Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 19, 2013

Boston University trustees have given $560,000 to launch a scholarship fund in memory of Lu Lingzi, the graduate student who was one of three people killed in a terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon on Monday. Lu's family members, who are traveling to Boston from China, have endorsed the effort as an appropriate honor.

April 19, 2013

Students at the London School of Economics have criticized their institution for its decision to expose the fact that BBC journalists accompanied them on a trip to North Korea, Times Higher Education reported. The university has lambasted the British broadcaster for using a student organization’s trip as “cover” for the filming of a documentary, arguing that “the students were not given enough information to enable informed consent, yet were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.” However, six of the 10 students on the trip have now issued a statement arguing that the university has further endangered them by publicizing the situation.

 “We feel that we have now been put in more risk than was originally the case, as a result of the LSE’s decision to go public with their story,” the students said, adding that they had not all been consulted by LSE officials regarding their own accounts of the trip.

The students said they were informed in London that a journalist would be accompanying them and of the risk of deportation or detention if that were discovered. LSE stands by its assertion that the students were not fully informed of the risks.

April 18, 2013

Education Sector and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni announced Wednesday that they are withdrawing a report issued in March claiming that faculty teaching loads had gone down substantially, contributing to the rising cost of higher education. That report, "Selling Students Short," said that "from 1987-1988 to 2003-2004, the average number of courses tenured and tenure-track faculty taught per term ... declined 25 percent. It is hard to overstate how dramatic this decline has been." The report argued that colleges would have kept their spending lower had they not made it possible for faculty members to spend less time in the classroom. At the time it was released, several faculty groups questioned the data, and pointed to problems with the report, such as its failure to reflect on the much increased use of non-tenure-track faculty members, who typically teach many more courses than do other professors.

The announcement Wednesday said that the two groups no longer felt that the data from 1987-88 were comparable to those from 2003-4. For example, professors who were not teaching any classes were excluded from the earlier data, but not the latter data. "[W]e cannot determine whether teaching loads for the typical professor declined, stayed the same, or increased," said a blog post from Andrew Gillen, the research director at Education Sector.

April 18, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Andrew Stephen of the University of Pittsburgh explains how your behavior may be influenced by social media connections. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

April 18, 2013

Last week, faculty members in Emory University's College of Arts and Sciences rejected a vote of no confidence in President James W. Wagner. Over the last year, Emory's decision to end some academic programs frustrated many professors, particularly in the humanities. Opposition grew in February, when Wagner's column in the alumni magazine offered as a model for compromise the three-fifths compromise, in which Northern and Southern politicians creating the U.S. Constitution agreed to count each slave in the South as three-fifths of a person for purposes of taxation and Congressional representation. While Wagner apologized for using the example, many people at Emory were stunned that he could be unaware that the compromise is widely viewed as a particularly ugly and racist moment in U.S. history.

On Tuesday, the Faculty Council (an elected faculty body representing all of the university's units) issued a statement of support for Wagner.  "We acknowledge the hurt to our community caused by President James Wagner’s use of the three-fifths compromise clause in his column in the Winter, 2013, issue of the Emory Magazine. He has sincerely apologized for this mistake in multiple venues, and he has held many listening sessions to hear concerns from the community. We as the University Faculty Council accept his apology. While his words were insensitive, they were not malicious in intent, and discussion of them has revealed failures throughout our community to live up to the diverse and inclusive ideal to which we aspire," said the statement.

It went on to describe Wagner's use of the three-fifths example as "particularly unfortunate because it detracts from many endeavors Emory University has initiated under his leadership. Emory has apologized for the role of slavery in building the institution, hosted the 'Slavery and the University' conference, which drew attendees from across the U.S., and created the Transforming Community Project in which people from across the university engaged with our history and current experiences of race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of human difference."

The Faculty Council's statement concluded: "We state our firm support for his continued leadership in the years ahead to continue the work yet to be done."

 
April 18, 2013

A new survey from ACT shows the continued gap between those who teach in high school and those who teach in college when it comes to their perceptions of the college preparation of today's students. Nearly 90 percent of high school teachers told ACT that their students are either “well” or “very well” prepared for college-level work in their subject area after leaving their courses. But only 26 percent of college instructors reported that their incoming students are either "well" or "very well" prepared for first-year credit-bearing courses in their subject area. The percentages are virtually unchanged from a similar survey in 2009.

April 18, 2013

Preliminary results of the vote at Montana State University to decertify its union shows the final margin will be even smaller than the decision to unionize in 2009, which won by a meager 12 votes. After the 375 ballots were counted at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry in Helena, the effort to decertify the Associated Faculty of MSU leads by five votes, 190 to 185. The union, which is affiliated with the statewide MEA-MFT, has challenged four ballots, while its opponents have challenged two.

April 18, 2013

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that a lower court was too quick to reject a former student's request for dismissal of a suit against her by Trump University. The student sued Trump University after she took some of its courses and they failed to live up to her expectations and claims she said were made in advertising. Trump University (which has since been renamed to remove "university" from its name, but which is called its former name in the ruling) then sued the student for defamation, and she tried unsuccessfully to have the suit dismissed. The appeals court on Wednesday ruled that it would be difficult to win a case against the student for defamation because Trump University was a much discussed institution (in part because of the celebrity of its founder, Donald Trump) and that debate about its quality was very much in the public sphere.

"We have very little difficulty concluding that a public controversy existed over Trump University's educational and business practices," the decision says. "As Donald Trump himself admits on the Trump University website, Trump University provoked public attention nearly from the outset, much of it derisive.... [A]ny general interest in Trump University stemming from its celebrity founder soon ripened in an actual dispute over Trump University's business and educational practices."

A lawyer for Trump University said that it would appeal, the Associated Press reported.

 

April 18, 2013

Pima Community College has been placed on probation by its regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The college's accreditation woes emerged last month, after a commission site team said it had found a broad range of complex problems at Pima, including concerns about governance and changed admissions policies. The team recommended probation, which the commission approved, notifying the college in a letter earlier this week.

April 18, 2013

Facebook continues to be the most popular social media platform used by colleges to maintain relations with current and potential donors, according to a new survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Also highly popular are Twitter and LinkedIn. But the survey found that some forms of social media -- such as blogs and Flickr -- are seeing decreased use by colleges. A report on the survey suggests that colleges are trying to become more strategic about how they use social media, and may be more hesitant to be trying everything at the same time.

 

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