Higher Education Quick Takes
The law dean of the University of St. Thomas has released an open letter to Bob Morse, the head of the college rankings of U.S. News & World Report, objecting to the magazine's decision to declare the law school "unranked." The law school was declined a ranking after it reported that it had provided both accurate and inaccurate data on its job placement rates, and the inaccurate data had been used to rank the school. Thomas M. Mengler, the dean, noted that the magazine typically does not change rankings when errors are discovered after the rankings are released -- even in cases where the information provided was intentionally incorrect. "If the decision to 'unrank' is indeed a change in protocol, this leads to the policy concern I would like to highlight – the fact that your decision will create a disincentive for law schools to promptly report mistaken or erroneous data," Mengler wrote. "When other law schools lied, you called on all law schools to protect the integrity of the data and ultimately the reporting. We did that even for an unintentional mistake. And while we are willing to live with the unfortunate consequences, I fear your decision will serve as a disincentive for others to self-report errors."
Brian Kelly, editor of the magazine, responded with a letter in which he said: "We made this decision for the 2013 law school rankings at a time of continuing conversation about law school data, both inside and outside the academy. Some schools have been accused of publishing inaccurate or misleading data. The American Bar Association is imposing more stringent reporting rules. And at U.S. News our responsibility is to continue to provide timely and relevant information about law schools to our readers, and to make them aware of new developments or changes in information. That is what we did in this case."
A survey of faculty members at Shorter University found that most of them disagree with new requirements that they pledge to live by certain Christian principles (defined to bar, among other things, any sex outside of heterosexual marriage), and many hope to leave as a result, The Rome News-Tribune reported. The survey found that only 10 percent of faculty members favor signing new pledges to abide by the requirements, that only 12 percent plan to stay at the university, and only 8 percent have confidence in the institution's direction. University officials questioned the accuracy of the survey because it was anonymous, but faculty organizers of the survey said that it needed to be anonymous to encourage honest answers.
An administrative judge has overturned a U.S. Education Department fine of $55,000 against Virginia Tech for failing to more speedily notify the campus of a threat on the tragic day in 2007 when 33 people died, The Washington Post reported. Some have faulted the university for not immediately notifying everyone on campus, once the first reports of a shooting came in. Virginia Tech officials have said that, after the first report, they had reason to believe that the shooter had left the campus. The judge's decision late Thursday said that the two-hour period before a warning went out "was not an unreasonable amount of time in which to issue a warning.... If the later shootings at Norris Hall had not occurred, it is doubtful that the timing of the e-mail would have been perceived as too late."
In a statement, Virginia Tech officials said they were "satisfied" with the judge's ruling, but that "there is no glee" given the events of five years ago. "Because of what happened here, we know that higher education changed on April 16, 2007. New laws, protocols, practices, policies, and technologies grew from our tragedy. We hope that lessons from this unforeseeable crime will continue to inform the practices affecting campus safety throughout the nation and the world."
Both houses of the Colorado Legislature have now passed -- and the governor is expected to sign -- legislation permitting public colleges to offer binding multiyear contracts to those off the tenure track. To date, all adjunct employment has been strictly "at will." Supporters of the bill said that it would provide some job security for those doing much of the college teaching in the state.
Federal agencies are conducting a review of research they support that could be used by terrorist groups. The document announcing the review note the need to balance multiple issues in the review. "Life sciences research is essential to the scientific advances that underpin improvements in the health and safety of the public, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, and national security. Despite its value and benefits, some research may provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be misused for harmful purposes," the document says. "Measures that mitigate the risks ... should be applied, where appropriate, in a manner that minimizes, to the extent possible, adverse impact on legitimate research, is commensurate with the risk, includes flexible approaches that leverage existing processes, and endeavors to preserve and foster the benefits of research."
The American Council on Education has named 57 faculty members and administrators as the 2012-13 class of the association's Fellows Program. The fellows are assigned to work for a year with a senior administrator at another institution, while also attending special educational programs. More than 300 fellows have gone on to become presidents while more than 1,100 have served as provosts, vice presidents or deans.
More moves by adjuncts to unionize:
- Adjuncts at Bergen Community College have voted to unionize through the American Federation of Teachers, The Bergen County Record reported. New Jersey community colleges have seen strong union representation among adjuncts, and organizers at Bergen said that they were impressed with gains made at other campuses.
- The United Steelworkers -- not a major force in academic labor, but a major force in Pittsburgh labor -- has started a campaign to organize adjuncts at Duquesne University, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The union is considering similar drives among adjuncts at other colleges in the area.
The Senate at Semmelweis University, in Hungary, voted to revoke the doctorate of Pal Schmitt, the president of Hungary, because of an inquiry that found extensive passages were copied from the work of others, the Associated Press reported. The doctorate was awarded by the University of Physical Education, which has since been absorbed by Semmelweis. The committee that studied the dissertation also faulted the University of Physical Education for not identifying the "unusually extensive" copying nor bringing it to Schmitt’s attention. That failure, the committee said, may have led him to believe that "his dissertation meets expectations."