Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

The New York Times Company is closing down the Knowledge Network, its five-year-old venture into online learning, a company spokeswoman said on Friday.  The Times announced the venture with much fanfare in 2007, believing that the esteem with which it is held in higher education and especially the depth of its content would give it a leg up in the increasingly crowded distance education market (and, like many newspaper companies, hoping to generate new lines of revenue as its traditional businesses sagged). The company established partnerships with a relatively small number of colleges and other organizations to offer courses jointly as well as offering its own, but the business apparently did not take off.  

"I can confirm that after July 31, Knowledge Network courses will no longer be available online," said Linda Zebian, manager of corporate communications at the Times Company. "We’re examining our education businesses to see how we will structure them in the future to best serve readers and others who are interested in learning with The New York Times."

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Virginia announced Sunday that President Teresa A. Sullivan, in office for just under two years, will resign on August 15. The announcement shocked many at the university, with faculty leaders and prominent campus officials reporting that they had seen no sign of any imminent change in the works, and several said on background that they believed Sullivan had been doing an excellent job.

In a statement, Sullivan cited an unspecified "philosophical difference of opinion" with the board.

A statement from Helen Dragas, the rector (U.Va.'s title for board chair), praised Sullivan, but also suggested a board view that she was insufficiently bold. "[T]he board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face. The pace of change in higher education and in health care has accelerated greatly in the last two years. We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation. The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers. These challenges are truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA," the statement said.

The statement continued by outlining the goal of being in "the top echelon" of universities. "To achieve these aspirations, the board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential. We need a leader with a great willingness to adapt the way we deliver our teaching, research, and patient care to the realities of the external environment. We need a leader who is able to passionately convey a vision to our community, and effectively obtain gifts and buy-in towards our collective goals."

Inside Higher Ed will have a full article on Sullivan's departure tomorrow morning.

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Matt Arnold, a Republican running for the Colorado Board of Regents (Colorado is a state where regents are elected), says it is irrelevant that he has claimed to have a master's degree he did not earn, The Denver Post reported. Arnold has in the past claimed a master's degree from the School of Advanced International Studies, part of Johns Hopkins University. He now says that he did the coursework, but didn't do the required thesis -- and that those questioning his false claim are engaged in "minutiae." He explained that "I was more interested in getting on with my life than trying to, quite frankly, waste more time in pursuit of academic BS that no one cares about." Arnold added that "I think that's one of the big problems, quite frankly, with education these days. We're graduating a bunch of people who hang letters after their names, but they have no useful skills."

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Three people were killed, and three others injured in a shooting Saturday night at an apartment complex near Auburn University that houses many students. Two of those killed were former football players, and one of them was still a student at the university. One of those injured is still on the football team. The university released these statements about the shootings, and is providing extra counseling services on campus.

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

The University Center of Samaria, an Israeli institution in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, is pushing to be declared an official university on par with those in Israel proper, and the request has angered many Israeli academics as well as Palestinians and others who oppose building up Israeli institutions in the West Bank, Haaretz reported. The center currently has temporary status as a "university institution," which provides for it to receive more money than colleges do in Israel, but not as much as universities. That status expires in July, setting off a debate over the future of the institution. The center enrolls nearly 13,000 students. Israeli politicians who are skeptical of giving up the West Bank have backed the expansion of the center, and are pushing for university status.

More than 1,000 professors at universities in Israel have signed a petition opposing any elevation of the center's status, saying that they are opposed to "the attempt to enlist academia in service of the occupation." Some Israeli university presidents have also opposed a new status for the center, saying that such a change would lead to more money being spent there at a time that the other universities need more support.

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Iowa is raising money for its hospitals in part by sharing information about patients with fund raisers for the university foundation, who in turn solicit gifts with letters signed by physicians, The Des Moines Register reported. Further, the foundation is letting physicians know when patients are donors, and the foundation and hospitals are working together on "wealth screenings" of patients. University officials said that these activities are legal and necessary, but some patient advocates expressed dismay.

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Employees at University of Nebraska campuses will be able to sign up their domestic partners for health benefits, following a 5-to-3 vote Friday by the university's Board of Regents, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. University administrators said that extending partner benefits was the right thing to do, and was needed to recruit top faculty members. They noted that all of the other Big 10 institutions (of which Nebraska is a new member) have such policies. Critics accused the university of undermining the institution of marriage.


Monday, June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Amy Guo of Newcastle University explains the development of technology to address issues faced by aging drivers. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 4:20am

The Press-Enterprise describes an awkward situation recently at a high school in Riverside, California when the winner was announced for a scholarship for black students. The winner was white. The student had applied for every possible scholarship, and the application form said only that black students were "encouraged to apply," without any statement that the funds were only for black students. In fact, as materials sent to the high school indicated, the scholarship was only for black students. The original winner returned the funds.


Friday, June 8, 2012 - 3:00am

The board of Florida A&M University voted 8-4 Thursday that it lacks confidence in James Ammons, the university's president, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Ammons has faced much criticism for failing to deal with widespread hazing by the university's band -- hazing that has received considerable attention since the death of a student last year. But questions have also been raised about other issues, including the university's fragile finances and audits suggesting inadequate management controls. Ammons vowed at the board meeting that he would improve. "I hear you loudly and clearly," Ammons said before the vote. " I understand there are some measures I have to take as president of this university to fix things and I'm going to fix them. This is very serious. This is very serious for the future of this university and you have my commitment to fix them and get this job done." The board did not vote to suspend or fire him.


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