Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 3:00am

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the Big Easy found itself once again pummeled by a powerful storm. While it lacks the force of its notorious predecessor, Hurricane Isaac has brought powerful winds and many inches of rain to the storm-weary Gulf Coast, leaving hundreds of thousands without power in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana. Among the many people and places that have lost electricity: Dillard University, one of the institutions hardest-hit by Katrina.

While no campus wants to find itself in the path of a hurricane, Dillard's new president, Walter Kimbrough, said that he expects the university will come through the storm relatively unscathed, suffering only from downed power lines, fallen tree limbs, and perhaps some roof damage.

A key difference between Isaac and Katrina: "Last time, that levee [next to Dillard] broke -- it poured right into the back of campus," Kimbrough said. Now, Dillard is safeguarded by a whole new flood protection system -- which Kimbrough, in a prescient move, personally toured just a few weeks earlier. As a result, Kimbrough believes, flooding is "not an issue for us."

Dillard students were sent to Centenary College, in Shreveport, safely out of the way of the storm; Kimbrough remains at his home in New Orleans, waiting for the winds to die down enough that he can get out and inspect the damage to his campus. But he is confident that Dillard, along with the rest of New Orleans, is much better-prepared this time around: "I think now people understand the new realities of this region, [that] based on the things that are happening to the topography, we're more susceptible [to hurricanes]."

Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 3:00am

A University of Maryland at College Park study of undergraduates' political news consumption habits suggests that students are spending little time on election news. The study -- whose lead investigator, Elia Powers, is a former Inside Higher Ed reporter -- asked students to keep track of how much time they spent following the news before, during and after Super Tuesday, when 10 states voted in the Republican presidential primary. Most students spent less than 30 minutes over three days, including the day of voting, consuming political news, the study found. (One possible explanation researchers noted: Only 28 of the more than 150 students studied identified as Republicans. Still, those Republicans weren't more engaged than other students.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Roger Jenkins, dean of business at Miami University in Ohio, announced his retirement Monday, a week after it became public that he had returned to a court-appointed receiver $1.25 million in consulting fees from a man convicted of running a Ponzi scheme, The Dayton Daily News reported. In a memo to the faculty, Jenkins has denied wrongdoing, but noted that perceptions matter. "As with any deeply personal relationship and within every family, there are complex nuances that, if and when brought to light, due to surface appearance and the absence of context, are exceptionally difficult for others to understand,” he wrote. “And ironically, the reality is that perceptions matter. I have therefore concluded that my work here at the Farmer School will come to a close at the end of the semester, in no small part because this will complete a most unfortunate chapter in Miami’s history that has simply gone on too long."

 

 

Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Texas at Austin announced Wednesday that it has it has closed an inquiry into allegations of scientific misconduct against one of its faculty members, Mark Regnerus, over a paper he wrote that found children are generally better off if they have a married mother and father. The paper, which appeared in the journal Social Science Research, has been highly controversial. Many scholars have said that his sampling techniques resulted in a pool of research subjects that resulted in unfairly negative assessments about the children of same-sex couples -- and one writer on the issue filed a complaint of scholarly misconduct. Critics of same-sex marriage have showered praise on the study.

Under Texas rules, all such complaints are evaluated to determine whether a full-scale investigation is needed, which in this case the university said was not needed. The university said that there was no evidence of scientific misconduct, even that scholarly disagreement could not be considered misconduct.

A memo released by the university outlined the reasons for dropping the matter: "Whether the research ... possessed significant limitations or was even perhaps seriously flawed is a determination that should be left to debates that are currently underway in the academy and future research that validates or invalidates his findings. Professor Regnerus has stated that the data on which the research at issue was based will soon be made publicly available. At that time scholars can examine the data themselves and arrive at their own conclusions."

 

Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 3:00am

A new survey of parents by Fidelity has found that only 31 percent with college-bound children are considering "the total cost" of college, defined as including graduating with debt, and the impact of college attended and program completed on earnings potential. Of families looking broadly at those issues, a majority are changing their plans due in part to concerns about student loan debt. More than a third are opting for less expensive colleges than they might have considered earlier.

Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Mark Bertness of Brown University reveals how sport fishing is damaging marshes along Cape Cod. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 3:00am

For years, one recruitment tool for colleges has been to buy names of students who take standardized tests, score at certain levels and meet various other criteria. At a time that many colleges are pushing to recruit more foreign students, the Educational Testing Service and Hobsons have announced a new product applying the idea to those taking the TOEFL, one of the exams that foreign applicants may take to demonstrate competence in English. Under the new program, those taking the TOEFL will indicate their willingness to be included in a database from which colleges may purchase names of potential applicants meeting criteria selected by the colleges.

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 3:00am

Campus Reform, a conservative organization, has been inviting students to submit videos of liberal professors, promising $100 if the videos lead to an article for the group. Kieran Healy, a sociologist at Duke University, decided he could make money off the offer, turning himself in as a liberal, with a YouTube video offering evidence of the potentially dangerous books a liberal professor might read. Campus Reform did not respond to an e-mail from Inside Higher Ed asking if Healy would receive $100.

 

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 3:00am

A profile in The Lincoln Journal Star examines the career of Steve Rozman, whom the University of Nebraska at Lincoln fired after students organized an overnight sit-in/protest in the building that housed the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Rozman -- an untenured political scientist -- supported the students, but is also credited with helping resolve the protest without violence. Amid political demands that someone be punished, the university fired him, arguing (successfully in court) that he was not being dismissed for political reasons, but because the protests disrupted a class. Rozman accepted a job in 1972 at Tougaloo College, a historically black institution in Mississippi, and said that he has been very happy there, and is not bitter about his dismissal from Nebraska. At Tougaloo, he leads the Center for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, and he has created a volunteer income tax assistance program to help low-income taxpayers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 3:00am

Carleton University, in Canada, has rewritten an agreement that led to a donation of $15 million and to considerable faculty criticism, The Globe and Mail reported. The concern focused on an advisory committee, controlled by the donor. The new agreement says that the committee will provide "strategic" advice. But removed from the committee's purview are roles in faculty hiring and curricular decisions for the institute created with the gift.

 

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