Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 1, 2014

A study by the Saint Louis University medical school suggests that medical student depression and stress levels can be decreased without reducing the level of academic rigor. The medical school adopted a series of efforts designed to help students better manage their stress levels. Comparing the classes before and after the changes, the medical school found that the percentage of students who had depression fell from 27 to 11 percent. At the same time, board scores went up.

 

April 1, 2014

Bryn Mawr College is announcing today that it is dropping the vowels from its name and questioning the use of vowels generally. The college will now be known as Brn Mwr. The move is being described as the first major initiative of the college's new president, Kim Cassidy. A statement from Cassidy said: "This is the age of Twitter, every character counts. And really, what’s the difference, no one can pronounce our name anyway." The college also announced plans for an academic conference related to the institution's new skepticism of vowels. The conference is “The Hegemony of the Vowel: Incontinence and Lipogrammatics.” One of the planned sessions is "The Habermasian Response: Communicative Ir-Rationality?"

Faculty reaction has been mixed, with English professors expressing concern about the college's anti-vowel stance, particularly if it is to be applied to works of literature. See video below, where faculty discuss the issue. If you are feeling confused by Brn Mwr's actions, consider today's date.

April 1, 2014

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio must defend itself against charges that it failed to renew a nurse's contract because she had accused administrators there of sexual harassment, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated part of a lower federal court's ruling dismissing the complaint brought by Monica Hague, saying that a jury could reasonably conclude that the university's reasons for letting Hague go were "pretextual" and that it may have retaliated against her. The divided appeals panel affirmed the lower court's dismissal of Hague's harassment and discrimination claims.

 

 

April 1, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Thalia Wheatley, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, scientifically deconstructs the way humans use figurative language to convey abstract ideas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 1, 2014

The hiring of "star" professors -- defined by their research output -- results in improvement in the research productivity of the departments they join, according a study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, The study (available to subscribers; abstract available here), by scholars at the University of Toronto, Georgia Institute of Technology, and National University of Ireland, Galway, finds that the recruitment of research stars does nothing to lift the productivity of those already in the department (and actually leads to reduced productivity of some of them). But the productivity of researchers who join the department after a star joins increases significantly -- for scholars who work in related and unrelated fields alike. The study finds that the effects are most pronounced at mid-ranked institutions.

 

March 31, 2014

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown called off all indoor social events over the weekend and closed cafeteria service because of an apparent outbreak of a norovirus, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Prepackaged meals are being provided to students. Student symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

March 31, 2014

A new study by College Board researchers and published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis finds that Maine saw an increase in college-going rates after requiring all high school students to take the SAT.  Statewide, the requirement was linked in the study to a 2-3 percentage point increase in the college-going rate of those graduating from Maine high schools. Of those who based on various patters otherwise were found unlikely to have taken the SAT, about 10 percent who would not have gone to four-year institutions did so.

ACT has reported similar findings in Colorado and Illinois, following statewide use of the ACT.

Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a critic of the College Board, said via email that even if the results of the Maine experiment are positive, that doesn't mean that the test is a good thing. "An unanswered question is how much of the apparent increase in college going (a good thing) is attributable to taking the test and how much results from the process of thinking about higher education, signing up for the exam (especially filling out the Student Descriptive Questionnaire which provides tons of academic and demographics data admissions offices use for recruitment), getting mail from schools, etc.," he said.

 

March 31, 2014

Police at Columbus State University, in Georgia, shot and killed a man they said was loading a gun near student apartments. The man did not have any connection to the university.

March 31, 2014

Bay Path College, a private women's college in Longmeadow, Mass., last week drew criticism for a mailer that advertised a new online degree program for adult learners with the headline "If you can shop online, you can learn online." The advertisement also showed a magazine-like spread of items such as a cap and gown, a diploma and a pair of high heels featuring legends such as "Take a step up. Or two." (heels); "College degrees. Tailored around you." (gown); and "Hold your head up. High." (gown). The news was first reported by Jezebel.

March 31, 2014

This is the time of year that colleges and universities release their acceptance rates, and those of Ivy League universities get lower each year, prompting much discussion and angst. Wonkblog at The Washington Post, however, argues that there are long odds for lots of things that people want, and that elite college admissions aren't quite so unique in American society. For example, while only 8.9 percent of all applicants were admitted to Ivy League institutions, only 2.6 percent of those who applied to work at Walmart's new Washington store were hired. And Google hires one half of one percent of its applicants.

The blog's analysis: "Parents and students - particularly those from a certain socio-economic background -- tend to obsess a lot over the college admissions process. The danger, of course, is that this single-minded focus on preparing kids for college -- the extra-curriculars, test prep, admissions coaching, and the like -- is coming at the expense of prepping them for the job market hurdles that come after."

 

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