Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 20, 2013

The American Public University System, which consists of the Charles Town, W.Va.-based American Public University and American Military University, announced on Thursday it will allow its students to earn academic credit by taking massive open online courses. The 10 science, technology and mathematics courses -- five each from MOOC providers Coursera and Udacity -- have received credit recommendations from the American Council on Education. In a statement, the university said it may expand its offerings and incorporate more MOOC providers in the future.

September 20, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Emma Versteegh of the University of Reading explains how earthworms create a chalky record of the climate. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 20, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association this week filed a motion to dismiss O’Bannon v. NCAA, the federal antitrust lawsuit currently seeking class action status. The suit argues that the NCAA and other private businesses profit off the likenesses of athletes who are prohibited from making any money off their own image, and that athletes are entitled to a share of the profits.

Because of lack of precedent, it’s unclear how the O’Bannon case might affect collegiate athletics, but some have speculated it could be huge. The NCAA decided in July to end its football video game contract with Electronic Arts Inc., which is facing a few other lawsuits by former athletes charging that EA profits off their likenesses.

September 20, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress on Thursday honored scientists whose seemingly obscure discoveries -- much like those that are sometimes ridiculed in the Capitol today -- actually ended up making important contributions to society, as part of the second annual Golden Goose Awards. This year's honorees for the award, which is sponsored by a set of higher education and scientific advocacy groups, included two Nobel-winning economists whose theoretical mathematical algorithms helped set the stage for the national kidney exchange, and a medical researcher whose study of the Gila monster's venom led to a drug that protects diabetics from some life-threatening complications.

 

September 20, 2013

The University of Oregon’s new faculty union reached its first contract agreement with the institution this week, following 10 months of negotiations.

In addition to an average salary increase of nearly 12 percent spanning the 2-year agreement and the creation of a salary floor for adjuncts, union members said the contract protects both academic freedom and freedom of speech. The union and the administration had clashed over language concerning such protections in negotiations, with the administration wanting to address each protection in separate clauses and include expectations of “civility.” Faculty involved in negotiations said divorcing academic freedom from freedom of speech could leave faculty who spoke out against the university vulnerable to potential punitive action. They also objected to the civility expectation.

The final contract’s statement on speech protections does address free speech and academic freedom separately, but explicitly grants faculty the right to engage in internal criticism -- something an earlier university counterproposal did not. It does not include expectations of civility.

Deborah Olson, a full-time adjunct instructor of special education who served on the bargaining committee for United Academics, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, said administrators “moved considerably on those positions from their first proposal, so for the first time at the table we’re very happy.”

Tim Gleason, dean of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication and a member of the institutional bargaining team, said it never tried to limit academic freedom for faculty, and that language in earlier proposals reflected the university’s attempts to protect both robustly. “That’s what we do at Oregon,” he said.

Bill Harbaugh, a professor economics who blogged from negotiations from a faculty perspective, said he felt the final agreement didn’t go far enough. Language proposed last year by the Faculty Senate, which is still being reviewed by senate leaders and administrators and expressly guarantees faculty’s right to engage in internal criticism “without fear of institutional discipline or restraint,” would have been better, he said.

September 20, 2013

The Yosemite Community College District is investigating why a student at Modesto Junior College was blocked from passing out copies of the Constitution on campus on Tuesday, which was Constitution Day, The Modesto Bee reported. A video of campus security stopping the student has circulated online, provoking criticism. A statement from the college said that passing out copies of the Constitution where the student did so was permitted "as long as they don’t disrupt the orderly operation of the college," and that "n the case of the YouTube video, it did not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operation of the college."

 

September 19, 2013

More than 5,000 incoming freshmen at City College of Dongguan University of Technology in China’s Guangdong province this year signed a “student management and self-discipline agreement” that clears the institution of any liability in the event that the signee commits suicide, China Daily reported. “Under the contract, the students have to bear all responsibility and any consequences if they commit suicide or injure themselves on campus while they are attending the university,” the report says.

September 19, 2013

Suzanne Fortier, principal and vice chancellor (the equivalent of president) of McGill University, has issued a statement in which the university formally opposes a "charter of values" proposed by Quebec's government that would bar public employees -- including those who work at universities -- from wearing religious head coverings or "overt" religious symbols. While the proposal could affect many religious people, it is widely viewed as a response to the non-Christian immigrant population in the province. "The proposal to prohibit our professors and staff from wearing visible religious symbols runs contrary to our principles. The wearing of such symbols in no way interferes with the religious and political neutrality of McGill as an institution. All the members of the university community with whom I have spoken on this issue are clearly worried about the proposal, and would like to see it withdrawn," said Fortier's statement. The Montreal Gazette reported that other universities are also concerned about the proposal, but that McGill is the first to take so public a stance.

 

September 19, 2013

Higher Education for Development (HED) faces a possible 80 percent reduction in its operating budget, which could force it to close out its grant programs prematurely. HED, which manages development-oriented partnerships between American universities and institutions abroad as a subcontractor of sorts for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was informed by the agency via an August 7 e-mail that its operating budget for the fiscal year starting October 1 will be just $1 million – a drop from $4.9 million this current year.

“We said at that level we close everything down by the middle of December and it will be utter chaos,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government relations and public affairs for the American Council on Education, which oversees HED. “They [U.S.A.I.D.] said that’s not what we had in mind; we need to think about another way to do this.”

For its part U.S.A.I.D. said in a statement that "discussions with ACE/HED regarding programming and budget levels are ongoing at this time, and no final decisions have been made. U.S.A.I.D. is highly committed to increasing our engagement with higher education institutions to harness their intellectual energies, research capabilities, community connections, and capacity building expertise to address the toughest development challenges."

Hartle said that ACE and HED have not received anything in writing about the budget since the August 7 e-mail. He said that in discussions U.S.A.I.D. has been very clear that it does not want to force the end of any partnerships prematurely. "They'd like to have the partnerships run, but they would like to not have to pay the cost of having them monitored and evaluated according to the U.S.A.I.D. standards that they have dictated," he said.

He added that the problem seems to stem from the fact that U.S.A.I.D. wants to move away from the model of having HED and other similar entities function as middlemen in awarding, managing and evaluating government grants. That’s fine, Hartle said: “Government agencies change priorities; they change directions. But what is so surprising is that they would do this so close to the start of a fiscal year without recognizing the serious consequences of taking such a step."

HED currently administers $50 million in grants, managing 41 partnerships in 25 countries involving 93 institutions. Its portfolio of projects, present and past, can be found here

September 19, 2013

The University of California System is turning to celebrities for a new crowdfounding approach to raise money for financial aid, The Los Angeles Times reported. Celebrities are pledging access and performances if their supporters can raise set amounts of money. Jamie Foxx, the actor, will for example "rap a song like Bill Clinton, President Obama  and Monique from the movie 'Precious'" if his fans raise $20,000. The idea is to attract young alumni and others who are not interested in traditional fund-raising appeals, officials said.

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