Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, October 3, 2011 - 3:00am

Three researchers who focus on immunity were today awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann will share half of the prize "for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity." The other half of the prize goes to Ralph M. Steinman "for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity."

Beutler is professor of genetics and immunology at the Scripps Research Institute. He formerly did research at Rockefeller University in New York and the University of Texas at Dallas. Information about his lab at Scripps may be found here. Hoffman formerly was director of the Institute for Molecular Cell Biology in Strasbourg, France, and during 2007-8 was President of the French National Academy of Sciences. Steinman is professor of immunology and director of the Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases at Rockefeller University. More information about his work may be found here.

Monday, October 3, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which recently gathered hundreds of complaints about federal regulation for a draft report on regulatory burdens, heard more from college administrators about those burdens at its meeting Friday. The committee is charged with identifying federal regulations that are redundant, unnecessary, inconsistent or “overly burdensome," and those that need to be changed or eliminated, and a survey of more than 2,000 college officials found plenty of suggestions.

At the committee, panels of executive officers and office administrators continued that refrain, saying that Higher Education Act regulations are so sprawling that no one person on any campus can keep track of them all and judge which are the most costly or burdensome. Information disclosures came in for particular criticism: Sanford Ungar, president of Goucher College, read a laundry list of information that colleges are required to disclose annually, including reports on fire safety, peer-to-peer file sharing, net price and many others.

Participants had a few suggestions for reducing the burden of regulations, although both the committee and the panelists acknowledged that the pace of increased regulation is faster than deregulation would be. Ungar suggested a "pay-go" system, where for every new regulation added, another would have to be eliminated. Others advocated for sector-based regulation, where different rules would apply to different types of colleges.

And while many respondents in the committee's report supported further study, a comprehensive review will be lengthy and costly, said Troy Johnson, vice provost for enrollment at the University of North Texas. "It's fine to study further, yet in the meantime we should immediately seize all of the knowledge and recommendations" and make some progress on deregulation, Johnson said.

The committee is on track to deliver a final report to Congress by the end of the year, chairman Allison Jones said.

Monday, October 3, 2011 - 3:00am

Private higher education has expanded rapidly in Malaysia in the last 15 years, but with reports of wide variations in quality, the government is stepping up scrutiny of the institutions, The New York Times reported. The government imposed a record number of fines on institutions this year -- even as many credit the private institutions with increasing access to higher education.

Monday, October 3, 2011 - 3:00am

Many Australian academics are frustrated, to the point where they are considering leaving their current universities in the years ahead, according to a new report from the Center for the Study of Higher Education, at the University of Melbourne. Researchers conducted a survey of more than 5,000 faculty members for the project. Australian academics continue to have "a deep commitment to scholarship," the report says. But just under half of them believe that their workload is no longer manageable. And close to half of those who are in the middle or later stages of their careers say that workload issues are sources of "considerable personal stress." Younger faculty members are more likely, the report says, to be frustrated by issues of job security and pay.

Monday, October 3, 2011 - 3:00am

Two top administrators are leaving their positions at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, amid reports of possible conflicts (in one case) with President Shirley Jackson, The Albany Times-Union reported. Jackson has long had a contentious relationship with faculty leaders. Those leaving their positions include Provost Robert Palazzo, who is returning to the faculty, and Laban Coblentz, chief of staff and associate vice president, who left suddenly and with no public explanation. The Times-Union reported that he left because he had criticized Jackson and her administration, and university officials declined to comment.

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, A.G. Rud of Washington State University examines the philosophy
behind the well-known, and not so well-known, actions of Albert Schweitzer. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 3:00am

Three Latino voters have sued the Cerritos Community College District's system for electing board members because it limits the influence of Latino citizens, the Associated Press reported. The district, which is more than 50 percent Latino, uses an at-large voting system. The seven-member board currently lacks a Latino member and has not had more than one Latino board member since 2003. College officials said that the board is in fact considering a shift to district voting.

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of New Hampshire will continue to sell energy drinks, after all. The university had announced in a Monday morning press release that it would stop selling the beverages in its convenience stores and vending machines in January, but then backtracked with an evening release saying that President Mark Huddleston had suspended the ban indefinitely. He'd seen "conflicting evidence" regarding the drinks' health effects, he said, and wanted to involve students in the decision. Another press release sent out Thursday afternoon said Huddleston had nixed the ban completely. He announced the decision to students via his Twitter feed, saying, "After review, UNH will NOT ban the sale of energy drinks. We want students to make their own choices, and be smart and informed consumers."

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 3:00am

Florida International University faced a dilemma this semester when more students applied for and were qualified for work-study than had been expected, and funds were short. The university responded with program cuts that affected 600 students. But The Miami Herald reported that students responded with letters, Facebook posts and other statements about the impact of the cuts. The university has now found an additional $1.5 million in other funds to add to the program, eliminating the need for the cuts.

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 3:00am

With Nobel Prizes being awarded next week, the Ig Nobels (an annual spoof) were awarded Thursday night. Among this year's winners: In physiology, the scholars behind the paper "No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise," and in chemistry, the research team that determined "the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm." The complete list of winners may be found here.

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