Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Dharun Ravi -- the former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to spy on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, kissing another man in their dorm room, tweeted about it and set up another viewing for other students days later -- was convicted Friday on charges of committing a hate crime, invasion of privacy and bias intimidation.

After finding out about Ravi’s actions in September 2010, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Ravi, 20, faces up to a decade in prison and potential deportation to India after being convicted on all 15 counts. He was acquitted on some components of the bias intimidation charges. In some instances, the jury didn’t find that Ravi had invaded Clementi’s privacy “with the purpose to intimidate” because of sexual orientation, but it determined Ravi did know his actions would cause Clementi to be intimidated because of his sexual orientation. In other words, the jury decided Ravi was motivated by bias, but didn’t necessarily intend to harm Clementi.

The jury also found Ravi guilty on counts of tampering with evidence (for deleting text messages and tweets, and posting false tweets), witness tampering (for trying to influence what student Molly Wei, who testified against Ravi as part of a plea deal, told police), and hindering apprehension or prosecution (for lying to police, preventing a witness from providing testimony and destroying evidence).

Ravi turned down a plea deal last year and declined to testify in the trial. The jury deliberated for three days.

The case has generated new state and federal laws aimed at combatting cyberbullying.

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

A new poll by YouGov finds that both conservative and liberal Americans value higher education, but that they differ on their perspectives on the college experience. The poll, conducted after Rick Santorum made his campaign criticisms of academe, found that majorities of both conservatives and liberals believe that higher education is at least "somewhat important" to achieving financial success, but liberals are much more likely than are conservatives to see higher education as very important to such success. A similar pattern was found on the question of whether four years of college leaves a person better educated. Both liberals and conservatives believe that this is "somewhat" true, but liberals are much more likely than conservatives to believe that such a person is "much more educated."

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

A federal budget cut -- from $43 million to $27 million -- in funds for low-income students to pay for Advanced Placement tests is likely to result in many low-income students being unable to pay for the tests, The New York Times reported. States have been reporting to school districts that many of their low-income students will have to pay $15 for each of the first three exams they take, and then $53 each for any additional exam. Some students are reporting that they will take fewer exams as a result.

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 4:24am

Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, is pushing a series of controversial reforms of higher education, The New York Times reported. He has added test-based admissions at the public universities and has issued evaluations that many fear could be used to shut down some private institutions, which he has termed "garage universities."

 

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

More than 100 top faculty members at the University of Illinois sent a new letter to the Board of Trustees seeking the dismissal of Michael Hogan as president of the university system, The News-Gazette reported. Faculty anger has been growing in recent months against Hogan, who following a meeting at which board members urged him to repair faculty relations said he would do so, and apologized for the breakdown. But a new letter suggests that the faculty leaders have not been impressed by the new efforts by Hogan. While the faculty leaders thanked the board for taking their earlier concerns seriously, they added in their new letter that it was time for a new president. It is "all the more urgent that action be taken quickly to preserve the credibility of the board in the public arena as well as internally amongst the faculty, staff and students of the university," the letter said. "A board that does not act when there is a president who is so ethically and reputationally compromised as to be unable to function is one that is, in truth, itself unable to effectively govern the institution that it stewards."

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

U.S. News & World Report has announced that two professional schools have notified it that they provided some inaccurate information in the data collected for the magazine's latest rankings. Without providing details, the magazine said that the University of St. Thomas law school provided incorrect information about job placement and that the University of Houston education school provided incorrect information about research expenditures. St. Thomas posted information about the error. The law school said that it reported law school job placement rates at time of graduation in two places on its form -- one correct (32.9 percent) and one incorrect (80.6 percent), and that the magazine used the incorrect figure.I have e-mail out to UH to find out what it's error was -sj

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Spike TV has a new reality show, "American Digger," that debuts this week and anthropologists are not likely to be fans. The show is described this way in its press materials: "This new unscripted original series follows former professional wrestler turned modern day relic hunter Ric Savage, as he and his team from American Savage target areas such as battlefields and historic sites in the hopes of striking it rich and capitalizing on unearthing and selling bits of American history. The only thing standing in their way are the homeowners themselves, who Savage must convince to allow them to dig up their property using state-of-the-art metal detectors and heavy-duty excavation equipment. What artifacts they find, they sell for a substantial profit, but not before negotiating a deal to divide the revenue with the property owners."

The American Anthropological Association has sent a letter to Spike TV calling on it to withdraw or change the show. Association members are "deeply disturbed" about the show, the letter says, because its message seems to be that "it is okay to loot and destroy archaeological sites for monetary gain." The letter goes on to say that the show "will undermine critical public support for the protection, preservation and interpretation of the archaeological record."

 

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, J. Nicholas Laneman of the University of Notre Dame explains the technology behind the expanding use of wireless networks. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Jewish students, faculty members and organizations are angry at the State University of New York for changing its academic calendar so that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur will no longer be holidays and spring break will no longer be scheduled to overlap with Passover and Easter, The Jewish Week reported. Charles Robbins, vice provost for undergraduate education, told the newspaper that the idea was to treat all religious groups the same (not offering any holidays as university holidays), while encouraging faculty members and others to be flexible with those whose observances require them to miss some classes. "We are trying to be respectful of all religions," Robbins said. "We want to be equally welcoming to everybody."

Rabbi Joseph Topek of the Stony Brook Hillel has posted on his blog a critique of the new calendar, the adoption of which he wrote is in contrast to a long history of support at Stony Brook for students of many faiths. "We are very concerned that this policy will result in large numbers of faculty and staff being unable to teach classes on major holidays and large numbers of students will miss important course work," he wrote. "New York State Education Law (Section 224-a) requires the institution to provide all students with an equivalent make up opportunity for any required work missed due to religious observance. We all know, however, that the student-teacher relationship is not an equal one, and many students are intimidated or frightened by the prospect of revealing personal information to a teacher in order to ask for make up work."

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 3:00am

Many academics in Israel are angry over the selection of a business executive, Amos Shapira, as president of the University of Haifa, Haaretz reported. Supporters of the pick have argued that the university needs a leader who will promote change. But many in Israel believe that presidencies should go to academics. Danny Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa, called Shapira's selection a step in "the Finance Ministry's hostile takeover of the universities." He rejected the idea that the business perspective is needed. "The premise that a commercial-business administration will rescue the universities is an addictive bit of propaganda," he said. "Essentially, as a consequence of the budget cuts the Finance Ministry forced on the universities, they have been administered as a 'business' for about two decades. And yet, experience shows that the more the universities adopt business logic, the greater the crisis in which they find themselves."

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