Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 3, 2014

China is moving to change the test that is generally the sole factor in university admissions, The Economist reported. Government officials have indicated that they want to add some subjective factors -- such as consideration of extracurricular activities -- to admissions decisions. Some educators are concerned that the current system (and possibly the new one) favor wealthier applicants. In the 1970s, half of students at prestigious Tsinghua University were from poor, rural areas. In 2010, that share was down to 17 percent.

 

January 3, 2014

A University of Sydney researcher is alleging that he may have lost out on a grant from the Australian Research Council because some government officials were concerned about his support for a boycott of Israeli universities, The Australian reported. According to the newspaper, officials of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade noted that Jake Lynch, who heads Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, vocally supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, and questioned whether giving him a grant would be bad for the agency's image. Later in the year, the government-supported research council rejected a $290,000 grant for the center to study the work of journalists in parts of Africa, and Lynch has asked a faculty union to explore whether his support for the boycott played a role. Officials at the research council said they followed their procedures.

January 3, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Micah Berman of Ohio State University explains the hidden costs an employer can expect to incur when hiring a smoker. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 3, 2014

A former University of Delaware student is suing the institution under Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment after administrators allegedly mishandled her sexual assault complaint, court filings show. On campus for required student activities during an academic break and without university-provided housing, "Jane Doe" says she was pressured to sleep at a sophomore football player's apartment. The athlete raped her in the bed they shared that night, she said, and transmitted an incurable sexually transmitted disease. "We see this all the time with [athletes like John Doe]," she says a university health services employee told her, and the lawsuit notes that the football player had committed the crime multiple times before and after the alleged rape. The woman sought help from Assistant Dean of Students Monique N. Colclough, the suit says, and although Colclough said an assault had occurred, she did not share the student's rights as a victim or offer any protection or required services, nor did she notify police or any other administrators about the incident or pursue an investigation. Instead, she encouraged the student to seek medical leave, which the student eventually took, before transferring to another institution in poor academic standing, according to the suit. The university declined to comment.

January 2, 2014

Lake Superior State University celebrates the end of every year by releasing a List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.

Nominations are collected throughout the year and the "winners" are announced on New Year's Eve.

Selfie was the banned word with the most nominations. One nomination of the word said: “People have taken pictures of themselves for almost as long as George Eastman's company made film and cameras. Suddenly, with the advent of smartphones, snapping a ‘pic’ of one's own image has acquired a vastly overused term that seems to pop up on almost every form of social media available to us…. A self-snapped picture need not have a name all its own beyond ‘photograph.’ It may only be a matter of time before photos of one's self and a friend will become ‘dualies.’ LSSU has an almost self-imposed duty to carry out this banishment now.”

Twerk/twerking also had many nominations. "Time to dance this one off the stage," said one nomination letter.

Hashtag also was banished. The university's release says: "We used to call it the pound symbol. Now it is seeping from the Twittersphere into everyday expression. Nearly all who nominated it found a way to use it in their entries, so we wonder if they’re really willing to let go. #goodluckwiththat"

Further, this year's list suggests ending all the words that are created by adding "aggedon" or "pocalypse" to some other word.

Other words and phrases banished by Lake Superior State this year:

  • Twittersphere
  • Mister Mom
  • T-bone
  • ____ on steroids
  • Intellectually/morally bankrupt
  • Adversity (in athletics)
  • Fan base (in athletics)

 

 

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."

 

 

January 2, 2014

An investigation by Bloomberg has found that there have been a total of 60 fraternity-related deaths since 2005, and that 9 of those deaths have been at events linked to a single fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Colleges have suspended or closed at least 15 chapters in the past three years, and have disciplined more than 100 chapters since 2007. The article by Bloomberg also details hazing practices, describing an eight-week initiation at Salisbury University, for example, in which a pledge alleged and the university confirmed that fraternity members "forced pledges to drink until they almost passed out and dressed them in women’s clothing and diapers.... Fraternity members confined recruits for as long as nine hours in a dark basement without food, water or a bathroom, while blasting the same German rock song at ear-splitting volume."

Frank Ginocchio, SAE’s general counsel, told Bloomberg that the the deaths linked to events at the fraternity reflected a "perfect storm," not a problem with the organization. “We try, and we keep on trying,” Ginocchio said. “I don’t think our procedures, our rules and risk management are much different from any other fraternity. We’ve all had some bad cases and sad occurrences.” The fraternity says that it does not tolerate hazing.

 

January 2, 2014

The Common Application, which had severe technological problems in the early fall, but which has seen a more stable system recently, was able to process more applications on December 31 (the day of the year at which it typically receives the largest number of applications) than it did a year ago on the same day. But late on New Year's Day and continuing for a few hours, many of those filing were unable to do so.

Prior to the New Year's Day difficulties, social media featured only scattered complaints about slow response time, or difficulty with certain parts of the process, but most comments were simply from students boasting about being done with applications.

Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application, said via email that the system processed 154,904 applications on Tuesday (9 percent more than the previous year), and  165,128 recommendation forms (a 42 percent increase). Counting optional writing supplements that were filed, he said that the total amounted to 5.23 submissions per second all day long. Another 122,00 applications were filed New Year's Day. He said that the volume of inquiries at the support desk has been "relatively light." Through Jan. 1, the total number of applications filed is up 12 percent, to more than 2.5 million.

Some of those filing late on New Year's Day did have difficulties. According to a post by Common Application on its Facebook page Thursday morning, the problem is now solved, but social media posts indicate it was fairly traumatic for some applicants who thought they were about to miss deadlines. The Common Application post says: "Between 11:35 p.m. Eastern and 2:35 a.m. Eastern some users had difficulty using the system, particularly during the first of those three hours. However, since 2:35 Eastern (50 minutes ago) you should be able to work without a problem. Have no fear - all member colleges with a January 1 deadline will accept any application submitted promptly today. Sorry to keep you up a little later tonight!"

 

 

January 2, 2014

The proportion of faculty members who work part time fell slightly in 2012 from the previous year, although it remained close to half, according to data published this week by the National Center for Education Statistics. The Education Department report, which also includes statistics on fall 2012 enrollments and graduation rates, among other things, shows that of the 1,565,493 postsecondary faculty members employed in fall 2012 by institutions that award federal student aid, 800,212, or 51.2 percent, were employed full time, and 765,280 worked part time. In fall 2011, 784,639 were full time and 780,865 were part time.

January 2, 2014

A new study in Academic Medicine notes the differing career options being used by men and women on medical school faculties -- at a time that women making up an increasing share of medical school students. Of traditional tenure track programs (in which professors engage in teaching, research and patient care) only 20 percent of medical schools report that there are more women than men in this category. But of medical schools offering a clinician-educator track (in which faculty focus only on patient care and teaching), 77 percent report having more women than men. A key issue, however, is that those on the tenure track are more likely than those on the clinician track to be promoted, the study finds.

 

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