Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 1, 2013

Accrediting agencies should no longer serve as gatekeepers to federal financial aid, argues a new report by Hank Brown, a former president of the University of Colorado and Republican U.S. senator. The current accreditation system squelches innovation, interferes with colleges' autonomy, and is riddled with conflicts of interest, Brown said in the report, which was co-sponsored by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and the American Enterprise Institute. In addition to separating eligibility for federal aid funding from accreditation, Brown's report called for accreditors to use transparent performance metrics. The call to break the link between accreditation and federal financial aid has frequently been made by Anne Neal, who is president of the trustees' group.

October 1, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Yagesh Bhambhani of the University of Alberta reveals why hands-free cell phone use makes driving dangerous. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 1, 2013

Gallaudet University's chief diversity officer, Angela McCaskill, has sued the university, saying that she suffered discrimination and retaliation for signing a petition to have Maryland residents vote on a state law permitting same-sex marriage, The Washington Post reported. McCaskill was briefly placed on leave as some on campus said it was inappropriate for a diversity officer to sign a petition widely viewed as  way to block gay marriage. McCaskill has argued that she took no stand on same-sex marriage except expressing a belief that state voters should get to decide the issue. Her suit says that, prior to her leave, she was deputy to the president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion, as well as chief diversity officer. Since then, she says, her title has become chief diversity officer. Gallaudet officials declined to comment on the suit.

 

September 30, 2013
Norman Fortenberry, executive director of the American Society for Engineering Education, has issued an apology for the publication in the group's magazine Prism of an anti-gay letter. "I apologize. I wish to express deep regret for my error in judgment in advocating publication of Professor Wayne Helmer’s letter in the September issue of Prism and for the resulting anger, pain, disappointment, and embarrassment to ASEE members, officers, and staff and the LGBTQ community," said Fortenberry's statement. The Helmer letter said in part: "We would do well to teach the truth about the homosexual /lesbian/ bisexual/ transgender lifestyle. These dear people caught up in this destructive way of life need true help and true hope and not encouragement or approval of a detrimental, negative lifestyle."
 
The letter prompted an uproar by many members of the engineering society, and Fortenberrry -- while saying that the letter should have had a disclaimer -- had defended the decision to publish it. In his apology, Fortenberry expressed a new position. "My rationale in publishing the letter has been reported elsewhere and will not be repeated here," he wrote. "In that rationale I failed to recognize that there is a balance to be struck between representing a variety of viewpoints and not providing a platform for views that are generally considered outside the mainstream of public debate."
 
September 30, 2013

A Hong Kong businessman plans to donate $130 million to help the Technion, Israel's leading science university, establish a technology institute in China's Guangdong Province, The Wall Street Journal reported. Li Ka-Shing said he would provide the funds to a joint venture with China's Shantou University, to which he has contributed roughly $750 million over three decades. Local governments will provide a $147 million grant as well to create Technion Guandong Institute of Technology, the Journal reported.

September 30, 2013

Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, has ended bans on employee drinking and smoking when they are off campus, The Chicago Tribune reported. While the institute still expects literal adherence to rules stated in the Bible, officials noted that drinking and smoking are not barred there. "We're the Moody Bible Institute, so we're very interested in staying and adhering to God's word," said Paul Nyquist, the president. "You can't substantiate nondrinking from Scripture. In New Testament times, in Old Testament times, there was drinking of wine. You can't get around that. We've got really good people here.... We're not going to regulate those areas anymore. We trust them to make good, godly, wise decisions."

September 30, 2013

An article in The Washington Post documents concerns that the looming withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan could threaten the future of the American University of Afghanistan, which has received significant American funding and offered a refuge and hope for a new generation of Afghanis.

September 30, 2013

The Islamist group Boko Haram is being blamed for the shooting deaths of up to 50 students at an agricultural college in Nigeria, with many of the students shot as they slept, BBC reported. The group opposes any education that is not focused on Islamic teachings.

 

September 30, 2013

Ohio University's marching band, at the request of administrators, dropped the controversial hit song "Blurred Lines" (which critics argue glorifies rape) from its halftime show, The Columbus Dispatch reported. While several British university pubs have barred playing the song, it has been featured in several halftime shows by university bands in the United States this football season. Richard Suk, director of the band, said he didn't object to the administrators' request but was concerned about "where do we draw the line in the future?"

The Post, the student newspaper at Ohio, has run opinion pieces criticizing the original decision to play "Blurred Lines," but the newspaper's editorial board took a different stand this time. "[W]hile we believe the [marching band] should not have chosen to perform the song, we also believe the administration should not have stepped in. The university should not censor the music on campus; we students are adults now, and can form opinions for ourselves," the editorial said.

September 30, 2013

North Carolina State University on Friday announced a $50 million gift from the Park Foundation. The funds will support a scholarship program through which students receive a four-year scholarship, a computer stipend, specialized faculty mentoring and various special learning opportunities.

 

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