Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 16, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Supriya Kumar of the University of Pittsburgh examines how flu outbreaks can be reduced by encouraging workers to use an extra sick day. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 16, 2013

The University of Virginia announced last week that a special commission will study the role slavery played in the university's history, and how that history should best be reflected today. A number of universities -- among them Brown and Emory Universities -- have conducted such studies.

 

September 16, 2013

The hiring of David H. Petraeus, the former military leader and ex-director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to teach at the honors college of the City University of New York this year angered many faculty members when word leaked that he would be paid $200,000 for a single course. In response Petraeus agreed to teach the course for only $1.

But the University Faculty Senate is now defending the right of Petraeus to teach, and to walk to his class, following protests in which his critics shouted at him repeatedly, calling him a war criminal and vowing to follow him to every class session. A statement released by the Executive Committee of the body said: "Because they disagree with Professor Petraeus' views, these demonstrators intend to deprive him of his ability to teach and the ability of his students to learn from him.... Professor Petraeus, and all members of CUNY's instructional staff, have the right to teach without interference. Members of the university community must have the opportunity to express alternate views, but in a manner that does not violate academic freedom."

Here is video of the protests Petraeus has faced:

 

 

 

September 16, 2013

Madison Area Technical College is turning down an offer of a $100,000 gift because of a condition attached to it, The Capital Times reported. David Peterson, a long-time instructor, pledged the money if the college would change the name of the Bettseybettsey is sic -sj L. Barhorst Welcome Center by removing the name of Barhorst, former president of the college. To drive home the point, Peterson said he would turn over the funds specifically for the lettering currently used in the welcome center. Peterson explained his rationale to the newspaper. He said he was offended by the "decadent display of self-promotion." A welcome center, he said, should be "functional, not personal." College officials say, however, that the welcome center wasn't just named to honor the former president, but because she and her husband made a donation. Having accepted funds and agreed to name the center, officials said, they can't remove the name.

 

September 16, 2013

Teenagers say graduating from college is highly important, but teens and their mothers worry about the price tag, according to a report released this month by Ascend at the Aspen Institute.

Researchers for report “Voices for Two-Generation Success: Seeking Stable Futures” conducted focus groups with married and single mothers, teens and preteens this summer to get their thoughts on the importance of education and the affordability of college, as well as on barriers to success, community support and other issues.

Teenagers expressed economic anxiety over their future. Almost all of the older teens said they worried about affording college and knew many people had high debt and student loans. Some said their parents will contribute financially to their educational pursuits. Other teens said they may take out loans or work while in school. Despite concerns, teenagers believe a college degree leads to financial security and success. “Because nowadays you need really a college education to have a steady job that could support you,” a preteen boy from Denver said in the report.

Mothers also said a college education is important for their children and allows them to have a career instead of a job and to work on a passion rather than trying to make enough money to pay bills and get by. “Go all the way in school,” a low-income mother from Denver said in the report. “All the way… It is probably the strongest foundation you can ever have. People can take your money, they can take your house, your car, but you will always have your education to fall back on.”

September 13, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas at Austin describes a newfound threat to the transportation industry. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 13, 2013

Reed College is investigating a complaint that an annual student tradition -- sometimes involving nudity -- violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by creating a hostile environment for women, The Oregonian reported. The tradition involves juniors and seniors greeting freshmen as they prepare to start a required humanities course. The juniors and seniors dress as gods and demand "libations" (typically coffee) in return for wishing the new students luck in the course. Some of the juniors and seniors this year were apparently naked, and the nudity led to the complaint.

September 13, 2013

The Massachusetts State Board of Higher Education has summoned the president and board leaders of Westfield State University to Boston for a discussion of the president's expenses, The Republican reported. The request comes as a new outside report detailed numerous violations of spending rules. The president, Evan Dobelle, has admitted to charging some items in error, and has said he has reimbursed the university or its foundation in such cases. Further, he has argued that his spending has been to advance the university's interests.

But the outside report found that Dobelle violated credit card policies on trips to San Francisco, New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, New York City, Washington and elsewhere. In other cases, Dobelle charged the university foundation for travel to Spain, Vietnam, Thailand and China -- without receipts or documentation.

September 13, 2013

The University of Oslo has in a surprising turnaround cleared Anders Behring Breivik to enroll in a handful of political science courses, the Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported on Wednesday. Norwegian law guarantees inmates the right to some form of employment or education, but the news that Breivik had applied to study political science caused an outcry this summer from the families of his victims. The university rejected Breivik's application because he had not finished his high school degree. Breivik, convicted of killing 77 people in a 2011 bombing and shooting massacre, was sentenced to 21 years of "preventive detention" in 2012. The sentence may be definitely extended.

According to the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang, Breivik will study three introductory political science courses, one each in political theory, international politics, and public policy and administration. Breivik will not receive an academic degree for his studies, but he will receive credit should he receive a passing grade. Nor will Breivik personally interact with any of Oslo's faculty members; the university will loan all academic materials to Skien prison. With directions provided by the university, Breivik will study independently and submit his work from prison.

September 13, 2013

Sheldon Hackney who served as president of Tulane University and the University of Pennsylvania, died Thursday at the age of 79, The Vineyard Gazette reported. Hackney died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, widely known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hackney was respected as a historian (he focused on the American South), and his presidencies were generally considered successful.

But the end of Hackney's Penn presidency saw him and the university become the focus of a national debate on free speech. A student had shouted from his dorm room for a group of students below to stop making noise and he had called them "water buffalo." The students below were minority students and the student who shouted faced a university hearing over alleged insensitivity. (The student who shouted "water buffalo" said that the words came from an Israeli phrase for loud, rude people and had nothing to do with race.) The case galvanized many who felt that colleges were going too far in their push to promote sensitivity and that such efforts were intruding on free speech rights.

Hackney left Penn in 1993 when President Clinton nominated him to become chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. While Hackney was confirmed for that post, his confirmation hearings featured extensive discussion of the "water buffalo" case, which drew more attention than his plans for the NEH. At the endowment, one of Hackney's major projects was to encourage public discussion of difficult issues through a program called "A National Conversation on American Pluralism and Identity."

 

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