Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Much mystery still surrounds last month's unexplained decision by the Morgan State University board to first announce that it was not renewing the contract of David Wilson as president, and then -- following considerable outcry on campus -- to give him a one-year extension. A memo by the board chair, Dallas R. Evans, outlines his views, and they are quite critical, The Baltimore Sun reported. "He does not provide the inspiring and insightful leadership the university requires nor has he created a clear and consistent vision for the campus," said the memo. It also accused Wilson of siding with the state and against Morgan State supporters who have sued, charging that Maryland is not providing appropriate support for its historically black colleges. The memo also says that Wilson is responsible for the "turmoil that has beset the Morgan community over the last four weeks," with Evans saying that he had "sufficient reason to believe that Dr. Wilson was involved in its orchestration." Evans and Wilson both declined to comment on the memo, which was leaked to the Sun.

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

The Oregon Employment Relations Board has ruled that graduate research assistants at Oregon State University are employees and have the right to collective bargaining, The Corvallis Gazette-Times reported. The university has maintained that the research assistants should be seen primarily as students, and thus ineligible for unionization. The ruling clears the way for a vote by the research assistants on whether they should be represented by a local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which already represents teaching assistants at Oregon State.

 

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

John F. O'Brien, dean of New England Law, Boston, a free-standing law school, may be the highest paid law dean in the United States, and some wonder why, The Boston Globe reported. He earns more than $867,000 a year. Board members of the law school praise his work. And O'Brien noted that because the law school isn't attached to a larger institution (as most law schools are), he has to deal with issues other deans don't. But the Globe noted that tuition is going up at a time that demand for lawyers is going down. "It’s a remarkable sum to pay a dean of a law school, never mind the dean of a bottom-ranked law school," said Brian Z. Tamanaha, author of the 2012 book Failing Law Schools.

Saturday, January 12, 2013 - 11:41am

Aaron Swartz, who was a leading and controversial figure in the hacking movement and the push to make journal articles free, committed suicide Friday at the age of 26, CNET News reported.

A federal grand jury in 2011 indicted Swartz for the theft of millions of journal articles through the JSTOR account of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Authorities said that he used an MIT guest account, even though he didn't have a legal right to do so. Many open access advocates considered him a hero, but had he lived for his trial, he faced millions of dollars in fines and decades in prison. Swartz's suicide came days after JSTOR announced a major expansion of free access to content from 1,200 journals. While there has been some speculation online that his legal troubles may have led to his suicide, friends have noted online that Swartz battled depression (and was public about doing so).

JSTOR on Saturday issued a statement in which it called Swartz "a truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the Internet and the web from which we all benefit." The statement said that JSTOR "regretted being drawn into [the legal case] from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge."

The statement also noted that "Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011."

Prior to the indictment, Swartz was already a major player in public discussions about technology and he had founded a company that now makes up a key part of Reddit. Here is Swartz's biography on his website.

Here are links to some of the online commentary about Swartz's legacy and his death:

Swartz's ideas about information and technology (prior to the JSTOR legal battle) were twice the subject of pieces by Inside Higher Ed columnist Scott McLemee. Those pieces may be found here and here.

After Swartz was indicted, Inside Higher Ed blogger Barbara Fister wrote "A Modest Proposal Inspired by Aaron Swartz."

 

 

 

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 4:16am

Martha Keochareon offered nursing students at Holyoke Community College, her alma mater, an unusually valuable lesson, The New York Times reported. Facing death from pancreatic cancer, Keochareon suggested that nursing students could use her as a case study to learn about patients facing fatal cancers. The article looks at the lessons students learned from visiting and talking with Keochareon.

 

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Lars Hinrichs of the University of Texas at Austin reveals why many features of Texas-English are disappearing. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 3:00am

Gov. Jerry Brown of California on Thursday released a proposed budget that includes substantial increases for higher education, which were made possible by a tax hike voters passed in November. Both the University of California and California State University Systems received an additional $250 million in funding, while the state's community college system received an increase of $197 million as well as $179 million for previously deferred commitments. Overall, the budget would increase funding for higher education by $1.3 billion, or 5.3 percent, compared to last year's allocation.

At a news conference Thursday, Governor Brown also vowed to attend board meetings of the two university systems, in part to pressure other board members to keep tuition from going up.

 

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 3:00am

Scotland will offer financial support to students who choose to study elsewhere in the European Union for the first time under a new pilot program, The Scotsman reported. The government will provide loans of up to £5,500 (about $8,884) and scholarships of up to £1,750 (about $2,827) to about 250 students in 2014-15. As Michael Russell, the education secretary, said, “This will help encourage our young people who choose to study abroad and the pilot will help assess demand and allow us to roll out this support to all Scots studying in Europe.”

Scotland has a tradition of providing free higher education to its citizens.

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 3:00am

Federal indictments unsealed Thursday charged that Jonathan Pinson, former chair of the board of South Carolina State University, conspired with a local businessman and the then-police chief of the university to have South Carolina State buy property and steer contracts to certain businesses, The State reported. Federal authorities who were investigating the men intervened to prevent the purchase of the property. Pinson's lawyer has denied the charges. But Michael Bartley, the former police chief, has admitted guilt and is awaiting sentencing.

 

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 3:00am

Dozens of scholars of crime -- organized by the Crime Lab of the University of Chicago -- have written a joint letter to Vice President Biden to urge him to include research issues in the Obama administration's proposed response to gun violence. The letter focuses on restrictions on the use of National Institutes of Health funds for research that might be used to advocate for gun control. Further, it noted repeated efforts by gun supporters to block funding of research on guns by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The "politically motivated constraints" have limited research that could help the country prevent gun violence, the letter says.

 

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