Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 3, 2015

Wei-Hock Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, issued a statement Monday defending his work, which has been under sharp attack, The New York Times reported. Soon has published articles and spoken out questioning the scientific consensus that climate change is real. A previous Times article noted that he has received extensive financial support from the fossil fuel industry, but has not reported that financial connection in his journal articles, even though many of the journals require such disclosure.

In his statement, Soon attacked his critics. “This effort should be seen for what it is: a shameless attempt to silence my scientific research and writings, and to make an example out of me as a warning to any other researcher who may dare question in the slightest their fervently held orthodoxy," he said.

 

March 3, 2015

Scores from SAT exam administrations in Asia were withheld for four straight months due to concerns about cheating, and some of the scores withheld from last year have not yet been released, The Washington Post reported. Some scores were withheld following the October, November, December and January administrations of the college entrance exam in Asia. Spokesmen for the College Board and Educational Testing Service cited security reasons in declining the newspaper’s requests for information on specifics, including the number of scores withheld, the countries affected and the steps they’re taking to address the problem.

March 3, 2015

Grinnell College, a private liberal arts college in Iowa, has preemptively asked the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to investigate how it has handled cases of sexual assault. OCR is currently investigating more than 100 institutions for potential Title IX violations, but Grinnell is not on that list. “If Grinnell has fallen short at any point, I want to know about it now, continue to address the problems, and make things right for our students,” Raynard Kington, the college's president, said in a statement announcing the request. “This is not possible to ascertain in the court of public opinion, but it is possible with OCR’s review and guidance."

March 3, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Davide Zori, a professor at Baylor University, tells us about Viking social structures, and the Vikings' love of parties. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

March 2, 2015

Faculty and staff at Carnegie Mellon University who last weekend clicked on a link in an e-mail titled "Your salary raise information" were disappointed when they didn't find a pay increase but an attempt to steal their personal information. The university has since warned the campus community against the phishing scam and locked down the compromised accounts, WPXI reported

Hackers often target university employees' wallets. In the last several months, the Research and Education Networking Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or REN-ISAC, has identified threats against university payroll systems and personal tax returns. The organization on Friday released a new advisory, warning colleges and universities about a "resurgence" in scams that involve fake wire transfers. In one version of the scam, a vice president at a university received an e-mail from a hacker impersonating the president asking for help with an outgoing wire transfer. REN-ISAC recommended university officers who can conduct wire transfers be suspicious of instructions sent by e-mail.

March 2, 2015

Institutional research offices, at the campus and system levels, are facing increased pressure, but are not generally being provided with the resources they need, according to a new study by the National Association of System Heads. The report notes that IR offices were once viewed by many as assuring compliance with various regulations about submission of data. Increasingly, however, these offices are central to institutional and state efforts to track student completion, performance and other education-related metrics.

But the report expresses fears that these offices aren't receiving the full support (financial and otherwise) that they need. The field is "at best unevenly positioned to support change," the report says. Data that could be meaningful are in many cases not collected or not collected in ways that promote analysis, it adds. The overall ability of IR offices to look at data in ways appropriate to the needs of higher education is "nascent at best," the report says.

 

March 2, 2015

Barry Freundel, a Washington rabbi who last month pleaded guilty to voyeurism charges, has agreed to quit a tenured faculty position teaching religion and ethics at Towson University, The Baltimore Sun reported. Freundel pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping dozens of women as they used a Jewish ritual bath. He was suspended from Towson, with pay, after he was arrested in October.

 

March 2, 2015

The National University of Ireland at Galway has agreed to suspend asking new employees a series of health questions that were criticized as sexist by many faculty members, The Connacht Tribune reported. Among the questions: “Do you suffer with any problems with your menstrual periods? Do you suffer any breast problems? Have you ever been treated for gynecological problems?” While there was also a question about prostate conditions, the consensus was that female employees were facing much more personal and unwelcome questions. Since the newspaper reported on the questions, the university has faced considerable criticism -- and has defended the questions, saying that they are being used to promote good health. But officials changed their minds and said that they would stop asking the questions.

 

March 2, 2015

Britain's University of Westminster is facing scrutiny over whether it is a hotbed for Islamic extremism in the wake of reports that the Islamic State's British-accented killer of Western hostages is Mohammed Emwazi, an alumnus of the university. Emwazi has been called "Jihadi John" by the British press for the gruesome videos in which he beheads people ISIS has kidnapped.

The university issued a statement late last week that said: "If the allegations of terrorist activity are true, we are shocked and sickened by the news. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We have students from 150 countries and their safety is of paramount concern. With other universities in London, we are working to implement the government’s Prevent strategy to tackle extremism."

The university also announced on Twitter that it was calling off for now a lecture called "Who Is Muhammad?" because of "increased sensitivity and security concerns." One of the featured speakers was to be Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad, and gay and women's groups questioned why the university would host a person who has called for gay sex to be criminalized and who has spoken in favor of female genital mutilation.

March 2, 2015

Wyoming Catholic College announced last week that it will not participate in federal student aid or loan programs. The college, founded in 2005, achieved candidate status for accreditation last year, making it eligible to apply to participate in federal student aid programs. But the college's board voted not to participate, citing concerns about federal regulations that are attached to student aid programs. While many private colleges complain about federal regulations, very few opt out of aid programs. The college said it would step up fund-raising efforts so that it could offer more assistance directly to students. A statement from President Kevin Roberts said: “By abstaining from federal funding programs, we will safeguard our mission from unwarranted federal involvement — an involvement increasingly at odds with our Catholic beliefs, the content of our curriculum, and our institutional practices.”

 

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