Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 3, 2013

The University of New Hampshire has terminated the contract of Marco Dorfsman, an associate professor of Spanish, after he admitted to altering a colleague's student evaluations. Provost John Aber said in a statement that the "decision reinforces UNH’s commitment to upholding and teaching ethical behavior." In an e-mail to the faculty, Dorfsman blamed an "emotional breakdown ... related to a personal tragedy in my family and other personal and professional pressures that created a perfect storm in which I acted out from a very dark and vulnerable place."

May 3, 2013

The University of Windsor sits just across the Canadian border from Detroit, yet Americans make up just 82 of its nearly 2,000 international students. So the Canadian institution is trying to woo those south of the border, by cutting its tuition in half for Americans, the CBC reported. Under the policy change late last month, American students will pay $5,000 a semester, down from the current $10,000 and significantly less than the $15,000 some international students pay. "The international relationship we have with folks right across the river is much different than the relationship we have with [other] countries around the world," Windsor's president, Alan Wildeman, told the CBC.

The university's billboards around Detroit encourage locals to "put the 'u' in neighbour."

May 3, 2013

WASHINGTON -- The White House science adviser criticized Republican efforts to curtail science spending that does not have a direct link to national interests and gave a spirited endorsement of the importance of political science and social science research and of peer review in a speech at a scientific conference here Thursday.

In remarks at the science policy forum of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, made a series of points related to Congress's vote last month to bar National Science Foundation funding for political science research for the 2013 fiscal year and, last week, a leading Republican lawmaker's personal questioning of the validity of specific social science projects financed by the foundation.

"First, the social and behavioral sciences -- which of course include economics, sociology, psychology, and anthropology, as well as political science -- are sciences. Researchers in these fields develop and test hypotheses; they publish results in peer-reviewed journals; and they archive data so that others can replicate their results," Holdren said. And while much of it is basic research, studies in the social sciences strengthen foreign policy and make hurricane warnings more effective, among other public policy objectives.

No scientific research should be judged based purely on its ability to serve national interests, since it is impossible to know which studies -- basic, applied, in physical sciences or social sciences -- will produce the laser or spur the next Google. 

"No system of deciding what research the federal government should fund will succeed perfectly, whatever the standard of perfection," Holdren added. "But the overall degree of success of the competitive, peer-reviewed grant process that is employed by the NSF, the NIH, and in much of the rest of the government’s R&D funding -- success measured by the pace of advance in basic science and the pace of the applied breakthroughs -- has made that peer-review-based process the gold standard, recognized around the world."

May 2, 2013

The Florida Senate passed a measure Wednesday designed to allow outside groups, including the providers of massive open online courses, to offer credit-bearing courses to Florida public college students. The measure has been amended significantly since it was first introduced by a Republican senator as a way to take on the accreditation system. The new version of the bill, which the Senate inserted into a digital education bill the House had sent the Senate earlier, substitutes the phrase “Florida Approved Courses” for the old phrase “Florida-accredited” courses and adds requirements that outside course providers must meet to qualify their courses for the new pool, including limitations on the subject areas that MOOCs can be used for.

May 2, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, John Ragosta of Hamilton College explores the historical roots of the National Day of Prayer. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

May 2, 2013

Pacific Lutheran University has become the latest to object to a possible union of non-tenure-track faculty members, saying that collective bargaining could infringe on the institution's religious mission, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported. Several other religious universities are currently making the same argument in various cases before the National Labor Relations Board. They cite court rulings limiting NLRB authority at religious institutions. Union organizers argue that adjuncts want to negotiate over pay and benefits, not religion.

 

May 2, 2013

Dining hall workers at Pomona College voted Tuesday, 57 to 26, to unionize and to be represented by Unite Here, The Los Angeles Times reported. The vote followed a three-year campaign, marked by numerous campus protests by students backing the workers.

 

May 2, 2013

A majority of the 18 universities in Quebec have said they will leave the association that represents postsecondary institutions in the province, University Affairs reported. According to the publication, the institutions are unhappy about how well the group has represented their needs, partly because of its muted response to recent government budget cuts. 

May 2, 2013

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently annoyed academics in his country by suggesting that only a law-and-order approach was needed to fight terrorism, and that people should not "commit sociology." In response, "Worldviews 2013: Global Trends in Media and Higher Education," a conference organized by academic and journalism organizations (of which Inside Higher Ed is a co-sponsor), has invited attendees (in a spoof of Britain's wartime slogan) to "Keep Calm and Commit Sociology." Details on the conference and buttons with the new slogan are available here.

May 2, 2013

There are more than 120 programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the top level of National Collegiate Athletic Association competition – but only 23 of them turned a profit in 2012, according to a new NCAA report on athletic department finances. That is despite upward movement in generated revenues: a 4.6 percent increase at FBS programs and a 9.06 percent increase at the smaller Football Championship Subdivision ones. While the median spending at FBS programs is $56 million, for other institutions, it hovers around $14 million. FBS median expenses increased 10.8 percent above the previous year, compared to 6.8 percent at FCS programs and 8.8 percent at Division I institutions without football. The report also notes the gap in the growth of expenses between institutional and athletics spending. At FBS programs, the median athletics expenses increase was 4.4 percent higher than the institutional increase. At FCS and Division I no-football colleges, the gap was 3 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.

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