Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 8, 2021

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Misericordia University Week, Yanqui Zheng, professor of history and government, explores how cultural diplomacy helped China become a world player again. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 7, 2021

Hundreds of political scientists signed an open letter Wednesday calling for President Trump to be removed from office through the impeachment process or by invoking the 25th Amendment.

The letter, written after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, argues that Trump's actions "threaten American democracy."

"He has rejected the peaceful transfer of power, encouraged state legislators to overturn election results in their states, pressured a state official to change election results, and now incited a violent mob that shut down the counting of electoral votes and stormed the U.S. Capitol," says the letter, which was co-authored by Brendan Nyhan and John Carey, both professors at Dartmouth College.

"Our profession seeks to understand politics, not engage in it, but we share a commitment to democratic values," the letter states. "The President’s actions show he is unwilling or unable to fulfill his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. He should be removed from office immediately before further violence takes place or further damage is done to our democracy."

January 7, 2021

Wondering what to teach today? The American Historical Association published a list of resources for teachers faced with helping their students understand Wednesday’s events in Washington.

“Class as normal doesn't seem quite right in history and social studies,” said James Grossman, executive director of the association.

Articles include those on U.S. senators who refused to accept President Lincoln's election, the peaceful transition of power, protests in Washington, racist violence in the U.S., populism and more.

January 7, 2021

Lake Superior State University releases a list every year of words "that are overworked, redundant, oxymoronic, clichéd, illogical, nonsensical -- and otherwise ineffective, baffling, or irritating."

At Wayne State University, the Word Warriors release a list that "promotes words especially worthy of retrieval from the linguistic cellar."

This year's list (and the words' definitions):

  • Anagapesis -- Loss of feelings for someone who was formerly loved.
  • Blatteroon -- A senseless babbler or boaster.
  • Brontide -- A low, muffled sound like distant thunder heard in certain seismic regions, especially along seacoasts and over lakes and thought to be caused by feeble earth tremors.
  • Dysania -- The state of finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Footle -- Engage in fruitless activity; mess about.
  • Maleolent -- Foul-smelling, odorous.
  • Paralian -- Someone who lives by the sea.
  • Snollygoster -- A shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician.
  • Sophronize -- To imbue with moral principles or self-control.
  • Ultracrepidarian -- Expressing opinions on matters outside the scope of one’s knowledge or expertise.
January 7, 2021

Brandeis University announced Wednesday that it has acquired and is now the sole owner of all titles and copyrights of the University Press of New England, under a deal finalized Jan. 1 with Dartmouth College. Going forward, Brandeis University Press will oversee the UPNE list, excluding Dartmouth College Press titles. UPNE was dissolved in 2018, and it split the list between Brandeis and Dartmouth. Brandeis University Press will now manage the entire list, reprint books, actively promote titles and sell rights. Dartmouth will continue to steward and manage titles previously published under the Dartmouth College Press imprint.

January 7, 2021

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Misericordia University Week, Rebecca Steinberger, professor of English, reads a play from the past that makes a case for our actions today. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 6, 2021

A coalition of community and civil rights groups, Chinese scientific organizations, and individuals signed on to a letter urging President-elect Joe Biden to end the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative” and “take further steps necessary to combat the pervasive racial bias and targeting of Asian American and Asian immigrant scientists, researchers, and students.”

The Justice Department has prosecuted a number of university-affiliated scientists through the China Initiative, in many cases on charges related to lying on scientific grant applicants, visa applications, tax returns or other government forms. Former attorney general Jeff Sessions launched the initiative in November 2018 to combat economic espionage.

“It is appropriate for the Justice Department to take measures to address the harms caused by agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) who have engaged in economic espionage and trade secrets thefts,” says the letter, which was organized by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Brennan Center for Justice and the APA Justice Task Force. “However, naming only China in a DOJ initiative ignores threats of economic espionage by other nations. The label ‘China Initiative’ itself is as unacceptable as ‘China Virus.’”

The letter also argues that in many cases Chinese scientists are being prosecuted for federal crimes “based on administrative errors or minor offenses such as failing to fully disclose conflict of interest information to their universities or research institutions and other activities that are not normally treated as crimes except under the pretext of combating economic espionage.”

January 6, 2021

Inside Higher Ed has published "Envisioning Higher Education's Future," a new compilation of articles and essays on various ways that colleges and universities are adapting to a fast-changing environment.

You may download a copy of this print-on-demand booklet, free, here.

Inside Higher Ed's editors will lead a free webcast on the themes of the booklet on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2020, at 2 p.m. Eastern. We invite you to register here for the event.

January 6, 2021

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Misericordia University Week, Patrick Hamilton, professor of English, looks at popular culture through superheroes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 5, 2021

Many college students are reporting that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their academic performance, according to a survey from OneClass, an education technology company that provides virtual access to study materials.

OneClass surveyed more than 14,000 freshmen, sophomore and junior students about their fall 2020 experience. Students from 232 colleges, both public and private, responded to the survey.

About 85 percent of respondents said the pandemic had a negative effect on their performance. Another 9 percent said the pandemic didn't affect their performance, and about 5 percent said the pandemic had a positive influence on their performance.

Responses were fairly consistent across students' levels, according to a blog post from OneClass. Slightly more sophomores reported negative outcomes than students in other years.

The two main factors affecting grades this fall, according to OneClass, are academic changes and mental health. Students are navigating a changing educational experience, with remote learning and asynchronous courses in many cases, at the same time they are dealing with stress from the personal effects of the pandemic.

The survey gave students an opportunity to write direct feedback. Some expressed frustration that other online resources, like Khan Academy, were more helpful than their remote classwork. Others said they have a hard time learning online, and their grades suffered as a result.

It's unclear whether academic performance was impacted at a broad level by the pandemic. Initial data on high school performance shows that student failure rates increased in some areas, according to the blog post.

OneClass surveyed about 1,000 students in April about their experiences at the start of the pandemic and received a similar response. About three-quarters of respondents said they weren't happy with the quality of virtual learning.

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