Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 10, 2013

Alice Munro, the Canadian author, was this morning named winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was honored as a "master of the contemporary short story." A statement released with the announcement said: "Her stories are often set in small town environments, where the struggle for a socially acceptable existence often results in strained relationships and moral conflicts – problems that stem from generational differences and colliding life ambitions. Her texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning."

Scholarship on Munro, published by university presses, includes: Alice Munro by Coral Ann Howells, (Manchester University Press), Controlling the Uncontrollable: The Fiction of Alice Munro, by Ildikó de Papp Carrington (Northern Illinois University Press), The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro's Discourse of Absence, by Ajay Heble, (University of Toronto Press) and Dance of the Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro, by Beverly Rasporich (University of Alberta Press).

 

 

October 10, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Chris Roberts of the University of California at Los Angeles explores the link between lifestyle and health in teens. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 10, 2013

The Consortium of China 9 Research Universities has joined with three other international associations in releasing a statement of 10 characteristics of research universities, including -- notably within a Chinese context -- a commitment to academic freedom.

Specifically, one of the characteristics identified in the "Hefei Statement on the Ten Characteristics of Contemporary Research Universities" is "[t]he responsible exercise of academic freedom by faculty to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching and service without undue constraint within a research culture based on open inquiry and the continued testing of current understanding, and which extends beyond the vocational or instrumental, sees beyond immediate needs and seeks to develop the understanding, skills and expertise necessary to fashion the future and help interpret our changing world."

Other characteristics identified in the statement include autonomy, a commitment to civil debate, and a dedication to research integrity.

The Association of American Universities, the Group of Eight Australia, and the League of European Research Universities joined with the leaders of nine elite Chinese research universities in sighing the statement at the C9 consortium's meeting in Hefei, China. 

October 10, 2013

Two days after massive open online course provider Coursera announced the creation of a Chinese-language web portal, edX on Thursday unveiled a new consortium of Chinese partner universities during an event in Beijing. 

Some of the universities that will join the initiative, called XuetangX, include Beijing Normal University, China Agricultural University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, National Tsing Hua University, Tsinghua University, the University of Science and Technology of China, and Zhejiang University. The first online courses will launch on Oct. 17. 

EdX also announced an initiative to work with French universities on Oct. 3. 

October 10, 2013

Santa Clara University has removed elective abortion from its health coverage for employees, becoming the second Roman Catholic university (with Loyola Marymount University) to be facing faculty backlash over such a decision, The San Jose Mercury News reported. University officials said that they are trying to be consistent with church teachings. But faculty members say that they object both tp the decision, and to the fact that it was made without consultation with professors. "This really makes Santa Clara University's express commitment to openness, diversity and inclusiveness ring hollow," said Nancy Unger, a history professor.

October 10, 2013

The University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse has apologized for an e-mail a professor sent to students earlier this week blaming the “Republican/Tea-Party controlled House of Representatives” for the ongoing government shutdown. In an e-mail Wednesday, Chancellor Joe Gow called the comment “inappropriate” and “problematic,” based on the fact that it didn’t appear to “add anything to the educational experience in the class,” and because such a “partisan reference” could make students uncomfortable.

Rachel Slocum, assistant professor of geography, said in an e-mail that she regretted the brevity but not necessarily the content of her message to students in her online class, as she wanted to explain why they wouldn’t be able to access U.S. Census Bureau data to complete an important assignment. (The bureau's website is unavailable due to the shutdown.)

Here's what she wrote, after being alerted by a student that the site was not working:

"Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/tea party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government.... Please do what you can on the assignment. Those parts you are unable to do because of the shutdown will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government. Please listen to the news and be prepared to turn in the assignment quickly once our nation re-opens.”

Slocum said that "in hindsight, I should have either left out mention of the causal agents or gone into more detail so as not to make any student feel as if I was using my position to force my perspective on them. That feeling is certainly not what I wanted to convey." The professor wrote a similar message in a second e-mail to students, at the request of the dean of the College of Science and Health.

Gow said in an interview that Slocum's comments violated the university's policy against using its resources to engage in political activity.

 

October 10, 2013

While it is widely known that many college presidents and head football coaches receive cars in their compensation packages, 94 administrators or coaches at University of Nebraska campuses (and one coach's wife) receive cars, club memberships or both, The Omaha World-Herald reported. University officials defended the benefits as part of the process of attracting and retaining talent.

 

October 9, 2013

Desire2Learn on Tuesday announced an upgraded version of its learning management system has begun rolling out to the company’s roughly 750 clients. The newest version of the Learning Suite reflects the series of startups Desire2Learn has acquired in recent months, including group collaboration software created by Wiggio.

John Baker, president and CEO of Desire2Learn, said one of the major goals of the new platform is to smooth out the technical difficulties of collaborating across different applications and websites. Instead of logging in to access their online documents on one site and their photos on another, users will be able to tie those credentials to their Learning Suite account.

The platform also features support for institutions to create their own massive open online courses without the use of a MOOC provider. The upgrade will come at no charge to Desire2Learn’s existing customers.

October 9, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Richard Boylan of Rice University explores the connection between prison reform and a reduction in social aid programs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 9, 2013

Large numbers of students who have transferred to a four-year institution from a community college before earning an associate degree may be eligible to receive that credential, according to a newly released study from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The report, which is dubbed "Credit When It's Due," looked at the potential for "reverse transfer" policies in 12 states, finding that 27,000 students who had no credential four years after transferring would have been eligible for an associate degree. 

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