Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Donald Ratcliff, a professor of Christian education at Wheaton College, in Illinois, is being held on child pornography and weapons charges, The Chicago Tribune reported. Authorities said that Ratcliff was found to be trading in child pornography, including images of children younger than 13. Authorities also found two handguns and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in Ratcliff's possession. His lawyer said that the guns were family heirlooms, but declined to comment further. Wheaton has suspended Ratcliff.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Brown University's board on Friday named Christina Hull Paxson, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, as Brown's next president. She will take office July 1, succeeding Ruth Simmons. At Princeton, Paxson's scholarly work has been on the intersection of health care and economics. She came to Princeton in 1986, rising through the faculty ranks and leading the economics department as chair. Graduate students at the Woodrow Wilson School have given her five awards for teaching excellence.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 4:28am

A few colleges, the Associated Press reports, have an optional part of undergraduate applications: a letter of recommendation from a parent. Officials say that they get unique details that only a parent might know, and sometimes reflections on a child date back to the time the applicant was in utero.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty leaders in the Texas A&M University System are protesting plans to outsource hundreds of nonacademic jobs, The Eagle of Bryan/College Station reported. A Faculty Senate letter says that many of those who will lose jobs are longtime employees, that many of them are minority, low-income individuals and that many will be hurt by failing to reach key vesting milestones in the state retirement system. But Chancellor John Sharp is defending the plans. "I'm trying very hard to find something I agree with in that letter and I just can't do it," Sharp said. "I will continue to do all I can to redirect monies where possible to classrooms and research, even though that is apparently opposed by the Faculty Senate."

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, received a highly publicized call from President Obama after the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" (among other things) for backing the president's health-care proposal that would require employers to cover contraception. She also received a strong statement of support on Friday -- for her right to speak out without being slurred -- from the president of Georgetown.

The statement from John J. DeGioia, Georgetown's president, didn't endorse Fluke's point of view on the health law. DeGioia noted that many -- including, significantly for a Roman Catholic university like Georgetown, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- have offered differing perspectives. But he said that what deserved attention was the way Fluke spoke out, and the way others attacked her.

"She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction. She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression," the Georgetown president wrote. "And yet, some of those who disagreed with her position – including Rush Limbaugh and commentators throughout the blogosphere and in various other media channels -- responded with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student."

DeGioia quoted Saint Augustine, who said: "Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed." Added DeGioia: "If we, instead, allow coarseness, anger – even hatred – to stand for civil discourse in America, we violate the sacred trust that has been handed down through the generations beginning with our Founders. The values that hold us together as a people require nothing less than eternal vigilance. This is our moment to stand for the values of civility in our engagement with one another."

Limbaugh apologized for his statement on Saturday.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 4:31am

A former student has sued Stonehill College, charging that it drove her into suicidal depression by failing to deal with a roommate who had sex in the room while the plaintiff was present, MSNBC reported. According to the suit, the college didn't respond to complaints or requests for a private room. A college spokeswoman said that Stonehill responded "swiftly and professionally" to complaints about the roommate in question, but was never informed that the "concerns involved her roommate's sexual activity."

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Dennis Gilbert of Hamilton College examines the murky definition of middle class in political rhetoric. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

The editor in chief of The Kansas State Collegian has apologized for the paper running an op-ed questioning the presence of international students on the campus. "[E]ditors should have raised concerns about the content and style of the column," wrote Caroline Sweeney, the editor in chief. The original column said that Kansas and federal funds were being used to educate foreign students, many of them from countries that don't always agree with the United States. "I have nothing against citizens from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq or Turkey. I just truly believe that nearly $7 million of taxpayer money should not be spent to educate students who could, in the near future, become the enemy," wrote the student author of the piece, Sean Frye. The column outraged many international students and others at the university. The online version now features an apology from Frye, on top of the essay, in which he notes errors in his column. Among them, he didn't note that the university benefits financially from the international students, who pay much higher tuition rates than Kansans do. He also praised his resident adviser from last year, a Chinese student.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Lander College for Men, a college in Touro University that educates Orthodox Jews, is a place where students spend long days and nights studying Jewish texts. There is minimal time for television, and no viewing on Saturdays -- making Lander an unlikely place to produce football fans. But as Yahoo!Sports reported, Lander has adopted the University of Oregon Ducks as its football team. Herb Ratner, an assistant dean, went to graduate school at Oregon and has introduced his favorite team to Lander. Periodically there is a night game that students can watch, but primarily students learn of the outcome after Saturday game days, when Ratner posts the news, either as a win or "NW" for non-win (he doesn't like to refer to losses). "Guys will come up to me and say, 'Hey dean, how are the Ducks doing?' Guys who had never followed college football, let alone the Ducks, suddenly take a passing interest and we talk about the Ducks. So it's become a thing at the school."

Friday, March 2, 2012 - 3:00am

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 60 percent of Americans think colleges have a generally positive effect on American life, but noted sharp partisan divides in Americans' views of institutions of higher education. Twenty-six percent of Americans said that colleges have a negative effect on "the way things are going in the country," with the rest of respondents not answering. Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats said that colleges have a positive effect on the country. Among conservative Republicans, 46 percent agreed; among Republicans who agree with the Tea Party, only 38 percent said colleges have a positive effect.

Still, among the population as a whole, the 60 percent approval rating for colleges was relatively high: more saw positive effects from colleges than from churches (57 percent), the news media (26 percent) or Congress (a dismal 15 percent). The Pew Research Center also noted that a 2011 survey found that across party lines, Americans who attended college overwhelmingly believed it was a good investment.

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