Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Arizona State University is blocking access to Change.org -- a popular site for political activists to generate support through petitions and education. Some activists are accusing the university of censorship, and demanding that access be restored. They note that one of the petitions currently active at Change.org is critical of Arizona State, and says that a "corporate culture" is resulting in educationally unwise decisions at the institution. Arizona State released a statement in which it said that the content of Change.org was not at issue. Rather, the university maintains that the site is a source of spam, and that spam frequently contains viruses, requiring the university to block certain sites.

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Houston Community College's efforts to help create a community college in Qatar have faced numerous obstacles, including the requirement that courses be taught separately to men and women (contrary to the contract signed between the college and Qatar), The Houston Chronicle reported. Most Western colleges and universities operating branches elsewhere have stressed that they would abide by the same commitments to equity that they use on their main campuses. The new college has also faced accreditation difficulties, high faculty turnover and other problems, the article said. One administrator there wrote to Houston Community College leaders that the CCQ acronym of Community College of Qatar (as the project is known) had come to stand for "Crazy College of Qatar." Senior administrators and press officials of Houston Community College did not respond to e-mail messages seeking comment.

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Christopher Kim of Chapman University explains a few innovative uses of powerful synchrotron-based X-rays. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 4:22am

A cancer research institute at the University of Pennsylvania has sued its former scientific director, now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, charging him with taking research with him to start a biotechnology company, The New York Times reported. The lawsuit by the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at Penn called its former scientific director, Craig B. Thompson, "an unscrupulous doctor" who "chose to abscond with the fruits of the Abramson largess," the Times said. Thompson denied doing anything wrong.


Monday, February 6, 2012 - 4:24am

An investigation by The Orlando Sentinel provides an in-depth look at the circumstances of the hazing death of a member of the marching band at Florida A&M University. The article details the significant programs in place to ban hazing, and the determination of band members to ignore all the warnings and rules.


Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Angel Taveras, the mayor of Providence, R.I., said last week that the city would go bankrupt unless it achieves certain savings and also obtains new revenue -- with much of the extra money coming from Brown University, the Associated Press reported. Taveras said that the university needs to commit to $40 million in additional payments over the next 10 years. That would be on top of the $4 million a year Brown already pays to reflect its use of city services because university property is tax-exempt. A university spokeswoman said that a panel of Brown board members has proposed that the university provide an additional $2 million a year over the next five years. The spokeswoman said that "we regret that the mayor rejected this offer and hope that we can continue our discussions and reach an equitable and sustainable solution."

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Kiplinger's has dropped Claremont McKenna College from the magazine's list of the "Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges," where the college had been No. 18. A statement by the magazine said that recent reports about the college inflating its SAT averages suggested that it had earned its spot "unfairly," and so has been removed. U.S. News & World Report has said that it will calculate the likely impact of the false reporting on the college's rank, but will not issue new rankings.

Friday, February 3, 2012 - 3:00am

Sallie Mae said Thursday that it will still charge a quarterly $50 fee to student loan borrowers in forbearance, but that the charges will be applied to the borrowers' accounts once they "resume a track record of on-time payments," a spokeswoman said. The lender charges the fee when private student loans have gone into forbearance, continuing to accumulate capitalized interest although borrowers do not have to make payments. An online petition criticizing the fee as an "unemployment tax" had accumulated 77,000 signatures as of Thursday, building pressure on Sallie Mae to alter its policy.

In an e-mail message, Martha Holler, senior vice president for corporate marketing and communications, said that after "giving it careful consideration for some time," Sallie Mae will apply the "good-faith payment to the customers’ balance after they resume a track record of on-time payments," retroactive to forbearances granted as of Jan. 1. The former student who started the petition, Stef Gray, said in a statement of her own that the change did not go far enough. "At the end of the day, Sallie Mae is still asking unemployed college grads to fork over money they don’t have," she said. "Sallie Mae needs to drop this unfair fee for good.”

Friday, February 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Phoenix on Thursday released its fourth annual academic scorecard, a self-assessment that has drawn both praise for being a rare voluntary disclosure about academic performance in the for-profit industry and criticism for painting a somewhat overly flattering picture. The fourth installment showed largely minor changes. Graduation rates for associate and graduate degree programs were up slightly, while those for bachelor's were down -- a change Phoenix officials attributed to an increase in transfer students arriving with zero credits. Senior students at Phoenix slightly underperformed academically compared with seniors at other institutions. But the university found high levels of student satisfaction, and an increase in first-course completion rates for students who went through the university's orientation, a free, three-week program.

Friday, February 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Akron announced Thursday that it has hired Jim Tressel for a newly created administrative job raising money and building support for student programs. Tressel, who got a master's in education from Akron and taught and coached there in the late 1970s, resigned last spring as Ohio State University's head football coach amid revelations that he had known about, but failed to act on, allegations of rule breaking by his players there. The National Collegiate Athletic Association punished Ohio State for those violations in December and placed severe restrictions on the coaching and other activities in which Tressel could engage at any institution that hired him.

Akron's president, Luis Proenza, told reporters that he had no reservations about hiring the university's alumnus to work with its students, alumni and community. "Look at the man. Look at what he has done," Proenza said. "Look at the thousands of lives he has impacted. We knew that was the asset." Akron also got a bargain given what Tressel is used to earning. The $200,000 salary Akron will pay him if the trustees approve his hiring is a good $3 million less than he earned as coach at Ohio State.


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