Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 3:00am

Kathryn Napper is retiring as dean of undergraduate admissions at George Washington University, after 35 years of work at the institution and one month after the university admitted that, for at least a decade, it had been submitting incorrect data on the high school class rank of its students to U.S. News & World Report for its rankings. An internal announcement of Napper's retirement, effective this month, praised her "loyal and dedicated service," and made no mention of the recent scandal. Napper and GW officials declined to comment on any relationship between her departure and the incorrect rankings data.


Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 3:00am

With the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association coming up early next month, some social media fun is to be expected. This year the hashtag getting the laughs is #mlatshirts -- with the words that might be expected on a T-shirt getting packed for the meeting. Among our favorites:

  • "Will refute you for food."
  • "This is less of a question and more like three related comments."
  • "Let me problematize that for you."
  • "Your shirt is interesting, but let's talk about MY shirt."
  • "Our Department Strives To Show Its Professionalism By Interviewing Candidates In A Comparatively Large Hotel Bedroom."
  • "Just looked through the stream and saw no MOOC references. Oh, the humanities!"
  • "I'll save you the trouble of looking at my badge: I'm not worth talking to." (From an Inside Higher Ed blogger who most definitely is worth talking to.)


Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 3:00am

The Middle East Studies Association raised serious concerns about alleged violations of academic freedom in Turkey -- including the detention of students and scholars on the basis of their research into Kurdish issues -- in three letters sent to the country’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Wednesday.

Collectively, the incidents described in the letters seem to point to “a systematic policy of denying the right to do research and writing and publishing on the subject of Kurdish rights,” said Asli Bâli, an assistant professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles who conducted research on the legal proceedings against Turkish students and scholars on behalf of MESA and its Committee on Academic Freedom. “In a way, that is related to a broader campaign to prevent civil society organizing and civil and political action on the part of Kurdish communities and pro-Kurdish communities and scholars in general, whether they be Turkish or foreign," Bâli said. She added that while Kurdish scholarship has been especially targeted, leftist scholarship in general – on issues such as the environment, gender and race – has come under increased scrutiny in Turkey.

One letter expresses concerns about seven students at Turkish universities – representative of hundreds, Bâli said – who have been detained and accused of membership in the Union of Kurdish Communities (KCK) by virtue of their academic work. According to the letter, undergraduate and graduate students alike have been accused of membership in the KCK – a prohibited organization in Turkey -- on the basis of such evidence as attending or lecturing at an academic forum on Kurdish rights and civil society, and traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan for field research.

A second letter details dismay regarding the ongoing trials of Pinar Selek, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Strasbourg, in France, who has, since her arrest in 1998, been thrice acquitted of the charge of membership in the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization. Three times those acquittals have been reversed, forcing a retrial. The letter states that evidence linking Selek to a bombing at Istanbul Spice Market is "extremely weak" – a claim echoed by Human Rights Watch, which notes that experts think a gas leak was the source of the explosion – and asserts that the only evidence connecting Selek to the PKK is her own academic research on the group.

The final letter details concerns about a broad array of alleged academic freedom violations on the part of government-appointed university administrators, including the alleged censorship of an article on racism and the cancellation of two academic conferences, on gender equality and prisons, reportedly due to the participation of members of the pro-Kurdish (and legal) Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).Taken together with the detentions, "actions such as the intervention of government-appointed university administrators to prevent academic publications or events concerning issues deemed sensitive by the government make it appear that the Turkish government has undertaken a campaign to inhibit the dissemination of knowledge, the conduct of academic research and even the right to an education where any of these protected activities overlap with criticism of the government or a focus on issues deemed politically sensitive, such as Kurdish rights," the letter states.

The Turkish embassy in Washington did not offer a response Wednesday afternoon or evening.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 4:23am

Many public universities have created honors colleges with smaller classes and special privileges for students. Many other public universities shower non-need-based aid on top students. An article in The New York Times looks at how the University of Oklahoma has emphasized those strategies, creating an educational experience for top students (many of them National Merit Scholars) that is decidedly different than that of most other students at the university.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeff Lane of the University of Alberta reveals how shifting weather patterns are disrupting the lifecycle of hibernating mammals. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 3:00am

The disproportionately low employment of minority coaches has long been documented and discussed. A new study focusing on one of the most visible college sports proposes that in top-tier football programs, where nearly half of all athletes are black but only about 10 percent of coaches are, “race is important in channeling, but not necessarily racism.” The disparity is in part due, the study argues, to black and white athletes playing different positions, some of which are more likely to lead to assistant coaching positions, some of which in turn are more likely to lead to head coaching jobs.

The University of Georgia researchers, in an article to be published in Social Science Quarterly, found that quarterbacks, linebackers and tight ends – all positions disproportionately occupied by white players – are more likely to have obtained head coaching positions. Similarly, offensive and defensive coordinators -- the assistant coaching positions that transition most directly to head coaching jobs – are disproportionately occupied by white men. The researchers also note that while 6 percent of white coaches never played football in college, that was not true of any black coaches in the study.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 3:00am

Unions that represent faculty members, teaching assistants, lecturers and others at Michigan's public colleges and universities stand to lose funds (exactly how much isn't clear) under the state's new "right to work" law for public employees. The law says that employees can't be forced to pay anything to unions that represent them. Until now, employees who did not want to join the unions that won collective bargaining elections could opt not to, but they had to make "fair share" payments to cover work done by the unions. (Such payments typically exclude political activity by unions.) Such workers could now pay nothing, if they want.

Republicans who pushed the legislation said that they were trying to "free" workers from unions. David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan (the largest union in higher education in the state), said that the move was designed to weaken unions. He noted that unions still must represent workers who don't pay anything, so the measures will leave unions with smaller budgets than they had before. He said that the AFT has not done an estimate of how much the union budgets could shrink, but said that in other states with similar laws, "there has been a hit."


Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 3:00am

The board of Morgan State University announced Tuesday that it had decided not to renew the contract of President David Wilson, meaning that he will leave office in June, after three years in the position. The official announcement gave no reason for the decision. The Baltimore Sun reported that the university's board was divided on the issue, and made the decision last week in a "heated" meeting. Recent months have seen two shootings on the campus, and the indictment of a professor for obtaining grants fraudulently, but the Sun quoted sources as saying those incidents were not behind the ouster. The Sun quoted from a letter Wilson sent to the campus in which he suggested he was being punished because he had been considered for another job (even though he withdrew from contention).

Marybeth Gasman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies historically black colleges such as Morgan State, wrote a column for The Washington Post questioning the way the university's board decided to end Wilson's presidency. "Wilson is an exceptional leader," she wrote. "When I look across the landscape of university presidents for an example of an individual who is ethical, personable, forward-thinking, brave, data driven, charismatic, scholarly and committed to student-centered education, I think of Wilson."


Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 3:00am

Carolane Williams has been "separated" from her position as president of Baltimore City Community College, the two-year-college's board announced Tuesday, The Baltimore Sun reported. Faculty members voted no confidence in Williams two years ago, and reports have criticized graduation rates at the college. In September, Governor Martin O'Malley, a Maryland Democrat, named five new members of the college's board. "The board strongly believes that the time is right for a leader who will bring new urgency to our urban educational mission," said a statement from the board chair, Rosemary Gillett-Karam.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Margaret Crocco announced Monday that she is resigning as dean of the College of Education at the University of Iowa, where her tenure has been controversial, The Des Moines Register reported. Professors have questioned her leadership, and last week all of the members of a faculty advisory committee for the college quit amid reports that administrators ordered some faculty leaders to destroy the results of a survey about Crocco's performance.



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