Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 24, 2014

State officials in Montana and administrators at Stanford University are looking into whether a project by researchers at Stanford and Dartmouth College may have inappropriately deceived voters, the Associated Press reported. Some voters in Montana received a flyer in the mail this week -- which looked to many like official election material because it contained the state seal -- that rated judicial candidates on a scale of "more liberal" to "more conservative."

The mailer was sent by researchers at Stanford and Dartmouth as part of an experiment of whether residents are more likely to vote if they have more information about candidates. The AP article quotes Montana's secretary of state, Linda McCullough, as saying she believes the researchers "actually crossed the line from research into influencing voters." A spokeswoman for Stanford, Lisa Lapin, told the news service: "We are taking this very seriously.... We sincerely apologize to those voters and we apologize to the secretary of state for the confusion."

October 24, 2014

Swiss universities are reporting significant drops -- of between 11 and 38 percent -- in the enrollment of European students from outside the country, The Local reported. The European Union denied Switzerland continued participation in a system that permits European students easy access to universities throughout the continent after Swiss voters approved tougher rules on immigration.

 

October 24, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Dan Chelotti, an assistant professor of English at Elms College, delves into writer’s block. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 23, 2014

In an interview in The New Yorker, President Obama expressed support for affirmative action in higher education, and questioned how precisely a Supreme Court deadline for phasing out the consideration of race should be viewed. The article looks broadly at President Obama's influence on the federal court system, and touches on affirmative action toward the end of the piece. In a landmark Supreme Court decision upholding the right of public colleges to, under certain circumstances, consider race in admissions, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that they should no longer be needed in 25 years. Justice O'Connor, since retired from the court, wrote the decision in 2003. Asked about that deadline, Obama told the magazine that Justice O’Connor would “be the first one to acknowledge that 25 years was sort of a ballpark figure in her mind.”

Generally, Obama signaled continued support for affirmative action. “If the University of Michigan or California decides that there is a value in making sure that folks with different experiences in a classroom will enhance the educational experience of the students, and they do it in a careful way,” the universities should be allowed to consider race and ethnicity, he said.

At the same time, however, he said that the best long-term solution to unequal opportunities in American society is improvement of the K-12 education system. “I understand, certainly sitting in this office, that probably the single most important thing I could do for poor black kids is to make sure that they’re getting a good K-through-12 education. And, if they’re coming out of high school well prepared, then they’ll be able to compete for university slots and jobs. And that has more to do with budgets and early-childhood education and stuff that needs to be legislated," Obama said.

 

October 23, 2014

Lasell College, in Massachusetts, has suspended its service learning trip to Uganda out of a commitment to gay rights as well as concerns about terrorism and the spread of Ebola.

In a statement, the college said that “the dangerous situation in Uganda for the LGBT community is repugnant to our community and safety of our students would be overly compromised.” The statement cited several reasons for canceling the trip, including the persecution of LGBT individuals following the passage of a harsh anti-gay law last February; the possibility that the law, since nullified, could be reinstated; travel advisories from other countries, including the United Kingdom, on the threat of terrorism in Uganda; and the spread of the Ebola virus in African countries. The U.S. Department of State has not posted a warning against travel to Uganda, although it does rate the country as being at high risk for terrorism. Uganda has not had any cases of Ebola during the current outbreak.

Lasell had sponsored two trips to Uganda in the past two years.

October 23, 2014

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the Presidents' Forum this week released a policy report that explores the potential for an external quality review process for "non-institutional" providers in higher education. This emerging field include companies and nonprofits that offer courses, modules or badges. Most of this sector is online, non-credit and low-cost.

The two groups last year formed a commission to look at options for quality assurance in the space. The commission's report describes three possibilities: a voluntary, cooperative effort by providers; a voluntary service offered by an existing third-party association; or a new external group created for this purpose.

"The commission calls upon the postsecondary education community to seize this moment as a critical time to consider development, adoption and extension of new approaches that address the need for institutional and organizational quality review," the report said.

October 23, 2014

Towson University has suspended Rabbi Barry Freundel from his faculty position, following his arrest on charges of secretly recording women as they bathed in a Jewish ritual bath at the synagogue he led in Washington, The Baltimore Sun reported. The university acted amid reports that he took some Towson students to the synagogue and fears that he may have engaged in inappropriate activity with them. Fruendel has entered a plea of not guilty but has not commented on the charges.

 

October 23, 2014

Japan's government is starting a grant program that will provide support for up to 10 years for 37 universities in the country to seek to become more globally competitive, The Japan Times reported. Thirteen of the universities are being urged to develop plans to reach the global level of Harvard University or the University of Oxford. The other universities are being encouraged to improve, but without those aspirations. The funds will be used to recruit more faculty and students from outside Japan, and to boost rankings.

October 23, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Phillip Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, profiles the issue of domestic extinction. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 22, 2014

More than 1,000 people have signed a letter opposing the appearance today of George Will, the nationally syndicated columnist, at Miami University in Ohio. The university is standing by the appearance, citing free speech grounds, but critics cite a controversial column Will wrote casting doubt on the movement to prevent sexual assaults on campus. The column was widely condemned by advocates for women who have been sexually assaulted for the way it criticized campus efforts to prevent and punish assaults, and for how it characterized those who have reported assaults. A line that caused particular anger said that such efforts "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."

In another phrase that outraged many, he referred to the "supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. 'sexual assault.'" A statement on the Miami women's and gender studies program page on Facebook says: "The Miami I believe in is committed to creating a welcoming and safe environment for all of our students. I am disappointed that a speaker who clearly does not respect women, or take the issue of sexual assault seriously is being given a platform to speak, particularly because such inflammatory rhetoric has the potential to revictimize and retraumatize our students. This is not acceptable."

Scripps College revoked an invitation to Will over the column.

 

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