Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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Monday, April 9, 2012 - 3:00am

Gay students and gay issues have become unusually visible at Brigham Young University, an institutions that bars students from sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that gay students last week released a video in the "It Gets Better" series talking about being gay at the university. Also last week, estimates are that up to 600 students attended a meeting in a room with seating for 260 to hear four students talk about balancing their gay identities with life at the university, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We’re trying to live it and create new spaces for us to be gay and Mormon and be active in the church," said Adam White, who was on the the panel and appeared in the YouTube video. The university says that gay students do not face punishments from the university as long as they don't have physical intimacy with members of the same sex.



Monday, April 9, 2012 - 3:00am

A lengthy Bloomberg article outlines a series of incidents that have alarmed security officials and some university leaders who fear that some countries are attempting to use American universities' foreign connections for the purpose of spying. The article notes numerous incidents, including an American researcher who was invited to give a talk abroad. Then someone there asked for a copy of her paper, inserted a thumb drive into her laptop, and downloaded every document she had. In another instance, Michigan State University was approached by a Dubai-based company about providing funds and students for the university's Dubai campus, which was struggling financially. Lou Anna K. Simon, president at Michigan State, contacted the Central Intelligence Agency because she was afraid the company might be a front for Iran. When the CIA couldn't confirm the company's legitimacy, Simon passed on the deal and shut down the Dubai campus.

The article also quoted from a 2011 Pentagon report that said that attempts by East Asian countries to obtain classified or proprietary information through "academic solicitation" (requesting to see academic papers or discuss work with professors), jumped eightfold in 2010.

Friday, April 6, 2012 - 4:24am

The board of Santa Monica College has scheduled an emergency board meeting for today to consider the fate of the college's controversial two-tiered tuition plan, The Los Angeles Times reported. The plan would charge more for some high-demand courses, and has set off student protests and concern from educators nationwide. The chancellor of the California community college system this week asked Santa Monica to hold off on the plan.


Friday, April 6, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut explains the biochemistry of highly targeted chemotherapy drugs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, April 6, 2012 - 4:28am

Chicago State University has told its faculty members that they can't talk to the press without permission from university officials, and that permission may be required for various other forms of communication, including writing opinion pieces and using social media, The Chicago Tribune reported. An e-mail message Sabrina Land, the university's director of marketing and communications, sent to faculty members said that the new rules would assure that communications were "strategically deployed" in a way that "safeguards the reputation, work product and ultimately, the students" of the university. Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors, told the Tribune that the new policy "is an obscenity and absurdity and is not tolerable."


Friday, April 6, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team will have to sit out the 2012-13 postseason, after it failed in its final effort to appeal a National Collegiate Athletic Association decision that banned the team from the tournament because of poor academic performance. The team is ineligible because it didn’t reach the (newly raised) minimum NCAA Academic Progress Rate of 930, which would indicate that half its players were on track to graduate. That measurement is a cumulative one, meaning the APR that got Connecticut banned from the 2013 tournament actually reflects the academic performance of players on the team from 2007-11. Connecticut appealed to an NCAA committee after its initial request for a waiver was denied in February.

The university issued a statement Thursday pointing to the improved academic performance of its past two men’s basketball teams. “It is disturbing that our current players must pay a penalty for the academic performance of students no longer enrolled,” Connecticut President Susan Herbst said in the statement. “As I have said repeatedly, no educator or parent purposefully punishes young people for the failings of others.”

This is the first year the NCAA has issued postseason bans for poor APR scores. The new rule is part of a series of Division I reform efforts that NCAA President Mark Emmert pushed through in October.

Friday, April 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Student Veterans of America on Thursday announced that it had revoked chapter memberships at 40 for-profit colleges for violating the group's policies and "using the SVA brand to legitimize their programs." The group did not name the 40 institutions. (The Associated Press reported that the association has 417 campus chapters.)

Chapters must be run by students, according to the association's rules, but a review turned up for-profits that had administrators, rather than students, listed as primary contacts at campus chapters. Michael Dakduk, the group's executive director, said in addition to that violation, some colleges lost their membership because they used primary institutional websites or pages devoted to recruiting military students as chapter websites, another no-no under association policies. "Chapter websites are organization websites devoted the group and not meant to be a promotion of the university," he said in an e-mail.

Friday, April 6, 2012 - 3:00am

The Florida Atlantic University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine angered many at the institution by placing fake eviction notices (complete with a county seal, but also a notice that they were not real) on several hundred dormitory rooms. Several student groups said that it was unfair to use people's room doors as a political platform without the permission of those who live there. The student group did not respond to questions, but has told local reporters that the eviction notices were designed to draw attention to the way Israel treats Palestinians. Pro-Israel groups meanwhile said that the student group was distorting Israeli policy.

Charles L. Brown, senior vice president for student affairs at the university, issued a statement that said that "the distribution of printed material on university property is subject to FAU policy and regulation. These policies require that printed material be distributed only at reasonable times and places and in reasonable manners. These policies are designed to ensure that the manner in which material is distributed is consistent with the educational mission of the University, its uninterrupted orderly operation, the safety of the university community, and the protection of university property and that of its students, faculty and staff. The recent mock eviction postings did not comply with the policies of University Housing and Residential Life or the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership concerning the distribution of printed material, and therefore the postings were removed."

Friday, April 6, 2012 - 3:00am

While Mitt Romney appears to have a commanding lead in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, Rick Santorum had been besting him in the category of higher ed-bashing. Perhaps hoping to go after Santorum fans, Romney yesterday attacked President Obama for ... having spent time at Harvard University. One possible problem is that Romney has two Harvard degrees himself (law and business) while Obama has only one (law).





Friday, April 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Although negotiated rule-making on teacher preparation programs isn't yet complete, the Education Department plans to announce another round soon on distance education fraud. Department officials said at negotiations Thursday that plans for more rule-making are underway, and higher education lobbyists said it will focus on financial aid fraud rings. The rings  use "straw students" who enroll with no intention of attending classes, usually in online courses at open-access institutions. They then apply for federal aid and split the proceeds. The fraud rings have become a growing problem as online education has boomed, but some worry that a crackdown could endanger legitimate students' access to federal aid.


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