Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 12, 2015

Clemson University won't rename Tillman Hall (right), named for Benjamin Ryan Tillman, a white supremacist politician who was among the institution's founders. Faculty and student groups have asked the board to rename the building, saying that Tillman stands out for his brutality and racism, and noting that he regularly boasted of participating in the killings of black people. Some alumni, however, have rallied to save the name. The board sided with that latter group.

David Wilkins, the board chair, released a statement to The Greenville News in which he said "while we respect the many differing opinions of our graduates, our students, our faculty and staff regarding this matter, the Clemson University Board does not intend to change the names of buildings on campus, including Tillman Hall." He added: "Every great institution is built by imperfect craftsmen. Stone by stone they add to the foundation so that over many, many generations, we get a variety of stones. And so it is with Clemson. Some of our historical stones are rough and even unpleasant to look at. But they are ours and denying them as part of our history does not make them any less so."


February 12, 2015

The leaders of Kansas State University and the University of Kansas on Wednesday issued statements pledging to keep policies that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The statements followed the move on Tuesday by Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, to revoke an executive order issued in 2007 by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, prohibiting discrimination against most state employees on the basis of sexual orientation. The statements from university leaders noted that their institutions had policies in place (beyond the revoked executive order) to bar discrimination, and those policies were not affected by Governor Brownback's action.


February 12, 2015

The student government of the Durban University of Technology, in South Africa, has called on the institution to expel Jewish students, although some quotes from student leaders suggest that Jewish students who support the Palestinian cause could remain, The Daily News reported. Mqondisi Duma, secretary of the student government, said, "We had a meeting and analyzed international politics. We took the decision that Jewish students, especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle, should deregister.” A statement from Ahmed C. Bawa, vice chancellor of the university, denounced the student government's request. He called the request "outrageous, preposterous and a deep violation of our National Constitution and every human rights principle."


February 12, 2015

About a third (32 percent) of women professors, administrators and other staff say they lack confidence when it comes to financial planning for retirement, compared to 19 percent of men working in higher education, says a new report from Fidelity Investments. According to a survey of some 700 professionals, about half of whom were professors, more women than men attribute that confidence gap to lack of time for financial planning (45 vs. 33 percent, respectively). Thirty-nine percent of women say they haven't done research about their retirement options, and 34 percent say they don't have enough experience in planning for retirement to feel confident. One-third say they don't know who to talk to in order to get the best advice. 

At the same time, women overwhelmingly (94 percent) want to learn more about financial planning. Sixty-three percent prefer to do so by meeting with a financial professional and 44 percent prefer to research planning options online. More than half of women surveyed -- 56 percent -- don't take advantage of employer-provided guidance, but 86 percent of those women who haven't taken advantage of campus resources said they would do so if: their institutions offered classes during work hours or on-site experts to walk through retirement plan options (31 percent); they were entering a "new life stage" (29 percent); or there was more "awareness" of the type of guidance that was being offered (27 percent).

Alexandra Taussig, a senior vice president at Fidelity, said in a statement that she was encouraged that a majority of women academics are eager to learn more about their retirement options. To build on that momentum, she said, "Women should make sure they are fully involved in their finances and take advantage of their workplace guidance, which most higher education employers provide."

February 12, 2015

Fritz Erickson's investiture as president of Northern Michigan University featured such traditional moments as an inaugural speech and the board chair presenting the chain of the office. But the ceremony started with a video showing a more innovative way to arrive on the scene.



February 12, 2015

Eastern Kentucky University had heightened security on campus Wednesday and allowed faculty members to call off or reschedule classes due to a threat. The threat took the form of graffiti on a bathroom stall door last week that said, “Bringing gun to here 2-11-15 Dead Students." Despite fears, campus activities took place as scheduled, and without incident.


February 12, 2015

New rules that make it more difficult for international students to gain permanent residency in Canada are raising concerns about a potentially dampening effect on recruitment, The Globe and Mail reported. Rules that came into effect in January no longer give international student applicants with Canadian work experience a leg up in the application process and instead lump them in with other skilled workers seeking permanent residency status.

February 12, 2015

Middle East studies scholars are protesting the decision of the Bahraini government to revoke the citizenship of 72 individuals, including that of Masaud Jahromi, a professor of telecommunications engineering at Ahlia University.  

A letter from the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom describes the decision to revoke the Bahrain-born Jahromi’s citizenship as “arbitrary and thus a violation of customary international law.”

“We strongly suspect, in fact, that the revocation of Dr. Jahromi’s citizenship is political in nature, related to his past advocacy for greater democracy and respect for civil rights in your country,” continues the letter, which notes that Jahromi was arrested and detained for multiple months in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring. Amnesty International has also expressed concern about the Bahraini government’s decision to denaturalize citizens without affording them due process, as has the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The government has said that the 72 individuals are being punished for various “illegal acts,” which range from espionage and terrorism-related charges to allegations of “defaming the image of the regime” and "defaming brotherly countries." The government's statement does not specify which individuals allegedly committed which acts. 

February 12, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay, a pharmacologist at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses research on Parkinson's disease. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


February 11, 2015

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation this week released results from a survey it commissioned of faculty attitudes, with a particular focus on courseware that can "personalize" learning. FTI Consulting conducted the survey, receiving roughly 4,000 responses.

Daniel Greenstein, the foundation's director of postsecondary success, summarized the findings in a written statement. He said the survey found that a significant number of faculty members are "open to using courseware and other innovations to improve their students' success." The report also described specific obstacles faculty face in "evolving their practice," he said, and detailed what colleges can do to reduce or eliminate those obstacles.

“It’s vital to better understand the views of faculty and what supports they say they need to continue to advance student outcomes,” Greenstein said of the survey.


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