Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 1, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Elaine Handley of Empire State College explores the long literary tradition of writing about inanimate objects. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 1, 2013

The University of Oregon has discovered that some employees working on federal grants padded their pay by putting in for hours they didn't work, The Oregonian reported. The university has already repaid the government $330,000 as a result, and officials said that there are other employee pay records that are still being investigated.

 

November 1, 2013

Florida Atlantic University's football coach, Carl Pelini, along with the defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis, resigned Wednesday after their boss confronted them about alleged marijuana use at a recent social event, ESPN reported. “On Monday, I was made aware of these concerns and I immediately reported the allegations to our general counsel,” Athletics Director Pat Chun said at a press conference. “The university acted quickly and decisively to follow up and take action that is in the best interests of our student-athletes and the University overall. I can assure you that we have no information that suggests anyone other than these two individuals engaged in these activities.” Pelini was in his second season as head coach and leaves with a 5-15 record.

November 1, 2013

University of Michigan students and administrators are denouncing the use of racial stereotypes in an invitation to a fraternity party originally scheduled for next week and now called off, MLive.com reported. Theta X invited students to a "World Star Hip Hop Presents: Hood Ratchet Thursday" party, specifically inviting "bad bitches, white girls, basketball players, thugs and gangsters." The invitation featured a photo of a black man holding cash, and also featured language such as "we goin back to da hood again!!"

The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, published an apology from the fraternity. "The individuals responsible for the event would like to state that there was no intent to cause harm by way of stereotypes and other damaging views. However, we realize that the terms used in their context were harmful and offensive to our community at large," said the apology.

 

November 1, 2013

York College put its wrestling program on interim suspension due to “violations of the Student Code of Conduct and the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, including hazing,” according to a college statement sent to Inside Higher Ed. Campus safety officers and administrators at the Pennsylvania college are investigating the situation during the suspension, which bars the team from “all activity,” and individual students will face campus judicial board hearings. A college spokeswoman told the York Daily Record that she didn't know how many instances of hazing occurred, but administrators learned of the conduct through an anonymous email sent to the athletics department.

November 1, 2013

A standardized test taker filed a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit against ACT and the College Board for selling personal information about her and millions of American high schoolers.

The lawsuit, filed this week in a federal district court in Illinois, seeks more than $5 million in damages from the test makers for “unfair, immoral, unjust, oppressive and unscrupulous” conduct. Namely, the plaintiff, a Cook County woman about which little else is known, alleges that ACT and the College Board do not tell test takers what will be done with their personal information. She said test takers are asked if ACT and the College Board can "share" personal information with others. That is misleading, the lawsuit alleges, because the information is in fact sold and test takers -- almost entirely high school teens -- become part of a multimillion-dollar money-generating machine for ACT and the College Board.

The test makers have long sold high school students’ personal information to colleges that want to market to students. The current price is about 37 or 38 cents per name. Colleges are using increasingly sophisticated data mining techniques to recruit and shape their classes. Colleges can use such information to deny admission to students and perhaps reduce financial aid awards.

A spokesman for ACT said it would not comment on pending litigation but that the lawsuit was a “unique instance," meaning ACT at least has not previously faced such a challenge. The College Board could not immediately say if it had ever faced such a lawsuit and would not comment on ongoing litigation, but a spokeswoman said, “as a guiding principle in all we do, the College Board takes very seriously the privacy, security and confidentiality of information entrusted to us by the students in our care.”

Three Illinois attorneys representing the woman bringing the lawsuit did not respond to messages seeking comment.

October 31, 2013

The largest athletic programs -- many of which think they are constrained by the smaller budgets of their peers -- will most likely have to suck it up. Or at least their reprieve probably won't come in the form of a separate division, Nathan Hatch, chair of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I Board of Directors, said in a statement Wednesday. At their quarterly meeting in Indianapolis this week, the university presidents who make up the board's membership heard ideas from various groups regarding NCAA governance and structure. Afterward, the NCAA announced it will create a subcommittee to "develop some alternative plans the membership can discuss" at the association's annual convention in January.

A new governance plan could be put up to a vote as soon as August, Hatch has said.

While Division I will likely remain as is and university presidents should stay in control, an altered rule-making process that allows some flexibility for institutions to make decisions in areas like recruiting and financial aid could emerge as a compromise, the statement said. Currently, all Division I institutions must abide by the same limitations and rules, despite their drastically different budget levels.

The board identified other key elements to emerge from the feedback this week: the board should be less focused on day-to-day operations and more focused on overarching strategy for Division I; the division needs a more transparent, fast-moving, streamlined and simple governance process; and all groups, particularly athletics directors and athletes, should have "representation within the governance structure."

The much-discussed prospect of a new division or subdivision for the largest athletic programs garnered support (or at least consideration) from numerous organizations, conference commissioners and faculty groups. But others, including associations of athletics directors and faculty athletics representatives, as well as the Division I Leadership Council, oppose the idea.

October 31, 2013

Janet Napolitano, one month into her University of California System presidency, made her first substantive address in that role Wednesday night, in a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. She said that, in two weeks, she will be sharing some "big ideas" with the university's Board of Regents. But in a hint of her priorities, she announced several initiatives Wednesday. She proposed a $5 million increase in spending on postdoctoral fellows and a $5 million increase in spending on recruiting graduate students. "Graduate students and postdocs are the essential links between teaching for California and researching for the world. They are our future faculty members. They are our future innovators. They are our future Nobel laureates. They merit our additional support right now," she said, in the prepared version of her remarks.

Napolitano also announced that she was setting aside $5 million to help UC students who lack the legal documentation to reside in the United States. She reiterated her view (from her time as U.S. secretary of homeland security) that federal law should give such students a path toward citizenship. But she said that the university will do more to help them now. The new funds, she said, will be used "to support these students with resources like trained advisers, student service centers and financial aid. Consider this a down payment -- one more piece of evidence of our commitment to all Californians. UC will continue to be a vehicle for social mobility."

October 31, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Douglas Kenrick of Arizona State University explains why irrational behavior can appear rational when viewed from an evolutionary perspective. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 31, 2013

The Georgia Institute of Technology has in 20 days received almost 1,000 more applications for its low-cost online master's degree than it does in a year for its residential program, according to data released by the university.

The 2,359 applicants are also demographically different from the students who normally apply for the residential program, which is popular among international students. About 80 of applicants for the online program come from the United States, compared to about 20 percent for the residential program. The master's degree program in computer science is a partnership between Georgia Tech, AT&T and massive open online course provider Udacity. The degree costs only $7,000, and university officials have promised it will be as rigorous as the residential program, which can cost up to $40,000 a year.

Men make up about 86 percent of the applicants, and the program has drawn almost as many applicants from Georgia -- 336 -- as California, the highest represented state, with 343 applicants. AT&T employees total 514 of the applicants.

Because of space issues, about 450 of the applicants will start the program in January, but every qualified applicant will be accepted and may start next summer, a spokesman said. University officials have previously said the program could scale up to enroll as many as 10,000 students within three years.

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