In today’s Academic Minute, Tim Blackburn of the University of Birmingham reveals the connection between human migration and the extinction of tropical birds. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The California Federation of Teachers and other employee unions have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education over the actions of a regional accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The unions had previously lodged their concerns directly with the commission, which accredits California's two-year colleges and is an arm of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. They alleged that the accreditor had acted improperly in slapping a severe sanction on City College of San Francisco -- which faces possible closure -- as well as in its oversight of other community colleges. The commission last week rejected those claims, saying it has followed procedures. So the unions this week asked the Education Department to force the commission to respond more fully to the complaint.
Leslie Berlowitz will remove herself from day-to-day activities at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which she leads, during investigations into how grant applications falsely described her as having a doctorate, The Boston Globe reported. The National Endowment for the Humanities is examining three grant applications that listed Berlowitz as having a doctorate. Now the Massachusetts attorney general is also investigating a range of issues, including Berlowitz's compensation package of $598,000.
WASHINGTON -- The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, a federal panel that meets twice a year to evaluate accreditors and recommend them for Education Department recognition, asked the American Bar Association on Thursday if it was doing more to ensure that law schools were providing good data on whether their graduates have found jobs. Those job-placement rates have been contentious in the past few years in a difficult job market for new lawyers; some graduates have sued their law schools for not providing good data. Representatives of the bar association said they were meeting with firms soon to consider an independent audit of job placement data, beginning with the class of 2014. About 15 institutions are currently not complying with the job placement disclosure requirements of the association's accrediting arm.
The panel voted to recommend that the Education Department renew its recognition of the A.B.A. for three years.
The student who was charged with violating conduct rules for speaking out about her rape and the way her allegations were handled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been exonerated, Chancellor Holden Thorp announced in a letter to campus Thursday.
The student-run Honor Court charged Gambill in February under an Honor Code provision prohibiting “disruptive or intimidating behavior” that affects someone’s education. Gambill responded by filing a federal complaint with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. A couple of months later, OCR sent a letter to colleges warning them not to retaliate against students who make civil rights complaints with either an individual institution or the federal government. (An outside review, Thorp also said Thursday, found no evidence that UNC retaliated against Gambill.)
UNC is undergoing a broad review and revision of its sexual assault policies, after Gambill and others filed a separate OCR complaint in January alleging that the university underreports and mishandles sexual assaults. Thorp said all other student charges under the intimidation rule will also be thrown out, and no other charges will be brought under the provision until it is "adequately evaluated" by UNC’s Committee on Student Conduct.
“This action is not a challenge to the important role of students in our Honor System,” Thorp wrote, “but is intended to protect the free speech rights of our students.”
A new study finds that use of Facebook may be helping first generation college students apply to college and gain confidence that they will succeed there. The study -- published in the journal Computers and Education -- is by researchers at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. They surveyed students in a low-income area of Michigan. They found that first generation students who used Facebook to find information about the college application process felt more confident as they were going through it. Further, while many first generation students are less confident than other students entering college, those who had a friend on Facebook with whom to discuss college matters did not suffer that same lack of confidence.
WASHINGTON -- Two dueling bills to avert an increase in the interest rate for new, subsidized federal student loans July 1 both failed to advance in the Senate on Thursday, illustrating the divide between the parties on how best to avoid the rate hike. A Republican bill to set the interest rate based on market rates failed, 40-57, although it was similar in many ways to President Obama's original solution in his 2014 budget request. A Democratic bill to freeze the rate for subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent for two years won a slim majority, 51-46, but didn't get the 60 votes needed for procedural reasons.
While the Obama administration has long favored a long-term solution based on market rates, Obama endorsed the Democratic bill for a short-term fix, saying averting the rate hike is the most important factor.
Inside Higher Ed's Cartoon Caption Contest sprouts a new cartoon, new finalists and a new winner in June.
To submit your captions for June's cartoon, please click here. The three entries deemed most clever and creative by our experts' panel will be put to a vote by our readers, and the winner will receive a $75 Amazon gift certificate and a copy of the cartoon signed by Matthew Henry Hall, the artist.
Click here to vote on the three captions nominated as finalists for our May cartoon.
And congratulations to the winner of the Cartoon Caption Contest for April, Therese Kattner. Find out more about her and her submission here.
Instructure, the maker of the Canvas learning management system, raised $30 million in venture capital to help fuel its competition against Blackboard, Desire2Learn and other more established players, the company said this week. Bessemer Venture Partners put up $26 million and existing investors put in another $4 million.
“We plan to use it for growth. We still think there is a great opportunity in this market to take market share,” said Brian Whitmer, an Instructure co-founder. Right now, he said the five-year-old company has about 5 percent of the LMS market.
Whitmer said the company would hire sales, development and support staff. It may also buy other startups. “We may use some of it for acquisitions," he said.
Another goal, of course, is to eventually take the company public. Bessemer's Silicon Valley partner Byron Deeter will join the Instructure board.