Higher Education Quick Takes
The Middle East Studies Association of North American has written to senior Iranian officials asking them to stop official newspapers from attacking the International Society for Iranian Studies. That group typically holds its annual meeting in North America, but this August held its 2012 meeting in Istanbul, with the goal of allowing more scholars in Iran to participate. As described in the letter from the Middle East Studies Association, an officially supported newspaper ran an article on the international group, saying it was dominated by "Royalists" and "Zionists," among others. Following this article, many of the scholars based in Iran canceled plans to go to Istanbul for the meeting. The letter to Iranian officials said, "The open pursuit and free expression of knowledge and ideas, without fear of reprisal and discrimination are guaranteed under Iran's Constitution.... MESA urges the authorities in Iran to work towards and protect the free exchange of ideas, freedom of expression in all forms, and the unrestricted pursuit of academic research without fear of intimidation and persecution."
Florida A&M University is defending itself in a wrongful death lawsuit by the parents of a student who died in the middle of hazing by the marching band by saying that it was the student's fault he participated, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Papers filed by the university said that Robert Champion, the man who died, should have known that hazing was wrong and dangerous and against university policy, and so the university should not be held liable. Christopher Chestnut, a lawyer for Champion's family, said he was stunned by the argument. "We cannot ignore the irony and audacity of an institution in blaming Robert for his death," he said. "Blaming students for hazing allows the culture of hazing to become deadly."
Demand to earn an M.B.A. isn't what it once was, and top business schools are as a result seeing declines in applications, The Wall Street Journal reported. For the class that just entered, Columbia University's applications were down 19 percent, the University of Michigan was off by 17 percent and Yale was down 10 percent.
Matt Kupec, vice chancellor for university advancement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, resigned Sunday after being told of an investigation into whether he and another development official had been taking personal trips paid for by the university, The News & Observer reported. The trips appeared to be to watch a son of the other employee play college basketball games. The other official -- Tami Hansbrough, a major gifts officer -- has been placed on leave. She has another son who was a star basketball player for UNC. University officials said that Kupec and Hansbrough were in a relationship, but that Hansbrough did not report to Kupec. Kupec, a former star quarterback for UNC, has been praised by officials there for his fund-raising successes. He issued this statement: "I have been privileged to have worked with incredibly talented faculty, students, administrators and staff. I have worked with gifted Chancellors. But most of all, I have been fortunate to work with a score of passionate alumni and friends who love this University and who have paved the way through their generosity to make Carolina a true gem. I will miss you all but in my heart I will always be a part of the Carolina family."
The governing board for California's 112 community colleges on Monday approved a policy of systemwide priority enrollment for students who have an educational plan in place and are working toward a credential or toward transferring. The proposal, which marks a substantial shift for a system with history of open access, was one of a set of recommendations last year by a state task force. The priority enrollment plan, while controversial, has also been praised for being a completion-oriented means of coping with deep budget cuts.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today announced it was seeking proposals for the creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) designed to serve as remedial and other general education courses, which are often stumbling blocks for lower income students. The foundation said in its request for proposals that it hopes to encourage high-quality MOOCs that could help improve college completion rates. Currently, most MOOCs are geared to upper-division classes. "Ultimately, our vision is that MOOCs may provide institutions a way to blend MOOC content into formal courses with more intensive faculty, advising and peer support and also provide students an alternative and direct path to credit and credentials," the foundation said.
The University of Rochester has announced that it will no longer require all undergraduate applicants to submit either the SAT or ACT, but they will still have to submit some test. Others that might be used include the SAT subject exams, Advanced Placement tests or International Baccalaureate tests. In a statement, Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid, said: "Many prospective students 'test well' on general standardized exams, and bring that ability to campus, while some are best at mastering specific material in subjects that interest them most, and bring that diligence and focus. Both kinds of students can thrive at Rochester, and both will do best when they find each other here and develop many ways to collaborate and challenge each other."
Two House of Representatives committees announced a joint hearing Wednesday on the National Labor Relations Board's agenda in higher education. Congressional Republicans have frequently clashed with the NLRB on issues outside of higher education. But now the NLRB is exploring the right to collective bargaining for graduate students and faculty members at private colleges. A statement announcing the hearing said: "Higher education officials are concerned the NLRB’s efforts to impinge into postsecondary schools could lead to reduced academic freedom and higher costs for students."
A Towson University student who sparked debate last year by founding a chapter of Youth for Western Civilization is now trying to create a White Student Union, The Baltimore Sun reported. The group he created last year has fallen apart after losing its faculty adviser. L. Victor Collins, assistant vice president of student affairs for diversity, said the proposed group would be evaluated like all others, based on non-political criteria. While Collins said he supported the group's First Amendment rights, he questioned the need for a white organization. "They think they are a parallel comparison to the Black Student Union," he said. "In my observation in American society and history, I don't know if white students have been discriminated against or denied access to institutions. This is a predominantly white institution. I don't understand why they have to [form a group]."