Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Antonio Sagona of the University of Melbourne discusses his archaeological excavation of one of the First World War’s most famous battlefields. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 4:39am

Republicans in the California Senate on Monday blocked a vote to confirm Herbert L. Carter for a second term of the California State University Board of Trustees, forcing him to step down, The Los Angeles Times reported. Carter, chair of the board, had been nominated for a new term by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat. Republicans said that they objected to Carter's support for a $400,000 pay package for the new president of San Diego State University, a package that set off a large debate in the state about compensation for public university presidents. Many Democrats (including Governor Brown) have also raised questions about pay for university presidents, but said that Carter had done a good job as chair despite their disagreements with him on that issue.


Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

An alumna's letter in the Smith College student newspaper, The Sophian, angered many on the campus last week. The letter writer -- noting Smith's progress in recent years at recruiting low-income, minority and international students -- questioned whether the institution has become "a safety school" as a result. "The people who are attending Smith these days are A) lesbians or B) international students who get financial aid or C) low-income women of color who are the first generation in their family to go to college and will go to any school that gives them enough money.... or D) white heterosexual girls who can't get into Ivy League schools." The letter also questioned Smith's policy of not requiring SAT scores.

Many students and alumni responded with outrage. On Friday, Smith's president, Carol T. Christ, issued an open letter to respond to the alumna's letter. "The letter writer is ignorant about a number of issues. Admission to Smith is far more competitive now than it was in the 1980s, when the letter writer attended Smith," Christ wrote. "We now have the highest number of applicants and the lowest admit rate in our history. The most competitively admitted students at Smith are international students on financial aid; only 10 percent of applicants are admitted. The strongest and most consistent correlation with SAT scores is family income. Most students do submit scores and we, of course, submit them to all of the data-collecting organizations in which we participate, including U.S. News & World Report."

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Educational Research Association announced Friday that, in response to recent Georgia laws viewed as hostile to immigrants, the association will move its 2013 annual meeting from Atlanta to San Francisco. "As a matter of policy, AERA has an affirmative obligation to operate its own functions and monitor its own behavior in accordance with the research policies it supports, its code of ethics, and a commitment as a democratic organization to the values of equity, equality, and transparency. The relocation from Georgia helps to ensure that AERA members and other annual meeting participants have equal access to engage in AERA activities free of constraint, distraction, and intimidation that could occur under this law," said the association's statement.

The issue of when disciplinary associations should relocate annual meetings -- the locations for which are typically selected years in advance -- has created controversies in numerous fields. Currently, historians are sponsoring an online discussion on the topic.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

A bill that would overturn two provisions of the Education Department's "program integrity" rules -- the federal definition of a credit hour, and the requirement that colleges obtain authorization from every state in which they operate -- is headed for a vote in the House of Representatives this week. The Rules Committee will consider H.R. 2117, the "Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act," tonight, and a full vote is expected later in the week.

The bill had bipartisan support when the Committee on Education and the Workforce voted on it in July, and has been supported by several higher education associations, including the American Council on Education and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. A related Senate measure, S. 1297, was introduced in June but has not yet been considered by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Support from Senate Democrats would be crucial for the measure to gain Congressional passage; it is not clear how aggressively the Obama administration would push to defeat the measure, or whether President Obama would veto it.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty leaders at the University of Illinois are circulating a petition calling for the removal of Michael Hogan as president of the university system, The News-Gazette reported. Faculty critics cite Hogan's push to centralize enrollment management decisions, and his "extraordinary bullying" of Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus, whose e-mail messages reveal that Hogan did not think she was pushing her faculty members hard enough to back his views on enrollment management. The letter in circulation says of Hogan: "In our view he lacks the values, commitments, management style, ethics, and even manners, needed to lead this university, and his presidency should be ended at the earliest opportunity." A spokesman for the university system said that Hogan was not resigning and had "unwavering support" from the board.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The Chicago Tribune published new details this weekend on the admissions scandal in which politicians pressured the University of Illinois to admit politically connected applicants to various programs. The Tribune exposed the "clout" system in 2009, but has been fighting for information on who actually benefited. The new article details the politicians involved (a bipartisan group) and details the number of requests made and how successful their beneficiaries were (generally more successful than most applicants). In many cases, the applicants had family or other ties to individuals or groups who were major donors to the politicians' campaigns.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Dustin Morrow of Portland State University examines the practice of updating classic films for theatrical re-release. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Athletic officials at Radford University were already in trouble when the National Collegiate Athletic Association learned that players on the men’s tennis and men’s basketball teams, and one prospective basketball recruit, received impermissible benefits such as transportation, lodging and meals. But university officials made the case all the worse by “not only providing false and misleading information, but the encouragement of a student athlete to do the same,” Britton Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA and chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions said in a call with reporters Friday. “This conduct, which is really the essence of this case, is obviously inconsistent with the core values of honesty and sportsmanship, and completely counter to a coach’s responsibility to educate student athletes in their program.”

As punishment, Radford will receive public reprimand and censure; two years’ probation; a two-scholarship reduction in basketball for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years; vacation of four wins during the 2010-11 season, when an ineligible athlete competed, and a $2,000 penalty ($500 for each game in which said athlete played); and, self-imposed by the university, a reduction of two official paid visits in basketball during the 2011-12 academic year and the suspension of the head tennis coach during the 2011 season. In addition, the NCAA imposed a five-year "show cause" penalty on any institution that hires two former assistant basketball coaches and a former director of operations, requiring them to explain why they should not limit those officials' recruiting activities.

Radford is the latest to be reprimanded for a deliberate cover-up, following the University of Tennessee and Louisiana State and Ohio State Universities last year. Not only did coaches knowingly violate NCAA rules, the public infractions report says, the head basketball coach in interviews during the investigation didn’t disclose several instances of students getting impermissible travel and lodging from other coaches, and in one instance lied about whether he was aware of such activity. He also told staff and coaches not to provide further information to the NCAA, the report says. It goes on to say that the athlete whom the coach encouraged to “provide false and misleading information” to  the committee ended up withdrawing as a student after undergoing “serious emotional distress.”

This was Radford’s first major infractions case.

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 3:00am

The Women's Campaign of the University of Cambridge is organizing a petition drive to disinvite Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- the former head of the International Monetary Fund -- to speak at the university. "The Cambridge Union Society's decision to invite Dominique Strauss-Kahn to speak this term displays, when interpreted most charitably, a callous desire to exploit gender crime allegations in the service of controversy. At worst, the invitation betrays an abhorrent disregard for the many survivors of sexual violence amongst the student body," says the petition. "We believe that free speech is about more than inviting rich, white, powerful (in this case allegedly rapist) men to define the union's termcard year after year." The petition notes that Strauss-Kahn has not been convicted of anything but says that this is "because of institutional sexism in the legal system."

Katie Lam, president of the group that invited him, defended the decision. "The reason he's been invited is because he's a fascinating figure and has exceptional knowledge in this field," she told AFP. "So I don't think it's inappropriate to have invited him. Speaking at the Union doesn't imply approval or endorsement, or indeed disapproval."


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