Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, February 10, 2012 - 4:28am

An article in The New York Times today highlights several recent studies suggesting that education gaps between rich and poor students are growing -- from elementary school through college. At the same time, race-based gaps are narrowing. “We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist.

Friday, February 10, 2012 - 3:00am

A case study of the impact of Pell Grants on Kansas community colleges has found that a higher maximum Pell Grant has led to more students attending college, particularly in rural parts of the state. The study, released today by the University of Alabama Education Policy Center, found that Pell Grant dollars distributed to Kansas students nearly doubled between 2008 and 2010, and that enrollments at community colleges, including the proportion of students attending full time rather than part time, increased as well. In addition, the study found that "maintenance of effort" provisions in the 2009 federal stimulus law were successful at reining in state increases in tuition price.

The case study was part of a larger look at the impact of Pell Grants on rural community colleges published by the center earlier this year. "This report just explodes the myth that the Pell Grant program is an urban program," Stephen Katsinas, the director of the policy center, wrote in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed. "Pell funding made a tremendous difference in Kansas."

Friday, February 10, 2012 - 3:00am

When should scholarly associations honor a boycott? The Organization of American Historians is promoting a philosophical discussion of the issue, which has been challenging to many disciplinary associations, in an online discussion that will serve as an introduction to discussion at the OAH's annual meeting this year. Several disciplinary associations -- including the OAH -- have moved meetings because of boycotts of particularly hotels or cities or states. Most disciplinary meetings are set up years in advance, making it difficult to predict where a boycott may be in effect, and last-minute moves can be very expensive to associations, which may be stuck with bills for unused hotels. The online discussion features a sustained conversation among a group of noted historians -- including officers of the OAH and the American Historical Association. While the discussion suggests that participants would see some boycotts as appropriate in some circumstances, many questions are raised about when a disciplinary association should take a stand, and whether it is responsible to do so if such actions would endanger the financial health of the associations. The OAH is now inviting others to join the online discussion.

Friday, February 10, 2012 - 4:15am

The board of Kean University on Thursday night heard impassioned speeches in favor of keeping and getting rid of President Dawood Y. Farahi before a lengthy executive session at which no decision was made, The Star-Ledger reported. Farahi has clashed with faculty leaders for years, and has to date had strong backing from his board. But the current debate is over the veracity of numerous résumés for Farahi that show papers that never appear to have been published. Farahi has said that he did not prepare the résumés in question, but that staff members he did not name made the errors when preparing versions of the documents.

At Thursday's meetings, supporters of Farahi accused faculty members of having a vendetta against Farahi and said that they were using the résumé issue. Jose Sanchez, head of social sciences, said he couldn't understand the "hatred" many feel for Farahi. Apparently addressing faculty critics of the president, he said: "It may be a lot of fun for you to do all this, but it is sadistic and wrong." But Ashley Kraus, a junior who spoke at the meeting, read from Kean's academic integrity policy and asked why requirements should apply to students but not administrators. "It’s just wrong. It teaches the wrong morals," she said.

Friday, February 10, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Chris Gabbard of the University of North Florida explains how the academic spectrum can be enriched through the addition of disability studies programs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 3:00am

Facing banishment from the 2012-13 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament because of its men's basketball players' academic underperformance, the University of Connecticut has proposed an alternative set of penalties in exchange for remaining eligible for the postseason, ESPN and the Associated Press reported. The AP said that the university's waiver request to the NCAA -- which the news service obtained through an open-records request -- said that if the team was allowed to participate in the 2012-13 tournament, UConn would limit the number of regular season games it played, limit Coach Jim Calhoun's role in recruiting, and forfeit the funds due to the Big East Conference because of UConn's participation in the 2012-13 tournament. "Collectively, the university's proposal will clearly send the message that the institution fully accepts the responsibility for past failings," the AP quoted the university as saying in its waiver request. "It will result in the economic equivalent of a postseason ban without harming the very students the NCAA is trying to protect." (Note: This item has been updated from an earlier version to correct the reason for UConn's postseason ban.)

UConn faces the penalties under the NCAA's system for imposing penalties on teams that fail to reach minimum scores on the Academic Progress Rate, the association's measure of athletes' classroom performance. The university's president, Susan Herbst, said in a statement to the AP that the university had made significant progress in improving on its historical performance and that its officials will be "deeply disappointed if our request for a waiver ... is denied."

Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 4:21am

A committee in the Utah House of Representatives on Wednesday killed a bill that would have barred public colleges and universities from offering tenure to new faculty members, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Utah higher education officials said that the bill, if passed, would have been the first such law in the United States, and would have hurt the reputation of the state's colleges. But Representative Christopher Herrod, who proposed the measure, said: "There’s been no academic research that tenure benefits the system. I believe competition brings out the best. I believe in the capitalist system." He added that, if the state's higher education leaders really believe in tenure, they wouldn't be relying on adjuncts. "If we think tenure is so valuable, why don’t we have 100 percent on tenure? Are we not creating two classes of individuals?" he said.

Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 4:24am

A contentious lawsuit by a law professor against the dean of the Widener University law school has been settled, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The suit by Lawrence Connell charged that Dean Linda L. Ammons defamed him by making false statements that he was racist and sexist. Connell argued that those statements were made because of his conservative political views. No terms of the settlement were announced, except that Connell no longer works at Widener.

Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 3:00am

The never-ending saga of the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo has been extended again, with the university tentatively embracing the controversial moniker while a statewide referendum plays itself out, the Associated Press reported. After several years of machinations and stops and starts, the university stopped calling its teams the Fighting Sioux in late 2010 under pressure from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, whose 2005 campaign to end the use of Native American nicknames and mascots considered to be "hostile and abusive" targeted about 20 colleges. At risk was the university's ability to play host to NCAA championships, among other things. But state legislators approved a law last March requiring the university reinstate the Fighting Sioux name, which was promptly repealed in a special legislative session last November, citing the continued threat of NCAA retribution.

Now a group of Fighting Sioux advocates are petitioning to force a statewide vote on the matter, and the university's president said he had reinstated the name and logo to honor the state's referendum process, which mandates that a law must be in effect if it is to be legally challenged. The AP said that state officials would meet soon to decide whether to once again seek legal action to block reinstatement of the law, since the NCAA remains poised to punish North Dakota if the Fighting Sioux nickname is retained.

Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Alice Quillen of the University of Rochester reveals the process used to detect and describe objects orbiting distant stars. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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