Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 16, 2013

The agency that accredits community colleges in California and Hawaii is facing criticism for encouraging officials at the colleges it accredits to write letters of support on its behalf in the accreditor's battle with the U.S. Education Department, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, part of the Western Association of Colleges and Schools, was reprimanded by the federal agency in August after the accreditor threatened to terminate the accreditation of City College of San Francisco, among the country's largest institutions. In response to a complaint filed by unions affiliated with the San Francisco institution, department officials found the commission out of compliance with several of its rules, and ordered a review.

According to the Los Angeles Times article, officials of the accrediting commission sent an Oct. 8 letter urging business officers at California's community colleges to sent the agency "letters of support" that it could forward on to the Education Department. Union officials called the request inappropriate; the commission's president defended it."The 133 colleges that are members of ACCJC have an interest in helping to ensure their accrediting body achieves renewal of federal recognition," Barbara Beno, the commission's president, said in an e-mail to the newspaper.

October 16, 2013

City College of San Francisco, fighting for its life amid an accreditor's call to shut it down, will announced today the hiring of an experienced administrator and antiterrorism expert as its first permanent chancellor in 18 months, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The hiring of Arthur Q. Tyler, former president of Sacramento City College and a former state-appointed trustee at another California community college, Compton College, comes at a time when the 80,000-student San Francisco institution is reporting to a special trustee as it challenges a decision by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to strip its accreditation, citing significant financial and management problems.

Today's announcement of a new chancellor is another step cited by state community college leaders as evidence -- marshaled to try to make the case to the accrediting agency -- that the institution has made significant progress in responding to the many issues it cited.

October 15, 2013

An Australian businessman who made his fortune mining precious metals will donate $65 million to support research fellowships and scholarships at five universities in Western Australia, The Australian reported. Andrew Forrest, who heads Fortescue Metals Group, will donate $50 million to create the Forrest Foundation, which will fund grants at the University of Western Australia and four other institutions in the region, and $15 million to build a residential college for rising research stars at Western Australia. The gift is among the largest in the history of Australian higher education, the newspaper reported.

As part of the donation, a new $50m Forrest Foundation will be set up to fund scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships at UWA and WA's four other universities.

- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/forrest-digs-deep-with-...

As part of the donation, a new $50m Forrest Foundation will be set up to fund scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships at UWA and WA's four other universities.

- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/forrest-digs-deep-with-...

 

October 15, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Keith Sanford of Baylor University explores the psychology behind the average domestic argument. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 15, 2013

University of the Kansas’ Faculty Senate has voted to affirm free speech rights and academic freedom for faculty members, following the removal from the classroom last month of a professor who made headlines last for his anti-National Rifle Association Twitter remark. "The University of Kansas Faculty Senate endorses the principles of First Amendment rights, academic freedom, and due process, and will work to see that these principles are followed with respect to all faculty,” reads the statement, which the Senate unanimously approved last week, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

The statement does not mention by name David Guth, the professor of communications who was suspended from teaching after he posted the following tweet in the aftermath of the Washington Navy Yard shootings: "The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you." A separate statement by the Senate's Committee on Faculty Rights, Privileges and Responsibilities about Guth's case references extramural utterances, which “rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for the position.” Guth initially defended his remarks, saying he was tweeting as a private citizen; later he said he agreed with the university to begin a planned sabbatical early. Kansas has said his removal from teaching was not a punitive action, but an attempt to maintain classroom order, given the amount of attention his comments received, including physical threats. The Senate committee disagreed, saying in its statement that the move appeared to be a sanction, “applied without compliance with university rules and regulations,” and faculty handbook. (Note: This paragraph has been updated from an earlier version.)

Guth declined to comment. A university spokeswoman said she had no update on his case, and did not respond to a request for comment about the Senate statement. In an e-mail, Christopher Steadham, law librarian and Faculty Senate chair, said the vote was prompted "by the wide range of perspectives that faculty members across campus had shared with Faculty Senate leadership," and that the body had intentionally avoided taking any position on Guth's being put on paid leave, to avoid "injecting prejudice" into his case. Shared governance representatives will participate in his review, a date for which was not available.

 

 

October 15, 2013

A new report from LearningWorks, a nonprofit group that focuses on California community colleges, takes a look at experiments to reform remedial mathematics by emphasizing preparation in statistics and quantitative reasoning rather than the intermediate algebra pathway that students have traditionally taken. The report found that those experiments are being driven by a deepening belief that: "on the basis of a weakly predictive test, large numbers of students are being prevented from completing college unless they pass a challenging course that may be irrelevant to their futures."

October 15, 2013

The website Biology-Online has fired an employee whose response to a postdoc infuriated many who learned of the incident. An employee known only as Ofek recruited Danielle Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at Oklahoma State University, and author of a blog called "The Urban Scientist" to write for Biology-Online. When she turned him down, after being told that Biology-Online did not intend to pay her, Ofek responded: "Because we don't pay for blog entries? Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?" After Lee shared the story on her blog (which appears on the website of Scientific American) and that magazine removed the post, anger spread on the Internet, with many researchers lamenting the way minority and female scientists are treated.

On Monday, Biology-Online posted a statement that said in part: "We would like to express our sincerest apologies to Danielle N. Lee (DNLee) and anyone else who may have been offended by the way our recently hired employee, Ofek, handled the conversation with her. Ofek's behaviour was completely out of line and after gathering the facts we immediately terminated his employment. Ofek failed to show the respect and prudent behavior expected of him as a contributor to Biology-Online."

 

October 15, 2013

Iranian President Hassan Rohani is calling for more freedom for students and professors at his country's universities, Radio Liberty reported. In a speech at Tehran University, Rohani said that he thought it a "shame" that professors and students "are not able to express their viewpoints." Further, he said that government officials should stop blocking scholars from attending international academic conferences.

 

October 15, 2013

Newly-released data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center tracks how 2.3 million high school graduates fared in transitioning to college over a three-year period. The report from the nonprofit Clearinghouse sets benchmarks for the college-going rates of public high school graduates, with specific categories for low-income, high-minority and urban high schools.

October 15, 2013

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, on Monday released an audit he commissioned that found possible fraud and waste, conflicts of interest and poor governance at Alabama State University, The Montgomery Advertiser reported. The governor's office said that the report had been turned over to state and federal authorities. Further, the governor called on Alabama State's board to stop a search for a new president until some of the issues raised in the audit could be resolved. The university responded with a statement saying that the governor had violated an agreement to allow Alabama State officials to review and respond to the findings. The university's statement questioned many of the findings, and said that the findings were suspect because they came from "a firm that was handpicked by the governor without a bid and was paid for by funds under his control."

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