Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 5, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Ali Nayeri of Chapman University discusses the explanatory power of string theory cosmology. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

November 4, 2013

Cornell University is expected to soon announce that it will return about 10,000 ancient tablets to Iraq in what would be one of the largest returns of artifacts by an American university, The Los Angeles Times reported. The artifacts provide key details on life in Mesopotamia. While officials have found no evidence of wrongdoing in the donation of the artifacts, Iraq's government has requested them back and some have suggested they were looted after the 1991 Gulf War. Cornell officials declined to comment, but have been negotiating over the return with federal officials.

 

November 4, 2013

Service Employees International Union released a report Friday detailing the financial struggles of adjunct faculty at institutions across Boston, as part of its ongoing effort to unionize adjuncts in that city. The campaign is part of a national SEIU effort, called Adjunct Action, to organize adjunct faculty at individual institutions and regionally.

According to the report, called "High Cost of Adjunct Living: Boston," 67 percent of faculty members -- some 15,000 people -- in the Boston area were employed as adjuncts in 2011. Based on median pay per course in New England -- from $3,750 at private, master's-level institutions to $5,225, at private, doctoral-level institutions -- SEIU finds that an adjunct would have to teach 17 to 24 courses annually to enjoy median-priced housing and utilities in Boston, where the cost of living is 32 percent higher than the national average. Teaching 12 courses per year at those rates -- an unusually large course load -- an adjunct may earn $45,000, the report finds. Comparatively, full-time faculty earned from $113,000 to $154,000, on average, in 2011, depending on institution type.

The report is based on data from the U.S. Department of Education Digest of Education Statistics, among other sources, as well as SEIU interviews with adjuncts across Boston. Some tell of living off inexpensive food such as fried potatoes and onions for an entire semester and using credit cards to pay for basic costs, such as Internet and groceries. Many tell of feeling buried by student debt. According to SEIU calculations, an adjunct would have to teach one or two courses per semester to pay back average doctoral student loans alone. SEIU notes that adjuncts who are unionized enjoy on average 25 percent better pay nationally, as well as other benefits, such as increased job security, and, in some cases, access to health insurance.

 

November 4, 2013

A new study -- summarizing 26 previous studies on the scores of female and male students in physics -- has failed to find a consistent explanation for women appearing to start and finish courses, on average, with lower comprehension levels than their male counterparts. Viewing the studies in isolation, there is evidence that some factors -- such as different preparation of levels of men and women before college -- may contribute to the gap. But no one factor studied can explain the overall gap, "suggesting that the gender gap is most likely due to the combination of many small factors rather than any one factor that can easily be modified," says a summary of the study, which will appear in Physical Review Special Topics. The summary of the paper also notes that "several high-profile studies that have claimed to account for or reduce the gender gap have failed to be replicated in subsequent studies, suggesting that isolated claims of explanations of the gender gap should be interpreted with caution."

 

 

 

November 4, 2013

A Kentucky jury has awarded the former director of marketing publications at the University of Louisville $412,000, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Laurel Harper claimed in her suit that her job was eliminated because she complained about wasteful spending. Specifically, she had complained about the high costs associated with a kickoff party for a fund-raising campaign. The university said that the job was eliminated as part of a reduction to cut costs, and not because Harper was a whistle-blower.

November 4, 2013

A California Superior Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit from California Competes, a nonprofit group that had challenged the shared governance structure of California's community college system. The group, which is led by Robert Shireman, a former official at the U.S. Department of Education, sued over the legal status of state regulations that allegedly grant veto powers to local academic senates. The judge last week denied that motion. (Note: This article has been corrected from a previous version to fix an incorrect reference to the judge's ruling. The judge issued no written explanation for his decision.)

November 4, 2013

Baylor University's student government adopted a resolution last month that asked the university's board to change the student code of conduct to ban "deviate sexual intercourse"deviate is sic -sj instead of "homosexual acts." The resolution would in fact ban every sex act that two men or two women might perform, but would clarify that the same acts are also inappropriate for straight couples -- and that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is wrong. Supporters of the measure said that they hoped it would remove some of the stigma felt by gay students at the university. The measure was mocked by some gay people as doing far too little, but the resolution will not even be delivered to the university's board.

The president of the study body vetoed the resolution. Wesley Hodges, the student body president, told The Waco Tribune that his action was not meant as an attack on gay people. “I truly believe that Baylor treats its students with grace, love and truth, and in doing that seeks to accept all students, but does not affirm all student behaviors,” he said. “Simply because the university disagrees with your actions or lifestyle, does not imply that it is seeking to attack you.”

November 4, 2013

College trustees should be informed and engaged with administrators as they work to combat sexual misconduct issues on campus, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges said in an advisory statement. “Colleges and universities are defending against lawsuits, federal investigations, and negative publicity arising from their response to sexual violence on campus,” AGB wrote. “As they do with other issues related to campus culture, governing boards have a duty to become and remain informed about sexual misconduct on campus, and to satisfy themselves that administrators are addressing the issue in a way that protects their institutions against potential adverse financial and reputational consequences.” Specifically, board members should ensure their institution is meeting federal obligations such as identifying a Title IX coordinator, has policies that ensure fair treatment for all parties in a complaint, and is properly training its “various constituencies” on reporting and responding to alleged sexual assault.

November 4, 2013

The University System of Georgia, which has already had four consolidations of eight colleges and universities in the past several years, is now planning to combine Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University into an institution that will keep the Kennesaw State name. The two universities are about 15 minutes apart and have a combined enrollment this fall of 31,000. The plan was announced Friday, and is already drawing opposition

Rumors of such a merger had been floating for years, said Professor Meighan Dillon, head of the Faculty Senate at Southern Polytechnic, though she found out the mercer was actually happening shortly before a press release announcement went out around lunchtime on Friday.

“This opportunity creates a new dynamic for us to raise educational attainment levels and enhance our ability to contribute to regional economic development,” Kennesaw State President Dan Papp, who will also serve as president of the merged university, said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the many talented individuals at both institutions in the coming months as we create a new institution.”

The university system's announcement also featured a quote from Lisa Rossbacher, the president at Southern Polytechnic. But she told The Marietta Daily Journal that she was not consulted and found out about the plan only a day before it was announced.

More than 1,800 people who are supporters or students at Southern Polytechnic signed an online petition opposing the merger. "We are dismayed by the closed-door, deceitful process through which the decision was made, and feel strongly that the cultures, identities, and missions of the two universities are incompatible," says the petition.

November 4, 2013

The CBS Los Angeles affiliate revealed last week that Carlos Vazquez -- who works as a parking officer at the University of California at Irvine and as a public safety officer at Golden West College -- posts photos of Hitler and degrading remarks about black people on websites. The photos of Hitler suggest admiration. For example, Vazquez created a photo with his children and Hitler and wrote as a caption: "Proud father moment when my daughter met the great fuhrer."

Another photo shows a hamburger with a swastika drawn in mustard and the caption, "I will have the Nazi burger easy on the Jew sauce." A spokeswoman for Irvine said she was offended by the web postings but that they were irrelevant to Vazquez's duties at the university. "As ill as it may make us to look at some of these things, we do have freedom of speech in this country," she said. But Jon Arnold, a public safety officer with Golden West College, said that "this officer is going to be put on administrative leave immediately." Vazquez declined to comment.

 

 

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