Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

A new poll by Gallup has found that 46 percent of Americans believe that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." Another 32 percent believe that humans have evolved over millions of years but "God guided the process." And only 15 percent believe that humans evolved without help from God. The breakdown is similar to that Gallup found in 1982, when it started asking about evolution. But in the last year, the percentage who believe in a creationist view increased from 40 to 46 percent, with the other two categories dropping.

Other findings of the new poll:

  • Among those who attend church weekly, 67 percent hold the creationist view.
  • Among Republicans, 58 percent hold the creationist view. (The figure for Democrats is 41 percent.)
  • By educational status, those with some postgraduate education are least likely (25 percent) to hold the creationist view, but among college graduates, the share (46 percent) matches that of the general population.

The analysis by Gallup states: "Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature."

Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

Manipal University, a private institution in India, is in talks to open a campus in China, in collaboration with two universities in that country, Tianjin University and Tongji University, The Hindu reported. The campus being planned would be the first in China to offer a program in information technology and other sciences, taught only in English.


Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

Enrollments in graduate science, engineering and technology programs have grown sharply over the last decade but slowed in 2009-10, according to new data from the National Science Foundation. The NSF study, drawn from the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering conducted by the foundation and the National Institutes of Health, shows that enrollments in graduate programs in STEM fields grew by 30 percent from 2000 to 2010, and that the growth was even larger -- 50 percent -- in the number of first-time, full-time enrollees in such programs. Enrollments of women grew at a faster pace than those of men (roughly 40 percent vs. 30 percent), and the rates of enrollments by underrepresented minority studies outpaced those of white and Asian Americans (though their actual numbers were much lower).

While enrollments continued to rise in 2009-10, hitting a historical peak, the rate of growth slowed significantly, particularly among full-time, first-time students. The enrollment of such students fell to 1.7 percent in science programs and 4 percent in engineering programs, compared to 8.2 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively, in 2008-9.

Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

The Morehouse School of Medicine announced last week that it has raised $2 million to endow a chair that will focus on sexuality and religion, the Associated Press reported. The chair will focus on ways to train physicians and theologians on sexual health issues that include contraception, rape prevention, unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A spokeswoman for the Association of American Medical Colleges said she did not know of a similar endowed chair at any other medical school.

Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

Seventeen former nursing students have sued the Maricopa Community Colleges over the finding that they cheated, The Arizona Republic reported. The cheating dispute concerns whether they were properly informed that they could not do group work on an online quiz to be done at home. But the former students are also challenging the slow speed at which their appeals were handled under a timetable that they said forced them to miss two consecutive semesters, and to lose tuition paid -- without having their grievances heard. The Arizona State Board of Nursing has raised concerns about the grievance procedure as well. Maricopa officials said that the students' complaints are not valid.

Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

Vanderbilt University's football coach, James Franklin, has apologized for comments he made about his assistant coaches and their wives, CBS reported. Appearing on a radio show, he said: "I’ve been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant coach until I’ve seen his wife.... If she looks the part, and she’s a D-1 recruit, then you got a chance to get hired. That’s part of the deal." With university officials and others criticizing the remarks, Franklin sought to clarify his remark. On Twitter, he wrote, "My foot doesn’t taste good, I hope I did not offend any1, I love & respect ALL." He added, "Attempt at humor obviously fell a few yds short. Was speaking to the courage it takes 4 men 2 approach the women who become their wives!!!!!"

Monday, June 4, 2012 - 4:21am

The budget cuts and enrollment limits faced by California's public colleges have led to increased recruiting (and increased enrollment) of California students at out-of-state colleges, The Los Angeles Times reported. Washington State University enrolled 132 Californians in the fall of 2011, double the figure from a year before. The University of Oregon now has 1,000 Californians, twice the level of five years ago. At college fairs in the state, out-of-state colleges stress their ability to provide small classes, and enough open spots in classes that students can graduate in four years.


Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from Ward Churchill, formerly a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who sued the university challenging his firing, The Denver Post reported. Churchill was fired after faculty committees found that he had engaged in repeated instances of scholarly misconduct. He denied the charges and said he was really being fired (illegally) for his controversial political views. The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal on three issues: whether a university's investigation into the writings of a faculty member, and subsequent termination of that faculty member, violates the First Amendment; whether university regents are immune from lawsuits; and whether -- if regents are immune from lawsuits -- Churchill can win his job back.

Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jay Pasachoff of Williams College explains the rare transit of Venus taking place on June 5th. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education both on Thursday expressed concerns about the way Texas A&M University at San Antonio notified Sissy Bradford, an adjunct with excellent teaching evaluations who had been told earlier she would have four courses for the fall, that she would have no courses. The university told Bradford of this development the day that a local newspaper noted her complaints about how the university responded to threats she received after her objections played a role in the removal of crosses from a tower being built at the entrance to campus. Bradford and her supporters see the university punishing her for speaking out. University officials have said that there is no relationship between her lack of courses for the fall, and her public statements. And university officials have stressed that adjuncts are not entitled to courses in any future semester.

A letter from the AAUP to President Maria Hernandez Ferrier said that "we believe that the action taken against Ms. Bradford was effectively a dismissal for cause, without the administration's having demonstrated adequacy of cause before a faculty hearing body. It thus seems to us to be a summary dismissal, fundamentally at odds with academic due process." The letter continues: "We accordingly urge that the Texas A&M University-San Antonio administration rescind her dismissal and reinstate her to the teaching that had been assigned to her for the fall semester, with any further action in her case to be consistent with the enclosed principles and standards."

FIRE announced that it was looking into the case. A statement from the organization said in part: "Many know, of course, that the job security of adjunct instructors like Bradford is nowhere near what it is for tenured professors and that universities may (and frequently do) decide not to rehire them for myriad reasons -- or no reason at all. But this does not mean that adjunct professors possess fewer First Amendment rights than their tenured counterparts. Adverse employment action taken against adjunct instructors on the basis of their protected expression as citizens violates the First Amendment."

On Thursday, the university released a letter from Bill Bush, interim head of the School of Arts and Sciences, in which he said that portrayals of the situation at the university have been "extremely one-sided." He said that the university offered support to Bradford amid the controversy over her statements about the crosses. He said that the decision not to offer Bradford courses for the fall was related to a desire to hire more tenure-track faculty members, and he said that she was in no way punished for any stances she took. He said it was a "duty" of the university to protect students and faculty members who express a range of views.

The university did not respond to a request that it explain why Bradford was initially offered courses for the fall, and then told that she would not teach those sections.


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