Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 3:00am

A county judge ruled Wednesday that the University of California can release its full report on police officers' controversial use of pepper spray to disperse student protesters last fall, withholding only the names of most of the officers, the San Jose Mercury News reported. The university's police union had sued to block the release of the full report, arguing that some elements of it should remain confidential, as would be the case with the results of a police internal affairs investigation. Judge Evelio Grillo rejected that comparison, but agreed that names and ranks of officers could be withheld to prevent harassment of officers.

A UC statement said that the university would ultimately like to release the officers' names, and that it remained unclear exactly when the report would be made public.


Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 4:31am

The Roman Catholic group at Vanderbilt University on Wednesday announced that it would become an off-campus ministry rather than staying on campus and trying to comply with a university anti-bias rule that bars all student groups from discriminating on the basis of religion (among other factors), The Tennessean reported. Vanderbilt is among a number of colleges and universities that require all student organizations to be fully open to all students. Some Republican legislators are pushing to bar state student aid from going to such colleges, Nashville Public Radio reported.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, David Clark of Alma College reveals deceptive behavior found in male wolf spiders. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 3:00am

The Asian University for Women was founded in 2008, in Bangladesh, with high hopes of providing a liberal arts education to women from that country and elsewhere in the region. While the university attracted many prominent backers in the United States, it has been hit over the last week by a series of articles in Bangladesh about the departure of senior leaders, delayed fund-raising and the failure to create an independent board, The Wall Street Journal reported. Jack R. Meyer, chair of the board of the university's fund-raising foundation, posted a letter on the university's website, in which he said that much of the criticism was valid, but reflected problems on which the university was working and that it had in many cases solved. He said that the university is making strong progress, and asked for critics to stop sending anonymous letters to donors, discouraging gifts.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 4:24am

A student at Indiana University at Bloomington is receiving rabies shots after a rabid bat bit him while he slept in a dormitory, the Associated Press reported. The student's roommate is also receiving the shots.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 3:00am

A Long Island district attorney on Tuesday announced that the College Board and the ACT had agreed to tighter security measures for those taking the SAT and the ACT. Nassau County authorities have charged 20 people with involvement in schemes in which supposed test-takers paid others to take the SAT for them. Among the new rules:

  • Test registrants will be required to upload a photograph of themselves when they register for the SAT or ACT. The photo will be printed on admissions tickets and the test site roster, and checked against the photo ID registrants provide at the test center, and the photo will accompany students’ scores as they are reported to high schools and colleges.
  • Uploaded photos will be retained in a database available to high school and college admissions officials.
  • All test registrants will be required to identify their high school during registration so that high school administrators receive students’ scores as well as their uploaded photos. 
  • All test registrants will provide their date of birth and gender, which will be printed on the test site roster.
  • Standby test registration will be eliminated.
  • Students will certify their identity in writing at the test center, and acknowledge the possibility of a criminal referral and prosecution for engaging in criminal impersonation.
  • Proctors will check students’ identification more frequently at test centers. IDs will be checked upon entry to the test center, re-entry to the test room after breaks, and upon collection of answer sheets.

Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, said that "these reforms close a gaping hole in standardized test security that allowed students to cheat and steal admissions offers and scholarship money from kids who played by the rules."

Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (a critic of standardized testing), said that the new system "is likely to reduce significantly, if not eliminate entirely, the likelihood of impersonators entering an exam center." But he added that the new measures do "nothing" for "much more common types of cheating: collaboration among students once they are inside the test site or copying answers as the result of wandering eyeballs." He also questioned why the enhanced security rules, which he said were "technically feasible at least a decade ago," were adopted only after the Nassau County investigations.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 4:28am

A profile in The Boston Globe examines the work of Ray Cotton, a Washington lawyer who frequently negotiates contracts for college and university presidents. The profile notes that Cotton has negotiated some benefits for college presidents that have been questioned as too generous for institutions to provide. Cotton's supporters note that he has an awareness of issues facing college presidents that non-specialists would miss, but others suggest that colleges that negotiate with Cotton are at a disadvantage as they don't have a counterpart on whom to rely.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 3:00am

A day after Blackboard announced its acquisition of two prominent Moodle partners and the creation of an open-source services arm, various Web discussion boards were abuzz with chatter about the implications. At Moodle.org's official "Lounge" forum, some open-source advocates lamented what they read as a corporate intrusion on the open-source community -- prompting Martin Dougiamas, the founder and lead developer of Moodle, to defend his decision to lend moral support to Blackboard’s takeovers of Moodlerooms and NetSpot.

“Moodle itself has not, and will not, be purchased by anyone,” Dougiamas wrote to a discussion thread. “I am committed to keeping it independent with exactly the same model it has now.”  While the new Blackboard subsidiaries and their clients have produced many helpful modifications to Moodle’s code, “it's always up to me to include [modifications] in core (after it gets heavily reviewed by our team),” Dougiamas said, “otherwise it goes into Moodle Plugins.” He added that Moodle still has dozens of other partner companies that are not owned by Blackboard.

Charles Severance, another big name in the open-source movement who not only endorsed the deal but has been hired to work with Blackboard’s new open-source services division, expanded on the implications of the move in a post on his own blog. “The notion that we will somehow find the ‘one true LMS’ that will solve all problems is simply crazy talk and has been for quite some time,” Severance wrote. “I am happy to be now working with a group of people at Blackboard that embrace the idea of multiple LMS systems aimed at different market segments.” The watchword of this era of multiple learning platforms per campus, he said, is interoperability, and that will be a priority for him in his new capacity with Blackboard. (This paragraph has been updated since publication.)

Severance assured the open-source community that contributions he makes to Sakai on Blackboard company time will remain open, and that he “[doesn’t] expect to become a developer of closed-source applications.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 4:34am

A few years ago, a number of community colleges introduced "midnight classes," courses meeting late at night, at a time that works for some working adults (and for institutions without space during peak hours). The Miami Herald reported that Miami Dade College and a few other institutions have started courses that meet at 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. For some students, this is the time that they have free. Students report that the courses fit their schedules and it's one time of day that parking is easy to find.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 3:00am

Princeton Review is selling the test-prep business around which a larger education business has grown, and is giving the purchaser -- the private equity firm Charlesbank Capital Partners -- its name, the Associated Press reported. Princeton Review was once the upstart in the test-prep business, boasting of teaching test-takers how to outsmart testing companies, but of late has faced competition both from less expensive outfits and from boutique operations. The company will now focus on its Penn Foster division, a for-profit online education provider; it at one point seemed to be an effort to diversify the company's operations, but now appears to be its focus.



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