Higher Education Quick Takes
In today’s Academic Minute, Kurt Rotthoff of Seton Hall University tests claims about the economic benefit of investing in large sports arenas and stadiums. Learn more about the Academic Minute here. And since you may have missed yesterday's podcast, in which Colby College's David Freidenreich examines the historical meaning of dietary restrictions within the world's major monotheistic religions, here's a link.
A government committee in Israel on Wednesday blocked university status for the Ariel University Center, an Israeli academic institution located in the West Bank, Haaretz reported. The panel said that the center should maintain its current status, which is short of a full university, pending a full review in the next year. Many Israeli academics had expected university status to be awarded, and Ariel is strongly supported by Israelis who favor settlement in the West Bank. But Israeli academics -- professors and presidents alike -- strongly opposed university status. The presidents of existing universities argued that the country doesn't have enough money for its existing universities, and shouldn't create a new one. Many professors also said that making Ariel into a university would inject higher education into the debate about the future of Palestinian territories in a way that would be unhelpful for the peace process and for higher education.
Pedro Segarra, the mayor of Hartford, is criticizing the way people responded to a March assault on a Trinity College student, saying that many students and others inappropriately assumed that the attackers must be residents of a low-income neighborhood near the college, the Associated Press reported. The student who was attacked and others with him said at the time that the attackers were "Spanish," hundreds of students attended a rally demanding better security, and college officials said that the assailants were not students. But the police are now investigating the possibility that the student was assaulted by Trinity students. "People should not make presuppositions before they have facts available to them to be able to draw a conclusion," Segarra said in an interview. "All people, whether it's the campus administration or whether it's the city, whether it's the community, people need to be more astute, not quick to pass judgment."
City College of San Francisco, which has 90,000 students, has been told by its accreditor that it has eight months to demonstrate why it should stay open, and that it must "make preparations for closure," The San Francisco Chronicle reported. A loss of accreditation would make the college's students ineligible for federal aid, and would likely make it impossible for the college to function. College officials said that they are working hard to respond to the concerns. But a 66-page accreditation report obtained by the newspaper cites numerous, severe problems, including "leadership weaknesses at all levels," "failure to react to ongoing reduced funding," and spending all but 8 percent of the college's budget on salaries and benefits.
The Institute for Higher Education Policy has devised a new classification system to measure the performance and characteristics of for-profit colleges and universities. The framework is an attempt to look at for-profits in a less monolithic way, said Michelle Asha Cooper, the institute's president, and also to be "more outcomes-specific" when tracking the sector. One key measure is a look at markets where for-profits have expanded their operations, and the relative affluence of those markets. Parts of California, for example, have seen rapid growth, according to the system's accompanying report.
The target audience for the framework is lawmakers, Cooper said, adding that it could be used to help inform state-level policies. However, Cooper said findings gleaned from the system are likely to be complex and difficult to generalize. "It doesn't put institutions in neat little buckets," she said.
In March, hundreds of students at Central Connecticut State University held a rally to back Alexandra Pennell, a student who told the crowd that she had been receiving notes in her dormitory room attacking her for being a lesbian. Now Pennell has been expelled from the university and faces numerous criminal charges that she faked the notes, The Hartford Courant reported. Police who were investigating Pennell's allegations installed (with her knowledge) a camera to try to identify who was leaving the notes. Twice the camera was turned off, and during one of those times, a note arrived. Authorities then installed another camera in a hall closet and recorded Pennell leaving the notes herself. Her lawyer declined to comment.
California students have struggled (without much success) to win tuition freezes in public higher education. Now a graduate of the University of California at Irvine is trying a new tactic that could succeed where others have failed. He is collecting signatures on a petition for a referendum to the California Constitution that would require public colleges and universities to keep tuition rates at the level that students pay when they first enroll, The Los Angeles Times reported. So colleges and universities could increase the rates each year for new students, but not continuing students. "It's an unsettling and uncertain feeling when you think you are going to afford something and just skate by and suddenly somebody asks for more money you don't have. You feel you are going to lose your investment. You feel you are going to lose your future," said Christopher Campbell, who is organizing the campaign. California higher education leaders are skeptical, and Campbell still needs many more signatures. But such a proposal, if it qualifies for the ballot, could be popular.
The University of Birmingham, in Britain, has withdrawn a job advertisement seeking people to be unpaid research assistants, Times Higher Education reported. Birmingham withdrew the ad after the university was criticized for not paying people in the position. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, the primary faculty union in Britain, said that not paying researchers “undermines the principles of equal pay and is discriminatory."
A new poll of 1,000 adults -- released by Widmeyer Communications -- has mixed results for those in higher education. About 60 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed said they believed college was a good investment, with only 12 percent disagreeing, and the rest saying they didn't know. But the poll found Americans split on whether college is as valuable today as it was 20 years ago, with 46 percent agreeing, and 41 percent disagreeing -- despite countless statements from educators that college is more necessary today than at previous points in American history.