Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 11, 2013

The Modesto Junior College student who was ordered by campus security to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day last month is suing the Yosemite Community College District and Modesto officials in federal court. Robert Van Tuinen, an Army veteran, argues that administrators violated his First Amendment rights. In a video capturing the incident, an employee tells Van Tuinen he may only distribute his copies in the campus “free speech area,” and must also fill out the necessary paperwork before doing so. (But due to previous bookings he would have to wait at least three days.)

October 10, 2013

The Consortium of China 9 Research Universities has joined with three other international associations in releasing a statement of 10 characteristics of research universities, including -- notably within a Chinese context -- a commitment to academic freedom.

Specifically, one of the characteristics identified in the "Hefei Statement on the Ten Characteristics of Contemporary Research Universities" is "[t]he responsible exercise of academic freedom by faculty to produce and disseminate knowledge through research, teaching and service without undue constraint within a research culture based on open inquiry and the continued testing of current understanding, and which extends beyond the vocational or instrumental, sees beyond immediate needs and seeks to develop the understanding, skills and expertise necessary to fashion the future and help interpret our changing world."

Other characteristics identified in the statement include autonomy, a commitment to civil debate, and a dedication to research integrity.

The Association of American Universities, the Group of Eight Australia, and the League of European Research Universities joined with the leaders of nine elite Chinese research universities in sighing the statement at the C9 consortium's meeting in Hefei, China. 

October 10, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Chris Roberts of the University of California at Los Angeles explores the link between lifestyle and health in teens. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 10, 2013

Two days after massive open online course provider Coursera announced the creation of a Chinese-language web portal, edX on Thursday unveiled a new consortium of Chinese partner universities during an event in Beijing. 

Some of the universities that will join the initiative, called XuetangX, include Beijing Normal University, China Agricultural University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, National Tsing Hua University, Tsinghua University, the University of Science and Technology of China, and Zhejiang University. The first online courses will launch on Oct. 17. 

EdX also announced an initiative to work with French universities on Oct. 3. 

October 10, 2013

Santa Clara University has removed elective abortion from its health coverage for employees, becoming the second Roman Catholic university (with Loyola Marymount University) to be facing faculty backlash over such a decision, The San Jose Mercury News reported. University officials said that they are trying to be consistent with church teachings. But faculty members say that they object both tp the decision, and to the fact that it was made without consultation with professors. "This really makes Santa Clara University's express commitment to openness, diversity and inclusiveness ring hollow," said Nancy Unger, a history professor.

October 10, 2013

The University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse has apologized for an e-mail a professor sent to students earlier this week blaming the “Republican/Tea-Party controlled House of Representatives” for the ongoing government shutdown. In an e-mail Wednesday, Chancellor Joe Gow called the comment “inappropriate” and “problematic,” based on the fact that it didn’t appear to “add anything to the educational experience in the class,” and because such a “partisan reference” could make students uncomfortable.

Rachel Slocum, assistant professor of geography, said in an e-mail that she regretted the brevity but not necessarily the content of her message to students in her online class, as she wanted to explain why they wouldn’t be able to access U.S. Census Bureau data to complete an important assignment. (The bureau's website is unavailable due to the shutdown.)

Here's what she wrote, after being alerted by a student that the site was not working:

"Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/tea party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government.... Please do what you can on the assignment. Those parts you are unable to do because of the shutdown will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government. Please listen to the news and be prepared to turn in the assignment quickly once our nation re-opens.”

Slocum said that "in hindsight, I should have either left out mention of the causal agents or gone into more detail so as not to make any student feel as if I was using my position to force my perspective on them. That feeling is certainly not what I wanted to convey." The professor wrote a similar message in a second e-mail to students, at the request of the dean of the College of Science and Health.

Gow said in an interview that Slocum's comments violated the university's policy against using its resources to engage in political activity.

 

October 10, 2013

While it is widely known that many college presidents and head football coaches receive cars in their compensation packages, 94 administrators or coaches at University of Nebraska campuses (and one coach's wife) receive cars, club memberships or both, The Omaha World-Herald reported. University officials defended the benefits as part of the process of attracting and retaining talent.

 

October 10, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Youth voter turnout, especially among low-income students, is significantly impeded by voter identification laws and restrictions on same-day registration, and educators and policymakers should collaborate to improve civic education and engagement, according to a new report commissioned by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.  Most of the report’s recommendations – including lowering the legal voting age to 17 – are directed at politicians and K-12 schools as opposed to colleges (though it does encourage collaboration with colleges on the issues). But there is some takeaway for higher education as well, CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said here at the report’s release Wednesday.

Colleges can “be part of the solution to the K-12 problem” – that is, teachers’ failure to discuss politics and voting laws in the classroom. “[Colleges] educate the teachers, drive curriculum, decide who to admit,” Levine said. “High school curriculum is imitating Government 101.”

Professors could also do more to educate students about the voting process and help them register, said Trey Grayson, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics and a member of the group that authored the report, the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge. He pointed to TurboVote, a Harvard student’s start-up that simplifies registration and reminds students when deadlines approach. “A very small investment can get their students engaged,” Grayson said. “The numbers are better for college students, but they’re still not as good as they should be.”

October 10, 2013

Emerson College officials pledged Wednesday to improve the process by which they handle allegations of sexual assault, The Boston Globe reported. Among other steps, college officials said they would hire an "advocate" to help victims of sexual assault through the investigation and judicial process. The announcement follows filing of a federal complaint by Emerson students saying that the college failed to adequately investigate two recent incidents.

October 10, 2013

The University of Chicago president has clarified the university’s policy about elevator use in the administration building, after some said uniformed workers were not being permitted to use the elevators. “Let me state in the simplest of terms what the policy actually is: the elevators are for everybody’s use,” Robert Zimmer wrote in a statement to facilities staff members. “This includes all of you and other staff members, faculty, students, visitors, vendors, and guests to the university. That has always been my intent, and there will be no policy to the contrary.”

The policy was criticized after reports that a maintenance worker with a hip replacement and a maintenance worker with asthma had to walk up four flights of stairs because they were not allowed to use the elevators in daytime hours. The Service Employees International Union, Local 73, had planned a rally to protest the policy prior to the president’s statement. 

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