Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 13, 2013

Only 73 percent -- a new low -- of freshmen at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this year are from Illinois, The Chicago Tribune reported. While some flagship universities (the University of Vermont, for example) have long had high percentages of out-of-state students, Illinois has not historically been such an institution. As recently as a decade ago, 90 percent of freshmen were from in-state. While the university has defended in general the push to admit more out-of-state students, Illinois officials said that their intent has been not to go below 75 percent from the state. But higher than expected proportions of admitted applicants from out of state (many of them international students) accepted admissions offers this year.

 

September 13, 2013

The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, an initiative to simplify the process by which distance education providers are authorized to operate in individual states, has begun staffing its central and regional offices. Marshall Hill, former executive director of Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Educa­tion, will lead the effort from its Boulder, Colo., office.

Should the initiative, which is backed by a $2.3 million grant from the Lumina Foundation, prove successful, institutions that offer distance education could be authorized to operate in every member state. That would save the institutions from the cumbersome and expensive process of demonstrating how their educational offerings satisfy each state's regulatory demands.

NC-SARA's work will be implemented through its four regional partners, the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the New England Board of Higher Education, the Southern Regional Education Board and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. These organizations will first hire people to lead local chapters in the states they cover, then, once states sign on, turn them loose to recruit individual institutions. "No regional compact is at the point of inviting states to participate yet," Hill said. "I think we’re about two months off from that."

September 13, 2013

The Ig Nobel Prizes -- the annual spoof of the real Nobels -- were announced Thursday night. Prizes honored breakthrough discoveries on the impact on mice of listening to the opera, of beer on self-perceptions of one's physical attractiveness (it turns out that if you drink a lot you will think you are more attractive) and of the probability of cows lying down and standing up. Details are available here. (The real Nobels are announced next month.)

 

September 13, 2013

The Towson University cheerleading team’s punishment for hazing allegations has been reduced from a yearlong suspension to a semesterlong probation, 650 hours of community service and education about hazing, the Associated Press reported. The cheer team had appealed the initial punishment to a campus committee that decided the team hadn’t received the same level of anti-hazing education and training as other campus groups, Towson’s vice president for student affairs said. Under probation, the team will be allowed to practice but not compete or participate in events. Details of the hazing allegations are unknown, other than the fact that it occurred off campus and is not under police investigation.

September 13, 2013

At Middlebury College, as at many colleges and universities, students place 3,000 small American flags on the grounds to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed so many people on 9/11. This year, five people, one of whom is a Middlebury student, removed some of the flags, angering many other students, The Addison Eagle reported. Those who removed the flags said that they were protesting "America's imperialism." And the student who was in the group said that the flags had been placed on land that was once a Native American burial ground.

A statement from the student added: “My intention was not to cause pain, but to visibilize the necessity of honoring all human life and to help a friend heal from the violence of genocide that she carries with her on a daily basis as an indigenous person. While the American flags on the Middlebury hillside symbolize to some the loss of innocent lives in New York, to others they represent centuries of bloody conquest and mass murder. Three thousand flags is a lot, but the campus is not big enough to hold a marker for every life sacrificed in the history of American conquest and colonialism."FYI - "visibilize' is sic -sj

September 13, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas at Austin describes a newfound threat to the transportation industry. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 13, 2013

Reed College is investigating a complaint that an annual student tradition -- sometimes involving nudity -- violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by creating a hostile environment for women, The Oregonian reported. The tradition involves juniors and seniors greeting freshmen as they prepare to start a required humanities course. The juniors and seniors dress as gods and demand "libations" (typically coffee) in return for wishing the new students luck in the course. Some of the juniors and seniors this year were apparently naked, and the nudity led to the complaint.

September 13, 2013

The Massachusetts State Board of Higher Education has summoned the president and board leaders of Westfield State University to Boston for a discussion of the president's expenses, The Republican reported. The request comes as a new outside report detailed numerous violations of spending rules. The president, Evan Dobelle, has admitted to charging some items in error, and has said he has reimbursed the university or its foundation in such cases. Further, he has argued that his spending has been to advance the university's interests.

But the outside report found that Dobelle violated credit card policies on trips to San Francisco, New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, New York City, Washington and elsewhere. In other cases, Dobelle charged the university foundation for travel to Spain, Vietnam, Thailand and China -- without receipts or documentation.

September 13, 2013

The University of Oslo has in a surprising turnaround cleared Anders Behring Breivik to enroll in a handful of political science courses, the Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported on Wednesday. Norwegian law guarantees inmates the right to some form of employment or education, but the news that Breivik had applied to study political science caused an outcry this summer from the families of his victims. The university rejected Breivik's application because he had not finished his high school degree. Breivik, convicted of killing 77 people in a 2011 bombing and shooting massacre, was sentenced to 21 years of "preventive detention" in 2012. The sentence may be definitely extended.

According to the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang, Breivik will study three introductory political science courses, one each in political theory, international politics, and public policy and administration. Breivik will not receive an academic degree for his studies, but he will receive credit should he receive a passing grade. Nor will Breivik personally interact with any of Oslo's faculty members; the university will loan all academic materials to Skien prison. With directions provided by the university, Breivik will study independently and submit his work from prison.

September 12, 2013

Pennsylvania State University faculty could vote to urge a delay in Take Care of Your Health, the controversial new health care plan for university employees, by a year. implies that the faculty has the power to do this -- is that true? can't the admin continue to igno**********Yeah, I don't know. The faculty senate thinks it has authority but i don't know what uni says since they didn't comment. Have made that clearer at end.---CF

More than 100 members of the Faculty Senate -- a little less than half the body -- moved this week to hold a special meeting by the end of the month to vote on postponing the plan. Such an action is rare for the Faculty Senate, Brent Yarnal, professor of geography and body president, said in an e-mail.

Employees have complained about details of the plan since they were announced this summer, including punitive surcharges of up to $100 monthly each for not completing a biometric screening, smoking and covering spouses eligible for health insurance through their own employers. Faculty and staff members also have raised privacy concerns about the uploading of years of personal medical information onto a third-party provider's website and the nature of the questions in a mandatory, online wellness profile, such as those about drinking habits and mental health.

University administrators have repeatedly said that serious intervention is needed if the university is to tackle skyrocketing health care costs, predicted to increase by 13 percent next year, and that previous, voluntary programs to mitigate costs have not been effective. All information collected and its uses comply with federal health care privacy laws, Penn State has said, including that it is only reported to the university in aggregate form.

Brian Curran, professor of art history and president of the institution's new advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, called the meeting "a major victory for us."

A university spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on the Senate matter. It is unclear if the body has the authority to delay the plan, even if it votes to do so.

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