Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 19, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Joshua Weitz, associate professor of biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, discusses his use of mathematical models to study the changing abundances and traits of natural populations. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 18, 2014

Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who was accused of sexual assault in 2012, will sit out the first half of Florida State University's game Saturday after several students reported seeing him stand on a table and yell a sexual epithet in the student union. (For those who are offended by explicit language, be warned about reading further.)

Numerous students tweeted about the incident on Tuesday, Deadspin reported, with Winston reportedly yelling "Fuck her right in the pussy." The saying is associated with an Internet meme based on a fake viral video -- a prank of sorts where passersby say the phrase during live news broadcasts.

“As a result of his comments yesterday, which were offensive and vulgar, Jameis Winston will undergo internal discipline and will be withheld from competition for the first half of the Clemson game,” the university said in a statement Wednesday.

September 18, 2014

A letter sent by the Anti-Defamation League advising college and university officials on how to respond to anti-Israel action on campus has some free speech advocates worried about a chilling effect. The letter calls out American Muslims for Palestine in particular, and the group's "Day of Action" planned for September 23. The group is asking that colleges eliminate study abroad programs to Israel, ban administrators traveling to Israel, and not allow scholars to participate in research with Israeli academics. In its letter, the Anti-Defamation League called the event "an effort to isolate and demonize" Jewish organizations. "We have a long history of fighting for the ideals of individual expression and the free exchange of ideas, even when we disagree with the ideas being exchanged," Seth Brysk, the organization's Central Pacific Regional Director, wrote. "However, no university should countenance attempts to discourage and suppress free speech, or harass and intimidate Jewish and other students. When this occurs, as in the examples noted above, appropriate action should be taken."

The Anti-Defamation League recommended that institutions implement several policies, including being aware of Israeli-Palestinian debates taking place on campus, providing adequate security at events that have the potential to escalate, and sending a senior university official to "potentially hostile events" to remind those in attendance of a college's code of conduct. The organization also implored colleges to "remember the school’s obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, particularly the responsibility of the school not only to investigate an incident, but to take prompt and effective steps to eliminate any hostile environment and to take proactive steps to prevent its recurrence." In a statement Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Robert Shibley, FIRE's senior vice president, said that many of the polices "were unobjectionable" but others were cause for concern. "While senior officials are of course free to attend any campus event, requiring students hosting 'potentially hostile events' (whatever that means) to allow those officials to offer prefatory remarks about campus policies risks chilling speech at the event," Shibley wrote.

September 18, 2014

After aggressive expansion in Asia, the massive open online course provider Coursera on Wednesday announced that the University of São Paulo and the State University of Campinas will become the platform's first Brazilian partner institutions. The two universities will create courses in Portuguese to be featured on R7, a Brazilian web portal. The courses, which will go live next year, will focus on "high-demand topics from entrepreneurship to finance," according to a Coursera blog post.

September 18, 2014

A coalition of Israel advocacy organizations concerned by what they describe as the prevalence of anti-Israel programming at federally-funded Middle East studies centers are lobbying for changes in the Title VI program that would 1) “[r]equire recipients of Title VI funds to establish grievance procedures to address complaints that programs are not reflecting diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” and 2) “[r]equire the U.S. Department of Education to establish a formal complaint-resolution process similar to that in use to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The full joint statement, signed by 10 groups, is included as an appendix to a new report on “The Morass of Middle East Studies”  issued by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The statement also references a paper produced by the AMCHA Initiative that reports on anti-Semitic activity and an anti-Israel bias in the programming at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Center for Near Eastern Studies. The Brandeis Center and the AMCHA Initiative are both parties to the statement, as are Accuracy in Academia, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Middle East Forum, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the Zionist Organization of America.

The groups behind the statement argue that Middle East studies centers are not being held accountable in regards to a provision of the Higher Education Act requiring Title VI grant applicants to present “an explanation of how the activities funded by the grant will reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs.” They argue that in using tax dollars “to present biased, anti-American, anti-Israel views in their outreach programs,” the federally-funded centers are not serving the national interest. They maintain that, without reforms, Congress should consider cutting Title VI funding to Middle East studies centers altogether.

