Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 24, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Tamar Makin of the University of Oxford explains how the brain creates pain in phantom limbs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 24, 2013

The online learning website Khan Academy has begun translating its video lessons into Spanish, a spokeswoman recently confirmed. The site already features portals that link non-native English speakers to video lessons in English, but translating the more than 100,000 practice problems and video lessons into a different language marks a first for the site. The spokeswoman said about 95 percent of the practice problems and about 2,000 video lessons have so far been translated into Spanish, which means Spanish speakers visiting the new site will see some content in English for the time being. Once the old content has been translated, the spokeswoman said the translation team will adapt new content as it is added to the site.

September 24, 2013

Kofi Awoonor, a Ghanian poet who taught creative writing and African literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was among those killed in the terrorist attack on a mall in Kenya. Awoornor was also a Stony Brook alumnus.

September 24, 2013

The State University of New York has toughened admissions requirements for the teacher preparation programs on 17 of its campuses. To enter an undergraduate major or a graduate program, a Graduate Record Examination or equivalent test will now be required, as only some campuses have done in the past. There will also for the first time be a uniform 3.0 grade-point-average requirement (such requirements also varied by campus). The 3.0 would apply to the first two years of college work for undergraduate programs that accept students as juniors, to high school grades for programs that accept freshmen, and to undergraduate work for graduate programs.

September 24, 2013

Kenneth P. Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee University, has ordered a review of the way the university reports admissions statistics, The Washington Post reported. The review follows an earlier report in the Post that the university has counted as applicants many who never finished their applications. The university's decision to count those partial applications decreased the university's admit rate, suggesting that it is more selective than it would be otherwise. “I believe that we are acting in accordance with the applicable guidelines and in a manner consistent with how other colleges and universities approach this process,” said a statement from Ruscio. “Nevertheless, if there are questions about our policy, we will address them forthrightly and transparently. Our credibility is fundamental to everything that we do.”

The review will focus on which applicants are counted in certain categories. The questions that have been raised are about that decision, not the accuracy of the data overall.

 

September 23, 2013

The University of Alabama at Tusaloosa announced Friday that four black women and two other minority women will be joining the university's all-white sororities. The university has been engaged in an intense debate (and been subject to national criticism) following an article in the student newspaper about how black women have been rejected by the sororities -- sometimes at the behest of alumnae. The university first announced that sororities had agreed to a new system in which they could extend "bid" offers at any time of year, not just during the traditional rush period.

The university on Friday posted a video by President Judy Bonner in which she said that sororities had extended 72 of these new non-rush bids in the last week, with 11 bids going to black women and 3 to other minority women. In addition to the six minority bids that have been accepted, she said, others were being considered and might yet be accepted. She added that some sororities "are farther along than others" in desegregating.

 

September 23, 2013

Supporters of Cheyney University, a public historically black college in Pennsylvania, will announce today that they plan to sue the state unless certain conditions are met. The supporters argue that the state has failed to meet its obligations to support and enhance Cheyey. Specifically, they say that the state needs to revise its funding formula to focus less on enrollment because Cheyney's relatively low enrollment has led it to raise tuition, which in turn has made it difficult to recruit more students. Further, the group will demand that the university be protected from austerity measures currently being imposed in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, of which Cheyney is a part.

 

September 23, 2013

Rutgers University has rewritten parts of its alma mater, "On the Banks of the Old Raritan," to make it gender-neutral, The Star-Ledger reported. The alma mater -- 140 years old -- used to begin with "My father sent me to old Rutgers / And resolv'd that I should be a man." Those lines have been replaced with "From far and near we came to Rutgers/ And resolved to learn all that we can."

September 23, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeremy Jamieson of the University of Rochester explains why stress can be useful for performers. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 23, 2013

Like many colleges and universities with faculty/staff newspapers or websites, Iowa Now at the University of Iowa publishes periodic articles by faculty members. A recent piece, however, which questioned the validity of evolution, has angered many Iowa professors. The controversial piece -- by Ned Bowden, an associate professor of chemistry -- was about the conflict between science and religion, and argued that there need not be such a conflict. In making his case, Bowden wrote: "It's remarkably consistent how evolution and Genesis look at the process and tell the same stories using different words. Science can never prove or disprove God, but science can provide support for the existence of God and that is what the Big Bang and evolution can give us. There are, of course, holes in the theory of evolution that are big enough to drive a semi-truck through, but it is highly possible that evolution was the tool that God used to bring humans into being."

Twenty-five faculty members responded with their own piece. They said faculty members were entitled to their own views. But they questioned why the university would publish a piece that suggests evolution isn't a settled view in science. They wrote that just as today no scientists dispute that the Earth revolves around the Sun, "we no longer debate the central principles of evolutionary theory as a scientific framework for understanding Earth's diversity." Further, the faculty members said, "Iowa Now, by publishing a piece that suggests otherwise, has done a disservice to the university."

A spokesman for the university said via e-mail that, "as a public university, we welcome a diversity of views and encourage robust and civil dialogue. Iowa Now is one place where that takes place. The views of the writer ... are his or her own and not necessarily those of Iowa Now or the University of Iowa."

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