Higher Education Quick Takes
What's so funny about a 68-year-old classics and religious studies professor -- decked out in a blue flannel shirt, navy dress pants pulled up to a generous height and sporty black shoes -- cruising around campus on a skateboard? Tom Winter still isn't sure, but the University of Nebraska at Lincoln instructor is playing along now that a photo of him riding an Arbor Pocket Rocket skateboard has gone viral, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The picture, apparently taken by a Nebraska student, was the most-viewed item on Reddit.com one day last week and has been the subject of dozens of mock captions on Imgur.com.
Winter, who rides his bike to work every day, opts for a skateboard when he moves around campus. "I'm 19, but my joints are all of 68 years old," he told the Journal Star. "Sometimes, walking is simply unpleasant."
Imgur caption writers wrote "He has a Ph.D. in epicness" and "Tony Hawk in his senior years." Others were less kind: "Suddenly, broken hip," reads one comment. Sights of Winter weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic as his gray hair and decorative ties flap in the wind have long made him a cult celebrity in Lincoln. But the former roller skating champion who has spent more than 40 years on the Nebraska faculty seems to be taking his newfound global fame in stride.
"It's a pretty good photo," he told the Lincoln newspaper.
Jorge Gilbert, who formerly taught South American history and politics at Evergreen State College, was fined nearly $120,000 last year by the Washington State Executive Ethics Board for failing to account for $50,000 in student payments he received from student for a study abroad program in Chile. With that debt looming, the state attorney general's office reported last week that Gilbert has disappeared, The Olympian reported.
Student journalists might not be as funny as they think. The latest mea culpa, from the University of Missouri at Columbia's campus newspaper editor, centers around the retitling of The Maneater's April Fool's edition as The Carpeteater.
In a lengthy statement released Friday, Editor Abby Spudich explains that she "truly did not know that 'carpet eater' is a derogatory term used for a lesbian." She also apologized for other April Fool's jokes that fell on deaf ears, including a series of vulgar references to women. The paper won't publish an April Fool's edition next year, Spudich wrote. "Our April Fool’s issue serves as a cautionary warning about the consequences of ignorance," she writes, "but I hope the actions we will take in the near future will serve as an example of how to take steps forward to promote an inclusive campus for all."
If only there had been a cautionary tale available a couple weeks ago. It's been a tough month for America's student press, as an April Fool's edition at Boston University that made light of rape led to an editor's resignation.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has issued guidelines to help countries promote open access to research findings. While the guidelines are not binding on member nations, they suggest that countries take a consistent and broad approach to assuring free access to research findings. The report with the guidelines also rejects the idea that because partial access is available or even full access to some work in some countries, that these issues have been resolved. "There is a problem of accessibility to scientific information everywhere," the report says. "Levels of open access vary by discipline, and some disciplines lag behind considerably, making the effort to achieve open access even more urgent. Access problems are accentuated in developing, emerging and transition countries. There are some schemes to alleviate access problems in the poorest countries but although these provide access, they do not provide open access: they are not permanent, they provide access only to a proportion of the literature, and they do not make the literature open to all but only to specific institutions."
Chicago State University on Friday dropped a controversial policy that required faculty members to have prior approval before talking to the press, engaging in social media or engaging in most forms of public communication, The Chicago Tribune reported. The policy -- viewed by faculty members as inappropriate and illegal -- was abandoned after the Tribune reported on it. An e-mail message sent to faculty members by the university said that the policy "had not received proper review and approval through legal counsel prior to being distributed," and so was being pulled.
The law school of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa is well respected, but generally isn't seen in the same league as some elite private law schools in places like Cambridge and New Haven. So how is it, the Associated Press asked, that every sitting Supreme Court justice has either already visited to give a talk or has agreed to do so? Based on interviews and open records requests, the AP reported that Alabama is very resourceful at identifying people to lobby on its behalf, and identifying the right kind of honoraria offers (which are typically paid to charities favored by the individual justices). Unique Alabama experiences are also part of the effort. Justice Anthony Kennedy had heard about a rib place he wanted to visit, and that was part of his trip. Justice Clarence Thomas, a big sports fan, attended an Alabama football game. And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received an autographed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
The Cornish College of Arts announced Friday that it was withdrawing invitations to Mike Daisey to give the commencement address and receive an honorary degree, The Seattle Times reported. Daisey, a playwright, has admitted that parts of his play about Steve Jobs, as performed on "This American Life," were inaccurate. Nancy Uscher, president of the college, issued a statement explaining the decision. "Mr. Daisey has acknowledged that he personally did not witness all the events that he said he did, and he exaggerated the level of his own experiences to journalists," she said. "Since its founding by Nellie Cornish in 1914, Cornish College of the Arts has educated and prepared students to contribute to society as artists, citizens, and innovators. One essential principle of that education is the importance of professional integrity. Because of that foundational value, Cornish will not award an honorary degree to Mr. Daisey. Cornish and Mr. Daisey have mutually agreed he will withdraw from commencement."
A government report suggests that many Indian universities have enough room on their campuses to double enrollments in the next five years, Mint reported. "The 43 central universities, except a few like Delhi University, are functioning with disproportionately low student enrollment compared to the campus area," the report said. "A 100 percent increase in intake is feasible in 30 of these university campuses." The report suggests that a new measure of university efficiency be students-per-acre of campus.
Deepak Pental, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi, called the proposal "ridiculous," adding that "authorities should not equate number with quality, though we understand that a service economy needs to get enough human capital to sustain the growth rate."
Gay students and gay issues have become unusually visible at Brigham Young University, an institutions that bars students from sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that gay students last week released a video in the "It Gets Better" series talking about being gay at the university. Also last week, estimates are that up to 600 students attended a meeting in a room with seating for 260 to hear four students talk about balancing their gay identities with life at the university, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We’re trying to live it and create new spaces for us to be gay and Mormon and be active in the church," said Adam White, who was on the the panel and appeared in the YouTube video. The university says that gay students do not face punishments from the university as long as they don't have physical intimacy with members of the same sex.