Higher Education Quick Takes
Some typos are more visible than others. Yahoo! Sports noted that the banner on top of dugout at the College World Series had a non-baseball error: College was spelled as "colllege" with an extra L, prompting considerable discussion on Twitter and elsewhere.
Sports Illustrated has published damning new reports on the investigative arm of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and of the football program of the University of Miami.
The enforcement division has "gone from bad to worse," one article says. It notes many departures of key people in the division, a campaign (much mocked internally) to boost morale through the use of corporate buzzwords and complaints about Mark Emmert, the NCAA president. Emmert is said to focus more on publicity -- he is called by some "King of the Press Conference" -- than on the association's challenges. One former enforcement official told the magazine: "The time is ripe to cheat. There's no policing going on." Emmert declined to comment for the piece.
The article on Miami meanwhile includes allegations that a one-time booster, Nevin Shapiro, whose past allegations have already led to numerous problems for the university, "used inside information from Hurricanes players, coaches and athletic department staffers to win bets on 23 Miami football games" between 2003 and 2009.
Scientists in Russia are objecting to the addition of a theology department at the National Research Nuclear University, in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported. Many researchers see the move as inappropriate at a secular university and inconsistent with the focus on science at the institution. Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, however, say that the administration thought of the idea of adding the department, and that it will offer a wide range of programs.
Since 2006, the athletics department at the University of Colorado at Boulder has paid nearly $9.8 million in severance payments to former coaches and other employees, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. The payments are generating scrutiny because the department currently has a $7.5 million deficit. Jerry Peterson, a physics professor and chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said that "we all recognize that the Boulder campus is facing tight financial times, and that [nearly] $10 million -- even if it's over several years -- is a loss to academics."
Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed Friday a bill that would have required appointees to the state's higher education governing boards to attend "a training program that provides instruction in ethics, conflict-of-interest law, and the role of a governing board in a higher education institution or system and that is conducted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, by the system office of a university system, or by the office of a governing board that does not govern a university system" before they voted on personnel or governance matters. The current law does not require any kind of formal training. The bill would have also prevented the governor from making interim appointments to the board while the legislature was out of session.
The UT system's board has become the epicenter of a perceived conflict about the shape and direction of higher education in the state, particularly the University of Texas at Austin. Multiple reports over the past few years have suggested that the governor is pushing the regents to remove UT-Austin President William Powers, who has criticized some of the governor's views on higher education. In February the governor appointed three regents to fill vacancies. The Senate confirmed those appointees in May. (This story has been updated to correct the bill's requirements and the status of the appointees.)
You'll find no shortage of reports and ideas about how to reform graduate education -- shorten time to degree, make options outside the professoriate more attractive, etc. Few of the proposals come from those with arguably the biggest stake in the results: graduate students themselves. But the National Science Foundation has sought to change that, with its Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge, which offered grad students awards for their ideas about strengthening graduate education and academic professional development.
Thursday, the NSF announced the winners of its challenge, drawn from more than 500 teams that submitted proposals. The winning entries, which earned prizes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, included several aimed at improving how scholars communicate their findings and the value of their work to the public and a plan to create a web portal that would help graduate students manage their progress to a degree and find mentors and jobs.
Faculty members at St. Cloud State University have noticed an increasing number of instances in where failing or low grades were removed from students' transcripts without the professors being consulted, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Devinder Molhotr, the provost, said that it has become clear that proper protocol -- which would include faculty consultation -- hasn't always been followed. He said that a "very specific protocol" should prevent future problems.
Periodic debates break out among historians over whether the field of military history receives sufficient attention. In an effort to promote the field, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation has announced a new $50,000 prize for the best military history book each year. Josiah Bunting III, president of the foundation, said in a statement: "It is our hope that the establishment of this prize will draw public attention to the field's continuing utility as an important staple of education in international politics, diplomacy, and conflict, and to assist in the restoration of military history to an important place in university curricula. If we do not learn from the conflicts of the past, we will be doomed to repeat them. For the sake of all, we cannot allow this area of scholarship and thinking to atrophy in the United States or abroad."
In a decision that could have ramifications for medical researchers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that isolated human genes could not be patented, though it said synthetic genes could be eligible for patents. Researchers hailed the decision, saying it brings clarity to a fast-changing area of research and opens that area up to greater investigation.
“The right to control exclusively the use of a patient’s genes could have made it more difficult to access new tests and treatments that rely on novel technologies that can quickly determine the sequence of any of the estimated 20,000 genes in the human genome,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in a statement. “Such approaches form the cornerstone of the rapidly emerging field of personalized medicine, in which diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies can be tailored to each person’s unique genetic makeup.”
The case attracted attention from the higher education community, with multiple research and law groups weighing in on it at various levels. Groups such as the American Medical Association opposed the right to patent genes. The Association of University Technology Managers, a group that represents technology-transfer officers, supported the right.