Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors last week sent a letter to the City University of New York chancellor and board chair, citing concerns about the “Pathways to Degree Completion Initiative,” a move by CUNY to enable smoother transfer for its community college students to CUNY's four-year institutions. The initiative was approved by CUNY’s Board of Trustees in June 2011. In the letter, the AAUP said that faculty members had complained about the new framework for the transfer of credits between CUNY’s 19 undergraduate colleges and the way these changes were adopted by “an administration-appointed Task Force and its associated committees,” bypassing elected faculty bodies. The faculty members have also complained about the soundness of the initiative itself and the consequences for academic freedom. (Some faculty members at community colleges have backed the changes, saying that they were necessary to help their students.)

Jay Hershenson, senior vice chancellor for university relations at CUNY, said the process had been a struggle, but that the initiative would raise quality and increase accountability. “CUNY’s Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the Pathways Initiative after extensive consultation, hearings, and meetings. Hundreds of faculty have participated in the curricula development process and CUNY’s elected student leadership hailed the reforms as long overdue,” he said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 4:46am

The union trying to organize research assistants at the University of Michigan will hold a press conference today at which it will charge that a graduate student lost funding and was kicked out of her program for being involved in the union, The Detroit Free Press reported. The student will share an e-mail she received from a faculty member saying "I realize you have other things going on but an increased [sic] in your focus on research is urgently needed.... This will probably require you to decrease your involvement in non-research [activity]." Because the student says her only non-research activity was the union, the union says this was an inappropriate order to stop involvement in the union. A university spokesman denied the allegation, saying that "this is an academic matter. While we are precluded by law from discussing publicly a student's academic record, we believe certain of the union's factual claims are unfounded."


Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 3:00am

Officials of the London School of Economics and Political Science are investigating reports that a Jewish student was assaulted and had his nose broken after he objected to a Nazi-themed drinking game played on a student trip to France, AFP reported. The game, called "Nazi Ring of Fire," involves a series of cards arranged in the shape of a swastika.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 3:00am

Many community colleges "struggle" to "effectively meet the needs of immigrants," says a new report from the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education. The report notes that community colleges and immigrant groups vary, but suggests that certain parts of "a framework" are needed regardless of groups served or the characteristics of the college. These parts include high-level commitment to serving immigrant students, "proactive outreach" to immigrant students, a redesign of English as a second language programs, a "holistic, integrated" approach to student services and efforts to support leadership qualities in immigrant students.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 3:00am

Classes are scheduled to be held today in Northern Illinois University's Cole Hall -- which will be used for the first time since a gunman opened fire and killed five people four years ago, The Chicago Tribune reported. The building has been extensively renovated, but the return to the facility won't feature the kind of celebratory ribbon-cuttings typically used for such events. Provost Ray Alden said that Cole Hall "now stands as testament to this university's resolve."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Julia Mickenberg of the University of Texas at Austin explains how the political climate of the 20th century influenced children’s literature. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 3:00am

Stackable pods, slightly larger than the space needed for a twin bed, are the latest housing alternative in Hong Kong, and students are among those trying out the unusual accommodations, Reuters reported. The pod concept was originally envisioned for tourists, but student demand led to the creation of a capsule dormitory. Most universities have long waiting lists for more traditional housing.


Monday, January 16, 2012 - 4:08am

Washington and Lee University will hold classes today, over the objections of students who wanted classes called off to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, The Washington Post reported. Colleges' practices on calling off classes for the holiday vary. While some colleges observe the day without classes, many colleges hold classes on most federal holidays, not wanting to have fewer sessions held on Mondays than on other days. And many colleges have long January breaks, so that classes wouldn't be held today in any case. At Washington and Lee, the issue is complicated by the university's observance (later this week) of Founders' Day on the birthday of Robert E. Lee, one of those for whom the university is named. On that day, students have a shorter class schedule so that they can attend a convocation. A university spokesman said that the university honors King's memory with programs that show respect for the late civil rights leader's legacy. "We believe that canceling classes is not the only way, or even necessarily the most meaningful way, to demonstrate that respect," the spokesman said.


Monday, January 16, 2012 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Rebecca Murphy of Johns Hopkins University reveals how decades of pollution control efforts are paying off for the Chesapeake Bay. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, January 16, 2012 - 4:11am

The University of California Board of Regents this week will consider a proposal to fire a tenured professor, a rare event in the system, The Los Angeles Times reported. The university, citing privacy rules, says only that the faculty member is at the Riverside campus. But Sarkis Joseph Khoury, who teaches international finance, confirmed to the Times that he is the professor in question. He has clashed with the university over accusations that he received outside funds in inappropriate ways during sabbaticals. Khoury says that he is a victim of a witch hunt, and that the university is angry that he has defended himself in the sabbatical dispute. Further, he charges that he is being punished for a range of other issues, including Republican views, Lebanese heritage, and pushing for the hiring of more minority faculty members.


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