Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 2, 2014

With the Modern Language Association meeting a week away, the Internet is full of discussion about the academic job market and rumors about how the Israel boycott may or may not come up. Some people are even excited to talk about books. But there is also humor. Inspired by this tweet, a new website allows you to put in your name and receive an (unofficial) MLA name badge complete with a specialty.

I couldn't stop at one. See what research focus the website has for you.

January 2, 2014

Lars Hinrichs of the University of Texas at Austin explains why many features of Texas-English are disappearing. Learn more about the Academic Minute here. And if you missed the last 10 days' worth of Academic Minutes, you can catch up on them here.

January 2, 2014

Chinese parents who can afford to do so continue to make huge investments in their children's education by paying tuition for them to attend colleges and universities in the United States and other Western nations. But Financial Times (registration required) noted that some experts in China are questioning the (financial) value of the degrees earned abroad by Chinese students. There is no longer much of a wage premium for those who return. Further, the growing numbers of Chinese students going abroad means that it's no longer just the best and brightest. And some are questioning whether the Chinese students end up with enough knowledge of either the West or their home. Zong Qinghou, the second wealthiest man in China, who sent his only daughter to study abroad, recently said at a press conference that she "knows neither the current situation for Chinese enterprises nor the situation abroad."

 

January 2, 2014

The Kansas Board of Regents has ordered a review of its recently adopted and highly controversial rules on social media. The rules outline situations in which faculty members could be dismissed or disciplined in other ways over statements they make on social media -- and numerous faculty and civil liberties groups have said that the rules violate basic principles of academic freedom and the First Amendment rights of professors.

A statement issued by the Kansas Board of Regents did not withdraw the policy, but announced a review of it: "Because of concerns expressed regarding the Board of Regents’ policy regarding the improper use of social media, Board Chair Fred Logan has asked Andy Tompkins, president and CEO of the Board, to work with the university presidents and chancellor to form a workgroup of representatives from each state university campus to review the policy. Regent Logan requests that any recommendations for amendments to the policy from the workgroup be presented to the board’s Governance Committee by April 2014."

 

January 2, 2014

The past few weeks have seen a series of rulings on whether some parts of the new federal health law requiring employers to provide coverage that includes birth control should apply to religious institutions that oppose birth control or some forms of birth control. The new law exempts churches from birth control requirements that conflict with their beliefs, but this does not extend to religious institutions such as colleges and social service organizations. Under a compromise proposed by the Obama administration, such institutions will not have to pay for birth control coverage, but their employees and students will be able to obtain birth control through arrangements with insurance companies.

On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary stay of the birth control requirement for religious institutions, and asked the Obama administration to file a response on Friday. The ruling came in a suit brought by an order of nuns that operates nursing homes for low-income people. Also in December, several religious colleges won injunctions against parts of the health care law, while the University of Notre Dame was denied such an injunction. Notre Dame is vowing to appeal. A Supreme Court ruling in the case involving the nuns could resolve many of these disputes. Justice Sotomayor's injunction was not a ruling on the merits of the case.

 

 

 

December 30, 2013

The American Council on Education's president, Molly Corbett Broad, has issued a statement strongly condemning the movement to boycott Israeli universities. “In recent weeks, several scholarly associations have voted on formal motions to boycott activities involving faculty and staff at Israeli academic institutions. Such actions are misguided and greatly troubling, as they strike at the heart of academic freedom," Broad's statement says. "Many of these same scholars would decry efforts by trustees, governors or state legislators to infringe on faculty teaching and research activities at their own institutions, and yet these boycotts involve more sweeping repercussions, impeding global academic relationships and the constructive exchange of ideas among countries and cultures. One could easily see such boycotts moving to other countries and scholarly pursuits, which would only lead to a further erosion of academic freedom and free thought in a world that is so desperate for it.



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December 28, 2013

In the last decade, new federal regulations have forced academics who receive money from drug companies to disclose those ties when writing and speaking about their products. An article in The New York Times suggests that such conflicts of interest may have been going on for some time -- undisclosed -- involving academics who defend controversial Wall Street trading practices. A number of such academics do work for parts of Wall Street, or their academic programs receive gifts from businesses that benefit from the research. In many cases, the Times said, these ties have not been reported. Professors told the newspaper that their views were not influenced by the ties to the finance industry.

December 28, 2013

The Los Angeles Times conducted a survey of public and private high schools in Southern California to see which colleges and how many colleges recruited, and found that the schools with high proportions of low-income and minority students received far fewer visits. At one private high school, the research found, there were more visits by colleges this fall (113) than there were high school seniors (106). The colleges included top institutions from all over the country. At a Los Angeles public high school with 280 seniors, only eight recruiters (all local) visited.

 

 

December 27, 2013

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has informed ITT Educational Services that the federal agency's enforcement office may urge the CFPB to "take legal action" against the for-profit higher education provider for possible violations of federal law, ITT announced in a federal tax filing Friday. In its statement, ITT, which operates more than 140 ITT Technical Institutes in 38 states, said that the consumer bureau had notified it about the potential legal action on Dec. 23. The agency's notice said its enforcement staff plans to allege that the company violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and other financial regulations, and that the staff "expects to recommend seeking remedies and penalties to the fullest extent of the law."

ITT officials said that they would respond to the agency's notice and that they believe the company's "acts and practices relating to the matters under investigation are lawful."

December 25, 2013

Israel's High Court of Justice on Tuesday upheld the decision of government authorities to upgrade a higher education campus on the West Bank to full status as an Israeli university, The Jerusalem Post reported. The presidents of the nation's other universities objected to the procedures used to upgrade Ariel University, as the institution is known, and the court rejected those arguments, saying that proper procedures had been followed. A major objection the university leaders (but not the focus of the legal fight) is their view that the country does not have enough money to support a new university. Ariel has been championed by those who support Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Many Israeli academics have opposed the granting of university status, saying that it is wrong to build up Israeli institutions on the West Bank, and that doing so will likely encourage the movement in other countries to boycott Israeli academe.

 

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