Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 1, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Alfred Crosby, a professor of polymer science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, discusses his work to create a super-sticky adhesive modeled after the feet of a gecko. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 26, 2014

Spelman College, which has found itself receiving questions about its ties to Bill Cosby, on Tuesday released a statement that noted that its ties are to Cosby and other family members, not just to the comedian who has found himself accused of drugging women and forcing them to have sex (charges he has denied). Spelman has to date not commented on whether it will seek to distance itself from Cosby, and didn't comment for an Inside Higher Ed article about a number of colleges with Cosby ties. But while that article simply noted the no comment, other websites have suggested Spelman was backing Cosby (although there have been not quotations to that effect). TMZ, for example, ran an article called "Bill Cosby-Spelman College -- We Still Have Your Back."

In Tuesday's statement, President Beverly Daniel Tatum reviewed the Cosby gifts to the college, noting that they were from Bill Cosby and Camille Cosby, his wife, and that the Cosby building on campus is named for her, not him. She writes that "at this time there are no discussions regarding changes to the terms of the gift."

"While I cannot control how media outlets position information, and more than one has distorted our statement, I think it is important that all of you have the facts," Tatum writes. "Two Cosby daughters attended Spelman College. Our building is named after Dr. Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby. The endowed professorship is named after both Cosby parents. The historic $20 million gift that the college received in 1988, more than 25 years ago, came from the Cosby family.  Though it is not appropriate for the College to comment publicly on specific allegations against any individual, sexual assault is a profoundly serious issue for any educational institution.  Please know that we do not condone sexual violence in any form and understand our critical role as a women’s college to lead in the fight against it.  I trust you will read all news media critically, informed by these facts."


November 26, 2014

While some campuses saw protests Monday night over the lack of an indictment in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, many more campuses saw protests on Tuesday. The following are local press accounts of protests involving students at Baltimore-area colleges, Grand Valley State University, Kent State University, Middle Tennessee State University, San Diego State University, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

November 26, 2014

The University of Georgia is moving to terminate a psychology lecturer found to be in violation of the institution’s policy on student-professor relationships for a second time, the Athens Banner-Herald reported. The lecturer, Rich Suplita, says he plans to leave the university anyway, but has appealed the results of the most recent investigation, saying they are “completely inconclusive based on the evidence.” Suplita said his “personal conviction is I’m not in any way in violation.”

Suplita admitted, however, that he had violated the university’s relationship policy in 2012, by dating an undergraduate in his class; the institution prohibits relationships between instructors and students over whom they have authority. Suplita was reprimanded in that case. This year, after he started dating a teaching assistant assigned to one of the classes he taught, administrators again accused him of violating the policy. But Suplita said this relationship does not go against university policy since he did not technically oversee the teaching assistant.  

November 26, 2014

The Association of American Universities last week joined with similar groups from other parts of the world to issue the Leiden Statement, pledging support for the humanities and social sciences. The statement says that the members of these associations will:

  • Ensure that social science and humanities disciplines continue to receive necessary support.
  • Highlight the contributions of these disciplines.
  • Ensure that social science and humanities research and education programs "flow without unnecessary constraint to the wider community."
  • Promote "strong funding and support for social science and humanities research."
  • Promote global collaboration in these disciplines.


November 26, 2014

Seven students of an imprisoned Uighur professor are being tried in a Chinese court on charges of belonging to a separatist group, The New York Times reported. The students’ professor, Ilham Tohti, was convicted of separatism and sentenced to life in prison in September in a case that has attracted widespread outrage from human rights groups and foreign governments. Tohti formerly taught economics at Minzu University of China.

November 26, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Silverman of Winthrop University discusses Abraham Lincoln’s stances on the subject. Learn more about the Academic Minute here. And check back tomorrow and Friday for new Academic Minute episodes.

November 25, 2014

Many students and legislators are angry that Kean University paid $219,000 for a custom-built conference room table, NJ.com reported. The university did not seek bids on the project and used a Chinese company as part of an effort to build ties to China. Dawood Farahi, Kean's president, told NorthJersey.com it was "small-minded" to make inquiries about the cost of the table.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Kean, via email to Inside Higher Ed, said the table should be viewed as a "conferencing center" because it includes electronic equipment, storage for the equipment and lighting, and is more than the conference table itself. The photo below is of the table.

November 25, 2014

Maryann Jones, incoming president of the Charleston School of Law, resigned after just eight days on the job, according to The Post and Courier, a Charleston newspaper. The law school's possible sale to a for-profit chain, the InfiLaw System, has been a source of controversy. Jones said in a written statement that she decided not to sign her job contract because of "the level of vitriol, with all sides making me a lightning rod for an unfortunate situation that was not of my making."

November 25, 2014

Adjuncts at two Vermont institutions -- Burlington and Champlain Colleges -- have voted to form unions affiliated with Service Employees International Union. The union is organizing adjunct faculty members across the country, in metro-wide and regional efforts, as part of its Adjunct Action campaign. Burlington and Champlain are the first colleges in Vermont to see unions as part of that effort. At Champlain, the tally was 118 to 30, out of 219 eligible faculty members. The tally at Burlington College was 23 to 4, out of 46 eligible voters. Donald L. Laackman, Champlain's president, said in a statement that the college will "do its part to work productively with the SEIU in the best interest of our students and all our faculty." A Burlington official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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