Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 2, 2019

The University of California System is engaged in a high-stakes battle with Elsevier, the publishing giant whose contract with the UC system was slated to expire at the end of December 2018. With UC threatening to walk away unless it wins substantial changes in the way Elsevier charges for journal access, many see the showdown as significant. Late last month, UC announced that it has agreed with Elsevier on a one-month extension to the contract that is expiring. A university statement said that the extension is part of a "good-faith effort to conclude negotiations by January 31."

Meanwhile in December, the Max Planck Society, which coordinates the online library for 14,000 scientists in Germany, located at several prominent research institutes, announced that it would end its subscription to Elsevier journals at the end of the month. A statement from the society said it was backing open-access alternatives to traditional journal publishing as "a response to the untenably increasing cost of access to scholarly journals and, more importantly, the stifling effect of the antiquated paywall system on the research process."

January 2, 2019

Many women's colleges, including some of the most prominent ones, started admitting transgender students several years ago. But others have held off. One in the latter group, Stephens College, in Missouri, has now announced that it will admit some transgender women, but will exclude trans men.

The college's new policy says, "The college’s undergraduate residential women’s program will continue to admit and enroll students who are women and who live as women, just as it always has. It will also admit and enroll students who were not born female, but who identify and live as women; those students will need to provide legal documentation that they are legally women or that they are transitioning to female. Because the college has expanded its definition of womanhood to include both sex and gender, it is logically consistent that it also acknowledges both sex and gender in its definition of manhood. As a result, the college will stop admitting and enrolling students who were born female but who now identify as men or who are transitioning from female to male."

A timeline from the college shows that the policy has been under consideration since 2014.

January 2, 2019

Lake Superior State University has released its 43rd annual List of Words Banished From the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

Here is the 2019 list, and some of the reasons cited by those who nominated the words:

  • Wheelhouse, as in area of expertise. “It's not in my wheelhouse to explain why dreadful words should be banished."
  • In the books, as in finished or concluded. “It seems everyone's holiday party is in the books this year, and it's all there for friends to view on social media, along with the photos of the happy party attendees.”
  • Wrap my head around. “Impossible to do and makes no sense.”
  • Platform. “People use it as an excuse to rant. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have become platforms. Even athletes call a post-game interview a ‘platform.’ Step down from the platform, already.”
  • Collusion. “We all need to collude on getting rid of this word.”
  • OTUS family of acronyms such as POTUS, FLOTUS, SCOTUS. “Overused useless word for the president, Supreme Court, first lady.”
  • Ghosting. “Somebody doesn't want to talk with you. Get over it. No need to bring the paranormal into the equation.”
  • Yeet, as in to vigorously throw or toss. “If I hear one more freshman say 'yeet,' I might just yeet myself out a window.”
  • Litigate. “Originally meant to take a claim or dispute to a law court … appropriated by politicians and journalists for any matter of controversy in the public sphere.”
  • Grapple. “People who struggle with ideas and issues now grapple with them. I prefer to grapple with a wrestler or an overgrown tree. "
  • Eschew. “Nobody ever actually says this word out loud, they just write it for filler.”
  • Crusty. “This has become a popular insult. It's disgusting and sounds weird. Make the madness stop.”
  • Optics. “The trendy way to say ‘appearance.’”
  • Legally drunk. “You're a little tipsy, that's all. That's legally drunk. People who are ticketed for drunk driving are actually ‘illegally drunk,’ and we should say so.”
  • Thought leader. “Thoughts aren’t ranked or scored. How can someone hold a thought-lead, much less even lead by thought?”
  • Importantly. “Totally unnecessary when ‘important’ is sufficient. ‘More importantly’ (banned in 1992) apparently sounds more important but is also senseless.”
  • Accoutrements. “Hard to spell, not specific, and anachronistic when ‘accessories’ will do.”
  • Most important election of our time. “Not that we haven’t had six or seven back-to-back most important elections of our time.”
January 2, 2019

Marquette University has suspended a law professor over an alleged relationship with a student, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Paul Secunda, the professor, is an expert on employment law issues. Marquette declined to discuss details of the case. Secunda issued a statement that said in part, "I cannot stand by idly in the face of what I believe to be an injustice. I have confidence in the process Marquette and the faculty have established to protect tenured professors in these circumstances, and believe I will clear my name at the end."

January 2, 2019

Thayne M. McCulloh, president of Gonzaga University, in December informed the campus of the resignations of two vice presidents: the Reverend Frank Case, vice president of the university and men’s basketball chaplain, and the Reverend Pat Lee, vice president for mission and ministry. McCulloh gave no reason for the sudden departures of two Jesuits serving as vice presidents. The former vice presidents aren't talking, either.

But the announcement came amid concern on the campus over a recent news report that, for years, Jesuit priests found to have committed sexual abuse were sent by their order to a retirement facility at Gonzaga. Part of the news reports, The Spokesman-Review said, was that Father Case, while head of the Jesuits’ Oregon Province, endorsed a job application by a priest who had been accused of sexually abusing Native Alaskan women and girls. Father Case said he was unaware of the allegations.

January 2, 2019

The U.S. Justice Department in December filed a brief to back a lawsuit by Christian groups against the University of Iowa. The university, as a condition of student groups being recognized, requires them to affirm that they do not discriminate on many measures, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Business Leaders In Christ was denied recognition because of policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The group requires its leaders to affirm that sex is permitted only “between a man and a wife in the lifelong covenant of marriage” and that “every person should embrace, not reject, their God-given sex.”

The Justice Department brief argues that Iowa's policies violate the First Amendment rights of religious students. But Iowa maintains that its policy is consistent with a 2010 Supreme Court decision that allows public universities to enforce antidiscrimination policies, even when religious groups claim that doing so goes against their beliefs. To have such policies, public colleges and universities must show that they apply the policies equally -- and not enforce them just against groups holding certain religious or political views.

January 2, 2019

The number and proportion of colleges and universities offering health insurance plans with annual deductibles of $1,000 or more is growing sharply, more colleges are reducing or eliminating their retiree health benefits, and private institutions have almost entirely stopped offering defined-benefit retirement plans, according to a new study by Sibson Consulting.

The latest version of the company's annual College and University Benefits Study offers data and analysis on the benefits offered to employees at about 450 public and private institutions -- most of them four-year colleges and universities.

January 2, 2019

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested a man for threats he made against one of the professors who taught him at Mercer University. The man arrested graduated six years ago but only recently started sending threats. He faces charges of stalking, terroristic threats and acts, and harassing communications.

January 2, 2019

Abbas Edalat, a professor of computer science and mathematics at Imperial College London, has been released by Iran and is back in Britain, The Guardian reported. He was detained in April, while attending an academic conference, on unspecified "security charges." Edalat is a leader of a group that opposes sanctions against Iran and that has criticized the U.S. and other governments that have used sanctions.

January 2, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, as "Best of" Week continues: Krista Ingram, associate professor of biology at Colgate University and winner of the Best Psychology Segment Award, examined the decision making of early birds and night owls. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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