Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

The new Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education -- the first produced since the project shifted to Indiana University from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching -- is now officially available. Colleges and universities have been reviewing their data for the last month or so in advance of the official release.

Indiana's Center for Postsecondary Research is now responsible for the classification system, which categorizes institutions in multiple ways and allows for comparisons among them but not rankings.

Perhaps the most significant change in the new version involves how associate-granting institutions are classified.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

Faculty and student groups at Suffolk University on Monday reiterated their support for President Margaret McKenna (right), who they believe is doing an outstanding job but whom the board wants to oust, seven months into her tenure as the university's fifth president in five years. The Faculty Senate sent the board a letter calling on it not to dismiss McKenna, as the board plans to do later this week, but instead to support open discussions about the future of Suffolk.

The Faculty Senate letter specifically asked the board to lift a cease-and-desist order it gave McKenna, telling her she could not defend herself in public. Professors say she is being muzzled at a time when she needs to be part of a discussion on the university. The Faculty Senate letter said its members were "disturbed" by recent events in which board members have been leaking criticisms of McKenna to local reporters (leaks many on campus say are inaccurate).

The Executive Committee of Suffolk's Student Government Association met with leaders of the board Monday. After that meeting, the association issued a press release reiterating that students are "steadfast in our support" for McKenna. The press release said the student government was planning a vote of no confidence in the board chair later this week.

The university did not respond to requests for comment from board leaders.

A few trustees, however, are saying either that they are not on board with firing McKenna or don't like the way the issue is playing out in public, The Boston Globe reported.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

Concordia College will discontinue nine majors and one concentration, the Moorhead, Minn., college announced Friday. Instructors in those majors could lose their jobs by the end of May, while tenured professors will have one year’s notice, Inforum reported. Faculty members over 55 are being offered an incentive to retire early.

Concordia has been struggling to make up for declining enrollment, and it cut 5 percent of its workforce in April. Now, the college is aiming for $2.7 million in savings and new revenue.

Five of the discontinued majors are foreign languages -- Latin, Latin education, French, French education and German -- along with the classical studies, classics, health, humanities and Scandinavian studies concentration. There are currently 38 students enrolled in the discontinued majors, and 12 of those are scheduled to graduate this year. The rest will be able to complete their majors through special arrangements, independent studies and substitution of requirements.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 4:15am

Emerson College has fined a student for renting out his dormitory room on Airbnb, Boston.com reported. The student admits doing so and says his rentals were helping him afford college. But Emerson says its lease agreements explicitly bar students from any subleasing. Friends of the student have organized an online petition in which they say Emerson's punishments could result in the student's expulsion. "There is nothing criminal with providing cheap housing to travelers," the petition says.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

The College of William & Mary announced that one of its students "apparently" contracted the Zika virus while traveling in Central America during winter break. According to the university’s announcement, the student is expected to recover fully and there is no known health risk for others on campus.

The World Health Organization on Monday declared a public health emergency related to the spread of the Zika virus. Though the mosquito-borne virus usually causes mild symptoms, public health officials are concerned about a suspected causal link between infection during pregnancy and microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

When colleges and universities renovate their libraries, the changes they make often don't align with the priorities of librarians themselves, according to a survey of academic librarians by the Sasaki Associates, a design firm. The survey, of more than 400 librarians at nearly 200 institutions, found, for example, that 18 percent of renovations of libraries removed shelving when only 1 percent of librarians ranked the removal as a high priority, and 11 percent installed cafes when only 3 percent believed that to be a high priority.

Among other findings, 59 percent of librarians said their workspaces were hidden from public view, making it difficult for users to get the help they need, and nearly four in 10 librarians said the renovations their institutions had undertaken hindered their ability to do their jobs. Librarians were often not consulted for advice about the renovations, the survey found.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 4:30am

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has reached a compromise with state legislators on the "Lady Vols" name and logo, The Tennessean reported. In 2014, the university announced plans to stop using Lady Vols to describe women's athletic teams except for basketball. Many advocates for women's athletics question the use of the "Lady" names for women's teams, but the university cited a deal with Nike and goals for consistent branding, rather than equity concerns. Legislators threatened to require all women's teams to use the name. Under the compromise, the Lady Vols logo will by added as a patch to the uniform of all women's teams in the next academic year. After that, athletes may decide whether to use the patch.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Joseph Chandler, assistant professor of psychology at Birmingham-Southern College, explains how even music written to make you snooze may play only a small part in the actual process of dozing off. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, February 1, 2016 - 3:00am

It's probably for the best that Voltaire (at right) isn't around to see what's going on in the best of all possible states, by which we mean Kentucky. The new Republican governor, Matt Bevin, told reporters last week that he wants to change funding formulas for public higher education so that colleges and universities receive more money for study in fields like engineering and less for others.

"There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors. There just will," Bevin (left) told reporters, the Associated Press reported. "All the people in the world that want to study French literature can do so, they are just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayer."

Bevin's comments are similar to those of presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both from Florida, who have questioned liberal arts majors such as philosophy and psychology, respectively.

Jeffrey N. Peters, a professor of French literature at the University of Kentucky, responded to his governor's proposal with an essay in The Lexington Herald-Leader in which he charged that Bevin was trying to have the government, not students, decide what to study. Further, Peters noted that language graduates go on to many careers, including business, in which they use the skills they learn (even if they aren't speaking, for example, French) in their jobs. "At this moment of rapid globalization, majors in our department learn to become well-rounded citizens of the world, both by studying abroad and by studying the world’s great thinkers and artists, ancient and modern, Eastern and Western," Peters wrote. "They learn to speak and write effectively in both English and their chosen world language, and they come to understand the importance for their future professional lives of thoughtful communication and confident self-presentation."

The governor has indicated that he's fine if private colleges offer French literature. That distinction may be relevant given that Peters pointed out the governor's undergraduate major at (private) Washington and Lee University: Japanese and East Asian studies.

Monday, February 1, 2016 - 4:18am

Two students at Virginia Tech have been charged in the death of a 13-year-old local girl, The Washington Post reported. One student is charged in the abduction and murder of the girl. The other Virginia Tech student is charged with helping to dispose of the body.

The arrests stunned people at Virginia Tech. The Post could not reach family members of the arrested students, who are being held in jail.


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