Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 15, 2013

Many medical faculty members at McGill University are protesting plans to shift the medical school curriculum from a research orientation to a focus on family medicine, The Montreal Gazette reported. The government of Quebec is strongly encouraging the shift, and supporters of the plan said that it will produce physicians who are needed by various communities. But professors say that McGill has traditionally played a key role in producing the physicians who also conduct high-level research, and that this mission is being gutted.


April 15, 2013

Faculty members in Emory University's College of Arts and Sciences have rejected, by a vote of 201 to 133, a vote of no confidence in President James W. Wagner. The arts and sciences professors make up about 20 percent of the university faculty -- and are the only group to hold a vote of no confidence. Over the last year, Emory's decision to end some academic programs frustrated many professors, particularly in the humanities. Opposition grew in February, when Wagner's column in the alumni magazine offered as a model for compromise the three-fifths compromise, in which Northern and Southern politicians creating the U.S. Constitution agreed to count each slave in the South as three-fifths of a person for purposes of taxation and Congressional representation. While Wagner apologized for using the example, many people at Emory were stunned that he could be unaware that many people view the compromise as a particularly ugly and racist moment in U.S. history.

After the vote, the university released a statement from the Board of Trustees saying that "The Emory University Board of Trustees extends its strong and undivided support to President James W. Wagner."

A statement from Wagner said: “I respect the views of all of our faculty and their right to express concern about the leadership and direction of our institution, and I take to heart the significance of this vote. Faculty governance and faculty responsibility for the future of Emory University are essential.  I will continue to work with my colleagues in the administration and with the faculty to carry out the mission of this great institution. I have listened closely to constituents from across the university, and I look forward to sharing what I have learned and to working with all members of our community to move Emory forward. Together we have accomplished much, and in partnership with all of our community members, Emory will do much more.”

April 15, 2013

A new study has found widespread abuse -- psychological, physical and sexual -- of graduate students in biological anthropology when they work in the field. Women are much more likely to report abuse than are men, and those abused are more likely to identify men as those abusing them, but the study also found male victims and female harassers. The findings were presented at the 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropology.


April 15, 2013

Swiss universities -- with high quality and low tuition rates -- are enrolling larger proportions of foreign students, Swiss Broadcasting Corporation reported. In 1990, foreign enrollments made up 23 percent of the Swiss student body. Today that figure is 38 percent. While educators are proud of the quality of students being attracted, some officials question whether the country can afford to educate so many people from elsewhere.


April 15, 2013

Authorities have charged Lei Wu, an assistant professor of software engineering at the University of Houston - Clear Lake, with making a "terroristic threat" based on statements he made to a colleague, The Houston Chronicle reported. Wu allegedly told a faculty colleague -- who recorded the conversation -- that there will "be blood" if he is not awarded tenure.

In response to an e-mail from Inside Higher Ed asking about the charges, Wu said: "Truth will come out soon. By then you will see. Justice will prevail."


April 15, 2013

London School of Economics claims that three undercover BBC reporters who accompanied a student group on a trip to North Korea put the students at risk, The Telegraph reported. The journalists, who feigned affiliation with LSE, accompanied 10 students to North Korea, where they conducted filming for a documentary that’s scheduled to air today.

“At no point prior to the trip was it made clear to the students that a BBC team of three had planned to use the trip as cover for a major documentary to be shown on [the BBC program] ‘Panorama,’ ” LSE officials said in an email sent to students and staff.

"It is LSE's view that the students were not given enough information to enable informed consent, yet were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.”

The BBC maintains that students were twice warned that a (single) journalist would be coming on the trip. "The students were all explicitly warned about the potential risks of traveling to North Korea with the journalist as part of their group,” a spokeswoman for "Panorama" said. "This included a warning about the risk of arrest and detention and that they might not be allowed to return to North Korea in the future."

April 15, 2013

Matthew Goldstein sent a letter to students and faculty members of the City University of New York system Friday afternoon announcing his plans to retire this summer. Goldstein has been chancellor since 1999, and in his years leading the university system, it has undergone major changes. Under Goldstein, new admissions standards for four-year institutions resulted in many of them attracting more top students, while CUNY's community colleges emerged as leading centers of reform in two-year college education. A new community college was launched this year, and it makes full use of many of the reform ideas circulating in the discussions of two-year colleges. CUNY also launched a number of new divisions in addition to the new community college. Among them are the William E. Macaulay Honors College, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY School of Public Health.

Goldstein also was chancellor when CUNY officials (as well as their counterparts at the State University of New York) reached an agreement with state officials in a bid to lead to more stable appropriations and tuition increases (both of which have fluctuated widely in the past). Some student leaders, however, have objected to any tuition increases, and there have been protests when rates have been raised.

Goldstein's letter to the system noted pride that during his tenure, more than 2,000 full-time faculty jobs have been added systemwide.

Relations between CUNY and its faculty union during Goldstein's tenure have sometimes been frosty. Currently, CUNY administrators and the union are divided over a program designed to create a smooth path for community college students to enroll in four-year programs after completing associate degrees. While the goal is one most educators applaud, faculty leaders have said that the plan has been poorly designed and has ignored professors' concerns.


April 12, 2013

RMIT University, in Melbourne, is attracting criticism for its decision to reject all applications from Iranian and Syrian students because of government sanctions, The Courier-Mail reported. However, a spokesperson from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said there are no blanket bans that would prevent the admission of students from these countries.

April 12, 2013

Benjamin Carson. a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University, has withdrawn as the graduation speaker for the ceremonies this year at the Hopkins School of Medicine and the School of Education. Some students have been pushing for him to be replaced as a speaker because of statements he made about gay people. Asked by Fox News about gay marriage, he said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition."

A statement from the university said that "Dr. Carson's decision to withdraw was his and his alone. He was not asked by either school to do so. He told the deans of the two schools that he was withdrawing to avoid distracting attention from the graduates."

April 12, 2013

Hundreds of employees at Bergen Community College apparently overpaid their New Jersey and federal taxes for years, The Bergen Record reported. The overpayments were the result of incorrect calculations about life insurance policies that are covered by the W-2 forms employees receive to do their taxes. The college has issued new W-2 forms and is advising employees that they may want to file amended returns for prior years.


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