Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 10, 2013

Santa Clara University has removed elective abortion from its health coverage for employees, becoming the second Roman Catholic university (with Loyola Marymount University) to be facing faculty backlash over such a decision, The San Jose Mercury News reported. University officials said that they are trying to be consistent with church teachings. But faculty members say that they object both tp the decision, and to the fact that it was made without consultation with professors. "This really makes Santa Clara University's express commitment to openness, diversity and inclusiveness ring hollow," said Nancy Unger, a history professor.

October 10, 2013

The University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse has apologized for an e-mail a professor sent to students earlier this week blaming the “Republican/Tea-Party controlled House of Representatives” for the ongoing government shutdown. In an e-mail Wednesday, Chancellor Joe Gow called the comment “inappropriate” and “problematic,” based on the fact that it didn’t appear to “add anything to the educational experience in the class,” and because such a “partisan reference” could make students uncomfortable.

Rachel Slocum, assistant professor of geography, said in an e-mail that she regretted the brevity but not necessarily the content of her message to students in her online class, as she wanted to explain why they wouldn’t be able to access U.S. Census Bureau data to complete an important assignment. (The bureau's website is unavailable due to the shutdown.)

Here's what she wrote, after being alerted by a student that the site was not working:

"Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/tea party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government.... Please do what you can on the assignment. Those parts you are unable to do because of the shutdown will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government. Please listen to the news and be prepared to turn in the assignment quickly once our nation re-opens.”

Slocum said that "in hindsight, I should have either left out mention of the causal agents or gone into more detail so as not to make any student feel as if I was using my position to force my perspective on them. That feeling is certainly not what I wanted to convey." The professor wrote a similar message in a second e-mail to students, at the request of the dean of the College of Science and Health.

Gow said in an interview that Slocum's comments violated the university's policy against using its resources to engage in political activity.

 

October 10, 2013

While it is widely known that many college presidents and head football coaches receive cars in their compensation packages, 94 administrators or coaches at University of Nebraska campuses (and one coach's wife) receive cars, club memberships or both, The Omaha World-Herald reported. University officials defended the benefits as part of the process of attracting and retaining talent.

 

October 10, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Youth voter turnout, especially among low-income students, is significantly impeded by voter identification laws and restrictions on same-day registration, and educators and policymakers should collaborate to improve civic education and engagement, according to a new report commissioned by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.  Most of the report’s recommendations – including lowering the legal voting age to 17 – are directed at politicians and K-12 schools as opposed to colleges (though it does encourage collaboration with colleges on the issues). But there is some takeaway for higher education as well, CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said here at the report’s release Wednesday.

Colleges can “be part of the solution to the K-12 problem” – that is, teachers’ failure to discuss politics and voting laws in the classroom. “[Colleges] educate the teachers, drive curriculum, decide who to admit,” Levine said. “High school curriculum is imitating Government 101.”

Professors could also do more to educate students about the voting process and help them register, said Trey Grayson, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics and a member of the group that authored the report, the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge. He pointed to TurboVote, a Harvard student’s start-up that simplifies registration and reminds students when deadlines approach. “A very small investment can get their students engaged,” Grayson said. “The numbers are better for college students, but they’re still not as good as they should be.”

October 10, 2013

Emerson College officials pledged Wednesday to improve the process by which they handle allegations of sexual assault, The Boston Globe reported. Among other steps, college officials said they would hire an "advocate" to help victims of sexual assault through the investigation and judicial process. The announcement follows filing of a federal complaint by Emerson students saying that the college failed to adequately investigate two recent incidents.

October 10, 2013

The University of Chicago president has clarified the university’s policy about elevator use in the administration building, after some said uniformed workers were not being permitted to use the elevators. “Let me state in the simplest of terms what the policy actually is: the elevators are for everybody’s use,” Robert Zimmer wrote in a statement to facilities staff members. “This includes all of you and other staff members, faculty, students, visitors, vendors, and guests to the university. That has always been my intent, and there will be no policy to the contrary.”

The policy was criticized after reports that a maintenance worker with a hip replacement and a maintenance worker with asthma had to walk up four flights of stairs because they were not allowed to use the elevators in daytime hours. The Service Employees International Union, Local 73, had planned a rally to protest the policy prior to the president’s statement. 

October 9, 2013

Desire2Learn on Tuesday announced an upgraded version of its learning management system has begun rolling out to the company’s roughly 750 clients. The newest version of the Learning Suite reflects the series of startups Desire2Learn has acquired in recent months, including group collaboration software created by Wiggio.

John Baker, president and CEO of Desire2Learn, said one of the major goals of the new platform is to smooth out the technical difficulties of collaborating across different applications and websites. Instead of logging in to access their online documents on one site and their photos on another, users will be able to tie those credentials to their Learning Suite account.

The platform also features support for institutions to create their own massive open online courses without the use of a MOOC provider. The upgrade will come at no charge to Desire2Learn’s existing customers.

October 9, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Richard Boylan of Rice University explores the connection between prison reform and a reduction in social aid programs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 9, 2013

Large numbers of students who have transferred to a four-year institution from a community college before earning an associate degree may be eligible to receive that credential, according to a newly released study from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The report, which is dubbed "Credit When It's Due," looked at the potential for "reverse transfer" policies in 12 states, finding that 27,000 students who had no credential four years after transferring would have been eligible for an associate degree. 

October 9, 2013

Three researchers will share the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems." The winners are Martin Karplus of Université de Strasbourg and Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford University and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California.

 

 

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