Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, February 1, 2013 - 3:00am

Most of the attention related to the controversial "state authorization" regulations that the U.S. Education Department sought to implement in 2010 revolved around their potential application to distance education programs -- which a federal court invalidated in July 2011, and the agency said a year later it would not enforce. But lest college leaders (or state officials) think they were off the hook for the rest of the new requirements related to seeking state approval, the Education Department sent a little reminder to the contrary last week.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter to state education officials, department administrators noted that the delays in enforcement (of up to two years) that individual colleges could seek if they had been unable to obtain authorization to maintain a physical presence in a given state would be exhausted by the end of June 2013. So any institution that has not been granted approval to operate a physical campus in a state under the terms of the 2011 rules by then will risk losing access to federal financial aid funds, the letter notes.

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 3:00am

The new president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities pledged to make the group "the happy warriors of a great and godly cause," telling the association's president that his goal was to create a movement of Christian colleges incorporating faith into all areas of academic life. "I want to make not just the spiritual case, but the educational and economic case -- and yes, there is an economic case -- for the integration of faith and learning," Edward O. Blews, Jr., the former president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, told the Christian college group at his inauguration at its annual meeting Wednesday.

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 3:00am

A faculty investigative committee at the University of California at Berkeley has determined that Terrence Deacon, a professor there who was accused of plagiarism in an unusually public manner, did not commit academic misconduct.

The research misconduct allegations were levied by Michael Lissack, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence, on behalf of himself and two other researchers, Alicia Juarrero, a professor emerita at Prince George’s Community College, and Carl Rubino, a classics professor at Hamilton College. In addition to filing a complaint with Berkeley’s administration, Lissack also created a website detailing the works in question and tracking each instance of supposed plagiarism.

In response, Berkeley has taken the unusual step of creating a website detailing the committee’s findings, which exonerate Deacon. The committee’s findings state that overlap between one of Juarrero’s books and Deacon’s Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter was merely the result of two authors writing about the same topic. In other instances of alleged plagiarism, the committee found, Deacon’s works were actually published or submitted to the publisher before the supposedly plagiarized works were available.

The Berkeley committee also addresses Lissack’s assertion that failing to cite an important work in one’s field constitutes plagiarism. Calling this a “novel standard,” the committee argues that works by Juarrero, Rubino and Lissack also fail to cite previous research in their fields. The committee writes that neglecting an important work is not within the scope of plagiarism, generally defined as knowingly or recklessly using someone else’s words or ideas.  

The committee’s report concludes: “Would it have been better if Deacon had read and cited Juarrero’s book? Yes.… Still, the failure to cite an earlier work with the same subject matter, even an important one, is not by itself research misconduct.”

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Thomas Reichler of the University of Utah explains the connection between winds in the upper atmosphere and deep ocean currents. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 3:00am

The Drake Group was born out of a meeting at Drake University in 1999, but in the years since, the faculty group intent on reforming college sports has been a nomad, lacking a permanent home. But that will change now, with the group going "in residence" at the University of New Haven, the academic home of Drake's current president, Allen Sack. a professor of sport management. The Drake Group has focused its efforts on ensuring academic integrity in college athletics.

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 3:00am

Former men’s tennis coaches at the University of Southern Mississippi (unsuccessfully) bribed a highly recruited player to stay on the team with $5,000 and a car, paid another athlete $150 to write an academic paper for him, and offered him $200 to come back and win an in-progress match, according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association public infractions report. The NCAA announced Wednesday that it had cited the former head and assistant coach with unethical conduct and the university with a failure to monitor its men’s tennis program. The report also noted that the coaches’ refusal to participate in NCAA enforcement interviews and their encouragement of athletes to lie to NCAA investigators.

“The two coaches’ actions obviously fell short of what the NCAA membership expects of its coaches by their failure to act ethically,” Rod Uphoff, acting chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions and law professor at  the University of Missouri at Columbia, said in a call with reporters Wednesday, adding that they also were "ruining" the "opportunities” of the athletes involved, who are now permanently ineligible.

