Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Tim Gunn was a faculty member at Parsons The New School for Design before "Project Runway" occupied too much of his time. A new meme imagines Gunn as an outside committee member helping to prod a doctoral student to the finish line. With advice such as "I hate two-part titles, but they're very now," and "I think your article is confused about its genre," on photos of Gunn advising would-be designers, the meme is attracting followers.

The meme is the work of a husband-and-wife team: Sarah Summers, a Ph.D. student in rhetoric and composition at Pennsylvania State University, and Bill Riley, a recent M.F.A. grad. Via e-mail, Summers explained: "We're both 'Project Runway' fans. Last week we were marveling at how Tim Gunn manages to be critical and incisive while also being encouraging. Working on a book project and a dissertation, we realized that a kindhearted kick in the pants seems pretty valuable!"

Make it work.

 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Erika Marsillac of Old Dominion University reveals how going green is keeping some companies in the black. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Two national groups aim to stimulate discussions on campuses across the country this year about what the top priorities of American higher education should be and what tradeoffs the country -- and colleges -- would have to make depending on the directions they go in. The campaign, “Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help U.S. Create the Society We Want,” is headed by the American Commonwealth Partnership, a consortium of colleges dedicated to democracy, and the National Issues Forums, a nonprofit organization that organizes and promotes public discussions. The goal is to bring together a variety of stakeholders, from university administrators to local residents in various communities, to discuss the purpose of higher education.  About 60 forums are already scheduled for the fall, and organizers hope to hold at least 300 community discussions this year.

As a starting point for these dialogues, the forum proposes three possible directions for higher education: focusing on competing in the global economy by emphasizing science and technology, using higher education to teach students values such as respect and responsibility, or make college more accessible. Panelists at a kickoff event Tuesday at the National Press Club acknowledged that these three choices are not independent of each other, but said they hoped laying out the options would spark debate, and maybe even action.

“My hope for these dialogues is not that they come to the right solution but that they create that ground-up passion,” said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of Syracuse University and one of the panelists Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 4:04am

Internet2 and Educause, two higher-ed technology organizations, announced on Tuesday that they are expanding a group purchasing effort that allows member institutions to purchase access e-textbooks from McGraw-Hill at a discounted price. The effort, which began in January with five universities, "aims to advance a new model for the purchase, distribution, and use of electronic textbooks and digital course materials," according to a press release. The program added 20 additional institutions on Tuesday, including both small liberal arts colleges and large state universities. The idea is that negotiating deals for e-textbook access at the institutional level, as a group, will make it cheaper and easier for colleges and universities to support professors who want to take their courses digital. The first five universities to sign on recently collaborated on a report summarizing the experiences of students and professors in the first semester of the pilot. The results were mixed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 3:00am

A new report by the American Association of University Professors suggests various ways that the government can rewrite regulations on the research of human subjects. The report, "Regulation of Research on Human Subjects: Academic Freedom and the Institutional Review Board," is a response to a federal government endeavor to improving regulations when it comes to such research. The report says that the current review system, where an Institutional Review Board -- a local committee that monitors research that involves humans -- assesses research projects is far from ideal as the board's members might not have any special competence in the vast range of disciplines they might be asked to monitor. It suggests that university departments and faculty committees might be better equipped to deal with the job rather than these boards. "[A]lthough researchers may make mistakes in deciding whether their research methodology would be a minimal risk methodology, we think that the alternative – namely requiring that all research projects be approved by an IRB or an IRB surrogate – is markedly worse in its impact on both academic freedom and scientific research,” the report says. “...[W]e are recommending that if a research project would impose no more than minimal risk of harm on its subjects, then it therefore should be exempt from the requirement of IRB approval." so does it say that IRBs should go away? be limited to dangerous medical research? -sj

 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 4:22am

The Aspen Institute today named 10 finalists for the second iteration of its Prize for Community College Excellence, which has sought both to shine a light on the good work of two-year colleges but also to redefine strong performance in the increasingly important sector and produce better data about it. The 10 finalists, which were chosen from among 120 semifinalists named in April, were selected based on their results in three key areas -- performance, improvement and equity. Six of this year's 10 finalists are new from last year, and four are repeat performers: Lake Area Technical Institute, in South Dakota; Santa Barbara City College, in California; Walla Walla Community College, in Washington; and West Kentucky Community and Technical College. The winner, and as many as four runners-up, will be named next March.  Two are members of the Kentucky Community-Technical College System, and two are from Florida.

The finalists are:

  • Brazosport College, Lake Jackson, Tex.
  • Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • College of the Ouachitas, Malvern, Ark.
  • Kingsborough Community College - City University of New York, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, S.D.
  • Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Santa Fe College, Gainesville, Fla.
  • Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, Cumberland, Ky.
  • Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla, Wash.
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, Ky.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - 3:00am

A freshman who was a pledge at Theta Chi and who was at an event with drinking Saturday night died Sunday, The Fresno Bee reported. While the cause of death has not been officially determined, alcohol is viewed as a factor. The university is suspending Theta Chi. Seven years ago, a death in another fraternity house -- following a night of drinking -- prompted the university to announce a series of new steps to prevent alcohol abuse.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s African and Afro-American Studies Department reportedly allowing athletes to take and pass no-show classes did not violate any National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, including those regarding athlete eligibility, the university said in a statement Friday. “On Aug. 23, 2012, University Counsel Leslie Strohm and Senior Associate Dean Jonathan Hartlyn provided an update to the enforcement staff,” the statement said. “The NCAA staff reaffirmed to university officials that no NCAA rules appeared to have been broken.”

NCAA eligibility rules require that, in order to compete, athletes earn at least six credit hours each term and meet minimum grade point averages, which vary depending on an institution's own standards for graduation. But the rules apparently do not address whether taking no-show classes would constitute a violation. The classes reportedly involved altered grades and little to no faculty supervision.


 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - 3:00am

A feature in The Los Angeles Times describes a program at the University of La Verne in which children of migrant farm workers come to campus for a month in the summer to improve academic skills and to experience life at a college. Because many of these students don't have the stability of attending a single high school, and their families don't have much money, many face long odds against ever getting a higher education, which is why the university is focusing on reaching out to them. Adonay Montes, an assistant professor of education and the program director, said of the students: "They live the life of a college student here. We try to provide that experience so when they go back they know how to navigate the educational pipeline by being able to advocate for themselves."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - 3:00am

Another faculty in Minnesota has weighed in on the November vote on the proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage. During the first faculty meeting of the year, professors at St. Olaf College voted overwhelmingly to oppose the amendment. The college has said it will not take an official position on the issue, which another Lutheran college in Minnesota, Augsburg College, did in August.

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