Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 7, 2013

After an 18-month study on governance of college sports, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics said in a report that “changes are needed to restore integrity” to college sports.

Among its recommendations, the commission shot down the idea that a new division separate from the National Collegiate Athletic Association might be the next logical step. Instead, the report says, the NCAA’s top committees should include more athletics officials, former athletes and other individuals with experience in college sports -- and governance should not just be left to university presidents, as it is currently. Among the other recommendations are to dedicate a portion of the revenue from the impending college football playoff to support athletes’ educational experience, and revise revenue distribution to strengthen incentives for exceptional academic performance by athletes.

The report also suggests a few ideas “that merit further study,” including a new NCAA subdivision, for football only, for the five major conferences and other high-income programs -- an idea that has gained significant traction in the past few weeks thanks to comments and speculation by major conference commissioners. The commission also proposes a new financial framework that might impose spending limits or encourage limited spending, to create greater financial balance among institutions, as well as greater differentiation of structures among sports for things like conference membership and championship formats.

August 7, 2013

The University of Oslo has rejected the application of Anders Behring Breivik, a mass killer, to study political science, AFP reported. Breivik, a right wing extremist, is in jail for his 2011 attacks that killed 77. Norway encourages prisoners to seek education (typically through distance programs) and Breivik's prison had no problem with his applying to enroll remotely. But word of the application set off a debate at the university, with some faculty members saying that they would refuse to teach him. The university said that it evaluated the application under normal procedures and rejected Breivik because he had not finished his high school degree.

 

August 7, 2013

A former women’s head rowing coach at the University of California at San Diego gave six athletes prescription drugs on at least 24 occasions, the National Collegiate Athletic Association said Tuesday, announcing penalties stemming from unethical conduct and the university’s failure to monitor the program. Athletes also competed while ineligible, in some cases, with the knowledge and at the direction of coaches, the NCAA’s public infractions report says.

The former head coach also lied to NCAA investigators about having told athletes to compete and sign for meals under the names of “eligible student-athletes or other individuals.” The rowing team will get one year of probation, a $2,500 fine and vacation of women’s rowing results from 2010-12. The former head coach faces a three-year show cause order, making it difficult for her to be hired at another institution, and a former assistant coach who allowed an ineligible athlete to compete and then lied to investigators faces a one-year show cause order.

August 7, 2013

By September, Yale University will clarify what sort of scenarios it considers “nonconsensual sex” after a semi-annual incident report used the term in reference to "a range of behaviors that fall within the university's broad definition of sexual misconduct." The university will also post more information next week about sexual assault investigations and reporting procedures, the New Haven Register reported. Students found responsible for nonconsensual sex received punishments ranging from written reprimand (by far the most common) to mandatory counseling to a two-term suspension. A slew of criticism and accusations that Yale was watering down the issue and failing to properly punish students who committed sexual assault quickly followed the report’s release Friday. A federal investigation into Yale’s handling of sexual assault on campus ended a little over a year ago with a resolution agreement requiring the university to improve its policies, procedures and practices.

August 7, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Nick Royle of the University of Exeter asks if personality is genetically determined or learned. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 6, 2013

Peter Lach, dean of fine arts at Fairmont State University, has been charged by West Virginia authorities with second-degree sexual assault, and has been placed on administrative leave, The Charleston Gazette reported. A male employee told authorities that while he was in Lach's office, Lach pulled down the employee's pants and restrained him while starting oral sex. When the employee resisted, he said that Lach shoved him and that his head hit a copying machine. Lach, who is in jail, could not be reached.

 

August 6, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union is raising questions about why Florida International University called off a planned baseball game at its campus between players from a Cuban team and their former teammates who now live in the United States, the Associated Press reported. The university called off the game less than a week after it started selling tickets, saying that a "contractual matter" led to the decision and refusing to elaborate. The ACLU has filed an open-records request for communication between the university and an anti-Castro group. "We have troubling evidence that Florida International University canceled the contract for the event based on expectations about political speech or fears about hostile reaction from some community groups which may or may not occur," said Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the ACLU of Florida.

