Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Leonard Mermel of Brown University discusses how small germs can cause big problems for astronauts on long-term missions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 4:17am

When Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, spoke to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors last week, much of his talk focused on issues of efficiency. But he also asked the leaders of the UNC system to focus more on issues of drug and alcohol abuse, The Herald-Sun reported. "There’s a serious drug and abuse of alcohol problems on your college campuses right now," he said. "There’s binge drinking. There’s a serious cocaine problem. There’s a serious heroin problem on every one of your campuses. You go ask the any student and you go ask sheriffs in any county.”

The governor said, "I’m just telling you as the Board of Governors and chancellors that we’re not going to hide it anymore. We’ve got to let it be known that there is a serious addiction issue that’s kind of being swept under the rug."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Missouri Board of Curators is preparing to change a rule that has, until now, stated that donors to the system's campuses could have only one building named after them, The Kansas City Star reported. Officials believe that lifting the rule may encourage some major donors to give even more, enticed by the possibility of having their names on multiple buildings.

 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 4:29am

Colleges need to start tracking retention rates not only by various factors widely considered today (race, gender, socioeconomic background) but by sexual orientation, according to a paper released by ACPA: College Student Educators International and by Campus Pride. The paper notes that, to do so, colleges need to start finding out how many students of different orientations they have -- and many colleges don't ask that question. But the report says that, given various pressures on gay students, it is wrong not to consider whether they are graduating at different rates from straight students.

"Colleges and universities are responsible for the education and safety of all students, including their LGBT students," the paper says. "Colleges and universities need to know and count their out LGBT students to provide necessary services and/or maintain proper safety and campus climate. Demographic questions asking students about their sexual orientation and gender identity give administrators the data they need to properly implement LGBT-inclusive policies and practices. Doing so will not be easy as different from other identity groups, LGBT student identity is fluid and often evolves during the college years. But, if our institutions of higher learning can achieve complex tasks like landing a spacecraft on Mars, we can certainly figure out this challenge."

 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 3:00am

Fredrik Logevall, a Cornell University historian, and Sharon Olds, a professor of poetry at New York University, were among the recipients Monday of Pulitzer Prizes for their written works.

Logevall, John S. Knight Professor of International Studies and Professor of History at Cornell and director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, won one of the coveted awards for Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam (Random House), his study of how U.S. leaders enmeshed the country in a fateful war. Olds, who teaches in the graduate creative writing program at New York University, received her Pulitzer for Stag's Leap, (Alfred A. Knopf), which her citation describes as a "book of unflinching poems on the author’s divorce that examine love, sorrow and the limits of self-knowledge."

The two authors each receive $10,000.

Monday, April 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Swiss universities -- with high quality and low tuition rates -- are enrolling larger proportions of foreign students, Swiss Broadcasting Corporation reported. In 1990, foreign enrollments made up 23 percent of the Swiss student body. Today that figure is 38 percent. While educators are proud of the quality of students being attracted, some officials question whether the country can afford to educate so many people from elsewhere.

 

Monday, April 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Authorities have charged Lei Wu, an assistant professor of software engineering at the University of Houston - Clear Lake, with making a "terroristic threat" based on statements he made to a colleague, The Houston Chronicle reported. Wu allegedly told a faculty colleague -- who recorded the conversation -- that there will "be blood" if he is not awarded tenure.

In response to an e-mail from Inside Higher Ed asking about the charges, Wu said: "Truth will come out soon. By then you will see. Justice will prevail."

 

Monday, April 15, 2013 - 3:00am

London School of Economics claims that three undercover BBC reporters who accompanied a student group on a trip to North Korea put the students at risk, The Telegraph reported. The journalists, who feigned affiliation with LSE, accompanied 10 students to North Korea, where they conducted filming for a documentary that’s scheduled to air today.

“At no point prior to the trip was it made clear to the students that a BBC team of three had planned to use the trip as cover for a major documentary to be shown on [the BBC program] ‘Panorama,’ ” LSE officials said in an email sent to students and staff.

"It is LSE's view that the students were not given enough information to enable informed consent, yet were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.”

The BBC maintains that students were twice warned that a (single) journalist would be coming on the trip. "The students were all explicitly warned about the potential risks of traveling to North Korea with the journalist as part of their group,” a spokeswoman for "Panorama" said. "This included a warning about the risk of arrest and detention and that they might not be allowed to return to North Korea in the future."

Monday, April 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Matthew Goldstein sent a letter to students and faculty members of the City University of New York system Friday afternoon announcing his plans to retire this summer. Goldstein has been chancellor since 1999, and in his years leading the university system, it has undergone major changes. Under Goldstein, new admissions standards for four-year institutions resulted in many of them attracting more top students, while CUNY's community colleges emerged as leading centers of reform in two-year college education. A new community college was launched this year, and it makes full use of many of the reform ideas circulating in the discussions of two-year colleges. CUNY also launched a number of new divisions in addition to the new community college. Among them are the William E. Macaulay Honors College, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY School of Public Health.

Goldstein also was chancellor when CUNY officials (as well as their counterparts at the State University of New York) reached an agreement with state officials in a bid to lead to more stable appropriations and tuition increases (both of which have fluctuated widely in the past). Some student leaders, however, have objected to any tuition increases, and there have been protests when rates have been raised.

Goldstein's letter to the system noted pride that during his tenure, more than 2,000 full-time faculty jobs have been added systemwide.

Relations between CUNY and its faculty union during Goldstein's tenure have sometimes been frosty. Currently, CUNY administrators and the union are divided over a program designed to create a smooth path for community college students to enroll in four-year programs after completing associate degrees. While the goal is one most educators applaud, faculty leaders have said that the plan has been poorly designed and has ignored professors' concerns.

 

Monday, April 15, 2013 - 4:16am

West Virginia is moving to merge two community colleges, while maintaining their two campuses, which are 33 miles apart, the Associated Press reported. The boards of Bridgemont Community and Technical College and Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College have approved the plan, under which the two institutions will be run by one president and one board. The goal of the merger is to cut costs.

 

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