Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, May 13, 2013 - 3:00am

Saint Augustine's College, in North Carolina,  announced Friday that its leaders do not believe that it should proceed with the idea of acquiring Saint Paul's College, in Virginia. Both are historically black colleges founded by the Episcopal Church and Saint Augustine's agreed to explore taking over Saint Paul's after the latter lost its accreditation, effectively endangering its survival. A statement issued Friday by Saint Augustine's said, "After careful due diligence and much deliberation, Saint Augustine’s University has decided that to pursue the acquisition is not a fiscally responsible option." The statement added, however: "At the request of Saint Paul’s College officials, the Saint Augustine’s University Board of Trustees will allow Saint Paul’s to present a plan to the Saint Augustine’s University Board by May 31, 2013 in hopes of reversing this decision."

Monday, May 13, 2013 - 3:00am

Rutgers University admitted on Friday that its new men's basketball coach lacks the bachelor's degree from the institution that officials said he had earned. "While Rutgers was in error when it reported that Eddie Jordan had earned a degree from Rutgers University, neither Rutgers nor the NCAA requires a head coach to hold a baccalaureate degree," said the statement. "Eddie Jordan was a four-year letterman and was inducted into the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame in 1980. Rutgers sought Eddie for the head coach position as a target-of-opportunity hire based on his remarkable public career.... His athletic skills and leadership and his professional accomplishments have been a source of pride for Rutgers for more than three decades. We are excited to have him as our men’s basketball coach, and we look forward to many winning seasons."

Jordan was hired after the university fired its prior coach last month, following reports that he had been abusive to players -- and video surfaced of that coach, Mike Rice, kicking and grabbing athletes, hurling balls at their heads, and using multiple anti-gay slurs, of which "faggot" is but one.

The university acknowledged Jordan's lack of degree after Deadspin reported on the contradiction between his actual academic record at Rutgers (he enrolled, but never finished) and what Rutgers had said about him. The Deadspin article noted numerous instances in which Jordan has been described as a Rutgers graduate.

 

Monday, May 13, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Natalie Spillman of Washington University in St. Louis explains research that points to an effective way to kill the microorganism that causes malaria. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Montana must make numerous, comprehensive changes to its sexual assault policies and procedures, under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The resolution agreement ends a year-long investigation into whether the university and its campus safety department had a systemic problem in responding to sexual assault allegations promptly and effectively.

The resolution agreement -- which officials said was tailored to Montana but should be heeded by other colleges as a model for sexual assault prevention and response -- indicates that the university, while it has made some progress, still must take several steps to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit sex discrimination and sexual assault and harassment in education programs. Those steps include educating students, employees and public safety officers on what constitutes sexual harassment, and how to report it; implementing a system to track sexual harassment complaints from initial report to final resolution; conducting annual student climate surveys and evaluating whether remedies are effective or more changes are needed; ensuring that campus safety officers, as first responders, meet victims’ needs immediately and make sure the justice system is known, open and available to them; and increasing efficiencies in the Office of Public Safety.

Federal officials acknowledged the positive work that Montana has already done. Last summer, it began requiring all students to take a sexual assault tutorial before registering for second-semester classes. The investigation followed nearly a dozen sexual assault reports at Montana, the most high-profile of which (and the one that prompted federal officials to enter the fray) involving athletes, and a university-commissioned report that determined Montana had “a problem” and should be investigated further. The Justice Department is still investigating city law enforcement in Missoula, and encouraged better cooperation between campus and local police.

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

Several major publishers will experiment with offering free course materials to Coursera users enrolled in the Silicon Valley-based company's massive open online courses. The partnership, which involves Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, SAGE, and Wiley will deliver material using Chegg, a company that offers an e-book platform. According to Coursera, while professors teaching MOOCs on its platform have been able to assign free high-quality content, they will now be able to work with publishers to "provide an even wider variety of carefully curated teaching and learning materials at no cost to the student." Coursera has, however, generated some revenue from the Amazon.com affiliates program wherein users buy books suggested by professors.

