Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
Like many colleges, Brandon University, in Manitoba, has a contest at home basketball games: A student is picked at random and may either shoot from half-court or pick someone else to do so -- with a semester's tuition going to the student if he or she either makes the shot or picks someone who can. On Friday, Mason Kaluzniak was the student who had the chance to shoot or draft someone else present. Kaluzniak picked Gil Cheung, the men's basketball coach, who promptly won Kaluzniak a semester's free tuition.
Unions at several Michigan colleges and universities are exploring the possibility of agreeing now to extend contracts so that they can avoid for a few years some of the impact of the state's new "right to work" law, which bars anyone from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment, The Battle Creek Enquirer reported. Many in the unions fear their position will be weakened by the law, which takes effect March 27.
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.