Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

George Washington University has settled for an undisclosed amount with a cancer biologist who alleged it mishandled an academic misconduct case against him, Chemistry World reported. The professor, Rakesh Kumar, sued the university for $8 million last year, saying he lost his chairmanship of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine outside of proper protocols. That followed the retraction of three of his papers over questionable images and two expressions of concern, according to Retraction Watch.

Kumar says all but one of the misconduct allegations concerned working conditions in his lab and that he was never accused of fabricating research data or images on his own. He also says the university’s delay and relinquishment of his research grant applications hurt his chances at finding other jobs, and that his reputation and career have been irreparably damaged.

George Washington moved to dismiss the case last year, but a judge said it would proceed, according to Chemistry World. In a joint statement, both Kumar and George Washington said they “wished to resolve and settle all of their differences to avoid the delay, expense and uncertainty associated with administrative proceedings and litigation.”

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

We've seen the Hamilton-inspired introduction of a Hamilton star at a commencement. Now we have an admissions essay question inspired by the Broadway hit.

Wake Forest University has just unveiled one of its new essay questions: "Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical Hamilton has become a cultural phenomenon. It weaves together history with rap and hip-hop through the often-overlooked story of Alexander Hamilton. Choose an unsung historical figure who deserves the Hamilton treatment." Whom would you nominate?

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

One start-of-the-academic-year tradition that has grown in recent years is the discovery of a sorority recruitment video that is particularly expensive to produce and devoid of any evidence that the sorority sisters in question engage in academic work. This year's winner may be Arizona State University's Alpha Phi, which this week unveiled the video below. Pricing sorority videos is not an editorial strength of Inside Higher Ed. But Teen Vogue, citing reporting by Elle on a similar video, estimates the video cost $200,000 to $400,000 to produce. (Inside Higher Ed reached out to Alpha Phi but has not heard back.) Teen Vogue's comment on the video: "In a sorority recruitment commercial promoting Arizona State's chapter of Alpha Phi, the sisters (who are mostly white and blond) embark on a desert adventure, where they take an off-road spin in a pink Jeep, do some totally safe-looking backflips off the side of a cliff and go for a completely, 100 percent normal hot air balloon tour. While nothing says 'sisterhood' quite like frolicking in the desert, the video looks more like an ad for spring break."

The Houston Chronicle wrote of the video, "The only thing we don't see them doing is studying, attending class and performing all those philanthropic acts they claim to do. Minor detail."

You can judge for yourself.

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed’s Cartoon Caption Contest has something up its sleeve this month. Suggest an appropriate caption here.

Click here to vote for your favorite from among of three finalists for our July caption.

And congratulations to Denise Phillips, winner of our contest for June. She is an ESL instructor and assessment coordinator for the ESL program at Hudson County Community College, in New Jersey. Her caption for the cartoon at right -- "Wow! I've never seen those two words used together before!" -- was voted the winner by our readers. She will receive an Amazon gift certificate and a signed copy of the cartoon. Thanks to all of you for reading and participating.

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Wayne Gray, professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, looks at extreme experts and their exceptional capabilities. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 4:24am

The U.S. Department of Education this week asked colleges and universities not to move up their deadlines for applying for financial aid. In theory, colleges could do so this year because of the adoption by the government of "prior prior year," a policy in which students may apply for financial aid based on family income from a year earlier than has been possible in the past. A letter sent to colleges by Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education, asked colleges to publicize this change, and to use the change to provide students with earlier information on their aid eligibility. But the letter also asked colleges not to move up any of their key deadlines in the aid process. Moving up aid deadlines could "put undue pressure on high school seniors to rush through the financial aid and college admissions process." And such changes, Mitchell wrote, could particularly hurt low-income students, "who often have the least amount of information" about applying to college and seeking aid.

A statement from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators suggested that the Education Department's request may be problematic to many colleges. "The letter does not address the inherent conflict that can arise between advising schools to provide students 'with financial aid packages as early as possible' but also telling them to 'not to move any priority financial aid deadlines earlier than your deadlines for recent years.'" the statement says. "For many schools, particularly those with institutional aid, providing a package without moving a priority deadline is not functionally possible, with the alternative being first-come, first-serve packaging -- a detrimental option for low-income students. If having a priority deadline means the school does the bulk of its packaging after the deadline, a later deadline precludes early award packages."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Linda Katehi, whose chancellorship at the University of California, Davis, has been clouded by charges of nepotism and misuse of student fees, resigned Tuesday after the completion of an investigation by the UC system, the Los Angeles Times reported. A news release from Katehi's lawyer said the chancellor had been "cleared" by an investigation by an outside lawyer for the University of California System of all "policy violations in the areas of alleged nepotism, conflicts, financial mismanagement of funds or personal gain."

But a statement from the UC system said the review found that Katehi "had exercised poor judgment, not been candid with university leadership and violated multiple university policies."

Katehi was placed on administrative leave in April amid questions about her employment of her son and daughter-in-law, among other issues. She will return to the Davis faculty.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of New Mexico on Tuesday issued an emergency suspension to Cristobal Valencia, the assistant professor of anthropology who was due to return to teaching this fall after a first suspension for sexual harassment. The university said late last week that it was reopening its investigation into Valencia due to at least one new report of sexual harassment that followed several local news stories about his case. It said it received new information Tuesday, leading it to suspend Valencia anew.

“Effective immediately, Valencia is suspended from all academic duties associated with his faculty appointment, including teaching, research and service,” the university said in a statement. “The suspension will remain in place while the new complaints are investigated by the appropriate authorities, or until the case is resolved. … His suspension is an emergency short-term action taken as a precaution to prevent any risk of harm to others, and was based upon the seriousness of the allegations.” Valencia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release its latest print-on-demand compilation of articles, with the topic “Technology and the Evolving Business Model in Higher Education.” You may download the free booklet here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on the themes of the booklet on Thursday, Aug. 25, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Employees of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York and Yale Universities sued their respective institutions on Tuesday for allegedly allowing them to be charged excessive fees on their retirement savings, The New York Times reported. Each university has several billion dollars in retirement holdings, and the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status. The employees allege that the institutions failed to monitor high plan management fees and poor-performing investments, costing them tens of millions of dollars collectively, according to the Times.

New York University said in a statement that “retirement plans offered to [employees] are chosen and administered carefully and prudently. We will litigate this case vigorously and expect to prevail.” A spokesperson for MIT told the Times that it does not comment on pending litigation. Yale said it was “cautious and careful” with retirement plans and that it planned to defend itself vigorously.

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