In explaining the university's failure to monitor citation, the report notes a flouting of travel policies and procedures, lack of proper documentation and general administrative oversight of the tennis program, and failure to provide appropriate resources to compliance staff. Also, obviously, the coaches' behavior occurred under supposed administrative watch. The violations took place from January 2008 through May 2010.

Citations include public reprimand and censure; four years’ probation (through Jan. 29, 2017); a seven-year show-cause order for the former head coach and a six-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, which will require any institution that wants to hire those coaches within that time frame to make its case for doing so to the NCAA; prohibition of foreign tour participation for men’s tennis until 2016; and a one-year postseason ban for men’s tennis, as well as vacation of all wins in which the former athletes competed while ineligible (both self-imposed by the university).
 

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 3:00am

Governor Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, will outline a plan today to add $1.5 billion over the next decade for science, mathematics and technology at the University of Connecticut, The Hartford Courant reported. The goal would be to increase enrollments in those fields by one third, and the funds would pay for new faculty positions, new facilities and full scholarships for top students.

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 3:00am

Amherst has not tried to sweep a sexual assault problem under the rug, a committee told the Amherst College Board of Trustees at its meeting Wednesday, but it has often responded inadequately to cases of misconduct. After a string of rape allegations and accusations of administrative carelessness roiled the Amherst campus in October, President Carolyn (Biddy) Martin formed the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct to review policies and make recommendations to prevent and address sexual misconduct.

“This committee believes strongly that Amherst must acknowledge the problem of sexual misconduct openly and address it directly,” the committee said in its report, while noting that the problem is not unique to Amherst. “If our system is believed to be unfair or unjust it will serve no one well.” The college’s response to sexual misconduct cases have been “quite mixed and at times inadequate,” the report says.

Martin said in a letter to the college Wednesday that many of the committee’s recommendations are already being put in place. She also revealed the findings of a separate but related external review of whether Amherst followed its policies in responding to the student who made a visceral, public rape allegation that sparked a string of similar stories. The investigation found that Amherst failed at protocols that “precluded a successful response.”

Broadly speaking, the committee recommends that the college should: improve its compliance "to both the letter and the spirit of the law" of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; continue fostering an inclusive, respectful campus community; improve communication within student affairs, which was a major obstacle for alleged victims; try harder to integrate first-year students, especially women, onto campus; raise awareness of sexual violence and its effects in society and on campus, reach out to all campus constituencies – male and female; revisit its alcohol policies and student programming to encourage healthier drinking habits and more low-alcohol alternatives; and develop more appropriate spaces for social activity that are large, open, and minimize the risk of sexual misconduct.


 

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 4:14am

For months now signs have suggested that law schools are losing their appeal to applicants. All year long, far fewer people have been taking the Law School Admission Test than were doing so the year before. Now data examined by The New York Times indicate a 20 percent decline in the number of applications to law school, compared to this time last year. The long-term trend is even more dramatic. Currently, there are projected to be 54,000 applicants this admissions cycle, down from 100,000 in 2004.

 

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 3:00am

The Anti-Defamation League says it is “troubled” by an upcoming event at Brooklyn College, co-sponsored by the college’s political science department, that the ADL says is "anti-Israel." The event, which the political science department is sponsoring along with the college’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, will feature two speakers who are part of the BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement, which encourages organizations to cut off all ties to Israel. Ron Meier, the ADL New York regional director, said in a press release that the political science department’s co-sponsorship of the event constitutes institutional endorsement of the sentiments of the BDS movement, and in a letter to Brooklyn College president Karen Gould, Meier urged Gould to tell the political science department to revoke its sponsorship.

But the college is backing the right of the political science department to sponsor any event it wants. In a letter to students, faculty, and staff, Gould wrote that principles of academic freedom grant students and faculty the right to “engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree.” Gould emphasized that while the college endorses free speech, it does not endorse the views of speakers it brings to campus.

A spokesman for the college also noted that another student group, the Israel Club, will host its own event in February.  

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