Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 22, 2013 - 3:00am

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Monday, April 22, 2013 - 3:00am

A faculty committee at Florida Atlantic University has found that the institution compromised academic freedom by banning the use of an exercise in which students were told to write "Jesus" on a piece of paper and to step on it, The Palm Beach Post reported. The use of such an exercise -- those recommended in a nationally recognized textbook, and though the intent is not for students to step on the paper -- set off a controversy in the state. Subsequently, the university said it would ban the exercise. Florida Atlantic administrators said that they supported academic freedom, but they refused to answer questions about their ban on the class lesson.


Monday, April 22, 2013 - 3:00am

The idea of tiered tuition at California community colleges draws strong opposition from students, and the new system chancellor has come out strongly against the concept, but it keeps coming back. Legislation has been introduced to formally grant community colleges the right to charge higher tuition rates for extension courses offered in the summer or winter terms and to award credit for those courses, if they have been at capacity for the previous two years, The Los Angeles Times reported. Many courses have been at capacity in recent years, delaying students from completing their programs. Supporters of differential tuition say that it can provide revenue to pay for courses students need, but critics say that these policies effectively enable wealthier students to have greater access to education and run against the ideals of community colleges.


Friday, April 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has rejected calls to fire the education and science minister, Dmitry Livanov, The Moscow Times reported. Livanov has attracted controversy for seeking to reduce the number of universities through mergers or closures and decrease the number of state-funded student placements.

"I believe that a minister whom everybody likes is a person who most likely doesn't cope very well with his duties," Medvedev reportedly said.

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Mary Sue Coleman announced Thursday that she will be retiring as president of the University of Michigan in July 2014. Coleman started at Michigan in 2002. While there, she backed numerous major research projects and pushed hard to raise private funds to offset state support that was for many years in steep decline. She also promoted the hiring of more junior faculty members and the decision to be one of the founders of Coursera, a provider of massive open online courses.

Also on Thursday, Michigan announced its largest ever gift -- $110 million for graduate fellowships and to create a residential space where 600 graduate students will live in a space designed to encourage interaction across disciplines and research approaches. The residence will be named for its donor, Charles T. Munger, a close associate of Warren Buffett's.

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Iranian officials have warned citizens there not to view a Farsi-language blog operated by Haifa University, The Times of Israel reported. The warning followed reports in Iran about the popularity of the blog, which says it has more than 100,000 visits a month. One warning sent to Iranians said: "Beware of this site; it’s meant to recruit spies for the oppressing Zionist regime."

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Boston University trustees have given $560,000 to launch a scholarship fund in memory of Lu Lingzi, the graduate student who was one of three people killed in a terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon on Monday. Lu's family members, who are traveling to Boston from China, have endorsed the effort as an appropriate honor.

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jay Huebner of the University of North Florida reveals the geographic evidence supporting reports of a historical meteorite impact. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Students at the London School of Economics have criticized their institution for its decision to expose the fact that BBC journalists accompanied them on a trip to North Korea, Times Higher Education reported. The university has lambasted the British broadcaster for using a student organization’s trip as “cover” for the filming of a documentary, arguing that “the students were not given enough information to enable informed consent, yet were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.” However, six of the 10 students on the trip have now issued a statement arguing that the university has further endangered them by publicizing the situation.

 “We feel that we have now been put in more risk than was originally the case, as a result of the LSE’s decision to go public with their story,” the students said, adding that they had not all been consulted by LSE officials regarding their own accounts of the trip.

The students said they were informed in London that a journalist would be accompanying them and of the risk of deportation or detention if that were discovered. LSE stands by its assertion that the students were not fully informed of the risks.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 3:00am

Last week, faculty members in Emory University's College of Arts and Sciences rejected a vote of no confidence in President James W. Wagner. Over the last year, Emory's decision to end some academic programs frustrated many professors, particularly in the humanities. Opposition grew in February, when Wagner's column in the alumni magazine offered as a model for compromise the three-fifths compromise, in which Northern and Southern politicians creating the U.S. Constitution agreed to count each slave in the South as three-fifths of a person for purposes of taxation and Congressional representation. While Wagner apologized for using the example, many people at Emory were stunned that he could be unaware that the compromise is widely viewed as a particularly ugly and racist moment in U.S. history.

On Tuesday, the Faculty Council (an elected faculty body representing all of the university's units) issued a statement of support for Wagner.  "We acknowledge the hurt to our community caused by President James Wagner’s use of the three-fifths compromise clause in his column in the Winter, 2013, issue of the Emory Magazine. He has sincerely apologized for this mistake in multiple venues, and he has held many listening sessions to hear concerns from the community. We as the University Faculty Council accept his apology. While his words were insensitive, they were not malicious in intent, and discussion of them has revealed failures throughout our community to live up to the diverse and inclusive ideal to which we aspire," said the statement.

It went on to describe Wagner's use of the three-fifths example as "particularly unfortunate because it detracts from many endeavors Emory University has initiated under his leadership. Emory has apologized for the role of slavery in building the institution, hosted the 'Slavery and the University' conference, which drew attendees from across the U.S., and created the Transforming Community Project in which people from across the university engaged with our history and current experiences of race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of human difference."

The Faculty Council's statement concluded: "We state our firm support for his continued leadership in the years ahead to continue the work yet to be done."



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