Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 29, 2013

The owners of the Charleston School of Law announced Wednesday they plan to sell the institution to the InfiLaw System, which operates a chain of for-profit law schools, The State reported. A recent announcement by the law school that it was turning over some management functions to InfiLaw set off concerns from some students and alumni that the arrangement would lead to a sale. Critics of the idea say that it would decrease the value of the law school's degrees, while law school officials say a sale would bolster the institution.

 

August 29, 2013

A donor has withdrawn a planned $100,000 contribution to Westfield State College to protest what he called the "lavish spending" of President Evan Dobelle, whose personal charges to a university foundation account have him under intense scrutiny, The Boston Globe reported. John P. Walsh, who heads a cosmetics company, told the Globe that he was "appalled" at Dobelle's behavior, in which he reportedly made extensive (and expensive) personal charges for significant out-of-state and international travel, among other things. Dobelle released a statement to the Globe in which he said Walsh had never formally pledged the money he is said to be withdrawing, and that he expected a report to be released today to find that there were "no personal expenses at issue."

 

 

August 29, 2013

Pearson will expands its partnership with the adaptive learning technology company Knewton to offer MyLab and Mastering products to six new subject areas this fall, the education company announced on Thursday. MyLab and Mastering, e-tutoring products that "continuously [assess] student performance and activity in real time," have been available since fall 2012 for students in math, economics, reading and writing. With the addition of topics including biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, finance and accounting, Pearson estimates the products will reach about 400,000 students.

August 29, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Edward Hanna of the University of Sheffield reveals the connection between a pattern in the jet stream and recent warm temperatures in Greenland. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

August 29, 2013

A “citation stacking" scheme, in which editors of certain Brazilian journals published articles cross-citing each others' publications in order to raise the journals’ “impact factors” – a measure of a journal’s influence based on the number of times its articles are cited – has been discovered, Nature reported. The four Brazilian journals are among 14 that have been suspended from the Thomson Reuters ranking of journals.

“We’ve been caught wrong-footed,” said Mauricio Rocha-e-Silva, a retired psychologist and former editor of one of the journals, Clinics. Rocha-e-Silva told Nature that the scheme emerged from frustration with the fact that an agency of Brazil’s national education ministry evaluates graduate programs based partly on the impact factors of the journals in which students publish; because emerging Brazilian journals are poorly ranked, researchers don't wish to publish in them and the local journals do not improve.

The article notes that the scheme is not limited to Brazilian journals -- journals in Italy and China are among those that have been sanctioned -- but only in the Brazil case has an explanation been put forward.

August 29, 2013

While some observers say academe is already moving to a post-MOOC era or one dominated by MOOC-like offerings that aren't really massive open online courses, the MOOC itself has a new symbol of recognition. Oxford Dictionaries, published by Oxford University Press, has now added MOOC as an official word.

Definition: "a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people."

Origin: "early 21st century: from massive open online course, probably influenced by MMOG and MMORPG."

August 28, 2013

University advancement offices typically try to keep disputes out of the public eye, but the firing of a spokesman at the University of Arkansas has set off a very public dispute. The Bangor Daily News reported on the firing of John Diamond (for many years chief spokesman at the University of Maine System before he went to Arkansas) and charges he has made against his now former bosses at Arkansas. Diamond said that he was forced out because he insisted on complying with open records requests, and that he was uncomfortable at Arkansas because of inappropriate comments, some of which were about his religion (he is a Roman Catholic). Arkansas officials meanwhile held a news conference to deny the accusations and to accuse Diamond of not doing well at his job. Chris Wyrick, the official Diamond said made an anti-Catholic reference, denied doing so, but said that he asked Diamond “What time is the fish fry on Friday?” and that he did not view this as inappropriate.

 

August 28, 2013

Claudia Diaz, a senior anatomy lecturer at RMIT University in Australia, has come up with an unusual way to bring anatomy alive to students. As reported by The Age, she hires a man to strip to his underwear and to have his body painted so that it shows what would be visible under his skin. Creating "Anatomical Man," as he is called, appears to work, she said.

 

 

August 28, 2013

The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has rejected charges that some protests against Israel at the University of California at Berkeley constituted illegal anti-Jewish bias, as some Jewish students and alumni charged. A letter from OCR found that the protests "constituted expression on matters of public concern directed to the university community. In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience. In this context, the events that the complainants described do not constitute actionable harassment."

The University of California at Santa Cruz announced that a similar complaint against it had also been rejected by the department.

 

August 28, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Julian Agyeman of Tufts University explores how the concept of spatial justice can strengthen the economy and social fabric of communities. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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