Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 1, 2013

The American Educational Research Association issued a new report Tuesday recommending best practices and policies for schools and colleges to address bullying. Prevention of Bullying in Schools, Colleges and Universities includes 11 briefs addressing topics such as gender-related harassment, legal rights related to bullying, and school climate. The AERA task force that wrote the report was asked to identify the causes and consequences of bullying, highlight training opportunities for faculty and staff, evaluate the effectiveness of current bullying prevention programs, and asses the connections between legislation and current bullying research and interventions.

"Bullying — a form of harassment and violence — needs to be understood from a developmental, social, and educational perspective," the report reads. "The educational settings in which it occurs and where prevention and intervention are possible need to be studied and understood as potential contexts for positive change. Yet many administrators, teachers, and related personnel lack training to address bullying and do not know how to intervene to reduce it."

May 1, 2013

An open letter from 1,000 Australian academics to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, published today in newspapers across that country, calls for an end to cuts in spending at universities, The Australian reported. "Universities have made by far and away the largest saving contributions of any federal budget line item," the letter says. "We feel betrayed and taken for granted. Your government's cuts fundamentally jeopardize the future of our sector."

May 1, 2013

Coursera, the Silicon Valley-based provider of massive open online courses, is entering the teacher education market. The company is partnering with teachers colleges and other educational institutions to provide online professional development courses for K-12 teachers and parents. The company described the new effort as its first foray into early childhood and K-12 and its first partnerships with non-degree-bearing institutions, including art museums.

With this, the company may be eyeing a professional development market that includes about 3.7 million teachers in American plus millions more across the world. “We want to help K-12 students by helping their teachers,” Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said in a statement announcing the new program.  “Many schools just don’t have the resources to provide teachers and parents the training and support they need.  By providing free online courses on how to teach, we hope to improve this.”

A revenue plan was not immediately clear. The company has been committed to offering its courses for free but is charging some users who want bona fide certificates of completion. A company spokeswoman said in an e-mail that Coursera will be working with school districts to see how the courses could be used for required professional development training and she said teachers are also encouraged to talk to their administrators to seek approval.

Gordon Brown, the United Nations special envoy for global education said in the company statement that Coursera’s plan is “an important and crucial innovation” to meet the “global challenge of training and supporting over 2 million more teachers” by the end of 2015.

Coursera's partners in the venture are University of Washington's college of education; University of Virginia's school of education; Johns Hopkins University's school of education; Match Education’s Sposato Graduate School of Education; Peabody College of education and human development, Vanderbilt University; Relay Graduate School of Education; University of California at Irvine Extension; the American Museum of Natural History; The Commonwealth Education Trust; Exploratorium; The Museum of Modern Art; and New Teacher Center.

May 1, 2013

Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has lost his appeal of the decision to deny him tenure, Yahoo! Singapore reported. George, who researches press freedoms and state power in Singapore, was denied tenure for a second time in February despite rave reviews from international colleagues and current and former students.  Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a journalism professor at Cardiff University and an external reviewer of George’s tenure application, told Inside Higher Ed that George’s teaching and research records are “stellar… so much so that he could easily get a full professorship elsewhere in my estimation.” Theodore L. Glasser, a professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University and George’s dissertation adviser, wrote in a letter that George’s “studies of journalism in Singapore set an agenda – for himself and for others – for research that extends far beyond Singapore.”

“Finally, I want to be unambiguously clear about what I think is at stake here," Glasser's letter concludes. "Cherian George’s career is on the line, and that’s obviously very important to him and to his friends and colleagues. But just as important is NTU’s reputation as a university of international standing. Many of us view this case as a measure of not only NTU’s commitment to academic freedom but its commitment to apply its promotion and tenure standards fairly and equitably.” Although George was promoted to associate professor in 2009, the promotion was de-coupled from the awarding of tenure.

George did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. A spokesman for NTU declined to comment on George's case, "as it is NTU's policy to keep all employment matters confidential."

May 1, 2013

Alumni of the University of Texas at Austin have launched a new video criticizing the way regents appointed by Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, have put pressure on the university. The alumni (in a view shared by many faculty members) argue that the regents are endangering the university's quality and have politicized discussions of higher education. The video, "Wake Up Longhorns," appeals to the pride of alumni by quoting from the fight song of Texas A&M University, Governor Perry's alma mater. Ray Sullivan, Perry's former chief of staff, told The Texas Tribune by e-mail: "I've long thought that the small but vocal status quo/anti-reform forces at UT-Austin were motivated by profound elitism and deep paranoia and hatred of Aggies. Especially against the state's top elected Aggie who has worked hard to improve the infrastructure, effectiveness and economic impact of UT. This proves it."

Here is the video:

 

 

 

May 1, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Joseph Nagyvary of Texas A&M University demonstrates the different vowel tones possessed by many high-end violins. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 1, 2013

Roman Catholic leaders in Pittsburgh are demanding that Carnegie Mellon University take some action over a parade by art students, one of whom mocked the pope, KDKA News reported. The female student dressed as the pope from the waist up, was naked from the waist down, shaved her pubic hair in the shape of a cross, and passed out condoms on the parade route. A statement from the university said, "We are continuing our review of the incident. If our community standards or laws were violated, we will take appropriate action."

May 1, 2013

Students at the state of Washington's 34 community and technical colleges will save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because of low-cost textbooks produced by the state's Open Course Library, the college system said this week. The library, which received funding from the state legislature and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spent $1.8 million to develop low-cost course material, including textbooks of no more than $30, for 81 common courses. The effort has already saved students $5.5 million since fall 2011, according to an analysis by The Student Public Interest Research Groups, an advocacy organization.

“Students are clearly the winners in the open courseware library model,” said Marty Brown, the executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, in a conference call with reporters.

Nicole Allen, a textbook advocate for the student group, said Washington's materials are used outside the state, including by a math department in Arizona. Policymakers in California and British Columbia have created similar projects, she said.

April 30, 2013

Boston University -- still recovering from the death of one of its students in the bombings at the Boston Marathon -- is facing another tragedy. A senior at the university was killed in a fire off campus early Sunday. Nine other residents of the building (including two other Boston University students) were injured.

April 30, 2013

President Obama used a speech Monday at the 150th anniversary meeting of the National Academy of Sciences to pledge that he would continue to push for research funding. "[A]s long as I’m president, we’re going to continue to be committed to investing in the promising ideas that are generated from you and your institutions, because they lead to innovative products, they help boost our economy, but also because that’s who we are.  I’m committed to it because that’s what makes us special and ultimately what makes life worth living," he said.

Further, at a time that Republicans in Congress are questioning the validity of peer review decisions, Obama expressed strong support for peer review. "[W]e’ve got to protect our rigorous peer review system and ensure that we only fund proposals that promise the biggest bang for taxpayer dollars.  And I will keep working to make sure that our scientific research does not fall victim to political maneuvers or agendas that in some ways would impact on the integrity of the scientific process.  That’s what’s going to maintain our standards of scientific excellence for years to come," the president said.

While a number of presidents have addressed the annual gathering of the academy, President Obama is the first to speak more than once at these meetings. He previously addressed the scientists in 2009.

 

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