Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 25, 2013

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee is questioning how the National Endowment for the Humanities awards its education grants. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama sent a letter this week to Carol M. Watson, the acting chairwoman of the NEH, in which he demanded the agency explain its peer-review process for funding grants that explore “very indefinite” questions.

Sessions pointed to seven grants the NEH funded that seek to explore the following questions: “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why are we interested in the past?”, “What is the good life and how do I live it?”, “Why are bad people bad?”, “What is belief?”, “What is a monster?”, and “Why do humans write?”

“In the current fiscal environment, I question the appropriateness of such grants,” which ranged from about $23,000 to $25,000, Sessions wrote. He also expressed concerns about an NEH-funded program called “Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys Bookshelves” that distributed books, films, and other resources to more than 900 libraries around the country and provided money to hold discussion forums.

The program, according to an NEH press release, “is intended to address both the need and desire of the American public for trustworthy and accessible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations.” Sessions said that the program raised questions about the use of federal funds “on behalf of just one religion,” and demanded that NEH provide an itemized list of similar programs related to sects of Christianity and Judaism.

Earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee introduced legislation that would have cut the budget for the NEH nearly in half for the current fiscal year that began on October 1. The House Republican budget plan this year said that the NEH “can no longer be justified.” In March, Congress approved legislation in March that prohibits the National Science Foundation from funding political science research unless a project promotes national security or U.S. economic interests. 

October 24, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been interviewing participants in an exchange program to Russia on whether the head of that program may be trying to recruit agents, The Washington Post reported. The investigation -- first reported in Mother Jones -- concerns the Russian Center for Science and Culture, in Washington, which offers trips to Russia for young professionals, including graduate students. A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington said that the exchanges were legitimate and did not involve the recruitment of xspies. "'All such ‘scaring information’ very much resembles Cold War era," the spokesman said, adding that these reports are an attempt to "distort and to blacken activities of the Russian Cultural Center."


October 24, 2013

Ernesto Perez has resigned as CEO of Dade Medical College, days after it was revealed that he is facing criminal charges, The Miami Herald reported. Perez faces two counts of perjury, a misdemeanor, and one count of providing false information through a sworn statement -- all related to his failure to report past criminal arrests or convictions in government forms. Perez spent six months in jail after pleading no contest in 1990 to misdemeanor charges of batter and exposing his genitals to a child. The victim was a 15-year-old fan of the band in which Perez played at the time.


October 24, 2013

Sustained childhood exposure to and participation in the arts appears linked to college students majoring in science and technology fields, and to later going on to patent inventions, Michigan State University researchers have found. In a study published in the journal Economic Development Quarterly and based on STEM graduates of Michigan State's honors college, the researchers found that  93 percent of the STEM graduates reported musical training at some point, compared to 34 percent of adults on average. Further, those who owned businesses or patents received up to eight times more childhood exposure to the arts than did adults on average.

93 percent of the STEM graduates reported musical training at some point in their lives, as compared to only 34 percent of average adults - See more at: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/a-young-picasso-or-beethoven-could-be-...
October 24, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jennifer Crosby of Williams College examines how we react to perceived prejudice in a social setting. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


October 24, 2013

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and advocates for the continued use of the "Chief Illinwek" mascot have worked out a deal, The Chicago Tribune reported. The university stopped using the chief officially in 2007, with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Native American groups objecting to Indian symbols used for athletics events in ways that promote stereotypes. But some alumni have refused to give up the use. In the deal, the university will not object to the group's use of Chief Illiniwek. But the group will not suggest that the chief is coming back, and will make clear that its activities are not endorsed or approved by the university.

October 24, 2013

A teaching assistant at the University of Iowa accidentally instead of "accidently," which isn't really a word. dl *ok MR e-mailed naked photographs of herself and a man to students. She had intended to send an attachment with answers to some questions on a problem set. As news of the e-mail embarrassment spread on social media, the university asked those who received the e-mail to delete the message and to not share the files with anyone else. The incident was “inappropriate” and the university will look into it and take appropriate actions under its policies and procedures, a spokesman said. He said that the teaching assistant regrets what happened.


October 24, 2013

Student enrollment in osteopathic medical colleges grew by 11.1 percent in 2013, and the total number of enrolled students has nearly doubled in the last decade, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

One in five medical students is training to become an osteopathic physician, according to a preliminary enrollment report. More than 22,000 students are currently enrolled in osteopathic medical colleges, compared with about 11,000 students in 2001, according to AACOM. Its CEO, Stephen C. Shannon, said in a news release that the growing number of osteopathic medical school graduates will help reduce projected physician shortages. Osteopathic physicians take a holistic approach to patient care and are licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas. There are now 30 colleges of osteopathic medicine in the U.S., with three opening this year and several more in the planning stages. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges will release data on application and enrollment rates at allopathic medical schools today.

October 24, 2013

With a new round of universities added to its consortium, the massive open online course provider Coursera on Thursday announced it has passed 100 partner institutions across the world. The official count now sits at 107 universities in 20 different countries. The new partners include Bocconi University, the Copenhagen Business School, the Eindhoven Institute of Technology, Koç University, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, the National Geographic Society, the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg State University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the University of Lausanne, the University of Manchester and the University of Navarra's IESE Business School.

October 23, 2013

Ted Mitchell, former president of Occidental College and president of a "venture philanthropy" fund focused on elementary and secondary education reform, is reportedly in line for a top position at the U.S. Education Department, according to Politico and other sources. Politico reported late Tuesday that Mitchell would be nominated as U.S. under secretary of education, replacing Martha J. Kanter, who announced this summer that she would return to California this fall. But other sources said that Mitchell might be named to a position that did not require Senate confirmation, given the difficulty of getting anyone through that gauntlet these days. A spokesman for the Education Department referred inquiries to a White House spokesman, who said he had no news to share about appointments.

Mitchell rose through the academic ranks as an education professor and administrator, and mostly at highly selective institutions such as Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and the University of California at Los Angeles (dean of the Graduate School of Education). As president of Occidental (which President Obama attended as an undergraduate), he was known for helping to diversify the student body of the selective private institution. "My area of scholarly interest, my area of teaching and policy work has been in educational access and opportunity," Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times upon his departure from Occidental in 2005. (Note: This article has been updated to correct President Obama's relationship to Occidental.)

He left there to take the reins of the New Schools Venture Fund, which has close ties to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other philanthropies interested in using technology and other tools of change to reform education. The fund's "core values" page uses phrases like "entrepreneurship" and "results-oriented" that are likely to align closely with Education Secretary Arne Duncan's modus operandi.


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