Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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 4, 2013

A new study -- summarizing 26 previous studies on the scores of female and male students in physics -- has failed to find a consistent explanation for women appearing to start and finish courses, on average, with lower comprehension levels than their male counterparts. Viewing the studies in isolation, there is evidence that some factors -- such as different preparation of levels of men and women before college -- may contribute to the gap. But no one factor studied can explain the overall gap, "suggesting that the gender gap is most likely due to the combination of many small factors rather than any one factor that can easily be modified," says a summary of the study, which will appear in Physical Review Special Topics. The summary of the paper also notes that "several high-profile studies that have claimed to account for or reduce the gender gap have failed to be replicated in subsequent studies, suggesting that isolated claims of explanations of the gender gap should be interpreted with caution."

 

 

 

November 1, 2013

University of Michigan students and administrators are denouncing the use of racial stereotypes in an invitation to a fraternity party originally scheduled for next week and now called off, MLive.com reported. Theta X invited students to a "World Star Hip Hop Presents: Hood Ratchet Thursday" party, specifically inviting "bad bitches, white girls, basketball players, thugs and gangsters." The invitation featured a photo of a black man holding cash, and also featured language such as "we goin back to da hood again!!"

The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, published an apology from the fraternity. "The individuals responsible for the event would like to state that there was no intent to cause harm by way of stereotypes and other damaging views. However, we realize that the terms used in their context were harmful and offensive to our community at large," said the apology.

 

November 1, 2013

York College put its wrestling program on interim suspension due to “violations of the Student Code of Conduct and the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, including hazing,” according to a college statement sent to Inside Higher Ed. Campus safety officers and administrators at the Pennsylvania college are investigating the situation during the suspension, which bars the team from “all activity,” and individual students will face campus judicial board hearings. A college spokeswoman told the York Daily Record that she didn't know how many instances of hazing occurred, but administrators learned of the conduct through an anonymous email sent to the athletics department.

November 1, 2013

A standardized test taker filed a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit against ACT and the College Board for selling personal information about her and millions of American high schoolers.

The lawsuit, filed this week in a federal district court in Illinois, seeks more than $5 million in damages from the test makers for “unfair, immoral, unjust, oppressive and unscrupulous” conduct. Namely, the plaintiff, a Cook County woman about which little else is known, alleges that ACT and the College Board do not tell test takers what will be done with their personal information. She said test takers are asked if ACT and the College Board can "share" personal information with others. That is misleading, the lawsuit alleges, because the information is in fact sold and test takers -- almost entirely high school teens -- become part of a multimillion-dollar money-generating machine for ACT and the College Board.

The test makers have long sold high school students’ personal information to colleges that want to market to students. The current price is about 37 or 38 cents per name. Colleges are using increasingly sophisticated data mining techniques to recruit and shape their classes. Colleges can use such information to deny admission to students and perhaps reduce financial aid awards.

A spokesman for ACT said it would not comment on pending litigation but that the lawsuit was a “unique instance," meaning ACT at least has not previously faced such a challenge. The College Board could not immediately say if it had ever faced such a lawsuit and would not comment on ongoing litigation, but a spokeswoman said, “as a guiding principle in all we do, the College Board takes very seriously the privacy, security and confidentiality of information entrusted to us by the students in our care.”

Three Illinois attorneys representing the woman bringing the lawsuit did not respond to messages seeking comment.

November 1, 2013

Strayer Education announced Thursday that it would close about 20 physical campuses, mostly in the Midwest, to cut costs in response to a 17 percent year-over-year enrollment drop that has sharply reduced its revenues. Strayer is the latest for-profit higher education provider (and among the last) to curtail its on-ground presence in the wake of the double whammy of a tough economy and increased regulatory oversight. The campus closures will affect about 5 percent of the company's roughly 50,000 students, Strayer said; those students will be encouraged to shift to the university's online programs, where most of them already study. (An email sent to students at the affected campuses said those who enrolled in spring courses would receive a $500 voucher toward the purchase of a new computer or mobile device.)

Strayer also said that it would cut its tuition price by about 20 percent effective in January.

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