Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 11, 2013

Gonzaga University has announced that it will review its ban on gun ownership, The Spokesman-Review reported. Two Gonzaga students are facing punishment, possibly excluding expulsion, after an incident in which they scared away a homeless man who showed up at their door demanding money. The students held up a gun during the incident, but no shots were fired. While the incident ended without violence, the students now face charges of violating Gonzaga's ban on guns in university facilities such as their housing unit. Many have criticized the university, saying that the students showed how guns can be used in self-defense. Thayne McCulloh, president of the university, said now would be a time for a "thoughtful evaluation" of the policy, which for now remains in effect.

 

November 11, 2013

Hundreds of academics have urged the University of Zurich to restore the job of Iris Ritzmann, a professor at the university's Institute for the History of Medicine, SwissInfo reported. She was fired for confidential documents to reporters that deal with criticism of Christoph Mörgeli, the head of the university’s Medical History Museum, who is also a politician. Statements by Ritzmann's supporters say that she has defended academic standards, and was punished for political reasons. The rector, Andreas Fischer, has resigned amid the controversy, saying he took "ultimate responsibility" for what has happened.

 

November 8, 2013

Florida Atlantic University football coach Carl Pelini, who resigned last week after his athletic director approached him about allegedly using an "illegal drug," says he never used drugs and rather was forced out for failing to supervise his staff. In a letter to the university president, trustees and general counsel, obtained by Deadspin, Pelini retracted his resignation and said he's seeking reinstatement. Sworn affidavits obtained through a public records request show an assistant coach said he personally saw Pelini use marijuana and cocaine, and Athletic Director Patrick Chun apparently possesses a text message Pelini sent to a friend in which he allegedly "admitted he uses drugs on occasion."

November 8, 2013

David R. Smith, his compensation under investigation, is resigning as president of the State University of New York's Upstate Medical University, The Syracuse Post-Standard reported. SUNY placed Smith on leave this week to review compensation issues that were later reported to involve unauthorized payments he was receiving from two companies. The Albany Times-Union reported that the payments were discovered when a search firm was vetting Smith for the presidency of Pennsylvania State University. In a statement, Smith said he would cooperate with the inquiries and that he was resigning his position "to avoid further distraction for the university from its important mission."

 

November 8, 2013

Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly issued a statement Thursday saying she was pleased that faculty voted to continue the college's partnership with Peking University. More than 130 Wellesley faculty had signed a letter earlier this year saying they would urge the college to reconsider its partnership with Peking if it fired an economics professor, Xia Yeliang, “based solely on his political and philosophical views." Xia’s contract was not renewed last month in a decision that many in the West view as retribution for his criticism of the Chinese government, though Peking maintains it was a result of his teaching and research record. 

Bottomly’s statement does not speak directly to the issues raised by the Wellesley faculty letter in regards to academic freedom and conditions for collaboration with universities in authoritarian societies. Rather, the statement speaks more broadly to the faculty role in determining the future direction of the partnership.

“A dedicated group of faculty will develop Wellesley’s recommendations for the parameters and elements of the partnership,” she said. “These recommendations will be brought to the full faculty body at Wellesley for approval and will then be shared with faculty counterparts at Peking University for their consideration.”

Susan M. Reverby, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Wellesley who was one of the leaders of the letter-writing campaign, wrote that she believed the letter-writers did in fact achieve a great deal.  She said that the faculty action, among other things, “raised the question of what these partnership qua exchanges are about,” “reminded our colleagues they should not give up their control over the educational experience (writ large) of our students and that more transparency in the process is absolutely required,” and “made it clear that academic freedom and human rights matter even when we engage with countries whose political cultures are different from ours (and even when many of us disagree with what our own country does too).”

“Furthermore,” she wrote, “we have hopefully made it more difficult for Professor Xia to be persecuted, even jailed, at home and found a way to bring him here (something we did not expect to happen when we first began this process of questioning the partnership).”

In a previous statement President Bottomly indicated she is supportive of efforts to bring Xia to Wellesley as a visiting scholar, but Thursday’s statement did not speak to that subject. A college spokeswoman said that nothing has been finalized yet in this regard.

November 8, 2013

Warner Brothers has told the University of New Hampshire that it lacked the legal right to use Harry Potter in marketing an online course taught to students entering grades 4 through 8, New Hampshire Public Radio reported. The course -- "Harry Potter as Storytelling: An Online Adventure for the Young Fan" -- teaches grammar and literature. Warner Brothers said that it did not object to a course using Harry Potter books, but to the way the course was described and marketed. The university, while denying any wrongdoing, is changing the name of the course.

 

November 8, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Andrew Friedland of Dartmouth College explains why wood fuel isn’t necessarily the greenest option. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

November 8, 2013

A new report from the Center for American Progress profiles 13 students who are enrolled in a range of competency-based degree programs at seven different institutions. Lawmakers are showing interest in competency-based education of late. In an effort to help shape policies that might emerge, the report tries to uncover commonalities between the students' experiences. It also features several policy recommendations, such as a call for standards of quality and experimentation with financial aid rules.

November 8, 2013

"What Does the Fox Say?" -- the viral video hit from the Norwegian performers Ylvs -- has inspired a parody from Bates College, where the mascot is a bobcat. The following was produced by Crosstones (an a cappella group) and the Bates Dance Company.

 

 

November 8, 2013

The Army has suspended plans to eliminate Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs at 13 universities, most of them in rural and/or Southern parts of the country, The New York Times reported. The announcement of the plan to shut the ROTC units stunned the campuses involved, many of which said that they highly valued the programs. Army officials had said that they planned to shift resources to units in large urban areas. A number of the universities whose programs were slated for closure appealed to members of Congress for help, and on Thursday they saluted the lawmakers who helped them. Information from Arkansas State University -- which was active in the movement to save the ROTC units -- may be found here.

 

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