In today’s Academic Minute, Joshua Miller of Smith College explores the psychological landscape individuals must navigate in the wake of disasters. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Students and some employees started a strike Sunday at American University in Cairo, Ahram Online reported. Students organized the protests, focusing on a 9 percent tuition increase that they oppose. A number of non-faculty employee groups joined the protests, citing inadequate wages. Students have put up tents, planning for a long protest.
The protests were organized on a Facebook page, on which students complained about the impact of budget cuts and questioned the quality of their education. "The administration has made a lot of budget cuts from our departments and have limited hiring new professors. This means that we should expect an even worse quality of education due to limited resources," says one statement about the reason to strike. "Services and education at AUC do not measure to what we pay for."
The Ahram article did not quote university officials, but the university provided Inside Higher Ed with a memo sent by Lisa Anderson, the university's president, to students and employees. The memo said that the university has worked hard to provide additional benefits to employees and has added financial aid for needy students. "While the request to rescind the 9 percent tuition increase cannot be met because we continue to run a budget deficit, we are preparing a number of payment plans for the next semester that would allow our students and parents to select from a range of more flexible payment options," the memo said.
Anderson wrote that the university "is committed to a freedom of expression policy that recognizes the right of all members of the AUC community to express their views as they wish, as long as they do not do so in such a way as to disrupt university activities or damage university property." She wrote that "most of the participants in today's protests displayed a high level of commitment to the principles of freedom of expression, integrity and responsibility as members of the community. Unfortunately, small groups of students and staff appear to have violated university policy in using physical force in confrontation with security staff at the gates, vandalizing university property, obstructing access to the campus and disrupting classes. Just as the university is a strong proponent of free expression, it is equally committed to ensuring that all students have access to the education they deserve and that all members of the community are afforded a safe and productive working and learning environment. Violence of any type, especially targeted at security staff, will not be tolerated. To that end, the university's disciplinary action process has begun against all students implicated in using or threatening to use force against security personnel, blocking access to the campus, vandalizing property or disrupting classes."
She said that, anticipating protests today, the university would restrict campus access to one gate. Noting the recent protests in Egypt, she added that "we look to all the members of the AUC community, but particularly to our students -- the leaders of the future -- to serve as an example of how peaceful protest, thoughtful deliberation and reasoned discussion contribute to consensus building and forward progress."
Colleges in parts of Pennsylvania and New York that saw flooding are starting to resume normal operations, while also cleaning up and helping local efforts to repair damage. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is closed until Thursday, although the campus is providing some food service for those who are still there. Wilkes-Barre, Pa. ordered evacuations of the city, and has now lifted that order, permitting the resumption of classes planned for today at King's College. At Wilkes University, classes will resume tomorrow, and officials are reporting minimal damage to the campus. Bucknell and Susquehanna Universities are reporting on student efforts to help the surrounding areas. Further north, the State University of New York at Binghamton (in a city that was hard hit by the flooding) announced that it will resume classes today, although courses scheduled for a downtown campus have been relocated.
A new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has documented a shift in Baltimore's high school graduates attending college: In the last four years, the percentage starting at two-year colleges, as opposed to four-year colleges, rose by 12 percentage points, to 52 percent. The Baltimore Sun reported that officials are concerned about the trend because only 5.8 percent of those who start at a two-year college earn a degree in six years -- compared with 34 percent who start at four-year-colleges.
The University of Nebraska Press plans to buy and distribute nearly 250 titles from the Jewish Publication Society, a publisher of Jewish scholarly and reference works, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. The Jewish Publication Society will continue to identify and publish new works, but Nebraska will distribute them. Officials with the society said that they wanted a university press affiliation and selected Nebraska because of its strong commitment to Jewish studies. The Nebraska press owns about 50 Jewish studies titles and publishes about a four a year.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison is upping the cost for students of receiving an alcohol-related citation. Not only will students have to pay the ticket, but they will have to attend (and pay for themselves) alcohol education classes, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Students will have a choice of $78 for two group sessions or $200 for two one-on-one sessions with a counselor.
Following controversies in several states over demands by conservative groups for the e-mail and other communications of selected faculty members at public universities, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy has released an analysis of how state universities and states might respond. The analysis -- by Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel of the American Association of University Professors -- offers several options. One is to amend state Freedom of Information Act laws to exempt public college faculty members. But short of that, she notes the possibility of calling for tests that balance legitimate public demands for information with professors' need to discuss ideas frankly but privately.
As many as 24 members of the 2010 football team at California State University at Fresno -- many of them also on this year's team -- have been linked to welfare fraud, the Associated Press reported. The athletes were identified in an investigation of an employee of a county social services department who has been accused of filing on their behalf for benefits to which they were not entitled. Fresno State officials said that the athletes have been punished but declined to comment further.
Colleges continue to face unusual weather conditions as the academic year starts. Colleges in Pennsylvania, parts of New York State and elsewhere faced flooding -- leading to some closings Thursday. Bucknell University, facing concerns about the Susquehanna River and local creeks, closed Thursday. So did Lebanon Valley College. Susquehanna University on Thursday was helping some off-campus students evacuate from areas that were no longer safe. Montgomery County Community College, outside of Philadelphia, called off classes Thursday night. In New York State, Broome Community College was among the institutions forced to close. The State University of New York at Binghamton has called off classes, but opened facilities for use as shelters by citizens who have been evacuated from their homes.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed legislation to overhaul federal patent laws, overcoming some last-minute objections from Republicans to send the bill to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. The measure, which has strong support from many higher education groups, is designed to align the U.S. patent system more closely with patent systems in other major countries, and it would alter the law so a patent for an innovation would be granted to the first inventor to file an application for it, rather than to the creator of the innovation.