Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 20, 2015

The national debate over sexual assault on campus has prompted some sororities to reconsider their long-time bans on drinking in their houses, The New York Times reported. The rules save sorority members money on insurance. But the article noted that the policies leave many sorority women reliant on fraternities to organize and host parties, meaning that these events will take place in fraternity houses where sorority members don't set the rules, don't know what's in the punch, and don't always know the quickest way out if they want to leave. Advocates for changing the policy don't say it would eliminate sexual assault on campus, but speculate that events organized by women would be safer.

January 20, 2015

Maybe every dormitory room doesn't need 13,000 plastic balls. But David Nichol, a senior at Rice University, decided that his room needed just that, and he created a ball pit in which he and friends can enjoy themselves. He had to move his desk and drawers to a common space he shares with other students to make room for all the balls, but says it was worth it. According to Rice's account, Nichol doesn't know what he's going to do with the balls when he graduates, but he isn't that worried either.

“We’ll see," he said. "I think when you have an idea you should just go for it. You shouldn’t worry about what’s going to happen next or what’s going to happen after that. If you’re going to keep doing that, you’re never going to be able to do cool things like have a ball pit room. Which is my way of saying I don’t know what’s going to happen to them."

Rice posted a video to YouTube about Nichol and his unique room:

 

January 20, 2015

President Obama, like many presidents over the last 25 or so years, invites selected guests -- whose stories reflect administration priorities --  to sit with the First Lady during the State of the Union address. This year there are several higher education connections. Chelsey Davis (at right) is a student at Pellissippi State Community College at a time when President Obama is pushing a plan to make two years of community college free. Bill Elder is a medical student and a Stanford University graduate who was never expected to reach adulthood because of his cystic fibrosis. His story, the White House says, reflects the value of medical research and education. Also reflecting an emphasis on education is Anthony Mendez, the first in his family to graduate from high school and now a freshman at the University of Hartford. And Ana Zamora is a "DREAM" student, among those brought to the country at a young age but lacking permanent legal status, although they have gained some new rights under the Obama administration.

Members of Congress also get guest seats. New York Magazine reported that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, is bringing Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who protested campus policies on sexual assault by dragging a mattress with her for an entire semester. Sulkowicz says that the mattress symbolizes the weight she carries because of the university's failure to punish the student she says raped her. (He denies that.)

 

 

 

January 20, 2015

The New York Times explores the question of whether a college degree should be seen as essential to be the president of the United States. The piece was inspired by the debate set off by a reference in a prior Times article to one potential candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who dropped out of Marquette University. The last president who lacked a college degree was Harry Truman (at right).

 

January 20, 2015

King's College London has dropped a rebranding campaign that would have, in part, encouraged people to call the institution King's London, Times Higher Education reported. Many students and alumni rallied against the plan, questioning its cost and purpose since, in their view, King's College London enjoys an excellent reputation.

 

January 20, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Yoel Stuart, a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses his research on a species of lizard that is very quick to adapt. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 19, 2015

The University of North Carolina's Board of Governors announced Friday that Thomas G. Ross would leave his job as the system's president early next year, and its failure to explain the reasons for Ross's departure prompted assertions that he was forced out. Ross was appointed president in 2010, just as Republicans first began making significant gains in North Carolina's traditionally Democratically controlled legislature. When Republicans took control of both houses of the legislature in 2012, the university -- and Ross as its leader -- faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers who believed UNC had been treated with kid gloves by Democratic politicians.

In the last year, he appeared to have weathered the political pressure and to have begun to persuade the new Republican majority of UNC's importance to the state economy, even as a series of controversies buffeted the university. The joint statement from the university and Ross said that his departure had nothing to do with his performance, but board leaders insisted that it had nothing to do with politics, either.

January 19, 2015

All new coaches at University of California campuses will have any bonuses tied to the academic performance of athletes on their teams, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Even if the coaches also have athletic-related bonuses in contract, they will not be paid unless academic requirements are met. Each campus will develop its own plan. New coaches will be judged only after three years so that they are not punished for prior coaches' inattention to their students' academic performance.

January 19, 2015

Clemson University faculty members and students are urging the institution to rename one of its most prominent building, Tillman Hall (at right), whose current name honors a racist, The Greenville News reported. Benjamin Ryan Tillman was a white supremacist politician who boasted of participating in the killings of black people. He was also one of the founders of the university. Many colleges and universities have faced similar debates.

 

January 19, 2015

President Obama's plan for free community college won a high-profile boost last week with an op-ed in The New York Times in which the actor Tom Hanks wrote about how attending a community college changed his life, and said that he hoped the president's plan would move forward.

Responding with star power of his own, John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, sent reporters a blog post Friday in which the speaker's office assembled 12 Taylor Swift gifs in which she is imagined to become skeptical of the free community college idea. It is unclear whether Swift in fact wants Congress to shake off the idea. She has generally avoided political statements. Her publicist did not respond to an inquiry from Inside Higher Ed.

 

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