Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 23, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeremy Jamieson of the University of Rochester explains why stress can be useful for performers. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 23, 2013

Like many colleges and universities with faculty/staff newspapers or websites, Iowa Now at the University of Iowa publishes periodic articles by faculty members. A recent piece, however, which questioned the validity of evolution, has angered many Iowa professors. The controversial piece -- by Ned Bowden, an associate professor of chemistry -- was about the conflict between science and religion, and argued that there need not be such a conflict. In making his case, Bowden wrote: "It's remarkably consistent how evolution and Genesis look at the process and tell the same stories using different words. Science can never prove or disprove God, but science can provide support for the existence of God and that is what the Big Bang and evolution can give us. There are, of course, holes in the theory of evolution that are big enough to drive a semi-truck through, but it is highly possible that evolution was the tool that God used to bring humans into being."

Twenty-five faculty members responded with their own piece. They said faculty members were entitled to their own views. But they questioned why the university would publish a piece that suggests evolution isn't a settled view in science. They wrote that just as today no scientists dispute that the Earth revolves around the Sun, "we no longer debate the central principles of evolutionary theory as a scientific framework for understanding Earth's diversity." Further, the faculty members said, "Iowa Now, by publishing a piece that suggests otherwise, has done a disservice to the university."

A spokesman for the university said via e-mail that, "as a public university, we welcome a diversity of views and encourage robust and civil dialogue. Iowa Now is one place where that takes place. The views of the writer ... are his or her own and not necessarily those of Iowa Now or the University of Iowa."

September 23, 2013

Many admissions officers at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling were complaining about technical glitches on the Common Application's new back-end system, which was launched in August. Some applicants have complained of difficulties in inputting their materials, while some colleges have had difficulties pulling applicant information from the system. Sessions featuring Common Application officials had lots of angry admissions officials in attendance. Many other enrollment officials, who didn't go to the sessions, saw the glitches as typical for major system overhauls -- and not that disruptive (assuming they are fixed soon).

Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application, said that the system is already setting records in the number of applications being processed. He acknowledged that some bugs remain but said that he anticipated them being fixed "in a week or so." Here is the Common Application's status list of bugs.

September 20, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress on Thursday honored scientists whose seemingly obscure discoveries -- much like those that are sometimes ridiculed in the Capitol today -- actually ended up making important contributions to society, as part of the second annual Golden Goose Awards. This year's honorees for the award, which is sponsored by a set of higher education and scientific advocacy groups, included two Nobel-winning economists whose theoretical mathematical algorithms helped set the stage for the national kidney exchange, and a medical researcher whose study of the Gila monster's venom led to a drug that protects diabetics from some life-threatening complications.

 

September 20, 2013

The University of Oregon’s new faculty union reached its first contract agreement with the institution this week, following 10 months of negotiations.

In addition to an average salary increase of nearly 12 percent spanning the 2-year agreement and the creation of a salary floor for adjuncts, union members said the contract protects both academic freedom and freedom of speech. The union and the administration had clashed over language concerning such protections in negotiations, with the administration wanting to address each protection in separate clauses and include expectations of “civility.” Faculty involved in negotiations said divorcing academic freedom from freedom of speech could leave faculty who spoke out against the university vulnerable to potential punitive action. They also objected to the civility expectation.

The final contract’s statement on speech protections does address free speech and academic freedom separately, but explicitly grants faculty the right to engage in internal criticism -- something an earlier university counterproposal did not. It does not include expectations of civility.

Deborah Olson, a full-time adjunct instructor of special education who served on the bargaining committee for United Academics, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, said administrators “moved considerably on those positions from their first proposal, so for the first time at the table we’re very happy.”

Tim Gleason, dean of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication and a member of the institutional bargaining team, said it never tried to limit academic freedom for faculty, and that language in earlier proposals reflected the university’s attempts to protect both robustly. “That’s what we do at Oregon,” he said.

Bill Harbaugh, a professor economics who blogged from negotiations from a faculty perspective, said he felt the final agreement didn’t go far enough. Language proposed last year by the Faculty Senate, which is still being reviewed by senate leaders and administrators and expressly guarantees faculty’s right to engage in internal criticism “without fear of institutional discipline or restraint,” would have been better, he said.

September 20, 2013

The Yosemite Community College District is investigating why a student at Modesto Junior College was blocked from passing out copies of the Constitution on campus on Tuesday, which was Constitution Day, The Modesto Bee reported. A video of campus security stopping the student has circulated online, provoking criticism. A statement from the college said that passing out copies of the Constitution where the student did so was permitted "as long as they don’t disrupt the orderly operation of the college," and that "n the case of the YouTube video, it did not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operation of the college."

 

September 20, 2013

Jerry C. Lee, who over 24 years at National University built a growing system of nonprofit colleges serving adults, is retiring. Lee was president of National University from 1989 to 2007 and has since 2001 been chancellor of the evolving National University System, which in recent years has added John F. Kennedy University and City University of Seattle to its stable of work-force-oriented institutions.

September 20, 2013

Harvard University is set to announce a major fund-raising campaign on Saturday, ending years of speculation about when the campaign would go public, and how much it would seek. Bloomberg reported. The figure of $6 billion, about which there was speculation several years ago, would no longer be record-setting, since Stanford University completed a $6.2 billion campaign last year and the University of Southern California is in a $6 billion campaign. A hint of the potential size of the campaign, as reported in Harvard Magazine, is speculation that the goal for the business school alone could reach $1 billion.

 

September 20, 2013

A $120 million gift from a Canadian business executive could help expand the Rhodes Scholarships, The Globe and Mail reported. The scholarships currently go to those in the British Commonwealth, the U.S. and Germany, and the gift could lead to an expansion to also include other countries.

 

September 20, 2013

The U.S. Education Department fined Dominican College in New York $200,000 for failing to comply with federal crime reporting mandates under the Clery Act. According to the settlement agreement, the college failed to “properly define its campus and report crime statistics for non-campus property; distribute the Annual Security Report (ASR) as required by the Clery Act; include required policy statements in the ASR; and maintain an accurate and complete daily crime log.”

(Note: The above paragraph has been updated from an earlier version to correct the fine amount.)

A Dominican spokeswoman, Erin DeWard, said the fine stems from a 2009 mistake in which officials listed incorrect crime statistics in the student handbook. Rather than updating the material to reflect the most recent numbers, Dominican re-printed old statistics from a year prior. In 2009, the college was ordered to pay $20,000 to the state of New York and make reforms to its crime reporting system, after an investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo found that the handbook misstated crime statistics over the course of several years.

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