Higher Education Quick Takes
Medical schools are on track to meet a goal set in 2006 of raising enrollments by 30 percent over a decade to try to meet a perceived shortage of physicians, the Association of American Medical Colleges said in a report issued Thursday. The association's annual report on enrollments said that the group's member colleges are projected to enroll 21,434 by 2017-18 -- which would represent a 30 percent rise over the target that the association originally aimed to reach by 2015.
California State University's Channel Islands campus will be closed today after a local wildfire caused officials to evacuate students and staff, the Ventura County Star reported. By Thursday afternoon fire had spread to the campus northwest of Los Angeles, charring landscaping but damaging no buildings, the newspaper reported.
Columbia University's business school said Thursday that the billionaire investor Ronald O. Perelman had pledged $100 million, and that it would name one of its two new buildings on its new Manhattanville campus for him. The gift from Perelman, chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc, is tied for the largest the school has received; the other was a 2010 gift from Henry R. Kravis, for whom the other new building will be named.
The University of New Hampshire has terminated the contract of Marco Dorfsman, an associate professor of Spanish, after he admitted to altering a colleague's student evaluations. Provost John Aber said in a statement that the "decision reinforces UNH’s commitment to upholding and teaching ethical behavior." In an e-mail to the faculty, Dorfsman blamed an "emotional breakdown ... related to a personal tragedy in my family and other personal and professional pressures that created a perfect storm in which I acted out from a very dark and vulnerable place."
OpenStax College, the year-old Rice University startup that produces free online textbooks, will more than double the number of fields in which it has titles by 2015, the university announced today. A grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation will allow OpenStax College to add to its current offerings in physics and sociology, and its two new biology books and an introductory anatomy text coming out this fall. The new titles will be in precalculus, chemistry, economics, U.S. history, psychology and statistics, Rice said, toward its goal of producing high-quality open-source books in the 25 most-enrolled college courses. OpenStax says its existing two texts have been downloaded more than 70,000 times so far.
Faculty members at Marshall University passed a vote of no confidence Wednesday in President Stephen Kopp. Of the 420 faculty members who participated, 290 voted no confidence, 107 voted in support of Kopp, and 23 abstained. The vote at the West Virginia public university comes in the wake of Kopp’s decision to move funds from departmental accounts to a central account to analyze revenues and expenditures, a move that generated a backlash among faculty members. Kopp previously apologized and returned the funds.
In the wake of the vote, Marshall’s governing board released a statement expressing its continued support for Kopp. “Dr. Kopp has succeeded in achieving the goals set by the Board of Governors for Marshall University and he has exceeded the board’s performance expectations in numerous areas,” the board chairman Joseph B. Touma wrote in a letter released Wednesday after the vote. “The board also believes that he is the right person to keep our great university moving in the right direction.”
The lack of administrative reaction is similar to other recent votes of no confidence at New York University, Saint Louis University and Louisiana State University.
Two men charged in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings on Wednesday were in the U.S. on student visas and classmates of the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, The New York Times reported. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19-year-old citizens of Kazakhstan, were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and destroy evidence, specifically a computer and backpack containing fireworks, both belonging to Tsarnaev. A third suspect, Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, Mass. and a former UMass Dartmouth student, was charged with making false statements to authorities.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are also accused of violating their student visas. Kadyrbayev is no longer enrolled at UMass Dartmouth, while Tazhayakov, a current student, has been suspended in light of the charges.
Since the Boston Marathon bombings, there have been some signs of a backlash from the political right against the student visa system, despite the fact that, until Wednesday, there were no indications that international students were involved in the plot (the elder of the alleged perpetrators was a permanent resident and the younger a naturalized U.S. citizen). Most notably, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, issued a letter questioning whether student visas should be suspended, at least for students coming from “high-risk areas” of the world.
The denial of tenure for Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has attracted criticisms from scholars around the world, as well as from his current and former students, who have praised George's strong record as a scholar and teacher and suggested that it could only be objections to the sensitive subject of his research – press freedoms and state power in Singapore – that have blocked his tenure bid. Now, following the rejection of George’s appeal, four of his colleagues at NTU – including two former deans of the school of communication and information -- have added their voices to the chorus.
“Both the two former deans, Emeritus Professor Eddie Kuo and Professor Ang Peng Hwa, are of the view that Cherian has been one of the most valuable additions to the School in teaching, research and service,” states the letter, which is addressed to the NTU president. “He has launched some of the most innovative programs that have brought fame and funds to the School.” (Those programs are outlined in some detail in the letter.)
“It is against this backdrop that we are perplexed as to what exactly NTU expects of its staff in order to earn tenure. Those of us who are not yet tenured need to know: what more than Cherian do we have to do? Those of us who are counselors to younger staff need to explain in clear and precise terms what Cherian has failed to achieve so they may do better when their turn comes. Those of us who have helped build the School’s reputation, and indeed NTU’s integrity, need to respond to the numerous critics with unimpeachable reasons why their suspicions are misplaced. The controversy that Cherian’s case has generated is unprecedented in the School’s history and one that is causing serious damage to our academic reputation and professional integrity. It also has serious repercussions on NTU’s ability to attract top communications scholars, coming at a time especially when the School has 10 faculty vacancies to fill.”
NTU has declined to comment on George’s case, citing the confidentiality of employment matters.
The Florida Senate passed a measure Wednesday designed to allow outside groups, including the providers of massive open online courses, to offer credit-bearing courses to Florida public college students. The measure has been amended significantly since it was first introduced by a Republican senator as a way to take on the accreditation system. The new version of the bill, which the Senate inserted into a digital education bill the House had sent the Senate earlier, substitutes the phrase “Florida Approved Courses” for the old phrase “Florida-accredited” courses and adds requirements that outside course providers must meet to qualify their courses for the new pool, including limitations on the subject areas that MOOCs can be used for.