Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors has asked for a fuller explanation of the University of San Diego's decision last week to rescind an invitation to Tina Beattie, a British professor asked to be a visiting fellow at the Roman Catholic university, because of her positions on social issues. In a letter to Mary Lyons, the university's president, the group drew parallels with a similar situation four years earlier and said it was "surprised and disappointed" that the issues arose again. "We appreciate that you may have additional information that would contribute to our understanding of the serious issues of academic freedom with which we are concerned. We would therefore welcome your comments," wrote B. Robert Kreiser, the AAUP's associate secretary.

Lyons, in a statement, said that it was Beattie's decision to sign a letter supporting gay marriage as a Catholic theologian that influenced her decision. "I want to emphasize that it was not her teaching or scholarship that prompted me to rescind this invitation," Lyons wrote. "I respect her right, as an academic and a Catholic theologian, to engage in whatever work she deems necessary and important." But she said that those speaking at the university's Center for Catholic Thought and Culture should support "both the mission of the center and the Catholic character of our university," and she believed Beattie's public dissent from the church was at odds with those goals.

Monday, November 5, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Pushker Kharecha of Columbia University’s Earth Institute explains how a small shift in the timing of peak CO2 emissions will shape the Earth’s climate for centuries. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Monday, November 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Many professors worry about students who use various devices in class not to take notes, but to keep up with Facebook and Twitter. Henry Kim, a business professor at Canada's York University, has gone beyond just banning students from using their laptops for non-class activities. As The Toronto Star reported, he requires students to pledge to -- if asked -- reveal if fellow students' web browsers are open to social media or other non-class-related material. He then can have eyes throughout the class.

Monday, November 5, 2012 - 3:00am

The Association of American Medical Colleges plans to launch new leadership training programs to train a new generation of administrators to lead medical education. Darrell G. Kirch, president of the association, announced the effort Sunday during his address at the group's annual meeting. He cited new research on leadership, and said that academic medicine needs to move away from the idea of seeking “one leader with special knowledge to be the 'sage at the top.'" Rather, he said, medical schools need to seek out people who can work to develop a wide base of talent at their institutions.

Monday, November 5, 2012 - 3:51am

The American Studies Crossroads Project, an early web pioneer that enabled instructors to share online teaching materials and stories of how they had used them, has been archived and closed -- made irrelevant, its founder says, by the "swiftly moving stream that is the Internet." Randy Bass, a professor of English and associate provost at Georgetown University, said that its core idea -- being "a single knowledge-building, field-forming virtual community" for scholars and teachers in American studies -- "no longer has a role in the distributed and ubiquitous environment of the Web."

Monday, November 5, 2012 - 3:00am

California's community colleges have been ordered to focus on students who can earn degrees or certificates or who can transfer to four-year institutions, and to de-emphasize other programs. An article in The Los Angeles Times explores the impact of this directive on rural community colleges. At those institutions, the Times reported, the identity of the colleges is much more centered on long-term ties to community members and the colleges have played a much broader cultural and social role than those in urban areas. As a result, many are questioning the appropriateness of the new approach for such colleges.


Monday, November 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Judson University, facing a deficit of $165,000, has laid off 21 staff members and announced that it will not renew the contracts of 11 faculty members, The Daily Herald reported. Officials of the Elgin, Ill., university said that there were not causes for serious concern, but that the employee total had perhaps grown too rapidly in recent years.

Friday, November 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Advocates of international education are ringing alarm bells about a €90 million shortfall in the Erasmus budget. Erasmus, a European Union program, provides grants for students to study or work outside their home countries in one of 33 participating nations (the 27 member states of the European Union, plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey). More than 231,000 students received grants in 2010-11, with the average award being a modest €250 a month. The most popular destinations were Spain, France and Germany. (Note: This article has been updated to reflect the term of the award.)

European Commission officials warn that unless something changes, its debts to national agencies in the participating countries – which distribute the money to colleges and students -- will have to be paid out of next year’s budget. This means that either fewer students will be supported or smaller grants will be given. The €90 million shortfall is out of a total budget of €450 million.

“What we’re hoping is that before the end of the year, the 27 member states, and the European Parliament, will agree to make up the shortfall,” said Dennis Abbott, a European Commission spokesman for education. “We know it’s a very, very tough world out there and that many countries are having to cut back, but we just feel that they shouldn’t be cutting back on education and they shouldn’t be cutting back where commitments have been made.”

Friday, November 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Many colleges and universities that have Nov. 1 deadlines for early decision, early action or other admissions requests have announced extensions or flexibility in light of the impact of Hurricane Sandy. The National Association for College Admission Counseling is publishing and updating a list of these institutions, with links to details on their new deadlines.

Friday, November 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Green Mountain College has delayed a controversial plan to slaughter two oxen because local slaughterhouses have received threats from outside groups about actions that would be taken if they kill the animals, the Associated Press reported. The college prides itself on sustainability, and says that when one ox became unable to continue working, the right thing to do from an environmental perspective was to slaughter the oxen and to serve their meat in the dining hall. But animal rights groups and others have mounted online campaigns to save the oxen.


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