Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 2, 2014

A faculty panel at the University of Colorado at Boulder has found no problems with a course on deviance at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The review found that the course and its professor -- Patricia Adler, a professor of sociology -- generally get high reviews. The review follows complaints by administrators about an in-class event in which some volunteer assistant teaching assistants dress up as various kinds of prostitutes. Administrators have suggested that the exercise may make some students feel uncomfortable, although there have never been formal complaints about the issue and the course has been popular for years. The faculty panel said that "properly conducted role-playing and skits are meritorious pedagogical techniques. If skits are used in the future, it will be appropriate for Professor Adler to document that those involved, whether students in the class, undergraduate teaching assistants (ATAs), or graduate teaching assistants (TAs), give full informed consent to participate, including to the possibility of being filmed, and can opt out of participation at any time without penalty, if, indeed, this is the standard being used throughout the university for in-class participation." The panel concluded that there was no reason the course could not continue.

Many faculty groups (at Boulder and nationally) have been calling for the university to endorse that view (the university has said that such a review was necessary) and to retract a series of statements offering different reasons for the concern about the course. Via email, a spokesman for the university said that if the executive committee of the sociology department endorses the report, Adler can continue to teach the course. But the spokesman said that the university wasn't retracting any statements. "We understand the concerns of various groups and organizations that have weighed in, but they are not privy to all the facts in the case," he said. The statements were not intended to reflect on Adler, he said, but to affirm the idea "that student welfare in the classroom is a co-equal concern for the institution alongside academic freedom."

 

 

December 30, 2013

The American Council on Education's president, Molly Corbett Broad, has issued a statement strongly condemning the movement to boycott Israeli universities. “In recent weeks, several scholarly associations have voted on formal motions to boycott activities involving faculty and staff at Israeli academic institutions. Such actions are misguided and greatly troubling, as they strike at the heart of academic freedom," Broad's statement says. "Many of these same scholars would decry efforts by trustees, governors or state legislators to infringe on faculty teaching and research activities at their own institutions, and yet these boycotts involve more sweeping repercussions, impeding global academic relationships and the constructive exchange of ideas among countries and cultures. One could easily see such boycotts moving to other countries and scholarly pursuits, which would only lead to a further erosion of academic freedom and free thought in a world that is so desperate for it.



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December 28, 2013

In the last decade, new federal regulations have forced academics who receive money from drug companies to disclose those ties when writing and speaking about their products. An article in The New York Times suggests that such conflicts of interest may have been going on for some time -- undisclosed -- involving academics who defend controversial Wall Street trading practices. A number of such academics do work for parts of Wall Street, or their academic programs receive gifts from businesses that benefit from the research. In many cases, the Times said, these ties have not been reported. Professors told the newspaper that their views were not influenced by the ties to the finance industry.

December 28, 2013

The Los Angeles Times conducted a survey of public and private high schools in Southern California to see which colleges and how many colleges recruited, and found that the schools with high proportions of low-income and minority students received far fewer visits. At one private high school, the research found, there were more visits by colleges this fall (113) than there were high school seniors (106). The colleges included top institutions from all over the country. At a Los Angeles public high school with 280 seniors, only eight recruiters (all local) visited.

 

 

December 27, 2013

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has informed ITT Educational Services that the federal agency's enforcement office may urge the CFPB to "take legal action" against the for-profit higher education provider for possible violations of federal law, ITT announced in a federal tax filing Friday. In its statement, ITT, which operates more than 140 ITT Technical Institutes in 38 states, said that the consumer bureau had notified it about the potential legal action on Dec. 23. The agency's notice said its enforcement staff plans to allege that the company violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and other financial regulations, and that the staff "expects to recommend seeking remedies and penalties to the fullest extent of the law."

ITT officials said that they would respond to the agency's notice and that they believe the company's "acts and practices relating to the matters under investigation are lawful."

December 25, 2013

Israel's High Court of Justice on Tuesday upheld the decision of government authorities to upgrade a higher education campus on the West Bank to full status as an Israeli university, The Jerusalem Post reported. The presidents of the nation's other universities objected to the procedures used to upgrade Ariel University, as the institution is known, and the court rejected those arguments, saying that proper procedures had been followed. A major objection the university leaders (but not the focus of the legal fight) is their view that the country does not have enough money to support a new university. Ariel has been championed by those who support Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Many Israeli academics have opposed the granting of university status, saying that it is wrong to build up Israeli institutions on the West Bank, and that doing so will likely encourage the movement in other countries to boycott Israeli academe.

 

December 25, 2013

The arrest of a university vice president in China was announced Wednesday in the latest sign that higher education has become a new target of the government's anti-corruption campaign, Reuters reported. The official arrested was Chu Jian, vice president of Zhejiang University. He was charged with "suspected economic problems," which Reuters said is a term used for corruption. He could not be reached for comment. A week ago, an investigation was announced into the work of a vice president of Sichuan University, and officials have also said that they are investigating the official in charge of admissions at Renmin University.

 

December 24, 2013

The University of North Florida has decided not to appeal a Florida appeals court ruling that said public universities could not ban guns from cars parked on campus, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The decision came in a suit challenging North Florida's rules against guns in parked cars on campus, but the decision also raised questions about the legal right of public colleges and universities in the state to regulate guns in many cases. The University of North Florida, in saying that it would not appeal the decision, said it would drop its rule on guns in cars on campus. Florida Carry, a gun-rights group, announced that it would sue any public university that does not make similar changes.

 

December 24, 2013

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that it had found that Dong-Pyou Han, until recently an assistant professor at Iowa State University, falsified results of research he was conducting on a vaccine that could be used to prevent the spread of HIV. The agency found him to have engaged in "intentional spiking" of lab samples, and concluded that the results of these samples prompted considerable interest in the research involved -- including the awarding of more research grants. Han apparently added human blood to samples that were supposed to be rabbit blood, and the additional blood skewed the results, The Des Moines Register reported. HHS said that Han had admitted his actions. The Register reported that he had resigned from Iowa State and that he could not be reached for comment.

December 23, 2013

Adjunct faculty members at Whittier College have voted to unionize and to be represented by the Service Employees International Union. SEIU is currently trying to organize adjuncts in various regions, and Whittier's vote comes as the union has drives going on at such Southern California institutions as Loyola Marymount University and the University of La Verne. The union has pledged to see better wages, benefits and job security for the adjuncts. Sharon Herzberger, president of Whittier, issued this statement: "We appreciate the contribution that our adjunct faculty makes to our institution. Upon request, Whittier College will meet with SEIU and attempt to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that meets the needs of both Whittier College and its adjunct faculty."

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