Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 18, 2014

A coalition of Israel advocacy organizations concerned by what they describe as the prevalence of anti-Israel programming at federally-funded Middle East studies centers are lobbying for changes in the Title VI program that would 1) “[r]equire recipients of Title VI funds to establish grievance procedures to address complaints that programs are not reflecting diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” and 2) “[r]equire the U.S. Department of Education to establish a formal complaint-resolution process similar to that in use to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The full joint statement, signed by 10 groups, is included as an appendix to a new report on “The Morass of Middle East Studies”  issued by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The statement also references a paper produced by the AMCHA Initiative that reports on anti-Semitic activity and an anti-Israel bias in the programming at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Center for Near Eastern Studies. The Brandeis Center and the AMCHA Initiative are both parties to the statement, as are Accuracy in Academia, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Middle East Forum, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the Zionist Organization of America.

The groups behind the statement argue that Middle East studies centers are not being held accountable in regards to a provision of the Higher Education Act requiring Title VI grant applicants to present “an explanation of how the activities funded by the grant will reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs.” They argue that in using tax dollars “to present biased, anti-American, anti-Israel views in their outreach programs,” the federally-funded centers are not serving the national interest. They maintain that, without reforms, Congress should consider cutting Title VI funding to Middle East studies centers altogether.

In an emailed statement, Amy W. Newhall, the executive director of the Middle East Studies Association, rejected such "politically motivated attacks on scholars and academic institutions" as a serious threat to free speech, academic freedom and the role of colleges as sites of free and open discussion. 

“MESA resolutely opposes all forms of hate speech and discrimination, including anti-Semitism,” Newhall wrote. “It supports prompt and forceful action in response to anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses.”

“However, MESA is concerned that some of the reports issued by partisan political groups based outside academia may actually weaken efforts to combat anti-Semitism by portraying all criticism of Israeli policies as a form of anti-Semitism or as ‘anti-Israel.’ Their real goal seems to be to shut down open discussion of issues of public concern by demonizing academic and other critics of Israel, Zionism, and U.S. policy in the Middle East, in many cases by tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism. They are even willing to threaten federal funding for university-based Middle East studies centers, which have a long and distinguished history of providing the United States with thousands of people trained in the languages, politics, cultures and histories of this critical region."

UPDATE: UCLA's media relations office issued a statement saying that the university "remains dedicated to complying with all federal laws and respecting the free and open exchange of ideas representing diverse viewpoints. Academic units all across our campus are constantly working to provide programming that exposes our students and the public to a vast range of perspectives and topics. In fact, three centers at UCLA focus on Middle Eastern Affairs and regularly provide programming on Israel, among other topics: the Center for Near Eastern Studies, the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and the Center for Middle East Development. Israeli academics, students, speakers and artists are regularly part of programming at UCLA. We recognize many subjects may engender passionate debate and difficult conversations and we encourage civil dialogue that appreciates the paramount importance of free expression, academic freedom and a respectful exchange of ideas."

September 18, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Frank Thompson, a professor of fisheries and wildlife sciences at the University of Missouri of Columbia, discusses the declining populations of songbirds. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 17, 2014

Ten professors were among the 21 people named as the latest class of MacArthur Fellows. The fellowship, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, provides $625,000 over five years, no strings attached. Many refer to the program as the "genius awards," even if the foundation doesn't.

Biographies of this year's fellows may be found here.

The academic winners:

  • Danielle Bassett, the Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Tami Bond, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Sarah Deer, professor of law at the William Mitchell College of Law
  • Jennifer L. Eberhardt, associate professor of psychology, at Stanford University
  • Terrance Hayes, professor of writing at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Mark Hersam, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University
  • Jacob Lurie, professor of mathematics at Harvard University
  • Khaled Mattawa, associate professor of English language and literature at the University of Michigan
  • Tara Zahra, professor of East European history at the University of Chicago
  • Yitang Zhang, professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of New Hampshire


     





     

 

 

September 17, 2014

Oakwood University will next month launch the first massive open online course developed by a historically black institution. “World Religions, an Occupational Approach,” which begins Oct. 27, will be hosted on Instructure's MOOC platform, Canvas Network. The university partnered with open educational resources support provider Lumen Learning and the Center for Excellence in Distance Learning, hosted at Wiley College, to produce the MOOC.

Alcorn State and Morgan State University in late 2012 announced plans for the first HBCU-developed MOOCs, but those plans appear not to have come to fruition.

September 17, 2014

The National Association for College Admission Counseling has released a guide for colleges that are considering working with agents in international student recruitment. The report emphasizes the risks of institutions engaging with third-party agents and ethical concerns about paying agents per-capita commissions -- particularly in cases in which students and parents are not aware of the financial relationships between a given institution and an agent -- concluding that, “For these reasons, NACAC does not endorse the practice of commission-based international student recruitment.” But NACAC does now permit the practice (even if it doesn't endorse it) and for those institutions that choose to work with recruitment agents, the report provides advice on such topics as identifying and vetting agents, providing training, and monitoring agency performance. Among other things, the guide recommends that institutions list all of their agency partners on their website and that they contractually prohibit agents from “double-dipping” by charging students for services related to advising and application assistance. The guidance also recommends that contracts stipulate that agencies must disclose to students and their parents the fact that they receive compensation from the institutions that they represent. 

September 17, 2014

George C. Bradley resigned as president of Paine College Tuesday, The Augusta Chronicle reported. Paine is a historically black college that has been placed on probation by its accreditor. Critics have said Bradley has not moved to fix the financial and other problems that led to the probation. A statement from the college said that Bradley is leaving to spend more time with his family.

 

September 17, 2014

It may be a hoax, but an anonymous claim on Facebook has authorities at Old Dominion University investigating whether a student is trying to poison a roommate, WTKR News reported. The claim is on a "confessions" page for the university -- such pages exist for many colleges and students anonymous post about crushes or opinions. In this post, the student allegedly is putting items in the food of a roommate that will make her ill. Authorities announced that they have identified the individual who posted the claim and that no charges have been filed.

 

September 17, 2014

Chegg on Tuesday continued to branch off from textbook rentals with the launch of an online college counseling platform. The service starts at $24 an hour, but members of I'm First, a community for first-generation college students, can receive two hours free of charge. Chegg also offers homework help and career search services.

September 17, 2014

A group of higher education leaders on Tuesday announced a new initiative to urge colleges and universities to promote climate change solutions. Solution Generation aims to provide new communications tools, research and resources so college and university leaders can educate and engage campus constituents on climate change. Like the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, Solution Generation wants institutions to commit to reducing greenhouse emissions and being leaders in promoting climate change solutions. The initiative is intended to be a more mainstream platform for progress on climate change projects, where colleges and universities can collaborate with leaders in other sectors, such as health and business. 

Solution Generation was created in collaboration with ecoAmerica’s MomentUs initiative, which aims to increase support for climate change solutions and clean energy across a wide range of industries. It's funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, ClearPath Foundation and the Linden Trust for Conservation.

September 17, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Felicia Keesing, a biologist at Bard College, profiles biodiversity in the savannas of Africa. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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