Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 22, 2013

Florida International University has suspended Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity while investigating screen shots of a series of postings on the brothers' Facebook page, The Miami Herald reported. Members of the fraternity aren't talking, but the Facebook posts (some of which are published with the Herald article) refer to some women as "sorusitutes," quote the availability of drugs (sometimes with tiered pricing for brothers and non-brothers) and apparent encouragement to engage in hazing.

 

August 22, 2013

The University of Sydney is debating the censorship of the cover of a student newspaper -- Honi Soit -- which was forced to place black bars over portions of 18 photographs of students' vulvas. The Student Representative Council, which publishes the paper, ordered the addition of the black bars, citing Australian laws on obscenity, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Michael Spence, vice chancellor of the university, told the newspaper that "personally my view is the cover is demeaning to women but I do realize I'm not the target audience for Honi Soit. However, the student body at the University of Sydney has a long and proud tradition of independence and it's a tradition we will continue to uphold."

Despite all the efforts to block the cover, copies of the original cover leaked and can be found on various websites and Twitter. (Readers who do not wish to see close-up female genitalia may not wish to follow this link, which  shows the original version and the censored version.) While the body parts are not identified, some students have come forward to not only defend the project, but to point out their participation. See, for example, this blog post "That's My Vagina on Honi Soit."

The newspaper's website has been shaky with all the traffic since the controversy broke. But an editorial explaining the rationale behind the cover also was posted to the newspaper's Facebook page. "Eighteen vulvas. All belong to women of Sydney University. Why are they on the cover of Honi Soit?" says the editorial. "We are tired of society giving us a myriad of things to feel about our own bodies. We are tired of having to attach anxiety to our vaginas. We are tired of vaginas being either artificially sexualized (see: porn) or stigmatized (see: censorship and airbrushing). We are tired of being pressured to be sexual, and then being shamed for being sexual. The vaginas on the cover are not sexual. We are not always sexual. The vagina should and can be depicted in a non-sexual way – it’s just another body part. 'Look at your hand, then look at your vagina,' said one participant in the project. 'Can we really be so naïve to believe our vaginas the dirtiest, sexiest parts of our body?'"

 

 

 

 

August 22, 2013

The White House is keeping a tight lid on what might emerge during President Obama's two-day bus tour to address college affordability. But on the eve of those appearances, which begin today, sources said the president might seek to link federal financial aid to student outcomes, such as debt levels. Observers said that major proposal, which obviously would be controversial to many in higher education, likely would be accompanied by Obama signaling support for competency-based education, particularly programs that are not based on the credit-hour standard. However, the proposal's language was still being hashed out yesterday, sources said.

The New York Times also reported that the president's plan would involve linking federal aid to various student outcomes, likely with rating systems that compare colleges to their peer institutions.

Other parts of the Obama tour in upstate New York may be less controversial. In Syracuse, he is expected to highlight the "Say Yes to Education" program, which provides scholarships to students in participating schools in New York State with to attend public and participating private colleges, while also providing extensive support and guidance on preparing for colleges, The Post-Standard reported.

 

 

 

August 22, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Scott Schieman of the University of Toronto explains why greater work authority can undermine the health benefits that usually come with higher social status. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

August 22, 2013

The University of Notre Dame plans to start admitting students who lack the legal documentation to reside in the United States. To date, Notre Dame has not had an official ban on such students, but has treated them as international students, who must have student visas to enroll. That rule effectively made enrollment impossible for undocumented students -- who typically were brought to the United States as young children and have lived in the U.S. for many years. Announcement of the shift in policy appeared on social media Wednesday night and was confirmed by a Notre Dame admissions official.

Notre Dame's policy to start admitting undocumented students as domestic students reflects a significant commitment for the university because Notre Dame is among the small number of private institutions that pledge to meet the full financial need of all admitted (non-international) students. Since undocumented students are barred from federal student aid programs, and because many of them are from low-income families, their financial need could be large. The aid commitment, however, will only be made to those admitted, and Notre Dame admissions are quite competitive.

