Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 10, 2013

Florida International University announced Monday night that university police "have arrested three individuals, including two current students," on charges that "range from dealing in stolen property to theft and burglary." The charges relate to an effort "to gain unauthorized access to exams and sell them to students." An investigation "has revealed that one class in the current semester is impacted with a limited number of students involved," the university said. Florida International's statement said that because the investigation is ongoing, few details can be released at this time. The statement said that "FIU will pursue all avenues to ensure that everyone who is involved is held accountable."


December 10, 2013

The University of Texas Board of Regents has scheduled a closed-door discussion Thursday of the employment status of Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin, The Texas Tribune reported. What the discussion means is unclear. Regents with close ties to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, have been pushing for the ouster of Powers, but he has strong support among many students, alumni and faculty members.


December 10, 2013

The National Institutes of Health has hired its first permanent associate director of data science -- a formal signal by the biomedical agency that the age of "big data" has arrived in scientific research. The NIH's director, Frances S. Collins, said that Philip E. Bourne, associate vice chancellor for innovation and industry alliances at the University of California at San Diego, would help ensure that the NIH plays a "major role in coordinating access to and analysis of many different data types that make up this revolution in biological information.” Bourne, who is also a professor of pharmacology, will take over from Eric D. Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who Collins appointed in an acting role earlier this year to drive the agency's big data work.

December 10, 2013

The University of California at Riverside confirmed Monday that an employee has been diagnosed with meningitis, The Press-Enterprise reported. The employee's job includes advising students, and the university said it is offering support and any medical attention needed to those who have come into close contact with the employee. It is not yet known if the strain is similar to those at Princeton University and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Princeton announced that on Monday -- the first day on which it was offering vaccines for the strain of meningitis present there -- 1,959 individuals had been vaccinated.

December 10, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Sara DeLeon of Drexel University reveals how exposure to environmental pollutants can alter the performance of bird songs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 10, 2013

The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate a complaint alleging that the University of Connecticut violated Title IX when it “did not respond promptly and effectively to complaints and other information indicating that students have been subjected to sexual violence, including sexual harassment, and that students have, as a consequence, been subjected to a sexually hostile environment,” OCR told the university Monday. The complaint was filed in October by seven Connecticut students who subsequently sued the university, saying officials failed to protect them from sexual assault. General Counsel Richard Orr said in a statement that officials expected the review and “look forward” to working with OCR.

Connecticut President Susan Herbst sparked protest last month by saying the students’ claims were “astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue.” She later said she was not implying that students lied, but that their claim of “institutional indifference” was inaccurate.

December 10, 2013

A report released Monday by Brandeis University’s International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life calls for a resumption of the university’s partnership with Al-Quds University, a Palestinian institution in the West Bank. The report, which was commissioned by Brandeis’s administration in the wake of a Nov. 5 rally at Al-Quds in which demonstrators in black masks and military dress carried fake automatic weapons and employed fascist-style salutes, finds that officials at Al-Quds “responded promptly and appropriately to the November 5 rally by communicating to both internal and external constituencies that the rally violated university policies and principles.”

In suspending its partnership with Al-Quds in November, Brandeis cited both the rally and the university's response to it, specifically a Nov. 17 letter from Al-Quds President Sari Nusseibeh that Brandeis characterized as "unacceptable and inflammatory." The letter emphasized values of equality and mutual respect, but it also criticized “Jewish extremists” who "spare no effort to exploit some rare but nonetheless damaging events or scenes which occur on the campus of Al Quds University…These occurrences allow some people to capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies. Without these ideologies, there would not have been the massacre of the Jewish people in Europe; without the massacre, there would not have been the enduring Palestinian catastrophe.” 

The report from faculty affiliated with Brandeis's center for ethics, justice and public life delves into the context for that letter and ultimately concludes that it "expressed neither intolerance nor hatred" (although the authors write that they understand the reasons it caused offense). They write that “Al- Quds University is playing a courageous frontline role in working for peace by engaging those minority factions in its midst that hold extreme attitudes” and urge Brandeis to resume and “redouble its commitment” to the partnership. A separate statement calls for Nusseibeh to be reinstated as a member of the center's international advisory board. 

Ellen de Graffenreid, Brandeis’s senior vice president for communications, said that President Frederick Lawrence is out of the country, but added that he asked for the report and she is certain he will read it carefully. Brandeis released a statement Nov. 22 requesting a dialogue with Al-Quds University. That dialogue is ongoing, de Graffenreid said, but she declined to be more specific. “With sensitive issues like this, having this discussion through the media is not productive,” she said.

December 10, 2013

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday announced the appointment of two new members to the department’s advisory committee on accreditation.

Simon Boehme, a Cornell University student, and Roberta “Bobbie” Derlin, the associate provost of New Mexico State University will be the newest members of National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.

Duncan also re-appointed three incumbent members of the panel: Susan Phillips, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the State University of New York at Albany; Frank Wu, chancellor and deal of the University of California Hasting College of the Law; and Frederico Zargoza, vice chancellor of economic and workforce development at Alamo Colleges in San Antonio, Texas.

The committee is set to meet later this week in Washington, D.C. 

December 10, 2013

Arkansas Baptist College faculty members have not been paid since Nov. 1, KTHV News reported. The Faculty Senate also released a letter calling for the removal of President Fitz Hill, questioning his financial decisions and saying that he was not supporting the principles of shared governance. The college responded with a statement saying that the faculty accusations were inaccurate.

December 9, 2013

Four more institutions will participate in the University of Wisconsin System's competency-based education program, which is dubbed the UW Flexible Option. System officials said the new offerings will be certificate programs aimed at adult and nontraditional students. They will include certificates in sales, geographic information systems and alcohol and drug abuse counseling, among others. Some will be non-credit programs, while others may soon be linked to "stackable" bachelor's degree tracks.


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