Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 8, 2013

Francois Englert of Université Libre de Bruxelles and Peter W. Higgs of the University of Edinburgh were awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics this morning. They were honored for "the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider."

 

October 8, 2013

Evan Dobelle, president of Westfield State University, on Monday answered questions that had been due to state officials the prior Thursday about his spending on numerous foreign and domestic trips, and a pattern in which inappropriate charges were billed to the university or its foundation. As Dobelle was filing his defense, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he had "very, very serious concerns" about Dobelle's spending, and the head of Westfield State's foundation disputed Dobelle's claims of fund-raising success, The Boston Globe reported.

Dobelle then defended himself on a YouTube video in which he said he doesn't like to travel, but does so only to advance the university's interests, and he suggested he was just seeking the same type of due process the governor has received when people have made accusations against him.

 

October 8, 2013

Massive open online course providers Coursera and edX will this fall launch new initiatives to expand their platforms abroad.

Coursera on Tuesday announced it will partner with the Chinese Internet company NetEase to create Coursera Zone, a web portal that will make the MOOC provider’s content available to Chinese students. NetEase operates the website 163.com, which is the world’s 27th most visited site, according to Alexa.com’s Internet rankings. Coursera Zone will feature course synopses, discussion forums and student testimonials in Mandarin Chinese.

In France, edX’s open source code will power a national online learning platform that will be available to the country’s more than 100 universities. The platform, announced last week by the French Ministry of Higher Education, will feature 20 courses that will start in January 2014.

October 8, 2013

Officials at Georgia Institute of Technology are investigating an e-mail sent by a Phi Kappa Tau member to his fraternity brothers on "luring your rapebait," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. "The institute does not condone this type of behavior and continues to provide resources and education designed to create a supportive campus environment for all students, even those who exercise extremely poor judgment," said the statement. The e-mail, which appeared on several websites Monday, outlines strategies for getting women drunk and having sex with them.

October 8, 2013

A new report from the British Council forecasting the growth in international students finds that over the next decade growth in higher education enrollments will slow from about 5.0 to 1.4 percent per year. India, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria and China will dominate that growth. Students from China and India will continue to make up more than a third of all outwardly mobile students, while Germany, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Turkey will also send significant numbers of students overseas. The United States and the United Kingdom will retain their positions as leading destinations for international students through 2024.

October 8, 2013

Trustees of Loyola Marymount University on Monday voted to end coverage for elective abortions in employee health insurance, The New York Times reported. At the same time, the university announced that another health plan would be available at a higher premium for those who wish to continue coverage of elective abortions. The changes were criticized both by those who have pushed the university to adopt policies more consistent with Roman Catholic teachings, and with those who said the changes were a sign of disrespect to the many non-Catholics who work at the university.

 

October 8, 2013

Amid a slew of actions on the first day of its 2014 term, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand two appeals court rulings that raised free speech issues on college campuses. In one, Crystal Dixon v. University of Toledo, the justices declined to hear a challenge to a 2012 decision in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld Toledo's firing of a former human resources administrator who had made comments some viewed as anti-gay. The Sixth Circuit panel ruled that Dixon was a policy maker who engaged in speech on a policy issue related to her position, and that the university’s interests in upholding its equal opportunity polices outweighed her interests in commenting on a matter of public concern.

The Supreme Court also declined to hear Ed Ray v. OSU Student Alliance, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last year ruled that student journalists at Oregon State University had provided sufficient evidence to prove a free speech violation by administrators who signed off on the seizure of a conservative publication's distribution bins, but were prevented from presenting it because the lower court judge erred in not letting them amend their lawsuit.

October 8, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Berry Brosi of Emory University explores the impact of pollinator loss on bee behavior and fidelity to their favorite flowers. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 8, 2013

First the University of Phoenix paid millions of dollars to plaster its name on the stadium where the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals play their games. Then Bridgepoint Education, a fast-growing for-profit education company, sponsored the Holiday Bowl college football game in San Diego, where its corporate headquarters are located. But with Bridgepoint's primary institution, Ashford University, facing significant scrutiny from Congress and challenges (now mostly resolved) in retaining its accreditation, the company opted to let its sponsorship expire this year.

Now another university -- a nonprofit one -- is stepping in. National University, a professionally focused institution that is part of a growing system of similar colleges, will become the title sponsor of the Holiday Bowl this year, the Union-Tribune of San Diego reported. National does not have any sports teams itself.

 

 

October 7, 2013

Tensions surrounding the spending by Westfield State University's president have escalated over the past few days.

Evan Dobelle, president of Westfield State, is currently facing scrutiny from state officials over his widespread foreign and domestic travel, and other expenses -- sometimes without appropriate documentation. On Thursday, he missed a deadline from state officials for a full documentation of his expenses, saying he needed a little more time. Richard Freeland, the commissioner of higher education, responded on Friday by immediately suspending $197,000 in state grants to Westfield State, and seeking authorization to suspend $2 million for a science building, The Boston Globe reported.

Then on Saturday, Dobelle issued a letter accusing his board of violating state law and its bylaws in the way it has investigated his spending, The Republican reported. A spokesman said that Dobelle wants to "protect the integrity of the university against witch hunts like this in the future." The board is scheduled to hold a special meeting this month to discuss Dobelle's spending, which has included travel to trips to Thailand, Vienna, London and San Francisco.

 

Higher Education Commissioner Richard M. Freeland

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