Higher Education Quick Takes
The American Political Science Association annual meeting should have been going strong today, but was called off because Hurricane Isaac hit the location, New Orleans. Some political scientists will not be deterred, however, from sharing their papers. Some are using the meeting's #APSA2012 hashtag to do so, while others are using a new hashtag, #VirtualAPSA2012. Still others are planning to use Google + "hangout" features to share and discuss papers. The Johns Hopkins University Press, which would have been in the exhibit hall of the meeting, created a virtual book exhibit.
The top two leaders of the agriculture college at the University of California at Davis (an institution long known for its agriculture programs) have resigned, The Sacramento Bee reported. Neal Van Alfen, the dean, and James D. MacDonald, executive associate dean, quit after Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi started a search for a new dean with two years left in Van Alfen's term as dean.
A new survey of parents by Fidelity has found that only 31 percent with college-bound children are considering "the total cost" of college, defined as including graduating with debt, and the impact of college attended and program completed on earnings potential. Of families looking broadly at those issues, a majority are changing their plans due in part to concerns about student loan debt. More than a third are opting for less expensive colleges than they might have considered earlier.
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the Big Easy found itself once again pummeled by a powerful storm. While it lacks the force of its notorious predecessor, Hurricane Isaac has brought powerful winds and many inches of rain to the storm-weary Gulf Coast, leaving hundreds of thousands without power in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana. Among the many people and places that have lost electricity: Dillard University, one of the institutions hardest-hit by Katrina.
While no campus wants to find itself in the path of a hurricane, Dillard's new president, Walter Kimbrough, said that he expects the university will come through the storm relatively unscathed, suffering only from downed power lines, fallen tree limbs, and perhaps some roof damage.
A key difference between Isaac and Katrina: "Last time, that levee [next to Dillard] broke -- it poured right into the back of campus," Kimbrough said. Now, Dillard is safeguarded by a whole new flood protection system -- which Kimbrough, in a prescient move, personally toured just a few weeks earlier. As a result, Kimbrough believes, flooding is "not an issue for us."
Dillard students were sent to Centenary College, in Shreveport, safely out of the way of the storm; Kimbrough remains at his home in New Orleans, waiting for the winds to die down enough that he can get out and inspect the damage to his campus. But he is confident that Dillard, along with the rest of New Orleans, is much better-prepared this time around: "I think now people understand the new realities of this region, [that] based on the things that are happening to the topography, we're more susceptible [to hurricanes]."
A University of Maryland at College Park study of undergraduates' political news consumption habits suggests that students are spending little time on election news. The study -- whose lead investigator, Elia Powers, is a former Inside Higher Ed reporter -- asked students to keep track of how much time they spent following the news before, during and after Super Tuesday, when 10 states voted in the Republican presidential primary. Most students spent less than 30 minutes over three days, including the day of voting, consuming political news, the study found. (One possible explanation researchers noted: Only 28 of the more than 150 students studied identified as Republicans. Still, those Republicans weren't more engaged than other students.)
Roger Jenkins, dean of business at Miami University in Ohio, announced his retirement Monday, a week after it became public that he had returned to a court-appointed receiver $1.25 million in consulting fees from a man convicted of running a Ponzi scheme, The Dayton Daily News reported. In a memo to the faculty, Jenkins has denied wrongdoing, but noted that perceptions matter. "As with any deeply personal relationship and within every family, there are complex nuances that, if and when brought to light, due to surface appearance and the absence of context, are exceptionally difficult for others to understand,” he wrote. “And ironically, the reality is that perceptions matter. I have therefore concluded that my work here at the Farmer School will come to a close at the end of the semester, in no small part because this will complete a most unfortunate chapter in Miami’s history that has simply gone on too long."
The University of Texas at Austin announced Wednesday that it has it has closed an inquiry into allegations of scientific misconduct against one of its faculty members, Mark Regnerus, over a paper he wrote that found children are generally better off if they have a married mother and father. The paper, which appeared in the journal Social Science Research, has been highly controversial. Many scholars have said that his sampling techniques resulted in a pool of research subjects that resulted in unfairly negative assessments about the children of same-sex couples -- and one writer on the issue filed a complaint of scholarly misconduct. Critics of same-sex marriage have showered praise on the study.
Under Texas rules, all such complaints are evaluated to determine whether a full-scale investigation is needed, which in this case the university said was not needed. The university said that there was no evidence of scientific misconduct, even that scholarly disagreement could not be considered misconduct.
A memo released by the university outlined the reasons for dropping the matter: "Whether the research ... possessed significant limitations or was even perhaps seriously flawed is a determination that should be left to debates that are currently underway in the academy and future research that validates or invalidates his findings. Professor Regnerus has stated that the data on which the research at issue was based will soon be made publicly available. At that time scholars can examine the data themselves and arrive at their own conclusions."
A federal report released Tuesday highlights significant gaps that exist in access to and persistence in American higher education by race and gender -- but has little to say about the sizable inequities that divide Americans from low-income backgrounds from those higher up the income ladder. The statistics in the report track the progress of students by race and gender from early education through their performance in college.