Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 11, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Elizabeth Green of the University of Western Ontario explains what shoes found at an archaeological dig in England have to say about the ancient Romans who wore them. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


June 10, 2013

Parker Executive Search, currently in the news because of its role in the controversial selection of a new athletic director at Rutgers University, has grown considerably in its influence, and also has been involved in a number of botched searches, The Indianapolis Star reported. The search firm has been involved in 12 executive searches for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, so many searches that one consultant is quoted in the article as saying the NCAA relationship "looks a little incestuous." The article cited examples of Parker-led searches for athletics positions in which the eventual selections had short-lived careers due to failure to win games, arrests for driving under the influence, and an arrest for domestic violence. The article also said that critics say the firm "pushes certain candidates regardless of their fit for a position." At the same time, the search firm has many fans and repeat customers.

June 10, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has penalized Mississippi State University with reductions in football scholarship and recruiting privileges, the Division I Committee on Infractions announced Friday. In the “serious case,” detailed in the public infractions report, a booster called a star prospect more than 100 times and provided him with impermissible benefits, including a car at $2,000 below its actual value and an offer of $6,000 if the recruit turned down a visit to another university. Additionally, a former assistant coach was cited for unethical contact for failing to report the rules violations and then lying to NCAA and Mississippi State officials during the investigation.

“This is a classic case where a booster inserts himself into the recruiting process in an effort to help his school land the prize recruit so they’ll be better positioned to win more games,” Britton Banowsky, chair of the infractions committee and commissioner of Conference USA, said on a call with reporters. “That’s always a problem. When the school, through an employee, has knowledge of it and doesn’t act, it becomes a more serious problem, obviously.”

However, Banowsky praised the cooperation of Mississippi State, which self-imposed nearly all of the penalties it received. Those include two years’ probation, a reduction in official recruiting days and visits, a football scholarship reduction last year and this year,  and a one-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, meaning any institution that wants to hire him must persuade the NCAA why the penalties against him (prohibition from recruiting and booster interaction) should not apply to him at the new institution.

June 10, 2013

New research released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has found possible relationships between sleep habits and academic majors. Among the findings:

  • Management science, information systems and administration of justice majors were most likely to be "evening" people in terms of when they were most engaged.
  • Nutrition majors were the most likely to be morning people.
  • Media majors had the highest self-reported sleep deficits.
  • Speech communication majors had the lowest such deficits, coming close to their desired hours of sleep.
June 10, 2013

A controversial California proposal to expand the state public colleges' use of online education has passed the Senate, though it's been amended again. Early versions of the bill would have required the state’s 145 public colleges and universities to grant credit for low-cost online courses offered by outside groups, including classes offered by for-profit companies. The latest version, which cleared the Senate late last month and is pending in the state Assembly, would create an "incentive grant program" to encourage faculty and campuses to work either with each other across the state's tri-part higher education system or with private companies to offer online classes in high-demand subjects to college and high school students. Faculty representatives, which came out strongly against earlier versions of the bill, reportedly remain opposed. 

June 10, 2013

The University of Maryland University College recently closed its Center for Intellectual Property, citing a universitywide budget gap of $35 million that caused dozens of other layoffs. The closure of the noted center cost four people their jobs, said university spokesman Bob Ludwig.  "The decision to close the Center for Intellectual Property was basically based on a process we went through to refocus our priorities and meet our budget gap we were facing for the next fiscal year," he said. "So, through that process, it was determined that the Center for Intellectual Property was not central to UMUC's core mission." The center -- whose work was followed by experts elsewhere -- worked on "education, research and resource development on the impact of intellectual property issues in higher education," according to its website.

June 10, 2013

An increasing number of Chinese students intending to study abroad are forgoing the national college entrance exam, the gaokao, entirely, according to Chinese and international media. In Beijing, 72,736 students registered for this past weekend’s administration of the gaokao, a decline from 126,000 in 2006, China Daily reported. The Guardian also reported that an increasing number of Chinese students are taking the British A-levels in lieu of the gaokao. 

At the same time, a number of universities in Australia have begun accepting gaokao scores in undergraduate admissions.

June 10, 2013

The Accrediting Commission for Community & Junior Colleges, which accredits community colleges in California, on Friday barred dozens of people -- including reporters and supporters of City College of San Francisco -- from attending what was theoretically an open meeting, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The day before, the commission had voted (behind closed doors) on whether to remove accreditation from City College of San Francisco. But even though that decision had been made, many supporters of the college wanted to talk about the issue. The commission did not respond to requests for information about why it wasn't letting people into the meeting. The commission did send a statement to reporters Friday indicating that a decision had been made about the college, but that no announcement would be mean until early July "to ensure orderly notifications to various stakeholders."


June 10, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Stephen Trent of the University of Texas at Austin reveals how bacteria could be used to create better vaccines. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 10, 2013

Conventional wisdom holds that -- on standardized tests -- when test-takers aren't certain, they should stick with their first choice of answer and not change it. Research being released today by the Educational Testing Service challenges that assumption. ETS studied 8,000 test-takers worldwide on the GRE, and found that of those who changed answers on the quantitative reasoning section, 72 percent saw scores increase, while of those who changed answers on the verbal reasoning section, 77 percent saw scores increase. At the same time, ETS surveyed test-takers and find that they still tend to believe they shouldn't change their answers, with 59 percent saying that they believed that their first answer was more likely to be correct than a changed answer.



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