Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 3:00am

Some legislators and civil liberties groups are asking why Governor Chris Christie's administration in New Jersey is planning to award $10.6 million in funds from a voter approved bond issue for college facilities to Beth Medrash Govoha, an all-male, orthodox rabbinical seminary, The Star-Ledger reported. The article notes increasingly close ties between the college's leaders and the Christie administration. The bond vote explicitly included private colleges, and many private colleges in New Jersey have religious affiliations. Critics say that Beth Medrash Govoha -- unlike the Roman Catholic colleges in New Jersey -- appears to have religious tests for admission. College officials deny any religious tests. But critics say that requirements -- such as knowing Hebrew, knowing sacred Jewish texts and agreeing not to date for the first six months enrolled -- suggest a strong religious orientation for all students.

 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jacob Hirsh of the University of Toronto explores the connection between a person’s spirituality and political ideology. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 3:00am

Smith College has been receiving criticism over reports (not confirmed by the college) that a transgender applicant was rejected (although some of those reports suggest that the prospective student's application was returned for more information and not rejected). The college has for many years stated that students who are admitted to Smith may complete their educations, even if they are transgender and start identifying as such while enrolled, despite having presented themselves differently at the time of admission. But until recently, the college's statement on sexual identity said this about admission: "Is Smith still a women's college? Absolutely. As a women's college, Smith only considers female applicants for undergraduate admission." Now, however, the college's statement reads this way: "How does Smith decide who is a woman? It doesn’t. With regard to admission, Smith relies upon the information provided by each student applicant. In other contexts, different definitions and requirements may apply. For example, the definition of a woman for NCAA competition may differ from the definition of a woman for purposes of admission to Smith or other single-sex colleges."

Debra Shaver, dean of admission, said via e-mail that the new statement didn't mean the policy had changed. "We clarified how we consider transgender applicants; we're being more transparent. This is the same practice we've used for more than a decade," she said.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 4:17am

Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has vetoed legislation that would have allowed students with a permit to carry concealed weapons on campus, the Associated Press reported. The bill also would have allowed students -- with their roommate's permission -- to keep guns in dormitory rooms. Higher education officials lobbied against the bill, arguing that it would endanger students, not protect them. Currently Montana allows students to keep hunting weapons on campus, but they are kept in special lockers where students can get them when they want to go hunting.

 

Monday, May 6, 2013 - 3:00am

Students and faculty members at Coastal Carolina University are protesting the selection of U.S. Senator Tim Scott as this year's commencement speaker, The Sun News reported. Senator Scott, a Republican, was recently appointed to the Senate by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Those protesting say that it is inappropriate to have Scott speak when he voted against the Violence Against Women Act while representing a state with high rates of domestic violence. (Like many other Republicans who opposed the bill, Scott said he was concerned about some measures in it, not the legislation's general intent.) Senator Scott said he does not plan to withdraw. A spokesman said: "As someone who nearly failed out of high school, [Scott] very much appreciates the value of an education and hopes to share some of the lessons he learned with the young men and women set to embark on their professional lives."

 

Monday, May 6, 2013 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has outlined new steps for verifying international students' visas at immigration checkpoints, according to an internal memo obtained by the Associated Press.

The changes are a response to the fact that a student from Kazakhstan charged with destroying evidence related to the Boston Marathon bombings was allowed to reenter the U.S. Jan. 20 despite the fact that he had been academically dismissed from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and his visa terminated. Currently, not all border agents have access to Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) data; information about visa status can only be verified when a student is referred to a second immigration officer for additional questioning.  While the department works to correct this problem, new interim procedures call for checking students’ visa statuses pre-arrival based on information from flight manifests. 

Monday, May 6, 2013 - 3:00am

The board of the National Education Association, which represents college faculty members in addition to elementary and secondary school teachers, on Friday approved a new statement on digital learning that is likely to be adopted as official policy for the union by its Representative Assembly in July. The policy, which applies to both K-12 and higher education:

  • Endorses "hybrid" teaching -- involving both technology and teachers -- as the best approach. "Optimal learning environments should neither be totally technology free, nor should they be totally online and devoid of educator interaction," the statement says.
  • Calls for teachers to be centrally involved in decisions about how to use technology in classrooms.
  • Says that "education employees should own the copyright to materials that they create in the course of their employment. There should be an appropriate 'teacher’s exception' to the 'works made for hire' doctrine, pursuant to which works created by education employees in the course of their employment are owned by the employee. This exception should reflect the unique practices and traditions of academia."
  • Urges policy makers to consider the extent to which increased reliance on technology for learning may exacerbate inequities in the education system.

 

Monday, May 6, 2013 - 3:00am

The Rev. Donald J. Harrington announced Friday that he is stepping down as president of St. John's University in New York. In his announcement, he said that he had been contemplating retirement for some time, having served as president for 24 years and having overseen numerous improvements at the university. But he also acknowledged -- without detail -- "the difficulties for everyone during the past year." Father Harrington has been the subject of much scrutiny and investigation since New York Magazine outlined a series of business ventures involving Father Harrington and his chief of staff, Rob Wile. St. John's has also been in the news over the trial of a former dean, Cecilia Chang, who was accused of defrauding the university and forcing international students to do personal work for her. Chang killed herself while on trial.

 

Monday, May 6, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Matthew Goodwin of Northeastern University reveals how wearable technology is improving the quality of autism studies. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, May 6, 2013 - 3:00am

Japan is planning to offer scholarships for students at its universities to study abroad, The New York Times reported. The move is aimed to reverse a decline in the number of Japanese students who go abroad, and to make the country more competitive economically.

 

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