Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 15, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Elizabeth Pringle of the University of Michigan reveals how some tropical trees pay armies of ants to defend them against herbivorous pests. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


January 15, 2014

The federal government should create a matching grant program to reward states that maintain and increase their funding for public colleges, by linking the maximum Pell Grant awarded to students in states to per-student funding or higher education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities argues in a new report. The paper documents the decline in states' funding per full-time equivalent college student since 2000 and the role that trend has played in driving up tuition prices (and student debt). 

The report asserts that the federal government can influence state behavior, citing the maintenance of effort provisions that were inserted into the federal stimulus legislation (and other measures) that provided funds to states that kept their own spending on higher education above certain thresholds. Those efforts have not gone far enough, though, AASCU argues, by rewarding states that at least maintained their spending no matter whether their levels were high or low. "A new model is needed that acknowledges existing levels of per-student state support for public higher education and that strategically leverages federal dollars to incentivize additional state investment."

The association calls for a matching grant program of up to $15 billion a year, with grants to states based on how much money they provide per student compared to the Pell Grant maximum award. (A state's federal grant award would be cut if it reduced its spending on public university operating support.)

The proposed additional spending of billions a year may seem like an unlikely luxury in an era when members of Congress are bickering over millions, but AASCU suggests that funds for the program could be derived from "better gatekeeping of institutional eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs (particularly for for-profit colleges), and "risk sharing" for federal student loans.

January 15, 2014

Last week, campuses throughout the Midwest shut down due to dangerously cold weather, but the University of Michigan remained open -- to the frustration of many of its employees and students. Now the university says it is reviewing its procedures for closing during bad weather, MLive.com reported. Provost Martha Pollack told a faculty committee that one reason the university didn't close last week was the lack of procedures to do so. "We didn't have the appropriate mechanisms, even if we wanted to close the university," she said. "That said, after this was all over, I and some of the other executive officers really strongly believe that we ... need to revisit this policy." The university last closed for weather-related reasons in 1978.


January 14, 2014

Aleeha Dudley, who is a blind student, has sued Miami University in Ohio, charging it with violating her rights under federal laws to access to educational materials. With support from the National Federation for the Blind, Dudley's suit charges the university with, among other things, failing to provide her books in Braille and with using course management tools that do not give her access to information (as other tools would). Her suit says that her grades suffer as a result, and the federation says that her difficulties are similar to those faced by many blind students. Miami officials have declined to comment on the specifics of the suit, but have denied wrongdoing.


January 14, 2014

A survey of faculty salaries by Al-Fanar finds that public university professors in much of the Middle East struggle to climb into the middle class. While of the 12 countries examined, Lebanon and the Gulf countries had the highest public university salaries and Yemen and Morocco the lowest, Al-Fanar found that in every country surveyed “a proportion of the salary scale was below the wage needed to be able to live a middle-class lifestyle when weighted by local purchasing power, specifically what is known as ‘purchasing power parity,’ or how far the professors’ wages could stretch in the local economy.” 

“This survey gathered enough data to show what has long been complained about but not necessarily verified -- that professors in the Arab world overall do not make enough, despite their extensive education, to live a middle-class lifestyle, making teaching at a public university an unattractive profession,” Al-Fanar reported. “The findings also illustrate why so many academics migrate to better-paying countries when they can and also why many take on second and third jobs and promote their textbooks, tutoring lessons or consulting businesses.”

January 14, 2014

The University of California at Berkeley's chancellor has appointed Claude L. Steele, the I. James Quillen Dean of Stanford University's education school, as the flagship public's executive vice chancellor and provost. With the appointment by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, which awaits the formal approval of the University of California's regents, Steele will once again be a major university's top academic officer.

He served as provost of Columbia University from 2009-11 before returning as education dean to Stanford. where he had built his career as a social psychologist best known for his theory of "stereotype threat." Dirks worked with Steele at Columbia, where he was executive vice president and dean of the college of arts and sciences.

"Claude is a world-class scholar, an extraordinarily gifted administrator, and a visionary leader with a deep commitment to teaching, innovation and collaboration," Dirks said. "He is uniquely qualified to help sustain and expand our public mission and ethos, maintain our academic excellence and access and advance on our commitment to diversity in every sense of the word. We look forward to welcoming him to Berkeley."

January 14, 2014

The University of Illinois at Chicago is investigating allegations that Angela Henderson, currently interim provost of Chicago State University, plagiarized her nursing Ph.D. dissertation, The Chicago Tribune reported. The Tribune had three experts on academic integrity review the dissertation and sources on which it drew. "The experts said Henderson had errors in attribution that violate the UIC College of Nursing's policy on academic integrity included in the student handbook," the newspaper reported. "In her dissertation, Henderson at times uses verbatim or near-verbatim language from other sources without using quotation marks to tell the reader that it is identical. Her citations include the author and year of publication but not the exact reference or page number as required by UIC's policy."

Tricia Bertram Gallant, editor of the book Creating the Ethical Academy: A Systems Approach to Understanding Misconduct & Empowering Change in Higher Education, said, "These are repeated issues. It is not sloppiness here or there, or plagiarism here or there, it is quite often."

The Tribune also noted that a member of Henderson's dissertation committee was Wayne Watson, president at Chicago State, with whom Henderson previously worked. Henderson's husband is Watson's personal lawyer.

Henderson declined to comment.


January 14, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s attempt to become a party to a lawsuit regarding the rights of the NCAA and other entities to use athletes’ “likeness” for video games, publicity purposes and other materials. The NCAA had sought to intervene in a settlement stemming from a lawsuit in which a group of athletes, led by the former Arizona State University quarterback Sam Keller, sued Electronic Arts Inc., Collegiate Licensing Company and the NCAA over the likeness issue. After a federal appeals court ruled against EA last fall, EA asked the Supreme Court to review the case. Shortly thereafter, though, EA and CLC reached a settlement with Keller. (The NCAA remains a defendant.) EA subsequently announced it would no longer produce the popular NCAA Football video game.

The NCAA subsequently sought to enter the appeals case “in light of the important First Amendment issues raised in the case and to ensure that its membership is properly protected given the purported settlement between the plaintiffs and Electronic Arts,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in October. With the Supreme Court's decision, this case essentially dies.

January 14, 2014

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art has announced a donation of 320 works of art from the  collection of Dorothy and Herbert (Herb) Vogel. The Vogels are legendary in the art world for the way they built up a significant modern art collection, identifying works they could afford to buy on modest salaries and that became extremely valuable. The gift to Bowdoin includes works by 70 artists, including Robert Barry, Lucio Pozzi, Edda Renouf, Julian Schnabel, James Siena, Pat Steir and Richard Tuttle.


January 14, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Anandasankar Ray of the University of California Riverside explains how mosquitoes are able to track us down from great distances. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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