In an emailed statement, Amy W. Newhall, the executive director of the Middle East Studies Association, rejected such "politically motivated attacks on scholars and academic institutions" as a serious threat to free speech, academic freedom and the role of colleges as sites of free and open discussion. 

“MESA resolutely opposes all forms of hate speech and discrimination, including anti-Semitism,” Newhall wrote. “It supports prompt and forceful action in response to anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses.”

“However, MESA is concerned that some of the reports issued by partisan political groups based outside academia may actually weaken efforts to combat anti-Semitism by portraying all criticism of Israeli policies as a form of anti-Semitism or as ‘anti-Israel.’ Their real goal seems to be to shut down open discussion of issues of public concern by demonizing academic and other critics of Israel, Zionism, and U.S. policy in the Middle East, in many cases by tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism. They are even willing to threaten federal funding for university-based Middle East studies centers, which have a long and distinguished history of providing the United States with thousands of people trained in the languages, politics, cultures and histories of this critical region."

UPDATE: UCLA's media relations office issued a statement saying that the university "remains dedicated to complying with all federal laws and respecting the free and open exchange of ideas representing diverse viewpoints. Academic units all across our campus are constantly working to provide programming that exposes our students and the public to a vast range of perspectives and topics. In fact, three centers at UCLA focus on Middle Eastern Affairs and regularly provide programming on Israel, among other topics: the Center for Near Eastern Studies, the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and the Center for Middle East Development. Israeli academics, students, speakers and artists are regularly part of programming at UCLA. We recognize many subjects may engender passionate debate and difficult conversations and we encourage civil dialogue that appreciates the paramount importance of free expression, academic freedom and a respectful exchange of ideas."

September 18, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Frank Thompson, a professor of fisheries and wildlife sciences at the University of Missouri of Columbia, discusses the declining populations of songbirds. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 17, 2014

Ten professors were among the 21 people named as the latest class of MacArthur Fellows. The fellowship, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, provides $625,000 over five years, no strings attached. Many refer to the program as the "genius awards," even if the foundation doesn't.

Biographies of this year's fellows may be found here.

The academic winners:

  • Danielle Bassett, the Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Tami Bond, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Sarah Deer, professor of law at the William Mitchell College of Law
  • Jennifer L. Eberhardt, associate professor of psychology, at Stanford University
  • Terrance Hayes, professor of writing at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Mark Hersam, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University
  • Jacob Lurie, professor of mathematics at Harvard University
  • Khaled Mattawa, associate professor of English language and literature at the University of Michigan
  • Tara Zahra, professor of East European history at the University of Chicago
  • Yitang Zhang, professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of New Hampshire


     





     

 

 

September 17, 2014

Oakwood University will next month launch the first massive open online course developed by a historically black institution. “World Religions, an Occupational Approach,” which begins Oct. 27, will be hosted on Instructure's MOOC platform, Canvas Network. The university partnered with open educational resources support provider Lumen Learning and the Center for Excellence in Distance Learning, hosted at Wiley College, to produce the MOOC.

Alcorn State and Morgan State University in late 2012 announced plans for the first HBCU-developed MOOCs, but those plans appear not to have come to fruition.

September 17, 2014

The National Association for College Admission Counseling has released a guide for colleges that are considering working with agents in international student recruitment. The report emphasizes the risks of institutions engaging with third-party agents and ethical concerns about paying agents per-capita commissions -- particularly in cases in which students and parents are not aware of the financial relationships between a given institution and an agent -- concluding that, “For these reasons, NACAC does not endorse the practice of commission-based international student recruitment.” But NACAC does now permit the practice (even if it doesn't endorse it) and for those institutions that choose to work with recruitment agents, the report provides advice on such topics as identifying and vetting agents, providing training, and monitoring agency performance. Among other things, the guide recommends that institutions list all of their agency partners on their website and that they contractually prohibit agents from “double-dipping” by charging students for services related to advising and application assistance. The guidance also recommends that contracts stipulate that agencies must disclose to students and their parents the fact that they receive compensation from the institutions that they represent. 

September 17, 2014

George C. Bradley resigned as president of Paine College Tuesday, The Augusta Chronicle reported. Paine is a historically black college that has been placed on probation by its accreditor. Critics have said Bradley has not moved to fix the financial and other problems that led to the probation. A statement from the college said that Bradley is leaving to spend more time with his family.

 

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