Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education must have experience working at a college or university and must hold an advanced degree, according to an opinion issued this week by Dustin McDaniel, the attorney general. The opinion largely quotes from statutes that outline those qualifications. In the case of advanced degree, the statutes state that the director should have degrees similar to those who work at colleges and universities. Two Republican legislators requested the opinion after Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, recommended that the next director be a former state senator, whose highest degree is a bachelor's degree. While that candidacy was withdrawn, the dispute has continued. A spokesman for the governor told the Arkansas News Bureau that the Republicans who requested the opinion were seeking "a pricey national search at taxpayer expense."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Students who favor affirmative action took over a press conference on Tuesday that was designed to question the way race and ethnicity are considered in admissions to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. The press conference was by the Center for Equal Opportunity, but its officials left when students arrived. The students then proceeded to talk about the value of diversity.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

At Wheelock College, the philosophy of the athletic program is to pay relatively little attention to whether games are won, and to focus on such issues as improvement and character. The Boston Globe reported that while Wheelock may not be a powerhouse, the approach has resulted in its number of athletes -- and wins -- increasing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Citing a larger number of violations affecting dozens of athletes over a five-year period, the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday imposed a set of penalties on Boise State University, including barring its women's tennis team from postseason competition for one season. The association's Division I Committee on Infractions found a panoply of violations of different sorts in different sports: free housing given to several dozen freshman football players in the summer before they enrolled, financial benefits given to a men's track athlete who was academically ineligible to receive them, the provision of housing and other benefits to prospective international athletes in women's tennis and men's track before they enrolled at Boise State, and an extra year of eligibility granted to a female tennis player.

In addition, the former women's tennis coach violated the NCAA's ethical conduct standard by knowingly breaking rules and then lying about it, the infractions panel found. Among the penalties imposed on Boise State by the NCAA and the university itself: recruiting and scholarship reductions, a prohibition in the recruitment of international athletes in men's and women's cross country and track and field, limitations on the duties of two former coaches if they are hired at other NCAA colleges, and the vacation of victories in women's tennis.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Watch what you tweet. The student government of the College of Charleston voted 15-to-14 (short of the two-thirds required) on Tuesday to impeach Ross Kressel as student body president, The Post and Courier reported. Kressel nearly lost his job amid campus debate over his Twitter account, where he expressed views about women, black people, his student government colleagues and others that offended many on the campus. The controversy set off a debate over the appropriateness of his tweets and of holding student leaders accountable for what they write online. After the vote, Kressel offered the following advice for those who use Twitter: "If it would upset your mom, don't post it."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Poets & Writers magazine has released its annual rankings of M.F.A. programs -- in the face of an open letter from 190 faculty members in writing programs who are questioning the methodology behind the effort. The rankings feature some factual data (on such issues as job placement, fellowship availability and so forth). But the main ranking -- of popularity -- is based on a survey of prospective applicants on where they plan to apply.

The open letter takes issue with this approach. "To put it plainly, the Poets & Writers rankings are bad: they are methodologically specious in the extreme and quite misleading. A biased opinion poll — based on a tiny, self-selecting survey of potential program applicants — provides poor information," says the letter. Leslie Epstein, one of the organizers of the effort, and a novelist who is director of the Boston University creative writing program, said the idea of letting applicants rank programs was "analogous to asking people who are standing outside a restaurant studying the menu how they liked the food. Why wouldn’t you ask those who’ve actually eaten there for an informed opinion?”

The magazine is standing behind the rankings -- while noting that it shares its methodology, and urges potential applicants to look at a wide range of information in deciding on programs to consider. Mary Gannon, editorial director, released a statement in which she defended the use of an applicant survey and rejected the idea of focusing on faculty quality, as some have suggested. "To continue the analogy Leslie Epstein used to describe our approach in the press release, that would be like asking diners who only frequent their favorite restaurant to assess the quality of all restaurants," she said.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Wade Robison of the Rochester Institute of Technology examines the philosophical assumptions at the heart of sustainability ethics. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

A recent incident at Canada's York University illustrates the reason students may want to listen to what gets said in class -- at least before seeking anyone's dismissal. The Toronto Star reported that Cameron Johnston, a social sciences professor, was talking to students about the difference between facts and opinions, and the role of dangerous opinions. As an example of a dangerous opinion, he offered the idea that "all Jews should be sterilized." A female student, who heard the statement as the professor expressing his own view, quickly left class, alerted Jewish groups on campus and elsewhere, and websites started demanding the professor's dismissal. Not only doesn't Johnston believe the statement, but he is Jewish.

 

Sheldon Goodman, co-chair of Toronto's Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told the Star: "This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The programs that train special education teachers for K-12 systems will lose up to half of their faculty members to retirements in the next five years, according to the Special Education Faculty Needs Assessment, a report being issued today by researchers at Claremont Graduate, Vanderbilt and Western Carolina Universities. These retirements pose a significant danger because special education programs already have a shortage of faculty members. The report outlines ways that programs can produce more Ph.D.'s, who in turn can meet the demand for trained teachers for schools.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 3:00am

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues on Tuesday issued its full report on experiments conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service in which people in Guatemala were exposed in the 1940s to sexually transmitted diseases, and the conclusions are clear from the report's name: "Ethically Impossible." President Obama charged the panel with studying the research after it became public last year. Amy Gutmann, chair of the commission and president of the University of Pennsylvania, said: “In the commission’s view, the Guatemala experiments involved unconscionable basic violations of ethics, even as judged against the researchers’ own recognition of the requirements of the medical ethics of the day. The individuals who approved, conducted, facilitated and funded these experiments are morally culpable to various degrees for these wrongs."

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