Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 31, 2014

Black student and faculty groups at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities have asked the institution to stop using racial descriptions in crime alerts, CBS Minnesota reported. "[We] unanimously agree that campus safety should be of the [police department's] utmost importance; however, efforts to reduce crime should never be at the expense of our black men, or any specific group of people likely to be targeted. In addition to causing black men to feel unsafe and distrusted, racial profiling is proven to inflict negative psychological effects on its victims," said a joint letter from the groups. The letter responded to the the incorrect identification of a student as a suspect in an attempted robbery at the university.

Pamela Wheelock, vice president of university services. responded at a forum this week by saying that while racial profiling is inappropriate, full descriptions of crime suspects -- including race -- are appropriate. “I firmly believe that a well-informed community is an asset to public safety," she said. "I believe that sharing more information in our crime alerts, not less, is most beneficial in terms of public safety, especially when that information is available."

January 31, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Sallie Han of the State University of New York at Oneonta discusses what the items we accumulate during pregnancy say about our culture. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

January 31, 2014

A federal judge has rejected a massive lawsuit against Yeshiva University by victims of sexual abuse at a high school run by the institution, The New York Times reported. The judge did not rule on the claims of the students, who said that university officials ignored complaints of abuse. Rather the judge said that the abuse took place decades ago -- from the 1960s through 1980s -- and that the statute of limitations has passed. The plaintiffs, who have vowed to appeal, argue that the statute of limitations shouldn't have applied because the university covered up the abuse. A statement from the university said that it was “gratified that the federal court recognized the validity of our arguments.” The statement added that "our thoughts and remorse remain with those affected and harmed.”

January 31, 2014

The federal government this week announced the launch of a new online complaint system for college students who are veterans or active-duty members of the U.S. military. The Education Department and Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are participating in the interagency effort to protect students and Post-9/11 GI Bill investments. The complaint system will be a way for students report negative experiences with colleges and universities. Veterans groups called the announcement a "game changer," according to Stars and Stripes.

January 30, 2014

Denison University has settled a lawsuit with a former student who sued after being expelled over a sexual assault allegation, The Denisonian reported. A female student accused freshman Zackary Hunt of assaulting her on the way home from a party where alcohol was served, and Hunt was expelled following a November student disciplinary hearing. Hunt filed suit the following month, alleging libel, defamation, negligence and infliction of emotional distress, among other things, and said he was illegally prohibited from using an attorney and presenting evidence or testimony.

Laurel Kennedy, Denison's vice president for student development, said via email that she "cannot confirm that a settlement has been reached, but we can confirm that the case has been dismissed in the courts." Asked to clarify, she emailed, "The matter was resolved by mutual agreement and together we sought dismissal by the court." Hunt's attorney, Eric Rosenberg, said via phone that there was a settlement but the case is officially recorded as dismissed because of semantics.

Kennedy's statement also said, "The assertions presented in the student paper are based almost entirely on statements from an attorney who filed a suit against our university. Our faculty and staff work diligently as coaches and educators to help our well-intentioned students produce factual reports. Sexual misconduct is a tremendously serious and complicated subject, and the clash of student conduct processes, state law and federal policy makes it even more challenging. We stand by our conduct process and by the rights of our student journalists to report a nuanced subject to the best of their ability."

Hunt’s case was one of a growing number of lawsuits filed by men who are punished following campus judicial proceedings, in some cases under Title IX, the same federal statute that women point to when alleging campuses handle their sexual assault allegations improperly. Rosenberg told the student newspaper, “I’d like to convey to students the risk of being involved with women who have been drinking…. because later she may say she was sexually assaulted.”

January 30, 2014

The U.S. Senate's education committee on Wednesday advanced several of President Obama’s nominees to key roles at federal agencies that work closely with colleges and universities.

The Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved and sent to the full Senate the Education Department nominations of Ericka M. Miller as assistant secretary for postsecondary education; Ted Mitchell to under secretary of education; James H. Shelton to deputy secretary of education; and James Cole Jr. to general counsel of the department.

If confirmed by the full Senate, the nominations will largely complete out the team that will carry out the administration’s higher education agenda over the next several years. The nominees will fill a number of roles that have been left vacant since an exodus of staffers after the administration’s first term.

The committee also approved Wednesday the president’s nominee to lead the National Science Foundation, France A. Cordova. (The nominations of both Cordova and Cole had previously been approved by the committee before Congress recessed in December, but they had to be re-nominated due to the Senate’s procedural rules.)

 

January 30, 2014

In a match seemingly made in open educational resource heaven, the free textbook producer OpenStax College and OER support provider Lumen Learning on Wednesday announced a partnership that aims to save college students $10 million on textbooks by 2015. Lumen Learning helps institutions transition away from traditional course materials, and will use OpenStax College's textbook offerings to bolster its catalog of open resources. The free textbook producer, based at Rice University, has published six textbooks so far and has another seven in the works.

"Lumen is the latest example of a growing coordination amongst philanthropic grantees to further the mission of access in a dynamic way," Richard Baraniuk, the founder of OpenStax College, said in an email. "Greater coordination will fuel a more rapid transition to a more efficient and open market."

January 30, 2014

About 600,000 books from the library of the University of Missouri at Columbia -- stored at an off-campus facilities -- have been damaged by mold, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported. The university plans to remove the mold from some of the books, but the high cost of that process (about $3 per book) probably means that all of the books can't be saved.

 

January 30, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Tom Coulthard of the University of Hull reveals the presence of ancient rivers that flowed across the Sahara Desert. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 30, 2014

Blackboard will create a virtual bookstore accessed from within the company's learning management system, Blackboard Learn. As seen in two conceptual screenshots shared by a Blackboard spokeswoman, the bookstore will automatically gather the materials assigned in a student's courses for easy checkout. The spokeswoman also said the bookstore, created in cooperation with MBS Direct, will help faculty members find materials -- both traditional textbooks and open resources -- for their courses.

The new feature can be seen as an effort to expand the LMS beyond a course repository, and also as an attempt to keep students inside the Learn ecosystem. By offering students an integrated bookstore that doesn't require a separate login, Blackboard can prevent them from shopping at sites such as Amazon or eBay's Half.com.

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