August 6, 2013

The University of Iowa has earned the coveted — or dreaded — top spot on the Princeton Review’s list of the top 20 party schools in the country for 2014, which was released Monday in the publisher’s annual Best 378 Colleges guide.

Despite administrators’ three-year plan to curb binge drinking, the University of Iowa has been inching to the top of the “party school” list for the past three years. It was ranked No. 4  two years ago and moved up to No. 2 on last year's list. The university also earned the No. 1 spot on this year's “lots of hard liquor” list.

Spokesman Tom Moore said in an e-mailed statement that the university is continuing to work to "change the culture" on campus by educating students to only consume alcohol in a legal and responsible manner. In 2010, the Iowa City Council passed a 21-only ordinance, which raised the city bars’ entry age from 19 to 21 after 10 p.m. The percentage of University of Iowa students who engage in "high-risk drinking" is down from 70 percent in 2009 to 58 percent in 2013, according to the National College Health Assessment survey. There have also been decreases in alcohol-related crime and alcohol-related visits to hospitals, Moore said.

"In each of the last four years, alcohol harm to our students has decreased. It is, frankly, still too high," Moore said. "We are heartened, though, by the steady progress we have made, and are committed to continuing this progress."

West Virginia University, which was named the top party school last year, dropped to the No. 4 spot in this year’s rankings. The University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively.

The Princeton Review college guide includes individual profiles of each college, along with rankings based on an online survey of more than 122,000 students nationwide. The top-20 party schools rankings list is based on the answers from a combination of student survey questions about alcohol and drug use, hours of study each day and the popularity of the Greek system. Critics note that students are simply evaluating their own institutions and so the results are not based on actual comparisons.

Bloggers from BroBible (“the ultimate destination for Bros”) decided to take the “flawed” party school rankings into their own hands and created the “BroBible Party School Index” in April. The website scored universities based on a mathematical formula that combines rankings from a number of different lists and years. With an index score of 406.5, West Virginia University took the No. 1 spot on the BroBible’s 50 Best Party Schools list.

 Princeton Review's Top 10 "Party Schools"
1. University of Iowa
2. University of California at Santa Barbara
3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
4. West Virginia University
5. Syracuse University
6. University of Florida
7. Ohio University at Athens
8. University of Wisconsin at Madison
9. Pennsylvania State University at University Park
10. Lehigh University

 

August 6, 2013

The Office of Scholarly Communication at Harvard University has issued a strongly worded statement criticizing the recent controversial push by the American Historical Association to allow new Ph.D.s to embargo their dissertations instead of making them available in university open access depositories. The AHA has said that making the dissertations available could hurt the chances of young scholars of landing book contracts, which they need to obtain tenure. But the Harvard statement said that the AHA has provided "no evidence" to support this view. Further, the Harvard statement noted a recent blog post by Harvard University Press suggesting that making dissertations available online may increase the odds of their authors finding a publisher.

August 6, 2013

The Lumina Foundation is putting $2.3 million behind a growing effort to reduce the regulatory burden on institutions that offer online courses to students across state lines, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Four regional commissions, including WICHE, and a number of other higher education officials want distance ed programs to be regulated by the state where they are based instead of by every state where they operate, a plan some hope will solve the longstanding, knotty problem of regulating cross-state institutions. Existing regulations requiring online programs to register in each state where they have students are simply being ignored

Lumina is funding a voluntary solution, which mirrors recommendations from a report issued in April. The so-called State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA, would create a national series of reciprocity agreements. States would be responsible for regulating distance ed institutions based in their states. Other states would rely on that home state's work. Distance ed providers, including traditional universities and for-profit providers, could expect a decrease in their paperwork and required fees. SARA would require states across the country to change their laws to accommodate the new regulatory framework.

The head of the New England Board of Higher Education said SARA is a workable solution.

"This agreement provides a timely and voluntary means by which state authorizers and postsecondary institutions nationwide can collaborate to address key challenges, including the ongoing profusion of online learning, the misalignment of state policy requirements, and the need to expand online access and program quality," Michael K. Thomas, NEBHE’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

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