Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Alumni of Cornell University's Africana Studies and Research Center on Monday issued a harshly worded statement denouncing the university's recent decisions about the center as "regressive and colonial in nature." Cornell recently brought the center -- which had been freestanding -- under the College of Arts and Science. While that move was opposed by some at the center as intruding on its autonomy, Cornell officials argued it would allow for better support of the center, and was reflective of the way other interdisciplinary programs were housed at the university. Further, the university announced plans to add new faculty lines and to create a Ph.D. program. In August, the university announced that efforts had failed "to identify a faculty member who was both willing to serve and acceptable to a substantial majority of the Africana faculty...." So the university appointed two administrators from outside the center to jointly lead the program. The Africana alumni group said this amounted to holding "the Africana Center hostage under an externally appointed administrative regime." A Cornell spokesman said that the university was preparing a response to the alumni.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

A new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has documented a shift in Baltimore's high school graduates attending college: In the last four years, the percentage starting at two-year colleges, as opposed to four-year colleges, rose by 12 percentage points, to 52 percent. The Baltimore Sun reported that officials are concerned about the trend because only 5.8 percent of those who start at a two-year college earn a degree in six years -- compared with 34 percent who start at four-year-colleges.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Nebraska Press plans to buy and distribute nearly 250 titles from the Jewish Publication Society, a publisher of Jewish scholarly and reference works, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. The Jewish Publication Society will continue to identify and publish new works, but Nebraska will distribute them. Officials with the society said that they wanted a university press affiliation and selected Nebraska because of its strong commitment to Jewish studies. The Nebraska press owns about 50 Jewish studies titles and publishes about a four a year.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is upping the cost for students of receiving an alcohol-related citation. Not only will students have to pay the ticket, but they will have to attend (and pay for themselves) alcohol education classes, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Students will have a choice of $78 for two group sessions or $200 for two one-on-one sessions with a counselor.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Following controversies in several states over demands by conservative groups for the e-mail and other communications of selected faculty members at public universities, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy has released an analysis of how state universities and states might respond. The analysis -- by Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel of the American Association of University Professors -- offers several options. One is to amend state Freedom of Information Act laws to exempt public college faculty members. But short of that, she notes the possibility of calling for tests that balance legitimate public demands for information with professors' need to discuss ideas frankly but privately.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

As many as 24 members of the 2010 football team at California State University at Fresno -- many of them also on this year's team -- have been linked to welfare fraud, the Associated Press reported. The athletes were identified in an investigation of an employee of a county social services department who has been accused of filing on their behalf for benefits to which they were not entitled. Fresno State officials said that the athletes have been punished but declined to comment further.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, announced last week that it was suspending D.A. Stapel from his positions as professor of cognitive social psychology and dean of the school of Social and Behavioral Sciences because he "has committed a serious breach of scientific integrity by using fictitious data in his publications." The university has convened a panel to determine which of Stapel's papers were based on false data. Science noted that Stapel's work -- in that publication and elsewhere -- was known for attracting attention. Science reported that Philip Eijlander, Tilburg's rector, told a Dutch television station that Stapel had admitted to the fabrications. Eijlander said that junior researchers in Stapel's lab came forward with concerns about the honesty of his data, setting off an investigation by the university.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced Sunday afternoon that it is investigating "credible" information about "possible inaccuracies in student profile data" about its law school's class of 2014. The data -- involving median law school entrance test scores and grade point averages of the incoming class -- have been removed from the law school's website. The university said that it is investigating all of its data and that, pending conclusion of this probe, the assistant dean of admissions has been placed on administrative leave, and the associate dean for academic affairs has assumed those duties. The data identified are among those reported to the American Bar Association and used in various rankings of law schools. But a university spokesman said that the data are new, and have not yet been reported and so should not be the basis of any current rankings.

In August, the ABA censured the Villanova University law school over an incident in which it reported inaccurate information in an attempt to raise its rankings. In the most recent rankings by U.S. News & World Report, the Illinois law school was in a three-way tie for 23rd, which got it (barely) on the top-25 list that many law admissions officials consider crucial.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Joshua Miller of Smith College explores the psychological landscape individuals must navigate in the wake of disasters. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Students and some employees started a strike Sunday at American University in Cairo, Ahram Online reported. Students organized the protests, focusing on a 9 percent tuition increase that they oppose. A number of non-faculty employee groups joined the protests, citing inadequate wages. Students have put up tents, planning for a long protest.

The protests were organized on a Facebook page, on which students complained about the impact of budget cuts and questioned the quality of their education. "The administration has made a lot of budget cuts from our departments and have limited hiring new professors. This means that we should expect an even worse quality of education due to limited resources," says one statement about the reason to strike. "Services and education at AUC do not measure to what we pay for."

The Ahram article did not quote university officials, but the university provided Inside Higher Ed with a memo sent by Lisa Anderson, the university's president, to students and employees. The memo said that the university has worked hard to provide additional benefits to employees and has added financial aid for needy students. "While the request to rescind the 9 percent tuition increase cannot be met because we continue to run a budget deficit, we are preparing a number of payment plans for the next semester that would allow our students and parents to select from a range of more flexible payment options," the memo said.

Anderson wrote that the university "is committed to a freedom of expression policy that recognizes the right of all members of the AUC community to express their views as they wish, as long as they do not do so in such a way as to disrupt university activities or damage university property." She wrote that "most of the participants in today's protests displayed a high level of commitment to the principles of freedom of expression, integrity and responsibility as members of the community. Unfortunately, small groups of students and staff appear to have violated university policy in using physical force in confrontation with security staff at the gates, vandalizing university property, obstructing access to the campus and disrupting classes. Just as the university is a strong proponent of free expression, it is equally committed to ensuring that all students have access to the education they deserve and that all members of the community are afforded a safe and productive working and learning environment. Violence of any type, especially targeted at security staff, will not be tolerated. To that end, the university's disciplinary action process has begun against all students implicated in using or threatening to use force against security personnel, blocking access to the campus, vandalizing property or disrupting classes."

She said that, anticipating protests today, the university would restrict campus access to one gate. Noting the recent protests in Egypt, she added that "we look to all the members of the AUC community, but particularly to our students -- the leaders of the future -- to serve as an example of how peaceful protest, thoughtful deliberation and reasoned discussion contribute to consensus building and forward progress."


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