Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 3:00am

Walter M. Kimbrough has attracted considerable attention as president of Philander Smith College, a historically black college, for efforts to improve black male retention rates and for connecting with students through such tools as his Twitter feed, HipHopPrez. On Tuesday, he was named the next president of Dillard University, a historically black institution in New Orleans that was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, but that has since bounced back.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 4:24am

Pearson, the e-learning company, is teaming up with the adaptive software developer Knewton to improve its popular line of e-tutoring products. In a release on Tuesday, the company announced that "Knewton’s engine will power Pearson’s digital content, including its popular MyLab and Mastering series." That "engine" is Knewton's learning platform, which uses algorithms "identifies each student’s strengths, weaknesses and unique learning style" and adapts accordingly as he work through problem sets. Pearson and Knewton have both been on the front edge of a trend in e-learning software that emphasizes "personalized" learning experiences, especially for students in developmental programs.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 3:00am

A recent nationwide study found that the shared student experience of the "freshman 15" is nothing more than a myth. In reality, women gain 2.4 pounds and men gain 3.4 pounds on average,  according to the study. The study, conducted by Jay Zagorsky, an Ohio State University researcher, and Patricia Smith, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, pulled data from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which cataloged statistics, including weight, of more than 7,000 people age 13 to 17. The participants have been interviewed every year since 1997. The study results showed that college students gain weight slowly throughout college, and no more than 10 percent of all college freshman actually gained 15 pounds or more.

"Repeated use of the phrase “the Freshman 15,” even if it is being used just as a catchy alliterative figure of speech, may contribute to the misperception of being overweight, especially among young women," the study states.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 4:30am

Stanford University initially turned down an offer from an organization with ties to China's government for $4 million that would have, in part, endowed a professorship in Chinese culture and language because one condition would have barred professors hired with the funds from talking about Tibet, Bloomberg reported. The funds came through the organization sponsoring Confucius Institutes at many American colleges and universities. (Stanford subsequently accepted the funds in another way, supporting programs for which the Tibet issue didn't come up, and so avoiding the question of Tibet.) Officials from many of the colleges that have taken the funds said that the institutes did not have such strings attached to their funds. But some Asian studies scholars see much too close a connection between the funds and various ambitions of China's government. "By peddling a product we want, namely Chinese language study, the Confucius Institutes bring the Chinese government into the American academy in powerful ways," said Jonathan Lipman, a professor of Chinese history at Mount Holyoke College. "The general pattern is very clear. They can say, 'We’ll give you this money, you’ll have a Chinese program, and nobody will talk about Tibet.' In this economy, turning them down has real costs."


Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Bevil Conway explains how the brain creates color and reveals methods artists have used to compensate for the shifting color palette of human perception. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 4:36am

Colorado voters on Tuesday rejected a referendum that would have, for five years, restored certain taxes cut in recent years, and designated the revenue gained to support schools and colleges. The Denver Post reported that, with 61 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was attracting support from only 35 percent of voters.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 3:00am

Investigations by Tilburg and Groningen Universities, in the Netherlands, have found that Diederik Stapel faked research data that was used in at least 30 research papers, Dutch News reported. Stapel, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at Tilburg, was suspended in September as inquiries began into some of his work. In a statement Stapel posted on a newspaper site, he said that he has "failed as a researcher and academic," adding that "I realize now that my behavior has stunned and angered my colleagues and put my area of expertise – social psychology – in a bad light."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 3:00am

Republicans have for weeks been attacking Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, as a liberal academic, citing her career teaching at Harvard University. Warren's academic ties may be helping her out, however, in raising money from fellow professors. The Associated Press reported that nearly $124,000, or 9 percent of Warren's itemized donations, have come from academics, many of them at leading universities.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 4:32am

Cooper Union, which has offered a top engineering and architecture education without charging anyone tuition for more than a century, may have to start charging tuition, The New York Times reported. The institution has made no decision on tuition, and officials have said that any tuition plan would not affect low-income students. Financial difficulties have raised the need to charge, Cooper Union leaders say. Many alumni and students are furious about the potential end of a tradition that they see as central to Cooper Union. Students are planning to walk out of classes Wednesday as part of a protest. A petition to preserve free tuition has attracted more than 2,000 signatures.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 4:36am

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has released a letter finding Spring Arbor University to have violated the civil rights of a student with a mental health disability when it required him, after withdrawing voluntarily and in good academic standing, to meet certain conditions for readmission. OCR faulted the university for not determining that the student posed a "direct threat," which would have justified those conditions. A brief analysis of the case by the National Association of College and University Attorneys noted that OCR -- consistent with recent Justice Department interpretations but in a shift for OCR -- indicated that the threat would have to be against others, not to the student himself and others.



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