Higher Education Quick Takes
A group of companies and higher ed groups on Tuesday announced a project aimed at expanding Internet capabilities at rural colleges and universities across the country. The project, called AIR.U., would increase the broadband available to those institutions and their neighbors by harnessing the unused frequencies, called "white space," of defunct television channels. The partners in the deal, which include Microsoft, Google, the New America Foundation and the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (among many others), are billing the project as an altruistic effort to "[upgrade] broadband offerings in those communities that, because of their educational mission, have greater than average demand but often, because of their rural or small town location, have below average broadband." The first networks are expected to come online early next year.
A California judge on Tuesday ordered the University of California to reveal the names of police officers cited (critically) in a report about last year's incident of pepper spraying at the Davis campus, The Los Angeles Times reported. That newspaper and The Sacramento Bee sued for access to the names (which were redacted in the report) under the state's open-records law, which the judge agreed applied to the information. The university says that it would be willing to release the full report, but the union that represents the police officers is expected to appeal Tuesday's ruling.
Lou van den Dries, a mathematics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been fined $500 by the state for skipping ethics training that is required of all state employees, the Associated Press reported. He also has now taken the training. Given that Illinois has two former governors behind bars, many professors have said that forcing them to take ethics training is a waste of time. But the law requires it of all employees. In 2007, van den Dries wrote of the requirement: "It is Big Brother reducing us to the status of children. Symptoms: monitoring of the test taking, the 'award' of a diploma for passing the test. It betrays a totalitarian urge on those in power to infantilize the rest of us."
New research by professors at the University of Bristol suggests that biologists may be avoiding scientific papers that have extensive mathematical detail, Times Higher Education reported. The Bristol researchers studied the number of citations to 600 evolutionary biology papers published in 1998. They found that the most "maths-heavy" papers were cited by others half as much as other papers. Each additional math equation appears to reduce the odds of a paper being cited. Tim Fawcett, a co-author of the paper, told Times Higher Education, "I think this is potentially something that could be a problem for all areas of science where there is a tight link between the theoretical mathematical models and experiment."
Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has started using near simultaneous translation to create subtitles on websites devoted to course lectures, DW.DE reported. Many foreign students struggle to speak German at a level to follow the lectures, so this plan is designed to increase their comprehension of the substance of the lectures.
Dmitry Livanov, Russia's new education minister, has unveiled controversial reforms for his country's universities. Chemistry World reported that the changes proposed include consolidating universities and ending the tradition of free tuition. Livanov and others argue that they need to change the universities to keep scientific talent, and the plan also calls for significant increases in faculty salaries. Many academics are criticizing the proposal, saying that it would make it more difficult for those in low-income, remote parts of the country to obtain a spot in a top program.
California Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders have reached a deal that would bar public universities from receiving $125 million that could become available for them if voters approve a tax hike unless the universities freeze tuition, The Los Angeles Times reported. Lawmakers dislike planned tuition increases, and see the deal as another incentive for voters to pass the tax increases. But university officials are dubious, saying that they can't give up the tuition revenue, especially given that passage of the tax measure is uncertain.
The board of Saint Paul's College, a historically black institution in Virginia that was stripped of accreditation last week by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, announced Monday that it is considering a range of options. The board formally announced that it is appealing the SACS decision. But Saint Paul's is also considering these options: seeking accreditation from another agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, forming new partnerships or a merger.