Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 25, 2013

The board of the Foothill-De Anza Foundation, which supports the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, has voted to sell off holdings in fossil fuel companies. 350.org, a group pushing for colleges to adopt such policies, reports that Foothill-De Anza is the first community college to do so. Students who believe that divestment can help the environment by putting pressure on fossil fuel companies started their campaign for this action in a political science course, where they were urged to use citizen activism skills. About 1 percent of the foundation's $33 million endowment is currently invested in fossil fuel companies.

 

October 25, 2013

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee is questioning how the National Endowment for the Humanities awards its education grants. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama sent a letter this week to Carol M. Watson, the acting chairwoman of the NEH, in which he demanded the agency explain its peer-review process for funding grants that explore “very indefinite” questions.

Sessions pointed to seven grants the NEH funded that seek to explore the following questions: “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why are we interested in the past?”, “What is the good life and how do I live it?”, “Why are bad people bad?”, “What is belief?”, “What is a monster?”, and “Why do humans write?”

“In the current fiscal environment, I question the appropriateness of such grants,” which ranged from about $23,000 to $25,000, Sessions wrote. He also expressed concerns about an NEH-funded program called “Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys Bookshelves” that distributed books, films, and other resources to more than 900 libraries around the country and provided money to hold discussion forums.

The program, according to an NEH press release, “is intended to address both the need and desire of the American public for trustworthy and accessible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations.” Sessions said that the program raised questions about the use of federal funds “on behalf of just one religion,” and demanded that NEH provide an itemized list of similar programs related to sects of Christianity and Judaism.

Earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee introduced legislation that would have cut the budget for the NEH nearly in half for the current fiscal year that began on October 1. The House Republican budget plan this year said that the NEH “can no longer be justified.” In March, Congress approved legislation in March that prohibits the National Science Foundation from funding political science research unless a project promotes national security or U.S. economic interests. 

October 25, 2013

Thomas F. Rosenbaum, provost of the University of Chicago, was on Thursday named as the next president of the California Institute of Technology. Rosenbaum is a physicist and the Caltech announcement said that his involvement in both undergraduate and graduate education was crucial to his appointment.

 

October 25, 2013

Lesley University adjuncts announced their intent to unionize Thursday under the auspices of the Service Employees International Union, which is driving a larger unionization movement across the Boston metropolitan area. The SEIU is mobilizing adjuncts across other metro regions, including Washington. Tufts University adjuncts voted in favor of a union last month, but Bentley University adjuncts voted against a union, they announced this week.

"By strengthening the support for part-time faculty we will improve the educational experience, and as a result advance enrollment and retention," Stella Johnson, adjunct professor of photography at Lesley, said in a news release. "We look forward to working together with the administration to solving the issues that confront our campus and profession and give higher education a brighter future."

Jack Dempsey, a longtime adjunct professor of English and public speaking at Bentley and part of the organizing committee there, said he was surprised and disappointed by the outcome -- 100 votes against and 98 for -- but said that Bentley adjuncts and SEIU were planning to appeal the decision. Because the government shutdown, which began Oct. 1, preceded the voting deadline of Oct. 3, it's possible that more "yes" votes arrived at the National Labor Relations Board Office by the deadline but could not be certified as timely and counted by the time the shutdown ended, he said. Adjuncts at Bentley want equal pay for equal work compared with tenure-track professors; health care insurance coverage; and "contract rights," including hiring preferences for veteran adjuncts and compensation for courses canceled at the last minute.

October 24, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been interviewing participants in an exchange program to Russia on whether the head of that program may be trying to recruit agents, The Washington Post reported. The investigation -- first reported in Mother Jones -- concerns the Russian Center for Science and Culture, in Washington, which offers trips to Russia for young professionals, including graduate students. A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington said that the exchanges were legitimate and did not involve the recruitment of xspies. "'All such ‘scaring information’ very much resembles Cold War era," the spokesman said, adding that these reports are an attempt to "distort and to blacken activities of the Russian Cultural Center."

 

October 24, 2013

Ernesto Perez has resigned as CEO of Dade Medical College, days after it was revealed that he is facing criminal charges, The Miami Herald reported. Perez faces two counts of perjury, a misdemeanor, and one count of providing false information through a sworn statement -- all related to his failure to report past criminal arrests or convictions in government forms. Perez spent six months in jail after pleading no contest in 1990 to misdemeanor charges of batter and exposing his genitals to a child. The victim was a 15-year-old fan of the band in which Perez played at the time.

 

October 24, 2013

Sustained childhood exposure to and participation in the arts appears linked to college students majoring in science and technology fields, and to later going on to patent inventions, Michigan State University researchers have found. In a study published in the journal Economic Development Quarterly and based on STEM graduates of Michigan State's honors college, the researchers found that  93 percent of the STEM graduates reported musical training at some point, compared to 34 percent of adults on average. Further, those who owned businesses or patents received up to eight times more childhood exposure to the arts than did adults on average.

93 percent of the STEM graduates reported musical training at some point in their lives, as compared to only 34 percent of average adults - See more at: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/a-young-picasso-or-beethoven-could-be-...
October 24, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jennifer Crosby of Williams College examines how we react to perceived prejudice in a social setting. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 24, 2013

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and advocates for the continued use of the "Chief Illinwek" mascot have worked out a deal, The Chicago Tribune reported. The university stopped using the chief officially in 2007, with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Native American groups objecting to Indian symbols used for athletics events in ways that promote stereotypes. But some alumni have refused to give up the use. In the deal, the university will not object to the group's use of Chief Illiniwek. But the group will not suggest that the chief is coming back, and will make clear that its activities are not endorsed or approved by the university.

October 24, 2013

A teaching assistant at the University of Iowa accidentally instead of "accidently," which isn't really a word. dl *ok MR e-mailed naked photographs of herself and a man to students. She had intended to send an attachment with answers to some questions on a problem set. As news of the e-mail embarrassment spread on social media, the university asked those who received the e-mail to delete the message and to not share the files with anyone else. The incident was “inappropriate” and the university will look into it and take appropriate actions under its policies and procedures, a spokesman said. He said that the teaching assistant regrets what happened.


 

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