 

 

August 22, 2013

A new requirement that private colleges in Malaysia teach a compulsory course in Islamic and Asian Civilization Studies has been politically controversial. The move has been described as a step toward increasing "Islamization" of the country’s colleges, as The Malay Mail Online has reported, and some argue that the course should be an elective. Government officials reject the argument that non-Muslim students should not be required to take the course, saying that the course covers not only Islamic civilization but also Chinese, Indian and Malay civilizations, as the Star reported. The course is already required of all students in public institutions.

Foreign branch campuses in Malaysia are among the institutions that are subject to the new requirement. Christine Ennew, provost of the University of Nottingham’s campus in Malaysia, told Inside Higher Ed in an e-mail interview that Nottingham has taught subjects mandated by the Malaysian government since the campus's establishment in 2000: a 1996 law governing private education providers mandates that private institutions teach compulsory courses in Malaysian studies and courses related to Islam for Muslim students and moral studies for non-Muslim students. What’s changed, she said, is the nature of the mandatory subjects, including the introduction of the new Islamic and Asian Civilization Studies course.

Asked whether the government’s move raises concerns about issues of institutional autonomy, Ennew said, “We’ve been delivering the teaching of compulsory subjects in relation to broad, externally defined content for 13 years – it was a requirement that we were aware of when we made the decision to establish a campus in Malaysia. And Malaysia is not the only country that asks for certain subjects to be taught to students. The key point is that these subjects are outside of the core curriculum and so [the] government is not interfering in the content of our degree programs.”

 

August 22, 2013

An Australian student attending Oklahoma’s East Central University on a baseball scholarship was shot and killed last week by three teenagers who were “bored” and decided to kill someone for fun, CBS News reported. Christopher Lane was out for a jog in Duncan, Okla., where his girlfriend and her family live, when he was shot in the back.

A statement from East Central University said that Lane, a Melbourne native, earned an associate degree in business administration from Redlands Community College, also in Oklahoma, before enrolling at East Central. The head baseball coach, Dino Rosato, remembered Lane as “a person I wanted to be around. He was a young man with great character.”

August 21, 2013

After a summer of unexpected setbacks and amid a growing chorus of doubt, Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun on Tuesday dismissed the idea that his company's model for high-quality, low-cost education isn't working.

Speaking to Information Week, Thrun said the MOOC provider has almost "found the magic formula" for how to produce and run its online courses. Udacity hit a major snag last month after disappointing results led one of its two university partners, San Jose State University, to pause its partnership. According to a leaked report, students enrolled in the $150 classes provided by Udacity performed much worse than their peers in traditional courses -- especially in remedial math. Thrun maintains the data was published "in an incomplete form, with a very strong bias," and that results from summer courses will show that more than half of the students passed their courses.

Thrun said the numbers should provide an incentive for San Jose State to resume the partnership in 2014.

August 21, 2013

MALDEF, the Latino civil rights organization, on Tuesday announced a suit against Pomona College over the tenure denial of Alma Martinez, who had taught in the theater and dance department. The suit says that the college discriminated against Martinez on the basis of her gender and national origin. While details of the alleged discrimination were not provided, the MALDEF statement said that Martinez had unanimous backing for tenure from her department. A college spokesman told The Los Angeles Times that there was no bias involved in the decision, but that he could not discuss the case because it is in litigation.

August 21, 2013

A University of Chicago student’s essay about her experience of sexual harassment while studying abroad in India had attracted about 350,000 page views by Tuesday morning, CNN reported. Many Indian readers sympathized with the story – some men offered their personal apologies -- but others warned against making generalizations about India or Indians.

The student, a South Asian studies major named Michaela Cross, said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is on a leave of absence from Chicago. (A spokesman for the university contacted by CNN confirmed that Cross is a student there but did not confirm details of her leave.) In the essay, posted under a pseudonym, Cross described spending three months “in a traveler's heaven and a woman's hell. I was stalked, groped, masturbated at; and yet I had adventures beyond my imagination. I hoped that my nightmare would end at the tarmac, but that was just the beginning."

In a statement provided to CNN, the University of Chicago said it was committed to caring for students' safety and providing support to students before, during and after the study abroad experience. "We also place extremely high value on the knowledge our students seek by traveling and studying other civilizations and cultures, and we are committed to ensuring they can do so in safety while enriching their intellectual lives."

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