Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, March 30, 2012 - 4:28am

It's the time of year that elite colleges and universities report on the shrinking percentage of applicants they admitted this year. The low admission rates aren't actually a surprise, since many of these colleges already announced new records in the number of applicants (and had no plans for significant increases in their class size). The figures from Harvard University tend to attract the most attention because of the very low admit rate (5.9 percent this year). With its prestige and very high yield rate (the percentage of accepted applicants who enroll), Harvard's admit rate tends to be among the lowest most years. Other institutions announcing admissions data this week include Yale University and Williams College. Among the institutions announcing drops in admit rates were Cornell University (16.2 percent, down from 18 percent), Johns Hopkins University (17.7 percent, down from 18.3 percent) and the University of Pennsylvania (12.3 percent, down from 12.4 percent).

Friday, March 30, 2012 - 4:30am

Federal agencies are conducting a review of research they support that could be used by terrorist groups. The document announcing the review note the need to balance multiple issues in the review. "Life sciences research is essential to the scientific advances that underpin improvements in the health and safety of the public, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, and national security. Despite its value and benefits, some research may provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be misused for harmful purposes," the document says. "Measures that mitigate the risks ... should be applied, where appropriate, in a manner that minimizes, to the extent possible, adverse impact on legitimate research, is commensurate with the risk, includes flexible approaches that leverage existing processes, and endeavors to preserve and foster the benefits of research."

Friday, March 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Council on Education has named 57 faculty members and administrators as the 2012-13 class of the association's Fellows Program. The fellows are assigned to work for a year with a senior administrator at another institution, while also attending special educational programs. More than 300 fellows have gone on to become presidents while more than 1,100 have served as provosts, vice presidents or deans.

Friday, March 30, 2012 - 4:32am

More moves by adjuncts to unionize:

  • Adjuncts at Bergen Community College have voted to unionize through the American Federation of Teachers, The Bergen County Record reported. New Jersey community colleges have seen strong union representation among adjuncts, and organizers at Bergen said that they were impressed with gains made at other campuses.
  • The United Steelworkers -- not a major force in academic labor, but a major force in Pittsburgh labor -- has started a campaign to organize adjuncts at Duquesne University, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The union is considering similar drives among adjuncts at other colleges in the area.

 

Friday, March 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The Senate at Semmelweis University, in Hungary, voted to revoke the doctorate of Pal Schmitt, the president of Hungary, because of an inquiry that found extensive passages were copied from the work of others, the Associated Press reported. The doctorate was awarded by the University of Physical Education, which has since been absorbed by Semmelweis. The committee that studied the dissertation also faulted the University of Physical Education for not identifying the "unusually extensive" copying nor bringing it to Schmitt’s attention. That failure, the committee said, may have led him to believe that "his dissertation meets expectations."

 

Friday, March 30, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, William Ellis of Saint Michael's College reveals the connection between American rock and roll pioneer Sam Phillips and the roots of reggae. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, March 30, 2012 - 3:00am

John Huppenthal, Arizona's superintendent of schools, led a successful campaign to suspend Mexican-American studies from the Tucson public schools. Fox News reported that he now has the University of Arizona Mexican-American studies program as a target. "I think that’s where this toxic thing starts from, the universities,” Huppenthal said in an interview with Fox News Latino. "To me, the pervasive problem was the lack of balance going on in these classes." It is unclear what Huppenthal could do to a public university program. A university spokesman said via e-mail: "We're not issuing public comment at this time, since there haven't been any conversations yet between the university and Mr. Huppenthal regarding the Mexican-American studies program."

Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 4:26am

The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies plan to announce today a major new research program focused on big data computing, The New York Times reported. The agencies will pledge $200 million for the effort.

Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 3:00am

UPDATE: After initially backing the cartoonist, Stephanie Eisner, The Daily Texan editorial board apologized Wednesday for a "failure of judgment" in deciding to run the cartoon. The statement said Eisner no longer works for the Texan.

A student cartoonist apologized for a piece about Trayvon Martin's death that prompted allegations of racism when it was published in a campus newspaper. Stephanie Eisner, a junior at the University of Texas at Austin and political cartoonist for The Daily Texan, expressed regret for the cartoon, which said a “big bad white man killed the handsome, sweet, innocent colored boy.” Eisner was referring to the February killing of Martin, 17, by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Martin was black. The shooter, George Zimmerman, has white and Latino parents. Zimmerman hasn't been charged with a crime.

The president of the university's Black Student Alliance called Eisner's cartoon inappropriate. Angry readers flooded the student paper with angry comments and letters to the editor. Eisner said she had good intentions, but failed to constructively comment on news reports about Martin's killing. "I apologize for what was in hindsight an ambiguous cartoon related to the Trayvon Martin shooting," Eisner wrote in a Wednesday e-mail to Inside Higher Ed. "I intended to contribute thoughtful commentary on the media coverage of the incident, however this goal fell flat. I would like to make it explicitly clear that I am not a racist, and that I am personally appalled by the killing of Trayvon Martin. I regret any pain the wording or message of my cartoon may have caused."

Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 4:28am

Faculty members at New England College quickly pledged to donate $100,000 after learning that the college planned staff layoffs, and that such a sum would prevent them, The Concord Monitor reported. The layoffs had been planned as one way to deal with a $350,000 deficit created by an enrollment shortfall. While the layoffs have been averted, staff members will be required to take furlough days (anywhere from five days to several weeks) between now and June.

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