Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Montana must make numerous, comprehensive changes to its sexual assault policies and procedures, under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The resolution agreement ends a year-long investigation into whether the university and its campus safety department had a systemic problem in responding to sexual assault allegations promptly and effectively.

The resolution agreement -- which officials said was tailored to Montana but should be heeded by other colleges as a model for sexual assault prevention and response -- indicates that the university, while it has made some progress, still must take several steps to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit sex discrimination and sexual assault and harassment in education programs. Those steps include educating students, employees and public safety officers on what constitutes sexual harassment, and how to report it; implementing a system to track sexual harassment complaints from initial report to final resolution; conducting annual student climate surveys and evaluating whether remedies are effective or more changes are needed; ensuring that campus safety officers, as first responders, meet victims’ needs immediately and make sure the justice system is known, open and available to them; and increasing efficiencies in the Office of Public Safety.

Federal officials acknowledged the positive work that Montana has already done. Last summer, it began requiring all students to take a sexual assault tutorial before registering for second-semester classes. The investigation followed nearly a dozen sexual assault reports at Montana, the most high-profile of which (and the one that prompted federal officials to enter the fray) involving athletes, and a university-commissioned report that determined Montana had “a problem” and should be investigated further. The Justice Department is still investigating city law enforcement in Missoula, and encouraged better cooperation between campus and local police.

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

Several major publishers will experiment with offering free course materials to Coursera users enrolled in the Silicon Valley-based company's massive open online courses. The partnership, which involves Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, SAGE, and Wiley will deliver material using Chegg, a company that offers an e-book platform. According to Coursera, while professors teaching MOOCs on its platform have been able to assign free high-quality content, they will now be able to work with publishers to "provide an even wider variety of carefully curated teaching and learning materials at no cost to the student." Coursera has, however, generated some revenue from the Amazon.com affiliates program wherein users buy books suggested by professors.

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Senators Marco Rubio, Ron Wyden and Mark Warner introduced a bill Thursday to require colleges to disclose data about their students' salaries in the first year after graduation. The measure would require colleges to break down salary data by major or program of study, as well as require them to report more information on remediation rates, debt for students who graduate and those who drop out, and continuation rates to graduate education. It would also disaggregate outcomes for Pell Grant and G.I. Bill recipients.

The bill would also repeal the ban on a federal unit record data system to track students' outcomes in college and beyond. The previous version of the bill would have circumvented the ban by linking state unit record databases. Some House Republicans, privacy advocates and private colleges strongly opposed the creation of such a database in 2006, when it was proposed by the Bush administration.

The bill, the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, was first introduced in the last Congress; since then, transparency about graduates' debt and salaries has become a point of agreement for the Obama administration and some Congressional Republicans. Many colleges oppose it, arguing that information about salaries doesn't accurately capture the value of a higher education, particularly only one year after graduation. The measure picked up a new Democratic co-sponsor, Warner, of Virginia. The bill's counterpart in the House of Representatives was co-sponsored by Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, and Robert Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey.

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 3:00am

A new report from the American Association of University Women makes several recommendations for furthering women’s success in community colleges, a goal the report calls “too often overlooked.”  Based on their research, authors Andresse St. Rose and Catherine Hill make two primary recommendations: “Support student parents” and “Increase the number of women in nontraditional fields, including STEM.”

"While we celebrate the accessibility that community colleges provide women … access alone is not enough," St. Rose said in a conference call Thursday.

According to the report, women make up 57 percent of the students who attend community colleges; many of these women are financially limited and/or academically underprepared, and about 25 percent have children. As such, the report recommends increases in on-campus child care at community colleges, which is offered at fewer than half of such institutions.

The report also singles out the Career Pathways Initiative (CPI), a program for low-income parents offered at all of Arkansas' community colleges, for praise. CPI offers assistance to low-income parents through a combination of tutoring, academic advising and career services. "More schools and states need to follow this example," St. Rose said during the call.

Associate Degrees Conferred by Community Colleges, by Gender, 2009–2010

Major Women Men
Health professions and related programs 84,526 15,778
Education 11,577 2,877
Computer and information sciences 3,359 10,860
Engineering technologies 2,628 15,629
Personal and culinary services 2,500 1,560
Mechanic and repair technologies/technicians 785 11,332
Mathematics and statistics 317 690
Engineering 282 1,902
Construction trades 210 3,073

Source: AAUW analysis of U.S. Department of Education, 2010.

St. Rose and Hill also call for expanded information and support for women seeking degrees in STEM fields; women enrolled in community colleges, they say, currently tend toward traditionally female fields such as nursing, education and cosmetology, and are therefore underrepresented in STEM-related areas (see table). Their recommendations on this include more active recruitment, ensuring that academic advising programs are not reinforcing gender stereotypes and bolstering the gender equity provisions found in the Perkins Act, which provides federal support for technical education.

Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 3:00am

An instructor at Barnard College has thrown out several quizzes and added a final exam in response to cheating allegations.  In a statement via e-mail, Barnard's vice provost, Hilary Link, said that "the college takes all allegations of cheating seriously. In this particular situation, college procedure was followed in that the professor, in consultation with relevant committees and her department chair, discounted quizzes because of a serious concern that academic integrity may have been compromised. In accordance with college policy, the professor supplemented the course assessment with a final exam. To date, no Barnard students have been identified as having cheated."

 

Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Zlatan Krizan of Iowa State University explains the role played by envy in creating a narcissistic personality. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 3:00am

Students at Cooper Union took over the office of President Jamshed Bharucha on Wednesday, while he was not there. Students say that they are angry not only at the move to start charging tuition, but their sense that they have been left out of decision-making at the university. A spokeswoman for Cooper Union said that the protest was "a peaceful non-violent action and we continue discussions with students."

Here is a video made by students in the protest outlining their views:

 

 

The students are also documenting the protest on Twitter.

 

Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 3:00am

Strayer University this summer will begin offering a scholarship under which undergraduates can earn a free senior year if they stick with their degree programs, the for-profit institution announced this week. Students will qualify for a free course credit for every three they compete, and can earn the full 25 percent discount on a degree as long as they do not take two consecutive quarters off. The "graduate fund" builds on a new tuition freeze and an existing, substantial scholarship program the university created last year. Several major for-profits have discounted their prices amid a general trend of declining enrollment.

Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 3:00am

Stephen Hawking on Wednesday stunned Israelis and set off a day of mixed reports about his motives for calling off plans to attend a major conference in Israel next month. But by the end of the day, it appeared clear that he was honoring the boycott of Israel set up by some pro-Palestinian groups. Early Wednesday, word spread that Hawking was going to skip the conference due to the boycott, but then a spokesman for the University of Cambridge, where Hawking is on the faculty, told The Guardian that the reason the visit had been called off was the scientist's health. Subsequently, the spokesman said he had been wrong, and that Hawking did want to honor the boycott.

The Guardian printed an excerpt from a letter Hawking sent to conference organizers in which he said: "I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster."

The decision of Hawking to honor the boycott was greeted as a huge boost to the movement to encourage scholars and others to stay away from Israel. For Israelis and supporters, to have such a prominent scientist honor the boycott -- which has been criticized as antithetical to academic values by many American scholarly groups -- was a major blow.

 

Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 3:00am

A low level of educational attainment is the one common characteristic of California's working poor, according to a new report from the Campaign for College Opportunity, a California-based advocacy group. About one in five adult Californians have not earned a high school degree or its equivalent, the report said, and the state is facing a workforce shortage of 2.3 million college graduates by 2025. To help fix the problem the group recommended better coordination between the state's K-12 and higher education systems as well as a statewide data system to track students' progress.

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