shades of gray in their qualified responses, and that "a significant number of survey participants said the true outcome will encompass portions of both scenarios."

The sample was admittedly nonrandom, and purposefully sought out self-identifying "futurists," "entrepreneurs" and "advocates," among other experts.

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