Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 4, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex digs up the evolutionary origin of a strange phobia. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

November 4, 2013

The CBS Los Angeles affiliate revealed last week that Carlos Vazquez -- who works as a parking officer at the University of California at Irvine and as a public safety officer at Golden West College -- posts photos of Hitler and degrading remarks about black people on websites. The photos of Hitler suggest admiration. For example, Vazquez created a photo with his children and Hitler and wrote as a caption: "Proud father moment when my daughter met the great fuhrer."

Another photo shows a hamburger with a swastika drawn in mustard and the caption, "I will have the Nazi burger easy on the Jew sauce." A spokeswoman for Irvine said she was offended by the web postings but that they were irrelevant to Vazquez's duties at the university. "As ill as it may make us to look at some of these things, we do have freedom of speech in this country," she said. But Jon Arnold, a public safety officer with Golden West College, said that "this officer is going to be put on administrative leave immediately." Vazquez declined to comment.

 

 

November 4, 2013

Some students are objecting to Northern Michigan University's plan to pick a new slogan to replace "Northern, Naturally," The Mining Journal reported. Officials say that, after 20 years, it's time for a new slogan. The interim president, David Haynes, recently said that "Fearless Minds" was a top contender. But students have organized a petition against that. Devin Manges, who started the petition, said that the phrase should reflect the university's connection to the environment, as the current slogan does, and also questioned the validity of "Fearless Minds," saying that "our minds are probably not considerably more fearless than others."

 

November 4, 2013

Many aspiring faculty members complain that search committees ask for lots of information they will never use (or even look at), with vague explanations of what to send. Rebecca Schuman, an adjunct at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and a blogger who writes frequently about job issues in academe, has proposed an unusual way to take a stand about such requests. On her blog, she has announced a contest in which she will pay $100 each to the first two people who send a photo of their butt to a search committee (mixed in with the other materials -- to raise the question of whether anyone would find it). Schuman is requiring that contestants provide her with proof, and that they apply for a job in their discipline for which they have the basic requirements. She also has offered to up the payout to $200 for applications to Ivy League search committees.

Via email, Schuman said that several people have indicated that they will send tush-shots to search committees, but so far no one has provided proof.

November 4, 2013

Cornell University is expected to soon announce that it will return about 10,000 ancient tablets to Iraq in what would be one of the largest returns of artifacts by an American university, The Los Angeles Times reported. The artifacts provide key details on life in Mesopotamia. While officials have found no evidence of wrongdoing in the donation of the artifacts, Iraq's government has requested them back and some have suggested they were looted after the 1991 Gulf War. Cornell officials declined to comment, but have been negotiating over the return with federal officials.

 

November 4, 2013

Service Employees International Union released a report Friday detailing the financial struggles of adjunct faculty at institutions across Boston, as part of its ongoing effort to unionize adjuncts in that city. The campaign is part of a national SEIU effort, called Adjunct Action, to organize adjunct faculty at individual institutions and regionally.

According to the report, called "High Cost of Adjunct Living: Boston," 67 percent of faculty members -- some 15,000 people -- in the Boston area were employed as adjuncts in 2011. Based on median pay per course in New England -- from $3,750 at private, master's-level institutions to $5,225, at private, doctoral-level institutions -- SEIU finds that an adjunct would have to teach 17 to 24 courses annually to enjoy median-priced housing and utilities in Boston, where the cost of living is 32 percent higher than the national average. Teaching 12 courses per year at those rates -- an unusually large course load -- an adjunct may earn $45,000, the report finds. Comparatively, full-time faculty earned from $113,000 to $154,000, on average, in 2011, depending on institution type.

The report is based on data from the U.S. Department of Education Digest of Education Statistics, among other sources, as well as SEIU interviews with adjuncts across Boston. Some tell of living off inexpensive food such as fried potatoes and onions for an entire semester and using credit cards to pay for basic costs, such as Internet and groceries. Many tell of feeling buried by student debt. According to SEIU calculations, an adjunct would have to teach one or two courses per semester to pay back average doctoral student loans alone. SEIU notes that adjuncts who are unionized enjoy on average 25 percent better pay nationally, as well as other benefits, such as increased job security, and, in some cases, access to health insurance.

 

November 1, 2013

"Full Moon on the Quad" is a tradition at Stanford University in which students kiss one another at midnight on the first full moon of the fall semester. The New York Times reported on how Stanford officials try to make sure people are kissed only when they want to be (the use of slogans like "Consent Is Sexy") and that the event doesn't result in the mass spread of germs (students with colds are discouraged from participating, and students are encouraged to use mouthwash, but not to brush or floss beforehand).

November 1, 2013

Massive open online course provider Coursera will provide physical spaces in which to use its digital content, the company announced on Thursday. Along with five partner organizations, including the U.S. State Department, Coursera will establish "Learning Hubs" at more than 20 locations around the world, including at campuses and U.S. embassies.

The hubs will provide free access to the Internet and Coursera's MOOCs, but the company is also promising a more traditional learning experience. Some courses will feature in-person sessions, which can range from tutoring to discussions, moderated by a "local facilitator who has familiarity with the subject."

Coursera's announcement is the latest in a trend of MOOC providers expanding abroad. In the past month alone, Coursera and edX have both targeted China to broaden the scope of their platforms.

November 1, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Elaine Handley of Empire State College explores the long literary tradition of writing about inanimate objects. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 1, 2013

The University of Oregon has discovered that some employees working on federal grants padded their pay by putting in for hours they didn't work, The Oregonian reported. The university has already repaid the government $330,000 as a result, and officials said that there are other employee pay records that are still being investigated.

 

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