Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Santa Clara University announced Monday that a hacker had managed to improve the grades of 60 undergraduates, The San Jose Mercury News reported. The university has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help track down exactly what happened. An inquiry into the hacking began when a former student came forward to say that a grade on her transcript was better than the one she thought she had earned. The grade changes varied from minor boosts to major ones, changing failing grades to As.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Williams College canceled all classes and athletic activities Monday after an incident of apparent racial bias -- and the college's initial response to it -- agitated many students. The phrase “All Niggers Must Die” was found scrawled on a hallway wall in a campus dorm early Saturday morning, according to a statement released by Adam Falk, the college’s president.  An initial e-mail to the campus angered students who thought the message's wording was vague, said Colin Adams, a member of the college’s faculty steering committee and professor of mathematics. Students demanded the cancelation of classes to create time for reflection about the incident, said James Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs. He said a police investigation into the incident is continuing.

Students and faculty and staff members participated in a day’s worth of programming on issues of inequality and diversity.  The main event was held near midday, with about 1,000 students, faculty and staff members assembled for several speeches by administrators and student leaders. “As we together organize our individual, group, and college-wide responses, may that be with outrage at what has occurred and at what too many members of the campus community are continually burdened by, along with the resolute sense that in the end we will succeed in making this campus, nation, and world a place that is safe for all,” Falk wrote in his second statement to the campus Monday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The higher education system in Illinois, once a national model, has seen sharp declines in performance driven not only by funding problems but by governance changes and political corruption, several leading researchers said in the first installment of a multipart study examining state higher education policies. The report, "A Story of Decline: Performance and Policy in Illinois Higher Education," was produced by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Research on Higher Education and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Future studies will examine Georgia, Maryland, Texas and Washington.

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 3:00am

A sorority has placed six members on probation for dressing in blackface to depict characters from "The Cosby Show" for a costume party, the Associated Press reported. The women have all met with a group of African-American student leaders to discuss the incident.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 4:27am

The senior college commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges has approved a new set of policies aimed at giving the regional accreditor a greater role in assuring the academic quality of its members. Under the policies endorsed this month, WASC will begin external reviews of the retention and graduation rates of the colleges it accredits, and will post the action letters and team reports that result from its every-five-year reviews beginning next June. The agency will also require all institutions to show that their graduates have achieved institutionally defined "levels of proficiency" in written and oral communication, quantitative skills, critical thinking and information literacy, and to define the learning outcomes of each degree it offers.

The commission considered, but could not reach agreement on, a proposal that would have required each accredited institution to benchmark its outcomes in two of those five areas against other colleges. Discussion about that reform and others is continuing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 3:00am

The Big Ten announced Monday that it is removing Joe Paterno's name from the conference's championship trophy, citing the controversy over Paterno's failure to alert the police to allegations of sexual abuse of children, ESPN reported. A statement said that the conference trophy was supposed to be "celebratory and aspirational, not controversial." ESPN released the results of polling it conducted on the firing of Paterno. Among all Americans, 51 percent think Paterno deserved to be fired, while 21 percent said he should have kept his position. But in Pennsylvania, more people believe it was wrong to fire Paterno (45 percent) than that it was the correct call (35 percent).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 4:35am

The West Virginia University Institute of Technology has decided to eliminate its football program, The Charleston Daily Mail reported. Officials cited the high costs of maintaining a team that did not attract many fans to its games.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 3:00am

A panel charged with studying the large and growing athletics deficit at the University of Maryland at College Park plans to recommend that the university eliminate 8 of its 27 sports teams, The Washington Post reported. The Post cited a source with firsthand knowledge of the report by the committee appointed by President Wallace D. Loh in July, which is charged with finding ways to raise revenue and cut costs to deal with a deficit that sits at $4.7 million now but could triple by 2017 without meaningful changes.

According to the Post, the commission will recommend ending five men's (indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, cross country, swimming and diving, and tennis) and three women's (swimming and diving, water polo and aerobics and tumbling) teams, which would take Maryland from four squads over the average for the Atlantic Coast Conference to four below. The recommendations would go to Loh, who could cut fewer or -- if recent history at other institutions is a guide -- challenge alumni to raise money to keep some of the teams alive.

Monday, November 14, 2011 - 4:26am

Some professors at Mississippi Valley State University are criticizing a Faculty Senate vote of no confidence this month in President Donna Oliver, The Clarion-Ledger reported. The Faculty Senate cited a number of problems, including poor relations between the president and the faculty, declining enrollment and budget problems. But faculty members who are not on the Faculty Senate say that they were not consulted about what they consider to have been an important vote. Further, some question the wisdom of such a vote with an accreditation review coming up.

 

Monday, November 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The following are the latest developments from Pennsylvania State University as it struggles to move forward amid a sex-abuse scandal:

  • Moody's Investors Service announced that it will conduct a review that could lead the agency to downgrade the university's bond rating (currently Aa1). A statement said: "Moody's will evaluate the potential scope of reputational and financial risk arising from these events. While the full impact of these increased risks will only unfold over a period of years, we will also assess the degree of near and medium term risks to determine whether to downgrade the current Aa1 rating. We will monitor possible emerging risks emanating from potential lawsuits/settlements, weaker student demand, declines in philanthropic support, changes in state relationship and significant management or governance changes."
  • Thousands of Penn State students and others attended a candlelight vigil Friday night to express sympathy with victims of sexual abuse and to vow to help such individuals, The Centre Daily Times reported. And at Saturday's football game against the University of Nebraska, fans participated in a moment of silence for the abuse victims, and players from the two teams kneeled together to recognize the victims. The emphasis and tone of the events were in contrast to the protests earlier in the week against the firing of Joe Paterno as football coach.
  • The top recruiting prospect for Penn State's football team announced that he was backing away from a pledge to attend the university, ESPN reported.
  • For those seeking perspective on how the Penn State scandal compares to other major athletics scandals, Slate has assembled links to some of the better long-form journalism on such scandals in the past, as well as some more recent coverage.

 

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