Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, September 16, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Iowa has apologized to Representative Michele Bachmann, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, for a tweet on the university Twitter account. The Associated Press reported that the tweet was attempting to joke about reports of a cougar being sited in Iowa City, and said "I didn’t know Bachmann was in town. Bah-dum-bum." After the AP asked about the tweet, it was removed.

Friday, September 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has apologized for comments he posted on a blog in May, "Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?" Times Higher Education reported that he apologized as the the London School of Economics released a critical review of the incident, finding that he had "ignored the basic responsibility of a scientific communicator to qualify claims made in proportion to the certainty of the evidence."

Friday, September 16, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved legislation that would slice 2.8 percent from the 2012 budget for the National Science Foundation. The measure, which allocates funds for several science-related agencies, would provide $6.7 billion for the NSF, and also include a cut for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Friday, September 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Following a legal hearing in which John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, was asked to defend his gradual elimination of coeducational dorms on the campus, the professor who filed the complaint against him told Inside Higher Ed that additional complaints against two archbishops affiliated with the university are forthcoming. John Banzhaf, a George Washington University professor of public interest law, had said in news releases leading up to Thursday's hearing of the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights that Garvey’s presentation would determine whether he would also charge Rev. Allen H. Vigneron and Rev. Donald W. Wuerl with aiding and abetting illegal sex discrimination under the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act.

Father Vigneron is chairman of Catholic’s Board of Trustees, and Father Wuerl is the university’s ex officio chancellor and its liaison to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The D.C. statute prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and commercial space, and public accommodations on the basis of sex and other factors such as race, religion and marital status. If the human rights office decides that Banzhaf’s complaint is legally valid, it may begin an investigation.

Reached for comment Thursday afternoon, a Catholic spokesman, Victor Nakas, said, “We remain confident that the law is on our side and neither local nor federal law require us to provide co-ed housing.”

Friday, September 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Ruth J. Simmons announced Thursday that she will step down from the presidency of Brown University at the end of the academic year. Simmons, who is in her 11th year as Brown's president, and who was earlier the president of Smith College, said that it was a good time to plan a transition for the university and for herself. She plans to resume teaching at Brown.

Simmons received much attention as the first black woman to lead an Ivy League university, and some of her work related to issues of race and history, particularly in appointing a panel to study to links between Brown's founders and the slave trade. But she also led successful campaigns to increase the size of the faculty, and to provide substantially more money than in the past to financial aid. In recent years, she has generally won high marks from the university for navigating the tight budget environment created by the economic downturn.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

A day after his board approved a plan for yet another round of potential budget cuts, the chancellor of the University System of Georgia told members of the Board of Regents that the 35-campus system needs to study whether merging some campuses might be a more effective way to reduce spending. “I believe it is time for the system to study if campus consolidations are justified and will enhance our ability to serve the people of Georgia at less cost,” Chancellor Hank Huckaby told the regents. Previous such discussions have run into a buzzsaw in Georgia, often because they have involved the possible closure of historically black colleges, inflaming issues of race. Huckaby said that in addition to the study of possible consolidations, the system would examine more closely how it utilizes facilities space on its campuses.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The Association of American Universities on Wednesday announced a five-year effort to improve the quality and effectiveness of undergraduate teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, focused on the 61 U.S. and Canadian research universities that are its members but in tandem with similar initiatives in other sectors of higher education. The AAU plan, more details of which can be found here and here, was announced by the group's new president, Hunter S. Rawlings. It seeks to spread the use of existing, successful methods of teaching undergraduates (not just STEM majors) in math and the sciences, through demonstration projects and other means. “A number of our universities are already leading the way in developing and implementing these new ways of teaching," Rawlings said in a news release. "But there is a long way to go, and there is an urgent need to accelerate the process of reform.”

The AAU effort won early praise from several Obama administration officials in a post on the White House's blog.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

A national survey of college students at four-year colleges and universities has found that many college women are in, or witness to, abusive dating relationships. The findings include the following:

  • 43 percent of dating college women report that they have experienced abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, technological, verbal or controlling abuse.
  • 29 percent of college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.
  • More than half of college students who report experiencing dating violence said it occurred in college.
  • 58 percent of college students say they wouldn't know how to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse.
  • 38 percent of college students say they wouldn't know how to get help for themselves if they were victims of dating violence.

The survey was released by Love Is Respect, a group that promotes education and policies to promote healthy and non-abusive relationships.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Most state directors of community colleges are predicting cuts in state support this year, according to a new survey released today by the University of Alabama Education Policy Center. Other findings:

  • Tuition is expected to increase in most states, with a median projected increase of 5.6 percent -- more than double the inflation rate.
  • A majority of states expect flat funding for state financial aid programs.
  • In 21 states, high unemployment rates have depleted state job training funds for displaced workers.
Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Brian Foy of Colorado State University explains his work with a drug that could revolutionize mosquito control in malaria-ravaged areas. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

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