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Senators Marco Rubio, Ron Wyden and Mark Warner introduced a bill Thursday to require colleges to disclose data about their students' salaries in the first year after graduation. The measure would require colleges to break down salary data by major or program of study, as well as require them to report more information on remediation rates, debt for students who graduate and those who drop out, and continuation rates to graduate education. It would also disaggregate outcomes for Pell Grant and G.I. Bill recipients.

The bill would also repeal the ban on a federal unit record data system to track students' outcomes in college and beyond. The previous version of the bill would have circumvented the ban by linking state unit record databases. Some House Republicans, privacy advocates and private colleges strongly opposed the creation of such a database in 2006, when it was proposed by the Bush administration.

The bill, the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, was first introduced in the last Congress; since then, transparency about graduates' debt and salaries has become a point of agreement for the Obama administration and some Congressional Republicans. Many colleges oppose it, arguing that information about salaries doesn't accurately capture the value of a higher education, particularly only one year after graduation. The measure picked up a new Democratic co-sponsor, Warner, of Virginia. The bill's counterpart in the House of Representatives was co-sponsored by Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, and Robert Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey.

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Michael Poulin of the University of Buffalo reveals that while offering a helping hand to others, you may also be helping yourself. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

A new report from the American Association of University Women makes several recommendations for furthering women’s success in community colleges, a goal the report calls “too often overlooked.”  Based on their research, authors Andresse St. Rose and Catherine Hill make two primary recommendations: “Support student parents” and “Increase the number of women in nontraditional fields, including STEM.”

"While we celebrate the accessibility that community colleges provide women … access alone is not enough," St. Rose said in a conference call Thursday.

According to the report, women make up 57 percent of the students who attend community colleges; many of these women are financially limited and/or academically underprepared, and about 25 percent have children. As such, the report recommends increases in on-campus child care at community colleges, which is offered at fewer than half of such institutions.

The report also singles out the Career Pathways Initiative (CPI), a program for low-income parents offered at all of Arkansas' community colleges, for praise. CPI offers assistance to low-income parents through a combination of tutoring, academic advising and career services. "More schools and states need to follow this example," St. Rose said during the call.

Associate Degrees Conferred by Community Colleges, by Gender, 2009–2010

Major Women Men
Health professions and related programs 84,526 15,778
Education 11,577 2,877
Computer and information sciences 3,359 10,860
Engineering technologies 2,628 15,629
Personal and culinary services 2,500 1,560
Mechanic and repair technologies/technicians 785 11,332
Mathematics and statistics 317 690
Engineering 282 1,902
Construction trades 210 3,073

Source: AAUW analysis of U.S. Department of Education, 2010.

St. Rose and Hill also call for expanded information and support for women seeking degrees in STEM fields; women enrolled in community colleges, they say, currently tend toward traditionally female fields such as nursing, education and cosmetology, and are therefore underrepresented in STEM-related areas (see table). Their recommendations on this include more active recruitment, ensuring that academic advising programs are not reinforcing gender stereotypes and bolstering the gender equity provisions found in the Perkins Act, which provides federal support for technical education.

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

Cheating concerns have led the Educational Testing Service to call off the SAT in South Korea this month, The Wall Street Journal reported. The move followed reports that questions from the May SAT were circulating in some test-prep centers. Some Korean students planning to apply to colleges in the United States are trying to find other countries where they can take the exam.

 

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association has written a letter to the president of Egypt’s Suez Canal University protesting its investigation and informal suspension without pay of an English professor variously accused of “contempt of religion” and “insulting Islam.” As the letter details, Mona Prince is accused by a student of making “untoward” statements about Islam in a lecture on sectarian tensions in Egypt. 

The letter describes the incident as a misunderstanding or disagreement between Prince and a student complainant. "It seems to us, indeed, that Dr. Prince acted precisely as a professor should, particularly in a discussion section of a course designed to teach critical thinking skills,” states the letter, signed by MESA’s president, Peter Sluglett. “She encouraged her students to tackle matters that, while sensitive and unpleasant, are among the most pressing socio-political issues in contemporary Egypt.”

“We are quite disturbed, therefore, that the university has opened an investigation at all,” the letter continues. “The mere fact that the university deems this innocuous incident worthy of inquiry could exercise a chilling effect  upon academic freedom."

The president of Suez Canal University did not immediately respond to an email message on Thursday. 

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