Higher Education Quick Takes
Two students at the Berlin University of the Arts are offending many with an unusual project. Reuters reported that the students have built a guillotine and posted a video of themselves doing so, and are letting the public vote on whether or not to use the guillotine to kill a lamb. The video may be a stunt, as a spokeswoman for the university said that the students were not serious about killing the lamb and were only trying to create an "artistic provocation." Almost 300,000 people have voted, with a majority favoring the lamb's continued life.
The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that public colleges and universities do not have the right to bar guns in student or employee vehicles on campuses, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Kentucky does permit its colleges and universities to bar guns on the persons of people on campuses. But the Supreme Court said that going beyond that would be "contrary to a fundamental policy, the right to bear arms."
Top Russian universities may be poised to use debt to finance major improvements in their facilities, according to a new report by Standard & Poor's. The Moscow Times reported that the S&P report follows a new Russian law giving about 30 universities new financial authority, opening up the possibility for them to use debt. The report found that Russian universities -- which have depended on government grants for facilities -- lag their international peers in investments in their physical plants.
Creighton University has announced plans to sell its struggling medical center in Omaha to a regional health care network. The university, which sold off a large share of the hospital's ownership to another health care company, Tenet, in 1995, said Wednesday that Alegent Health would buy the entire Creighton University Medical Center, and that Alegent would become the university's primary partner for its medical and other health professions students. The university did not disclose the terms of the deal.
The conference commissioners and other college football bigwigs who run the Bowl Championship Series emerged from a three-day meeting saying they had reached general agreement for the first time on creating a playoff to decide the sport's annual champion each year, the Associated Press reported. The BCS, the sport's current method of picking a winner each year, has been much derided by sports fans and others, but opposition to a playoff has come from some college presidents and from those in college football (particularly in the Big Ten and Pacific-12 Conferences) loyal to the bowl games, which many believe would be threatened under a playoff system.
Details of the new arrangement have yet to be worked out (and college presidents were generally not involved in the discussions), but a four-game playoff is likely. “Yes, we’ve agreed to use the P word,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the AP.
High school athletes will have an extra year to meet new eligibility requirements and “limited resource” institutions will have more flexibility in adjusting to higher academic standards, leaders of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top athletic programs announced Thursday. Both decisions tweak new rules the Division I Board of Directors adopted in October. The board also pushed back the timelines for the working groups assembled by NCAA President Mark Emmert this summer.
Most institutions must ensure their teams are earning at least a 930 Academic Progress Rate, the NCAA’s measure of classroom performance, by the 2015-16 postseason. (A 930 APR represents a 50-percent graduation rate, the NCAA says.) Low-resource institutions and historically black colleges and universities will have an extra year to bring their athletes up to the new standards, and will have more flexibility in meeting benchmarks along the way. But they must also develop “a meaningful APR improvement plan,” that identifies “issues on that campus most critical to academic success, supported by data,” and develops “meaningful initiatives” to address those issues.
After administrators and coaches complained that 2015 was too soon to start enforcing the NCAA’s new freshman eligibility standards, the board of university presidents voted to give them an extra year to prepare athletes. The eligibility rules raised the minimum grade point average in a set of high school core courses from 2.0 to 2.3 (community college transfers must come in with at least a 2.5 GPA), and require students to take the majority of those courses before senior year. Students who don’t meet the GPA minimums will still be eligible for athletic scholarships and practice.
The new working group schedule “allows for a more comprehensive discussion within the membership, but still ensures the presidents can make principled decisions in a timely fashion,” the NCAA said in a press release. The Enforcement Working Group will present its final recommendations at the Board’s next meeting in August. The Rules Working Group, which among other things is charged with paring down the notoriously extensive NCAA rulebook, will present its “first phase” of recommendations “either later this year or possibly” at the NCAA’s annual convention in January. Finally, the Student-Athlete Well-Being Group is considering various ways to implement a rule that would award athletes with an additional $2,000 to help cover living expenses. The board adopted the controversial rule in October but rescinded it for modifications in January after more than 160 institutions requested an override.
The University of Florida is backing off a controversial plan that would have stripped most of the research functions from its computer science department. Bernie Machen, the university's president, issued a statement Wednesday in which he said that new plans were being developed to preserve the department's research role -- the elimination of which outraged many students, faculty members and alumni. The cuts are part of large reductions at the university, resulting from state appropriations cuts. Referring to the computer science proposal, Machen wrote: "As many of you know, the proposal has been met with overwhelming negative response, much of which I believe has been based on misunderstanding." At the same time, he said that some faculty members had come forward with proposals that would meet budget goals and also preserve the research mission in the computer science program. While work is needed to further develop those plans, Machen said that the previous proposal would be "set aside."
Sophia, an online learning platform recently acquired by Capella Education Co., on Wednesday released 25,000 free tutorials aimed at college and high school students. The for-profit Capella plans this summer to introduce "Sophia Pathways for College Credit," a souped-up version through which students' competency in subject areas, beginning with college algebra, will be assessed for the granting of Capella credits, company officials said. "It's a low-cost path to getting college credit," said Steve Anastasi, Sophia's interim CEO.
Anastasi describes the open platform as a "social teaching and learning environment" in which teachers, most of them not affiliated with Sophia or Capella, create online tutorials on a variety of subjects that will soon be organized by the learning preferences of students. The crowdsourced content is ranked and given an "academic seal" by self-identified academic experts, who themselves are rated by students. A Capella spokesman said Sophia would be a "sandbox" for experiments on open course content, as well as a resource for Capella students and professors.
The Student Veterans of America this month announced that it has suspended 40 chapters at for-profit institutions, saying that they were "using the SVA brand to legitimize their programs." At the time, the group did not name the chapters. Today it released a list of 26 chapters at for-profit institutions that continue to have their charters revoked. "In addition to being a peer support group, SVA chapters exist as campus and community based advocacy organizations. It appears that some for-profit schools do not understand our model, or worse, they understand our model and they choose to exploit it for personal gain," said a statement from Michael Dakduk, executive director of the association.