Higher Education Quick Takes
Faculty members at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York are angry that President Karen Gould has rejected the choices of professors to lead three departments, making her own selections instead, The Wall Street Journal reported. Gould maintains that she has the right to pick department chairs, but faculty members say that the norm is to respect professors' votes, particularly if departments are well-managed and certain choices have broad support.
The American Anthropological Association has written to the Travel Channel objecting to and asking for changes in the TV show "Dig Wars," in which contestants are sent to various locations with metal detectors to see if they can locate and dig up antiquities. The material they dig up is called "loot," and is evaluated for its financial value.
"Reasonable viewers watching this program may be mistakenly led to believe that such behaviors are ethically acceptable," says the letter. "On the contrary, the looting as portrayed in the show is deeply disturbing. The overall message is that this nation's cultural and historical heritage is 'loot' that is up for grabs for anyone with a metal detector and shovel. This is the wrong message to give the public, especially in an age when so many historical sites are disappearing." The association offered to identify trained archaeologists who could help the network "communicate the excitement of discovery and of history in a more responsible, ethical and engaging manner."
A spokeswoman for the Travel Channel said via e-mail that no laws are broken. She said that the competition takes place with the full permission of the owners of the land where digging take place. Further, she said that items that are excavated are either returned to the land owners or given to local museums, and she said that the channel believes that "metal detecting enthusiasts should always abide by state and federal laws." She added: "We respect the numerous opinions as it relates to the gathering and preservation of artifacts. We welcome the dialogue, and hope that Travel Channel's programming will continue to inspire viewers to travel to new destinations to discover each location's unique history."
The College of Charleston is seeking state assistance in determining how much it can say and how it can investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by a professor now that the faculty member has resigned before the investigation was completed, The Post and Courier reported. College officials are concerned that libel and slander laws could pose difficulties, given the lack of a finished inquiry. The college did find allegations against Enrique Graf, a tenured music professor, to be credible and told him that. He resigned, denying the allegations and saying that the college was not conducting a fair investigation. Graf was being investigated for inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual harassment of two of his students at Charleston, and a former piano student of his in Maryland. He was also accused of using drugs with students.
Seven branches of the Indian Institutes of Technology plan to embrace the concept of massive open online courses, The Economic Times reported. They plan to produce a series of courses that, if taken together, could help students qualify for various jobs. An initial series of courses will be in computer science. Organize think that more than 100,000 people could benefit from the offerings.
National Journal has just completed its analysis of the college degrees (undergraduate and graduate school) of the top 250 Obama administration officials. The institutions at the top of both lists are private. Of graduate degrees in the senior ranks of the administration, only 25 percent come from public institutions. And while the top five lists lack public U.S. institutions, the University of Oxford does make one of the lists.
Top Universities for 250 Top Obama Administration Officials
|Harvard U. -- 23||Harvard U. -- 38|
|Yale U. -- 12||Georgetown -- 12|
|Cornell U. -- 11||U. of Oxford -- 11|
|Princeton U. -- 6||Columbia U. -- 9|
|U.S. Military Academy -- 6||George Washington U. -- 9|
The American Historical Association on Friday released a statement criticizing the way Mitch Daniels (when he governor of Indiana, prior to becoming president of Purdue University) exchanged e-mail messages with staff members criticizing the work of the late Howard Zinn. "Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of Howard Zinn’s text, and whatever the criticisms that have been made of it, we believe that the open discussion of controversial books benefits students, historians, and the general public alike. Attempts to single out particular texts for suppression from a school or university curriculum have no place in a democratic society," said the statement.
Daniels defended himself last week in part by citing the work of historians far to his left who have also criticized Zinn. But some of those who Daniels cited (and who are no longer part of the statement posted on the Daniels website at Purdue) have since objected to his use of their statements about Zinn. Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University whose criticism was cited by Daniels, published as statement on the Academe blog of the American Association of University Professors. "I don’t think much of Zinn’s interpretation of U.S. history, it’s true. But it’s an interpretation, which like any serious work of history, chooses to emphasize certain themes and details in order to make a larger argument. I would be unhappy if Zinn’s book were the only or even the main text in a high-school or college history class (as I understand is sometimes the case). But chapters of it can be quite useful if contrasted with alternative interpretations," Kazin wrote. "When Daniels accuses Zinn of being a 'biased writer,' he just shows how little he understands about how history is now and has always been written. Every historian has a point of view about whichever portion of the past they choose to study. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be writing about it in the first place."
Sam Wineburg, a professor of education at Stanford University whose criticism of Zinn was also cited by Daniels, issued a series of comments on Twitter: "Mitch Daniels uses my work to defend his shameless attempts to censor free speech. Shame!" and "Mr. Daniels, free societies openly teach ideas we disagree with. We do not censor objectionable speech. Study your Orwell" and "I have criticized Zinn but will defend to my death the right to teach him. Shame on Mitch Daniels."
The College Board and the Educational Testing Service have invalidated Advanced Placement scores at Mills High School, in California, saying that "seating irregularities" may have resulted in some students gaining an advantage on the test, The Bay Area News Group reported. The College Board and ETS aren't asserting that cheating took place, but that seating for the AP tests did not follow the rules and could have permitted cheating. The AP tests are being rescheduled. Students say that they are all being punished unfairly and that it will be difficult to score as well after their courses have ended. Students have created a website, Why We Need Our Scores Back, about their concerns.
An anonymous blogger has pointed out that Boston University's student newspaper, in its crime log, has been posting headlines that mock those who have reported the crimes. For example, a listing about a domestic violence case reported by a woman against her boyfriend, who she said choked her, was labeled "Choked Up." The student newspaper, The Daily Free Press, has now apologized. A statement from its board says: "[T]he Crime Logs sections of The Daily Free Press have repeatedly published callous sub-headlines making light of serious issues and inadvertently exploiting victims of crime for humor. On behalf of the Board of Directors of The Daily Free Press, we sincerely apologize for these headlines and any other material that may have caused harm or offense."
The recent firing of Beckie Francis as women's basketball coach at Oakland University (along with the subsequent resignation of her husband, the university president) has been somewhat mysterious on the campus. But The Detroit Free Press reported on the results of interviews with former players that Francis pushed Christianity on players, told them that they needed to be virgins and was "fixated" on body issues. The players reported that photographs were taken of them in sports bras and Spandex to chart any changes in body size. Francis declined to comment for the article.