Higher Education Quick Takes
A student activities committee at Davidson College has banned serving Chick-fil-A at student events, pending a review of student opinion on the controversial restaurant chain, The Charlotte Observer reported. Students and others nationwide have been encouraging boycotts of Chick-fil-A because of statements by its president criticizing gay marriage. While many campuses have seen demands that Chick-fil-A campuses be kicked off campuses, that hasn't happened. In the case of Davidson, what is being suspended is bringing the food on campus for official student events organized by the committee, not removing a campus vendor.
Stephen Bloom, the University of Iowa journalism professor who created a storm late last year by writing an article in The Atlantic that called rural Iowans “an assortment of wasteoids and meth-addicts,” will be teaching at the university again this fall. Bloom, whose essay was criticized by his colleagues and Sally Mason, the university's president, has been teaching in the University of Michigan communication studies department for the last year as a visiting professor. “Yes, he is scheduled to teach,” David Perlmutter, director of the school of journalism and mass communication at the University of Iowa, said in an e-mail.
Faculty leaders and many professors at Australian National University are objecting to the way student evaluations of their teaching are being used, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The university has used student evaluations for years, but this is the first year that the results are being used as part of the institution's evaluation of faculty members. Almost 1,000 professors are being asked to explain why they received low grades from students, and faculty leaders say that this sends a message not to be rigorous, for fear of offending someone in class.
Authors have been telling the University of Missouri Press in the last week that they want the rights to their books returned, and that they don't believe new plans for the press live up to its obligations, The Kansas City Star reported. The university announced plans to phase out existing operations, but then said that the press would be kept alive as a way to teach students, in an all-digital format. For the last week, the Star reported, Missouri officials have been calling authors asking them not to demand their rights back, or not to turn over their rights to other presses.
The Indian government appears to be delaying legislation that would allow foreign colleges and universities to open campuses in India, The Economic Times reported. The higher education focus for the government in the next parliamentary session will be on other bills, such as one requiring accreditation for all institutions.
Spain's government has set up a special committee to consider reforms for Spanish universities, Times Higher Education reported. In part, the move was prompted by Spain's economic woes, which have already led to deep budget cuts, and are likely to lead to more. But the committee is also conducting its review at a time of increasing criticism about non-economic problems facing the universities. "[M]any critics claim that the real drag on Spanish university quality is the culture of politicization and cronyism," the article says. "Critics claim that the power structures in many universities are dominated by nepotistic networks that tolerate and even promote all manner of non-meritocratic and unethical practices among members, while coming down hard on those who dare speak out against them."
Helen Dragas, a University of Virginia board member, last year objected (when she was serving as rector, or board chair) to a course on Lady Gaga, The Washington Post reported. She sent an e-mail to university administrators noting an article by the Heritage Foundation questioning Gaga courses at U.Va. and three other universities. The e-mail is among many being reviewed as reporters and others try to sort out the board's push to remove Teresa Sullivan as president, an action from which the board backed down. The university's provost wrote back to describe the course as one focused on writing and culture. Dragas replied: "I appreciate that the course content can be defended," but she added that the course and the discussion of it "probably aren't helping us justify funding requests." She added that "opinions will, of course, vary on curricular content and direction, but there must be some internal arbiter of what is appropriate."
Coursera, the company that provides support and Web hosting for massive open online courses at top universities, announced Thursday that more than 1 million students have registered for its courses. The company now serves as a MOOC platform for 16 universities and lists 116 courses, most of which have not started yet. The students registering for the courses are increasingly from the United States. Coursera told Inside Higher Ed earlier this summer that about 25 percent of its students hailed from the United States; that figure now stands at 38.5 percent, or about 385,000 students. Brazil, India and China follow, with between 40,000 to 60,000 registrants each. U.S. students cannot easily get formal credit through Coursera or its partners institutions, but some universities abroad reportedly have awarded credit to students who have taken the free courses.