Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 3:00am

Lawyers for Aaron Swartz's estate last week filed a motion to have the court that would have tried him release all the documents in the controversial case involving the crusader for public access to information. Many of those documents relate to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has been criticized by Swartz supporters for not trying to have the charges against him dismissed. On Tuesday, MIT President L. Rafael Reif released a statement indicating that MIT will release the documents, but with names redacted and only at the time that MIT finishes its review of the way it handled the case.

Reif explained his decision this way: "At MIT, we believe in openness, and we are not afraid to reexamine our own actions; indeed, it was with those values in mind that I asked Professor Hal Abelson to undertake his analysis following Aaron Swartz’s tragic suicide. But I believe that openness must be balanced with reasonable concern for privacy and safety. That is especially true in this situation. In the time since Aaron Swartz’s suicide, we have seen a pattern of harassment and personal threats. In this volatile atmosphere, I have the responsibility to protect the privacy and safety of those members of our community who have become involved in this matter in the course of doing their jobs for MIT, and to ensure a safe environment for all of us who call MIT home."


Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 3:00am

The American Council on Education on Tuesday named 50 faculty members and administrators to its Fellows Program. The program, in which participants work with executives at other colleges from those that employ them, is known as a stepping stone to top positions in higher education -- more than 300 fellows have gone on to presidencies. The new fellows may be found here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 4:22am

A prominent professor at Columbia University's journalism school has sued the institution, charging it with misusing an endowment fund, The New York Times reported. Sylvia Nasar, co-director of the business journalism program and author of A Beautiful Mind, charges that Columbia was supposed to match a $1.5 million gift for an endowed chair Nasar holds, so that Nasar or others holding the chair would have funds both for salary and research. Instead, the suit charges, Columbia didn't match the funds and Nasar had to pay for many of her research expenses. Columbia has declined to comment on the suit, saying it does not discuss litigation.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 4:28am

Columbia University on Monday announced two winners of the Bancroft Prize for books about history. The winners are:

  • W. Jeffrey Bolster, associate professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, for The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012).
  • John Fabian Witt, Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale University, for Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (Free Press, 2012).


Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

The U.S. Justice Department has announced a settlement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey over complaints that its medical school and osteopathic medical school discriminated against students with Hepatitis B. The medical schools revoked the acceptance of students with Hepatitis B, and the Justice Department found this to be illegal discrimination based on disability because no requirements of the medical school programs would have created any dangers by the participation of students with Hepatitis B. The university's action "contradicts" guidance on the issue from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Justice Department statement said. The university has agreed to admit the students and to compensate them for what happened.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

In order to make good on an earlier pledge to freeze tuition for at least two years, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, formerly Indiana's Republican governor, announced in a letter Monday that the university would be looking for at least $40 million in savings over the biennium. "It has been too easy in higher education for institutions to decide first what they would like to spend, and then raise student bills to produce the desired funds," Daniels wrote. "That approach has run its course. At Purdue, we will make our first goal affordability, accommodating our spending to students’ budgets and not the other way around."

As a first step toward accomplishing those savings, Daniels announced that he would eliminate merit pay raises for all senior administrators, deans and administrative and professional staff with salaries of more than $50,000 for the next two years, a move projected to save $5 million. The freeze would not apply to faculty members. He also said in a Faculty Senate meeting Monday to expect additional announcements later this month.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Thunderbird School of Global Management and Laureate Education announced plans Monday for a joint venture in which the Arizona-based business school would establish academic programs through the for-profit education provider's campuses in cities around the world. Under the arrangement, which is expected to be finalized in June, Thunderbird would remain nonprofit but would look to offer instruction at Laureate campuses in places such as Madrid, Paris, Santiago, Chile, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

At a time of increased scrutiny of law schools, Florida Coastal School of Law has announced the Assured Outcomes Partnership, which it says it intended to “support shared accountability between the school and its students for success in the areas of academic performance, experiential learning, and bar exam passage”.

Under the program:

  • Students will not be academically dismissed during their first year, as long as they meet several conditions, including complying with the attendance policy, attending writing workshops and involvement in the Bar Coaching Program.
  • Students who meet these requirements and are academically dismissed after their first year will receive a refund of $10,000.
  • Students who do not pass the bar exam on the first attempt but are in compliance with the conditions will receive a living stipend while preparing to retake the exam, as well as preparation materials free of charge. Students who make two unsuccessful attempts will receive a $10,000 refund.
  • Students who follow the program but are unable to obtain “substantive practical legal work experience” while enrolled will receive $2,000.

Peter Goplerud, the dean of the law school, said in an interview that the initiative was not in response to a crisis. “Bar results over the last several years have been in the range from about 76 percent first time pass to low 80s on the Florida exam,” Goplerud said, “and our idea in putting this together really was to leverage some of the things that we’ve been doing but to beef it up a little by creating what really is a partnership so that the students have clear-cut responsibilities themselves and shared accountabilities for the outcomes.” (The law school's 2012 bar admission statistics are available here.)

Not everyone is pleased with the development; the non-profit Law School Transparency declined to comment, but linked to a post on the law blog “Above the Law” by Elie Mystal, which says the initiative “only sounds nice if you don’t read the fine print.” “I don’t know what kind of mathematically challenged people think that getting a $10K refund after spending nearly $120K to go to law school and not passing the bar is a good deal,” writes Mystal. “It’s an argument that will only work on stupid people, but that’s kind of the point.”

Goplerud said that he has talked to others that are “very intrigued by it.”


Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

Leading universities such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully lobbied for the defeat of proposed new ways for the government to pay for research overhead, The Boston Globe reported. Currently universities negotiate rates for a percentage of grants awarded that they receive to cover overhead expenses. Harvard's rate is 69 percent, which is much higher than most rates. The Obama administration wanted to shift to a single flat rate for all institutions, but leading universities opposed the idea and it has now been withdrawn.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Andrew Francis of Emory University explores the role antibiotics played in fueling the Sexual Revolution. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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