Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 11, 2015

Police in Myanmar are cracking down on student protests, beating participants with batons, the BBC reported. The students have been protesting a new education law, which they say limits academic freedom. The students say that the law centralizes power over universities when individual universities should have more of a say. Students also want the right to form student unions and to study ethnic minority languages.

 

March 11, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Karen Bonuck, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, discusses her work on sleep and childhood obesity. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

March 10, 2015

Many academic groups cheered last month when the University of Massachusetts at Amherst reversed an automatic ban on Iranian students studying certain science and engineering subjects. The State Department confirmed at the time that there was no need for an automatic ban and that security concerns could be handled case by case. But Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, has written to the State Department to demand such a ban, The Washington Post reported.

"While I fully support a university’s commitment to provide wide access to educational opportunities, I strongly oppose the actions by the State Department to shift responsibility onto independent universities or to reinterpret the law away from its obvious intent," Vitter wrote. "To put it frankly, we’re still at war with terrorist organizations and we still need strong economic sanctions on Iran until they comply with nuclear nonproliferation agreements and stop their support of terrorism.”

March 10, 2015

Purdue University sent a letter to employees Monday saying that major changes in its policy on leave days would not be made in the 2015-16 academic year. Purdue had planned to make a number of changes to "simplify" the categories of days off, but when employees added up the various categories, most said that they would lose days, and many objected to the changes. Purdue first announced that it was reviewing the proposal and has now announced that there will be no such changes in the next academic year. Purdue previously announced two changes that have been applauded: extending employee bereavement time and parental leave.

 

March 10, 2015

The University of Arizona is investigating a church that more than 20 former employees and members call a cult, The Arizona Daily Star reported. The newspaper investigated Faith Christian Church, which many say reaches out to students in friendly, supportive ways but gradually asserts more and more control over them. A summary by the newspaper said that former members and parents shared "reports of hitting infants with cardboard tubes to encourage submission, financial coercion, alienation from parents, public shaming of members and shunning of those who leave the church or question its leaders. Some say that since leaving, they’ve spent years in therapy for panic attacks, depression, flashbacks and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder." Church leaders did not respond to requests for comment.

 

March 10, 2015

Many students, alumni and fellow faculty members are rallying behind Varlo Davenport, who has been removed as a theater professor at Dixie State University, The Spectrum reported. The spark for his removal was an in-class incident in which he restrained a female student to demonstrate what he was encouraging her to do in acting. She filed a sexual assault claim. While a faculty panel backed Davenport and said he should return to teaching, the university is refusing to do so, citing an ongoing (but only vaguely described) criminal investigation of Davenport. He says he hasn't been told of such an investigation.

 

March 10, 2015

Andrew Hamilton, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, has become the favorite to become the next president of the University of Texas at Austin, The Austin American-Statesman reported. While no decision has been made, Hamilton (whose title is the equivalent of president or chancellor in the U.S.) apparently performed best in interviews.

 

March 10, 2015

Tyton Partners, the former Education Growth Advisors, this week released the first of three papers based on surveys it conducted on faculty and administrator attitudes about digital courseware. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the surveys, which yielded 2,700 responses. 

The first paper charts faculty attitudes. It found that while instructors are aware of digital courseware, which is widely used, many faculty members are "woefully dissatisfied" with existing offerings. This poses a challenge to the broader adoption of online courses, the report found, arguing that "changes must be made by both suppliers and institutions to support adoption of digital courseware at scale." 

March 10, 2015

Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the University of Haifa to revise rules that permit the university to "halt" public events such as protests for a "limited time," Haaretz reported. Even with the "limited time" caveat of the rule, the measure is a violation of free speech rights, the Supreme Court ruled. The dispute dates to the university's use of the rule to halt protests in a two-week period in 2012 when Israeli forces were fighting with Palestinian forces in Gaza. The action by the university followed two peaceful protests on campus, one opposed to Israel's military action at the time, and the other in support of Israeli soldiers.

 

March 10, 2015

A German professor turned down an Indian man’s request to join her research group, citing India’s “rape problem,” The Independent reported. Annette G. Beck-Sickinger, a professor of biochemistry at Leipzig University, reportedly told the unnamed student via e-mail, “Unfortunately I don’t accept any Indian male students for internships. We hear a lot about the rape problem in India, which I cannot support.” When the student accused the professor of stereotyping, she wrote back, “I fully agree that this is a generalization and may not apply to individuals. However it is unbelievable that Indian society is not able to solve this problem for many years now.”

Beck-Sickinger also reportedly said rejecting Indian students due to the country’s rape statistics was somewhat common among German women professors. HuffPost India reported that Beck-Sickinger confirmed that she had written the e-mails to the student but that her words were “taken out of context.” Screenshots of the e-mail exchange published on Quora reportedly prompted Michael Steiner, Germany’s ambassador to India, to write a letter to the professor saying, in part, “Your oversimplifying and discriminating generalization is an offense to these women and men ardently committed to furthering women['s] empowerment in India.”

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