Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 21, 2015

Eighteen Nobel laureates have written to Saudi academics, urging them to publicly oppose the jailing and caning of a blogger who has called for political reform in the country, Times Higher Education reported. The letter was prompted by the case of Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to repeated public caning during a long prison term. While Saudi actions against political reformers are hardly new, the Badawi case has drawn particular outrage.

The letter from the Nobel Laureates is addressed to leaders of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, known by its acronym KAUST, which has recruited numerous Western professors in a push to become a leading global university. "We write out of concern that the fabric of international cooperation may be torn apart by dismay at the severe restrictions on freedom of thought and expression still being applied to Saudi Arabian society," the letter says, in urging academics to speak out about the Badawi case. "We are confident that influential voices in KAUST will be heard arguing for the freedom to dissent, without which no institution of higher learning can be viable," the letter adds. "The undersigned friends of KAUST will be there to support you in asserting the values of freedom that we are all agreed are essential to the future of a University in this twenty first century, and that will determine the success of the extraordinary venture which you lead."

 

 

January 21, 2015

Adjuncts facing temporary financial hardship may soon seek out help from PrecariCorps, a new nonprofit organization founded by fellow adjuncts and adjunct activists. The national group is applying for 501(c)(3) status to be able to match donations from individuals and organizations with applicants’ various needs. Brianne Bolin, an adjunct instructor of writing and rhetoric and oral expression at Columbia College in Chicago who was the subject of a recent Elle magazine piece on the “hypereducated” poor, said the group aims help adjuncts pay gas or electricity bills, especially during the summer or winter months or at the beginning of a semester when paychecks are delayed.

“I'm most excited about helping relieve the stress that accompanies our inability to pay for our basic necessities, which helps not only the adjuncts ourselves, but our families and our students, who will be given more attention and care because we'll be able to function more properly without the weight of stress,” Bolin said via email. “To put it in the words of a slogan I saw painted onto a sign during [last year’s faculty strike at the University of Illinois at Chicago,] ‘Cultural capital can't pay the bills.’ ”

Beyond grants, PrecariCorps aims to create educational media on higher education finances for parents and students, create a database of adjunct faculty news, and research adjunct faculty issues as they relate to higher education quality. 

 

January 21, 2015

Violent crime on college campuses is decreasing, but the number of sworn and armed police officers on campuses continues to rise, according to a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report was based on the 2011-12 Survey of Campus Law Enforcement Agencies, and included responses and Clery data from more than 900 U.S. four-year colleges and universities that enroll 2,500 or more students.

Nearly 70 percent of colleges and universities operated full law-enforcement agencies in 2012, and 94 percent of those officers are authorized to use a firearm. More than 90 percent of public institutions and 38 percent of private institutions in 2012 used sworn officers. In total, 75 percent of campuses said they used armed officers in 2012, compared to the 68 percent of colleges when the survey was last conducted in 2005. In 2012, campus agencies recorded 45 violent crimes per 100,000 students, a 27 percent decrease from 2005.

January 21, 2015

The governing board of California's community college system on Tuesday gave initial approval to 15 of the colleges to offer bachelor's degrees. The selected programs were picked from 34 applicants in part because they meet an unaddressed workforce need, the system said. They include bachelor's degrees in health information management, dental hygiene and industrial automation, among others. Lower-division courses in the programs will feature California's standard community college tuition, which is $46 per credit. Upper division courses will be $84 per credit, which should result in a total price of $10,000 in tuition and fees for a bachelor's degree.

California in 2013 began moving toward allowing its 112 community colleges to consider offering four-year degrees. The move was sold as a way to increase public higher education's reach and capacity. The Legislature passed a related bill last August. California will be the largest of more than 20 states where some community colleges can now offer bachelor's degrees.

January 21, 2015

The higher education IT organization Educause, after a seven-month search, has found its next president: John O'Brien, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. Before joining the Minnesota system, O'Brien was president of North Hennepin Community College. O'Brien will succeed Diana G. Oblinger, who announced her retirement last May. Oblinger will continue in the position through May 31.

January 21, 2015

Canada's University of Moncton is facing criticism for a new promotional video that, in one scene, shows two students kissing in the library, CBC News reported. Clearly the video has attracted attention. But many students and faculty members don't like the approach. Marie-Noëlle Ryan, the president of the university's professors' and librarians' association, said the video was "pathetic." She explained: "It's the way it's like selling the university, like it's a beer product. And it's not that way that you will recruit serious students and people who really want to learn and have good diplomas."

 

 

January 21, 2015

Did a Romanian scholar publish bogus articles in questionable journals just to be able to self-cite and raise his Google Scholar rating? That’s what Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver, alleges on his predatory publisher watchdog blog, Scholarly Open Access. Beall says that Ştefan Vlăduţescu, associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Craiova in Romania, has been cited 1,709 times on Google Scholar but that many of the citations are questionable. Most appear in dozens of articles published in three open-access journals with Swiss street addresses but Polish URLs. Beall says each article cites the scholar’s work 10-12 times, and that Vlăduţescu “buries the self-citations in long bibliographies at the ends of the articles, references that don't completely match the in-text citations in the papers.”

For example, Beall says, one of Vlăduţescu’s articles in the International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, called “Persuasion and the hygiene of communication," has five pages of text but 72 references listed -- and just 19 in-text citations. Vlăduţescu is listed as the author of 11 of the 72 works cited.

Vlăduţescu did not immediately respond to an email request for comment, nor did Tomasz Borowski, the editor of all three journals in which most of the citations appear: Social and Humanistic Sciences; International Letters of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy; and International Letters of Natural Sciences. All are published by Sci Press Ltd.

Beall said via email: “This means that Google Scholar cannot be trusted as a source for scholarly metrics. Using predatory publishers, researchers can easily, dishonestly, and quickly increase the metrics that Google Scholars records for them.”

January 21, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Kimberly Hughes, a biologist at Florida State University, analyzes the reproductive advantage colorful guppies have over their blander peers. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

January 20, 2015

On many campuses, Martin Luther King Day was marked by lectures or service projects. But some campuses and some students saw protests of recent incidents (and many in the past) in which unarmed black men were killed by police officers. Organized under the Twitter hashtags of #ReclaimMLK and #TakeBackMLK, protesters engaged in civil disobedience they said was inspired by the slain civil rights leader who was honored Monday.

Dozens of Stanford University students were arrested when they blocked traffic on a bridge that crosses San Francisco Bay, The Los Angeles Times reported. The photograph at top right is among those posted to Twitter.

Protesters interrupted a celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Harris-Stowe State University, a historically black institution in Missouri, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The protesters shouted that those in attendance were part of the "establishment," carried an upside-down American flag, and shouted, "No justice, no peace."

 

January 20, 2015

The national debate over sexual assault on campus has prompted some sororities to reconsider their long-time bans on drinking in their houses, The New York Times reported. The rules save sorority members money on insurance. But the article noted that the policies leave many sorority women reliant on fraternities to organize and host parties, meaning that these events will take place in fraternity houses where sorority members don't set the rules, don't know what's in the punch, and don't always know the quickest way out if they want to leave. Advocates for changing the policy don't say it would eliminate sexual assault on campus, but speculate that events organized by women would be safer.

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