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Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 4:21am

The Senate of Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been considering and is expected to vote for a proposal to allow doctoral theses to be submitted in English, Haaretz reported. While it is currently possible to obtain special permission to submit a thesis in English, the requirement is that they be submitted in Hebrew. David Aviner, a professor who is head of the Authority for Research Students in the Experimental Sciences, said the rule change reflects the need to use English because one or more committee members come from outside Israel. Further, he noted the issue of disseminating findings. "If the doctorates were written in Hebrew, two people in the hallway would read it instead of hundreds of colleagues among research groups overseas," he said.

The president of Israel's Hebrew Language Academy, Moshe Bar-Asher, sent a letter of protest to Senate members. "There's a new version of the rules, saying 'Doctorates are to be submitted in Hebrew or English,' and thus this dignified institution ... announces that the status of Hebrew has been devalued," he wrote. "In the end, studying in English will outweigh everything else, and this process will result in the teaching of English in elementary and high schools."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Priscila Caçola of the University of Texas at Arlington explains a condition that causes balance and motor skill impairments in many children. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 4:26am

California officials will today announce a program in which San Jose State University and Udacity, a provider of massive open online courses, to create online courses in remedial algebra, college-level algebra, and introductory statistics, The New York Times reported. The courses will be offered to San Jose State and community college students. In the pilot stage, only 300 students will be enrolled, but the effort is seen as a way to potentially reach large numbers of students in a state where many public colleges and universities don't have room for eligible students.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 3:00am

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) this week announced that it is now partnering with colleges to directly award college credit based on its LearningCounts prior learning assessments, which measure learning gained outside of the traditional classroom. The announcement marks a shift for CAEL, which had previously included credit recommendations from the American Council on Education (ACE) as one of its credit pathways under Learning Counts. But after this month, ACE will no longer issue those recommendations. Several institutions have signed on to the new process, and CAEL will also offer credit recommendations through the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Southern Utah University has released a report from external reviewers who evaluated its English as a Second Language program after a former instructor raised concerns about lax standards for instructors and students and the toleration of plagiarism. The external reviewers, professors of ESL from Utah State University, interviewed eight instructors, four students, and two administrators, in addition to reviewing syllabuses and faculty C.V.s. The reviewers found a number of curriculum-related issues, including a lack of outcomes-based assessment (with many students passed through the program based in large part on attendance), a lack of clear course objectives, inconsistency across course sections, a lack of vertical integration within the writing and reading curriculums, and a general failure to prepare students to work with outside sources. Over all, the reviewers recommended that there be a greater focus on academic skills throughout the program.

The reviewers also recommended hiring full-time faculty with a master’s in teaching English as a second language and at least three years of experience teaching English for Academic Purposes. They noted that none of the faculty they interviewed had previous training in EAP and for those who did have prior ESL experience, it was on the K-12 level. As Inside Higher Ed reported in November, Southern Utah’s ESL instructors are part-time and paid $17.50-$20 per hour taught, with no compensation for time spent grading or preparing for classes.

Finally the reviewers wrote that the claim that plagiarism was tolerated in the program appeared to be unfounded: they note that while faculty members are concerned about plagiarism, other factors, including the reliance on inexperienced part-time faculty and the failure to integrate work with sources into the curriculum, may have contributed to incidents of plagiarism that have occurred. (They also write that “in the case of the students, it did appear that they knew there was an ‘issue’ surrounding plagiarism as they smiled when we brought it up.”)

In its response to the report, SUU indicated that it will take into account many of the suggested curricular changes as it undergoes a curriculum overhaul under its newly hired director, and that it does plan to take steps to hire some full-time faculty and to provide opportunities for current teaching staff to become trained in teaching ESL.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- known for not speaking out during sessions of the court -- spoke on Monday, the first time in seven years of hearings. While the official transcript did not capture his words, recording only that Justice Thomas said the words "Well -- he did not -- ," court observers believe that he cracked a joke at the expense of Yale University's law school, which is where he went to law school, The New York Times reported. The Times explains how the case before the Supreme Court concerned the competence of death penalty lawyers, and some observers believe Justice Thomas quipped that a law degree from Yale could be a sign of incompetence.

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Much mystery still surrounds last month's unexplained decision by the Morgan State University board to first announce that it was not renewing the contract of David Wilson as president, and then -- following considerable outcry on campus -- to give him a one-year extension. A memo by the board chair, Dallas R. Evans, outlines his views, and they are quite critical, The Baltimore Sun reported. "He does not provide the inspiring and insightful leadership the university requires nor has he created a clear and consistent vision for the campus," said the memo. It also accused Wilson of siding with the state and against Morgan State supporters who have sued, charging that Maryland is not providing appropriate support for its historically black colleges. The memo also says that Wilson is responsible for the "turmoil that has beset the Morgan community over the last four weeks," with Evans saying that he had "sufficient reason to believe that Dr. Wilson was involved in its orchestration." Evans and Wilson both declined to comment on the memo, which was leaked to the Sun.

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

The Oregon Employment Relations Board has ruled that graduate research assistants at Oregon State University are employees and have the right to collective bargaining, The Corvallis Gazette-Times reported. The university has maintained that the research assistants should be seen primarily as students, and thus ineligible for unionization. The ruling clears the way for a vote by the research assistants on whether they should be represented by a local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which already represents teaching assistants at Oregon State.

 

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

John F. O'Brien, dean of New England Law, Boston, a free-standing law school, may be the highest paid law dean in the United States, and some wonder why, The Boston Globe reported. He earns more than $867,000 a year. Board members of the law school praise his work. And O'Brien noted that because the law school isn't attached to a larger institution (as most law schools are), he has to deal with issues other deans don't. But the Globe noted that tuition is going up at a time that demand for lawyers is going down. "It’s a remarkable sum to pay a dean of a law school, never mind the dean of a bottom-ranked law school," said Brian Z. Tamanaha, author of the 2012 book Failing Law Schools.

Monday, January 14, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Buckingham, in England, has ended a relationship in which it validated degrees for a Ugandan university due to concerns about pending legislation in Uganda’s parliament that would impose harsh prison sentences as a punishment for gay sex. In a statement released last week, Buckingham said it had suspended its relationship with Edulink, which owns Victoria University, in Kampala. “We have both become increasingly concerned about the proposed legislation in Uganda on homosexuality and in particular the constraints on freedom of speech in this area,” the University of Buckingham said.

Victoria University also released a statement in which David Young, the acting vice-chancellor, said “there are fundamental differences between the two nations’ respective laws regarding equality and diversity, which cannot be reconciled.”

The relationship between Buckingham and Victoria dates to the latter university's founding in 2011. According to the BBC, Victoria is attempting to make arrangements to transfer the approximately 200 students affected by the suspension to other institutions. 

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