Higher Education Quick Takes
Sessions on alien spirituality, ghost hunting equipment and a case study in alien abduction headlined the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Paranormal Symposium, which included 17 hours of “logical, scientific and rational explanations of UFOs and other paranormal phenomenon.” About 20 people, including at least two faculty members, attended the third-annual weekend event, the Omaha World-Herald reported. It wasn’t immediately clear whether any aliens joined in the festivities.
Dave Pares, a professor of geography and meteorology, was among those leading discussions on the presence of life in outer space. "There's been more than one alien civilization that's been here, observing," Pares told the World-Herald. "They are here now, observing."
The extraterrestrial seems to be a popular topic at the college. Nebraska-Omaha has a Paranormal Society, a UFO Study Group and two weekly campus radio shows devoted to alien life.
The Russell Group, an invitation-only organization of British research universities roughly equivalent to the Association of American Universities, announced Monday that it is admitting four new members -- more than have ever been added to the organization since its founding in 1994. The new members are Durham University, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Exeter and the University of York. Prior to Monday's announcement, the Russell Group had 20 members. Times Higher Education noted that the gain for the four universities is a loss to the 1994 Group, which Russell's newest members left, and which represented other institutions not in the more exclusive group.
The hit comedy "Big Bang Theory," about a group of scientists, has had Stephen Hawking plot lines. BBC reported that Hawking has now filmed a cameo that will air on the show next month. In the show, he will interact with Sheldon Cooper, known for being socially awkward.
The Pennsylvania Board of Trustees on Monday issued a statement clarifying the reasons that it dismissed Graham Spanier as president and Joe Paterno as football coach in November. The dismissals came as the university reacted to the scandal involving allegations that one of Paterno's top assistants had for years molested boys, sometimes at Penn State facilities. Many alumni have criticized the board in particular for its decision on Paterno, who had already announced he would retire at the end of the football season and who has since died. The board said that it fired Paterno because he did not notify police when he learned of allegations involving the abuse of one boy. (While Paterno did notify a Penn State administrator, meeting the legal requirements for reporting abuse allegations, the board statement said that "his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno.") As for Spanier, the board said that he "insufficiently" informed the board of his knowledge of various incidents, and that he issued press statements as the scandal became public that were "without authorization of the board or contrary to its instructions." Spanier declined to comment on the board's statement.
Peter Thiel is the investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist who likes to deride college as pointless. He even offers fellowships for talented students to drop out of or stay out of college. So what's he doing this spring? He'll be teaching at Stanford University, Reuters reported. His course, "Computer Science 183: Startup," is already full, and students are enthusiastic.
Some at Stanford question the idea of having as an instructor someone who questions the rationale behind college. Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford's Rock Center of Corporate Governance, said, "It's hypocritical, but I'm not surprised.... The same people who go around bashing education are the most educated. What's he going to do? Tell students, 'When you graduate from my class, drop out right after that?' "
That may just be correct. Thiel, through a spokesman, told the news service of his course: "If I do my job right, this is the last class you'll ever have to take."
The Towson University chapter of Youth for Western Civilization, a group that says it promotes traditional American values but that many critics view as anti-minority, caused a furor on the campus last week. The Baltimore Sun reported that the group's members chalked "white pride" in several campus locations. "As a black student, those words scared and concerned me," said Kenan Herbert, president of the Black Student Union. "A lot of other students and I feel unsafe with this organization being on campus." The university says that the chalkings are protected by the First Amendment.
The University of California at Berkeley has demoted Diane Leite, formerly an assistant vice chancellor, for giving several raises to a purchasing manager, Jonathan Caniezo, with whom she was having a sexual relationship, Bay Area News Group reported. The manager's immediate supervisor, who reported to Leite, objected to the raises as inappropriate. Between 2007 and 2010, a period of deep budget cuts for the university, the manager's pay was increased in a series of raises from $70,000 to more than $110,000. Leite and her lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. Her pay was cut from $188,531 to $175,000.
The University of Calgary student body's new vice president for student life won her election after using an unconventional campaign poster. The Calgary Herald reported that Hayley Wade placed posters seeking votes on top of urinals in men's rooms on campus. Underneath a photograph of the candidate is the tag line "Great dick bro!" While Wade won, the Herald noted that her mother was not pleased with the campaign tactic.