Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 29, 2013

ST. LOUIS -- In an opening plenary speech at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference on Tuesday, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan recalled his time as an international student at Minnesota’s Macalester College, saying that it taught him “lessons which have remained indispensable throughout my career. Not all these lessons were learned, I must admit, in the classroom."

“I remember when I got to Minnesota, my first winter ever, coming straight from Africa to Minnesota, I had to put on layers and layers of clothes to stay warm. And I thought that was reasonable enough.” There was, however, one common item of clothing he was determined he would never wear: “the earmuffs,” as he called them. He would wear no such things. “They were inelegant,” he told a laughing audience.

“Until one day when the temperature had hit -23 degrees, with a wind chill factor, I went to get something to eat and I thought my ears were going to fall off. The next day I can assure you I went and bought my earmuffs.”

“I learned a precious lesson – that you don’t walk into a situation, you don’t go into a country and pretend you know better than the locals, you know better than the natives. You better listen to them and look at what they do," Annan said.

More than 8,000 professionals in international education are attending the conference, which continues through Friday. 

May 29, 2013

The group Friends of Roxbury Community College is opposing the selection of a new board chair because he is white, The Boston Business Journal reported. The group sent a letter to Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, saying that it was "insulting for Governor Patrick to appoint a white person to head up the body that is the primary decision maker for the college. He is sending a message that although we are a predominantly black institution, it will take a white person to give you the vision and leadership to take the college to the 'promised land' of education. That is the 'plantation' type mentality." The governor's appointee is Gerald Chertavian, who is the CEO of Year Up, a nonprofit that helps urban youth advance educationally. In an interview, Sadiki Kambon, the head of the Friends of Roxbury Community College, said that the organization had no objection to Chertavian personally and would welcome him on the board, just not as chair. The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment. Chertavian said he was focused on "serving the college and the students as best I can and making sure they achieve their potential."

 

May 29, 2013

In what is believed to be a first, a man playing college basketball has identified himself as gay during his college years. Jallen Messersmith told his story to the website Outsports, which reported on his experiences coming out at Benedictine College, a liberal arts college in Kansas that plays in the NAIA. Messersmith described coaches and fellow athletes who have been totally supportive, as "100 percent for me." Other men who played college basketball have come out after the end of their college careers, but Messersmith is a junior. There are many out women in college basketball, although many report facing homophobia.

 

 

May 29, 2013

Haifa University has become the first university in Israel to give all students the day off on the most important Christian, Muslim and Druze holidays, Christmas, Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha, respectively, Haaretz reported. A new calendar will be issued that will not cut either the Jewish holidays off or the total number of class days.

 

May 29, 2013

Student services employees at Evergreen State College went on strike Tuesday, The Olympian reported. The union and the administration differ on salaries and procedures for firing employees. Some faculty members moved classes off campus to avoid crossing picket lines.

 

May 29, 2013

Faculty members at Transylvania University have voted, 68 to 7, no confidence in President Owen Williams, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Faculty members object to the president's refusal to grant tenure to two faculty members who had passed reviews and who, faculty leaders said, had performed the work they had been told would assure tenure. Professors also criticized the president's management style. Trustees responded with a unanimous vote expressing confidence in Williams.

 

May 29, 2013

The Harvard University dean who authorized searches of the e-mail accounts of some resident deans (who are something like junior faculty members) has announced she will return to the faculty. Numerous press accounts seemed to suggest a link between the departure of Evelynn M. Hammonds as dean of Harvard College, and the controversy over the e-mail searches. But she told reporters that there was no such link. The Harvard announcement said that she had decided to return to teaching and research. Hammonds will lead a new program for the study of race and gender in science and medicine.

 

May 28, 2013

Many commencement addresses are forgotten by graduates and their guests as soon as the ceremony is over. But this year, the address at Wesleyan University is getting good online buzz by being built around an unlikely line: "[W]hat I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die." The line, from Joss Whedon, the screenwriter and television producer, actually wasn't meant to be gloomy. Whedon, a member of Wesleyan's Class of 1987, talked about remembering (and not agreeing with) the message of the address by a somewhat cynical Bill Cosby in 1987, and his counter-message mixes idealism and realism.

"I’m confronted by a great deal of grand and worthy ambition from this student body. You want to be a politician, a social worker. You want to be an artist. Your body’s ambition: Mulch. Your body wants to make some babies and then go in the ground and fertilize things. That’s it. And that seems like a bit of a contradiction. It doesn’t seem fair. For one thing, we’re telling you, 'Go out into the world!' exactly when your body is saying, 'Hey, let’s bring it down a notch. Let’s take it down.' And it is a contradiction. And that’s actually what I’d like to talk to you about. The contradiction between your body and your mind, between your mind and itself. I believe these contradictions and these tensions are the greatest gift that we have, and hopefully, I can explain that."

The address goes on to focus on such contradictions and urges students to accept and thrive under them. "You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key — not only to consciousness-but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in. It’s not just parroting your parents or the thoughts of your learned teachers. It is now more than ever about understanding yourself so you can become yourself."

The full text of the address may be found here.

 

May 28, 2013

As the nation awaits a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on affirmative action in higher education, an analysis in The New York Times finds signs of lagging diversity in elite professions. The issue is important because one argument offered to defend the consideration of race and ethnicity by elite colleges and universities is that these institutions provide a pathway to prestigious careers. The Times analysis found that while about 12 percent of the population of working Americans is black, only 3.2 percent of senior executive positions at top companies are held by black people. Further, only about 5 percent of physicians are black and 3 percent of architects are black -- figures that have not changed in at least two decades. The article also noted that the share of lawyers who are women or from minority groups fell in 2010, the first decline since data collection started in 1993.

May 28, 2013

Half of new college graduates are surprised by their levels of college debt, according to a new national poll of graduates by Fidelity. And 39 percent of new graduates said that they would have made some different choices had they fully understood the level of debt they were building up in college.

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