NAFSA: Association of International Educators has issued an update to its members regarding new procedures in place to verify Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) status at border checkpoints. NAFSA reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has upgraded databases available to Customs and Border Protection officials in order to flag F, M and J visa-holders whose SEVIS status has been canceled, completed or terminated, thus eliminating the need for students and scholars whose status remains active to be routinely referred to secondary inspection points, as was the practice under an interim policy put in place following the Boston Marathon bombings.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Some students engaged in a non-disruptive protest Tuesday at commencement ceremonies for Teachers College of Columbia University. The Washington Post reported that students held signs saying "Not a Test Score" to protest the awarding of an honor and a speaking role to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents. The students said that reforms pushed by Tisch rely excessively on standardized test scores, to the detriment of educational values. Susan Fuhrman, president of the college, released a letter (covering numerous controversies at the institution) in which she defended the honor for Tisch. "I have been listening closely to objections by some about bestowing the TC Medal of Distinguished Service on New York State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch," Fuhrman wrote. "Let me assure you that our decision to bestow the TC Medal on Chancellor Tisch was made to recognize her body of work and leadership across a range of fields, including education, and does not constitute an institutional endorsement of specific decisions, opinions, or policies. The same standard applies to all of our medalists, and going forward we will broaden community involvement in the selection process."
It's rational for college seniors not to want their days on campus to end (especially with the job market looking the way it is). A group of Bucknell University engineering students did what they could to extend their time in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley with a commencement day prank on Sunday. According to the Bucknell Facebook page, President John Bravman received an e-mail that day informing him, in verse, that the hands of the campus's main clock had gone missing. It read:
"Early this morning as the dew did fall
Made we an effort at time to stall."
It was signed, "Your Hard Working Engineers."
Later in the day, the university's public safety chief got an anonymous tip pointing him to the missing hands.
A former Rutgers University quarterback can move forward with a lawsuit against the video game company Electronic Arts Inc. after a federal appeals court on Tuesday reversed a lower court’s ruling that said the First Amendment protected the company’s right to depict individual players in games. The company’s “NCAA Football” series features avatars that match individual players in height, weight, number – and in plaintiff Ryan Hart’s case, left wrist band – but not in name. While the National Collegiate Athletic Association is not a party to this case, a separate lawsuit against the NCAA -- which likely won't be resolved for a few years -- charges that the association should compensate athletes for benefiting financially from their image.
The number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities was 1.6 percent lower in 2011-12 than it was the year before, but the number of degrees conferred by those institutions was up 5.1 percent, new data from the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics shows. The statistics, published in a report that also presents data on tuition levels, show that colleges that award federal financial aid enrolled a total unduplicated headcount of about 29 million students in 2011-12, down from more than 29.5 million in 2010-11. The biggest drops came among public two-year (down about 250,000 students) and private for-profit (about 200,000 students) colleges, with public four-year universities gaining about 100,000 students and private four-year colleges up slightly. The declines for men and women were roughly proportional.
But despite the smaller pool of students, degree completion increased. The colleges awarded slightly more than 1 million associate degrees (nearly 8 percent more than in 2010-11), and nearly 1.8 million bachelor's degrees, 4.3 percent more than the year before.
Coursera and edX, the two major providers of massive open online courses, continue to partner with more institutions. On Tuesday, edX, a nonprofit started with money from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced it has 15 new partners, including a half dozen in Asia. Both edX and Coursera, a Silicon Valley-based company, have recently touted the global nature of their efforts. Coursera last week gained a prestigious domestic partner: Yale University, which had been taking its time to reflect.
An amendment approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee during the mark-up of the comprehensive immigration reform bill would allow undocumented students who entered the U.S. under age 16 and who are granted registered provisional immigrant status under the DREAM Act to qualify for federal loans and federal work-study. Immigrant farm workers with blue card status would also qualify.
The amendment, which passed on a voice vote, was proposed by Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii. The committee approved the immigration bill in its entirety in a 13-5 vote on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate floor.
Brittney Griner, who led Baylor University to a perfect season and 2012 championship and was the first pick in this year's Women’s National Basketball Association draft, waited to come out as gay until her final season ended because her coach told players not to be publicly open about their sexuality, Griner told ESPN. Coach Kim Mulkey told players it would hurt recruiting and make the program look bad if people thought the staff condoned homosexuality, said Griner, who has been open in her private life since high school. Griner -- one of the most celebrated athletes in college sports – made headlines when she came out in media interviews last month, though some noted that the attention she received was negligible compared to Jason Collins, the NBA player who revealed earlier this month that he is gay. Some of the articles also credited Baylor with publicly supporting Griner, suggesting that the university might be softening its stance on homosexuality.
Three New York University scientists were charged Monday in connection with a conspiracy to accept payments from competing research entities in China in exchange for providing proprietary information about research funded by a National Institutes of Health grant. The three researchers, who were studying MRI technology, allegedly maintained undisclosed financial affiliations with United Imaging Healthcare, a Chinese medical imaging company, and the Shenzen Institute of Advanced Technology, a Chinese government-sponsored research institute.
“As alleged, this is a case of inviting and paying for foxes in the henhouse,” Preet Bharara, a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a press release. “These defendants allegedly colluded with representatives from a Chinese governmental entity and a direct competitor of the university for which they worked to illegally acquire NIH-funded research for the benefit of those entities, as described in the complaint. The defendants also allegedly deceived the university and others about their professional allegiances to competing Chinese interests. The acquisition of federally funded research for the benefit of these Chinese entities is a serious crime and will not be tolerated by this office.”
Yudong Zhu, Xing Yang, and Ye Li are each charged with one count of criminal bribery conspiracy. Zhu is also charged with one count of falsification of records in regards to the NIH grant. Zhu and Yang have been released on bail, as Reuters reported, but Li is believed to have returned to China before charges were brought. As Reuters noted in its report, the case against the three researchers comes at a time when there is increased concern about Chinese theft of U.S. trade secrets.