Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 14, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute: Ned Laff, Director at the Center for the Junior Year and teaching faculty at Governors State University, examines how a different kind of thinking can transform how this education is perceived in our society. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 13, 2017

Picture of Stonewall Jackson statue at Virginia Military Institute, behind a line of red cannons.Virginia Military Institute will keep up its statue of Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate general. VMI issued a joint statement from John William Boland, its board chair and General J. H. Binford Peay III, its superintendent, that did not name Jackson or use the word "Confederate."

"We will continue to learn from our history, yet be ultimately guided by our best judgment in how to achieve our mission," said the statement. "That is why, today, the VMI Board of Visitors endorses continuing to acknowledge all those who are part of the history of the Institute. We choose not to honor their weaknesses, but to recognize their strengths. We will continue to learn and not to repeat divisions. We strongly encourage all to move forward together in the defense and advancement of our nation."

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that VMI officials said they might add more context to the Jackson monument. Some said VMI might add a plaque honoring its alumni who fought for the United States in the Civil War. VMI has abandoned other traditions with Confederate roots, such as singing "Dixie" and having cadets salute the Jackson statue, officials noted.

September 13, 2017

Image shows a white sheet with the following message: There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people. In honor of those killed and displaced by America’s so-called war on terror.Someone (or a group of people) hung a banner from the roof of a dining hall at Amherst College Monday, and the college has been criticized on conservative websites over the message on the banner, and its timing, appearing Sept. 11. The banner says, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people,” followed by “In honor of those killed and displaced by America’s so-called war on terror.” The banner has prompted much anger on social media, and conservative media entities have published critical stories about it. The flag quote comes from Howard Zinn, the late radical historian.

An Amherst spokeswoman said that the college does not know who put up the banner. And while the college has criticized the banner, it has defended the right of whoever placed it there to express a point of view.

A statement from the college said, "The college found the message deeply insensitive, especially on that particular day. We commemorated the victims of Sept. 11 on campus, online and on our social media channels in what we believe was an appropriate manner for our community. Free speech enables all citizens of this country to express their opinions, even if their views are expressed in a manner that might offend. Particularly as an institution that champions academic freedom and freedom of expression, the college has an obligation to uphold that right."

September 13, 2017

In today’s “Inside Digital Learning”:

September 13, 2017

Birmingham-Southern College is the latest college to roll out a tuition reset in recent weeks, announcing Tuesday that it will cut tuition and mandatory fees by more than half starting in the fall of 2018.

Starting next year, tuition will be $17,650, according to AL.com. That’s down from $35,840 this academic year.

The college anticipates being able to grow beyond its current enrollment of 1,300 students after slashing tuition. It currently has capacity to grow to 1,600 students.

President Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith said that the college has heard from students and families that high published prices are a barrier. The college will still award need-based and non-need-based financial aid, although its financial aid amounts will be reduced by the tuition cut. Students are expected to pay a net cost similar to what they pay today. More than 90 percent of students do not pay the college’s published price.

Birmingham-Southern joins colleges like Sweet Briar College in Virginia and Drew University in New Jersey in announcing tuition resets for next year. But even compared to those institutions, its expected cut is steep. Sweet Briar will cut its sticker price by about a third, and Drew will cut its by 20 percent.

September 13, 2017

Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, and Sen. Ron Portman, an Ohio Republican, announced a bill Tuesday that aims to better connect homeless students and foster youth with the financial support they need to attend college. 

The bill would streamline the verification process to determine that a student is independent and remove requirements that they must have that status re-determined every year they are in school. It would also require that homeless and foster students be charged in-state tuition rates. And the bill would direct colleges and universities to publicize financial aid and resources available for those students and to set up a single point of contact on campus to help them find and obtain assistance. 

September 13, 2017

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges has issued a new white paper with guidelines to help leaders with the difficult issues of free speech and expression.

With protests and other free speech issues expected to take center stage on many campuses this fall, AGB brought together 25 experts including higher education leaders and legal scholars this summer, creating the paper. It intends the paper as a way to help universities protect free speech rights and academic freedom while still weighing safety issues.

It includes six guidelines:

  1. Board members should be well informed about the rights established by the First Amendment, and its principles, and how they apply to the campus’s commitment to freedom of speech.
  2. Governing boards should understand and recognize the alignment between freedom of speech and academic freedom.
  3. Governing boards should ensure that policies that clarify campus freedom of speech rights are reflective of institutional mission and values.
  4. Board discussion and debate should model civil and open dialogue.
  5. Board members should encourage presidents to initiate communication with and be available to those students who want to be heard by institutional leaders about campus culture and issues related to freedom of speech.
  6. Governing boards should make clear their support of presidents in the implementation of campus freedom of speech policies.
September 13, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute: Tricia Seifert, associate professor of adult and higher education at Montana State University, explores whether a different path might be needed in the future. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 12, 2017

Anthropologists at the University of California, Berkeley, and other scholars are drawing attention to some rescheduling the university's library encouraged the rescheduling of a long planned lecture by a leading scholar because it coincides with a planned appearance on campus the same day this month by Milo Yiannopoulos, the conservative speaker known for inflammatory statements and drawing protests, some of them violent. Some reports on social media indicated that Berkeley required the rescheduling but the administration said only that the library (where the anthropologists' talk was scheduled) recommended rescheduling a lecture by Anna Tsing, a professor of anthropology at UC Santa Cruz. (The lecture has been postponed until November.) Berkeley officials have said that they are determined to show the university's commitment to free speech by letting Yiannopoulos speak on campus

An open letter from scholars questions whether something is wrong when efforts to protect Yiannopoulos result in scheduling conflicts for scholarly events planned months ago.

"While we understand the library administration’s concern for the safety and security of people on campus, we are deeply troubled by the fact that the university is willing to prioritize a vitriolic white supremacist speaker, who seeks to disrupt academic life through his performance, over and above a renowned scholar and thinker committed to thoughtful scholarly engagement," says the letter. "If this 'Year of Free Speech' is about giving an equal platform to all speakers, it would seem that it has already failed. Hate speech has taken precedence over academic discourse."


September 12, 2017

A survey of 418 high school seniors by Art & Science Group, which advises colleges on their admissions strategies, finds liberal arts colleges may be better understood than some fear, but they aren't attractive with prospective college students. The poll found that most of the students associated liberal arts colleges with qualities the colleges themselves promote (class discussions, close faculty-student interaction, etc.). But when students were given descriptions of colleges (identical except for whether or not "liberal arts" was included in the profile), they rated hypothetical colleges using the term "liberal arts" lower than they rated those that did not.


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