Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 31, 2018

Days after two campuses in Vermont were plastered with "It's OK to be white" posters, white nationalist posters appeared at California State University San Marcos. University officials removed the posters, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The newspaper quoted President Karen Haynes, who referenced the impact of these posters going up after recent "horrific shootings" in Kentucky and Pittsburgh.

“While we grieve for the victims and offer our support to those impacted -- the survivors, their friends, family members and loved ones -- I want to be clear: white supremacy and anti-Semitism, or any other doctrines that expose hate and elevate one group above another, have no place at Cal State San Marcos,” she said.

October 31, 2018

Are you teaching in costume today? Administrating in disguise? If so, tweet a photo with the hashtag #IHEhalloween and we'll award a box of Godiva chocolates for the most creative attire. Bonus points for costumes with academic themes. The winner will be announced next week.

Happy Halloween to all of our readers.

October 31, 2018

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, "Graduate and Professional Education: An Ever-Changing Environment." You may download a copy free, here. And you may sign up here for a free webcast on the themes of the booklet on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

October 31, 2018

The University of the Cumberlands is moving to end its formal ties to the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The university has requested the change, which is expected to be approved by the convention, because the state Baptist group currently appoints all board members for Cumberlands. The university would like to assume that role.

October 31, 2018

Columbia University revised its statement in response to the Saturday shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people after an alumnus pointed out the absence of “Jews” or “anti-Semitism” in the university's statement.

The original statement, published in the Jewish Journal, included mentions of faith and identity but did not mention Jews, Judaism or anti-Semitism specifically.

“We are deeply saddened by the senseless violence at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday morning. Violence in our nation’s houses of worship is an affront to the freedoms our community holds dear. We stand strongly against these efforts to create fear and terror,” the original statement read. “For some in our community, this is a particularly frightening time as we have seen a growing number of highly visible attacks directed at faith and identity -- on worshippers and people of faith as they go through their daily lives, on groups gathered to celebrate an LGBT Latin night at Pulse Nightclub, on civil rights and anti-racist protesters in the streets of Charlottesville, and in so many other places, as occurred in last Wednesday’s shooting of two African-American shoppers in Kentucky.”

Zachary Neugut, a Columbia University alumnus, criticized the statement on Twitter on Sunday evening.

“Classic @Columbia to send an email about the #TreeOfLifeSynagogue shooting and mention anti-LGBT and anti-black hatred but not anti-Semitism,” he tweeted. “The world has gone mad, I'm embarrassed today to call myself an alumnus & regret having donated to @CC_Columbia this year. #Columbia”

Neugut tweeted on Monday that the university had reached out to apologize to him and revised their statement.

Below is the university’s revised statement.

“We are deeply saddened by the horrific antisemitic attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday morning. Violence in our nation’s houses of worship is an affront to the freedoms our community holds dear. We stand strongly against yesterday’s violent attack on the Jewish community and against other efforts to create fear and terror.

“For some in our community, this is a particularly frightening time as we have seen a growing number of highly visible attacks directed at faith and identity -- on worshippers and people of faith as they go through their daily lives, on groups gathered to celebrate an LGBT Latin night at Pulse Nightclub, on civil rights and anti-racist protesters in the streets of Charlottesville, and in so many other places, as occurred in last Wednesday's shooting of two African-American shoppers in Kentucky. Please know that you are not alone, and that you are a part of this community founded on the fundamental dignity and worth of all.”

Columbia University declined to comment on the record about the change.

October 31, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, John Loike, a professor of biology at Touro College, explains how animals may help us bridge the organ-donation gap. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 31, 2018

The University of Maryland at College Park has parted ways with head football coach DJ Durkin, a central figure in an athletics scandal that has roiled the state’s flagship institution.

As of Tuesday, Durkin was to remain at the university at the recommendation at the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, along with athletics director Damon Evans. President Wallace D. Loh announced his retirement in June 2019, following the death of a football player last June and revelations that the football program was plagued with coaching abuse. Reportedly, Loh wanted to fire Durkin, but the regents informed him that they would simply fire Loh instead and replace him with someone who would keep Durkin.

A university spokeswoman on Wednesday evening confirmed Durkin’s departure.

Two separate investigations organized by the regents revealed that the university was at fault for the death of Jordan McNair, as well as the coaching abuse.

October 30, 2018

Signs saying "It's OK to be white" appeared at the University of Vermont and Champlain College this weekend, the Associated Press reported. Similar signs have appeared at other campuses, linked to white nationalist groups that seek to inflame racial tensions on campus. Authorities said they do not believe any students at the two colleges were involved in putting up the signs.

October 30, 2018

Professors are most likely to serve as mentors to undergraduate students, according to the results of a new survey, which found that 64 percent of recent graduates who reported having a mentor during college said their mentor was a professor. The next most common category was a college staff member.

The results are from the fourth annual version of the Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, an iteration of the Gallup-Purdue Index that was rolled out in 2014. The nationally representative survey adds measures of life and job fulfillment to traditional metrics for assessing the value of a college education, such as job-placement rates and alumni salaries. (Gallup conducts some surveys for Inside Higher Ed, but this publication played no role in this survey.)

In this latest version, the survey found that recent graduates who were first-generation college students or members of minority groups were substantially less likely to identify a professor as their mentor.

"Prior research has suggested that mentees seek mentors with similar experiences and backgrounds, and that minority students often seek mentors of the same race/ethnicity and find information more helpful when their mentor is of the same race/ethnicity," the report said. "Unfortunately, minorities remain underrepresented in higher education."

Just 30 percent of respondents said the career advice they received from their college career services office was helpful or very helpful, the survey found, while 49 percent said the same of advice they received from faculty or staff members.

The survey also probed recent graduates about the academic challenge of college. Graduates who strongly agreed that they were challenged academically were 2.4 times more likely to say their education was worth the cost and 3.6 times more likely to say they were prepared for life outside of college.

October 30, 2018

China’s army has sponsored more than 2,500 military scientists and engineers to study abroad since 2007, according to a new report on Chinese military collaborations with foreign universities published by an Australian think tank titled "Picking Flowers, Making Honey."

The report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institutes says that visiting scientists from the People’s Liberation Army work in high-tech fields such as quantum physics, signal processing, cryptography, navigation technology and autonomous vehicles. Some travel abroad to complete their entire doctorates overseas, while others travel for shorter stints as visiting scholars. Many come from Chinese military academies.

The report finds that the number of peer-reviewed publications coauthored by PLA and overseas scholars has increased steadily since 2008. The top destination for Chinese military scientists going abroad appears to be the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany.

While it seems that the majority of visiting PLA scholars are open about their military affiliations, the report identifies two dozen cases of scientists traveling under cover.

The report includes recommendations for both universities and governments and argues that current policies do not adequately address issues raised by collaborations with the PLA.

“While foreign universities’ ties with the PLA have grown, it isn’t clear that universities have developed an understanding of the PLA and how their collaboration with it differs from familiar forms of scientific collaboration,” says the report, which was authored by Alex Joske. “To date, there’s been no significant public discussion on why universities should be directly contributing to the technology of a non-allied military. Importantly, there’s also little evidence that universities are making any meaningful distinction between collaboration with the Chinese military and the rest of their collaboration with China.”

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