Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 20, 2013

The American Public University System, which consists of the Charles Town, W.Va.-based American Public University and American Military University, announced on Thursday it will allow its students to earn academic credit by taking massive open online courses. The 10 science, technology and mathematics courses -- five each from MOOC providers Coursera and Udacity -- have received credit recommendations from the American Council on Education. In a statement, the university said it may expand its offerings and incorporate more MOOC providers in the future.

September 20, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Emma Versteegh of the University of Reading explains how earthworms create a chalky record of the climate. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 20, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association this week filed a motion to dismiss O’Bannon v. NCAA, the federal antitrust lawsuit currently seeking class action status. The suit argues that the NCAA and other private businesses profit off the likenesses of athletes who are prohibited from making any money off their own image, and that athletes are entitled to a share of the profits.

Because of lack of precedent, it’s unclear how the O’Bannon case might affect collegiate athletics, but some have speculated it could be huge. The NCAA decided in July to end its football video game contract with Electronic Arts Inc., which is facing a few other lawsuits by former athletes charging that EA profits off their likenesses.

September 20, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress on Thursday honored scientists whose seemingly obscure discoveries -- much like those that are sometimes ridiculed in the Capitol today -- actually ended up making important contributions to society, as part of the second annual Golden Goose Awards. This year's honorees for the award, which is sponsored by a set of higher education and scientific advocacy groups, included two Nobel-winning economists whose theoretical mathematical algorithms helped set the stage for the national kidney exchange, and a medical researcher whose study of the Gila monster's venom led to a drug that protects diabetics from some life-threatening complications.

 

September 20, 2013

The University of Oregon’s new faculty union reached its first contract agreement with the institution this week, following 10 months of negotiations.

In addition to an average salary increase of nearly 12 percent spanning the 2-year agreement and the creation of a salary floor for adjuncts, union members said the contract protects both academic freedom and freedom of speech. The union and the administration had clashed over language concerning such protections in negotiations, with the administration wanting to address each protection in separate clauses and include expectations of “civility.” Faculty involved in negotiations said divorcing academic freedom from freedom of speech could leave faculty who spoke out against the university vulnerable to potential punitive action. They also objected to the civility expectation.

The final contract’s statement on speech protections does address free speech and academic freedom separately, but explicitly grants faculty the right to engage in internal criticism -- something an earlier university counterproposal did not. It does not include expectations of civility.

Deborah Olson, a full-time adjunct instructor of special education who served on the bargaining committee for United Academics, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, said administrators “moved considerably on those positions from their first proposal, so for the first time at the table we’re very happy.”

Tim Gleason, dean of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication and a member of the institutional bargaining team, said it never tried to limit academic freedom for faculty, and that language in earlier proposals reflected the university’s attempts to protect both robustly. “That’s what we do at Oregon,” he said.

Bill Harbaugh, a professor economics who blogged from negotiations from a faculty perspective, said he felt the final agreement didn’t go far enough. Language proposed last year by the Faculty Senate, which is still being reviewed by senate leaders and administrators and expressly guarantees faculty’s right to engage in internal criticism “without fear of institutional discipline or restraint,” would have been better, he said.

September 20, 2013

The Yosemite Community College District is investigating why a student at Modesto Junior College was blocked from passing out copies of the Constitution on campus on Tuesday, which was Constitution Day, The Modesto Bee reported. A video of campus security stopping the student has circulated online, provoking criticism. A statement from the college said that passing out copies of the Constitution where the student did so was permitted "as long as they don’t disrupt the orderly operation of the college," and that "n the case of the YouTube video, it did not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operation of the college."

 

September 19, 2013

Six students at the City University of New York were arrested on Tuesday for protesting the university’s decision to hire David Petraeus, former military leader and ex-director of the Central Intelligence Agency, according to reports from Al Jazeera America. The demonstrators are upset that the university hired Petraeus, whom they consider a war criminal, according to the report. University faculty members and administrators released statements earlier this week, calling for peaceful disagreement and supporting Petraeus’s right to teach.

The University Faculty Senate said demonstrators must respect CUNY’s policy of academic freedom for faculty members. “Professor Petraeus, and all members of CUNY's instructional staff, have the right to teach without interference,” the University Faculty Senate statement read. “Members of the university community must have the opportunity to express alternate views, but in a manner that does not violate academic freedom.” 

The dean of CUNY’s Honors College also released a statement encouraging civil dialogue about complex issues. “We may disagree, but we must always do so in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding,” Ann Kirschner said in a statement. “While the college supports the articulation of all points of view on critical issues, it is essential that dialogue within the academic setting always be conducted civilly.”

Petraeus was the subject of controversy earlier in the summer, when it was reported that he would be paid $200,000 to teach at the honors college. It was later announced that Petraeus would teach the course for $1.

September 19, 2013

Adrian College has announced that it will repay all or part of the student loans of new graduates who fail to get jobs that pay at least $37,000. Under the plan, the college will make all of loan repayments due for of those who don't have a job that pays at least $20,000, and then a portion of the repayments for those with salaries of $20,000 to $37,000. The idea behind the program, called Adrian Plus, is to reassure students and families that they can attend a private liberal arts college without fear of debt they can't manage upon graduation. Adrian officials stressed that, based on past patterns, the vast majority of students won't need to partipate in the program.

 

September 19, 2013

More than 5,000 incoming freshmen at City College of Dongguan University of Technology in China’s Guangdong province this year signed a “student management and self-discipline agreement” that clears the institution of any liability in the event that the signee commits suicide, China Daily reported. “Under the contract, the students have to bear all responsibility and any consequences if they commit suicide or injure themselves on campus while they are attending the university,” the report says.

September 19, 2013

Suzanne Fortier, principal and vice chancellor (the equivalent of president) of McGill University, has issued a statement in which the university formally opposes a "charter of values" proposed by Quebec's government that would bar public employees -- including those who work at universities -- from wearing religious head coverings or "overt" religious symbols. While the proposal could affect many religious people, it is widely viewed as a response to the non-Christian immigrant population in the province. "The proposal to prohibit our professors and staff from wearing visible religious symbols runs contrary to our principles. The wearing of such symbols in no way interferes with the religious and political neutrality of McGill as an institution. All the members of the university community with whom I have spoken on this issue are clearly worried about the proposal, and would like to see it withdrawn," said Fortier's statement. The Montreal Gazette reported that other universities are also concerned about the proposal, but that McGill is the first to take so public a stance.

 

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