Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, September 7, 2012 - 3:00am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a speech accepting his nomination for re-election Thursday night, President Obama laid out an ambitious higher education goal for his second term: he said he’d “work with colleges and universities” to slow the rise in college tuition by half over the next decade -- but gave no details on how he would accomplish that. It was the first discussion at the Democratic National Convention of what education policy might look like in a second Obama term.

During the State of the Union speech in January, Obama proposed expanding campus-based financial aid programs -- such as the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and the Perkins Loan -- and using the extra money to reward colleges that keep tuition low or provide “good value” (and punish those that do not).

Early attempts by the Education Department to implement parts of that plan, such as a new competitive grant program for higher education, went nowhere in the Senate in next year’s budget negotiations. But Thursday night’s speech appeared to signal that the president, if re-elected, intends to keep pushing colleges to keep tuition prices low -- or at least slow their growth.

How Obama would do that, let alone whether he would succeed, is unclear. The past two decades have seen several federal attempts to pressure colleges to lower tuition, most recently in 2003, when Republicans in Congress proposed cutting off federal aid to colleges whose price increases outstripped inflation. Colleges greeted the proposal with howls of protest, and the measure never got beyond the education committee.

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 3:00am

A new federal report details the scientific misconduct that authorities found Marc Hauser to have committed while a psychology professor at Harvard University, The Boston Globe reported. Hauser was found to have fabricated data, manipulated results in experiments, and incorrectly described how studies were done. A lengthy internal investigation led him to leave Harvard, but details have been minimal until now about what he did. Hauser disputed some of the findings of the federal inquiry, but has admitted to research misconduct in his laboratory, and said that he took responsibility for it.

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 3:00am

A new study of members of the American Economic Association finds a gender split on many issues. The study, which will be published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, finds women in economics more willing than men to consider interventions in market policies. In terms of academic careers, male economists generally believe that opportunities are equal for men and women, but female economists are more likely to see an advantage for men.

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 4:22am

Just hours after the Kinsey Institute announced a new mobile app on which people could report sexual activity, Indiana University (of which the institute is a part) pulled the app, The Indianapolis Star reported. The app was designed to gather self-reported data on sexual activity, birth control, public displays of affection and various other sex-related information. While the announcement said that the information would be secure and private, the university said that it needed to study the privacy issues raised by the app.

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Myra Finkelstein of the University of California at Santa Cruz explains how lead poisoning is slowing the recovery of the California condor. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 3:00am

The Boston University men’s ice hockey team enjoys an insulated culture and celebrity status that “can lead to unacceptable and destructive behavior, including a culture of sexual entitlement and abuse,” according to the findings of a task force that was charged with reviewing the program after two players were accused of sexual assault last spring. The task force, co-chaired by Boston’s provost and a trustee, made a series of recommendations to improve oversight of the program and address systemic issues of assault and alcohol abuse on campus. In a statement Wednesday, President Robert A. Brown said the university would move to carry out the recommendations, which include reorganizing reporting relationships in the athletics department and updating the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, as quickly as possible. Brown noted that “excessive alcohol consumption” has played a role in the majority of alleged sexual assaults and other incidents, and the university is “reviewing the recommendation about how best to implement a comprehensive, campus-wide program aimed at moderating alcohol use by our students.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 3:00am

It was a frustrating first week for many students and faculty at Purdue University, where the Blackboard system went down four separate times over a period of nine days. The outages, which resulted largely from increased usage and the use of a new version of the learning management system, ranged from 45 minutes to more than four hours.

Purdue, which hosts Blackboard on its own servers, has been in communication with Blackboard technicians three times a day and has also contacted other universities to see how they have managed the upgrade to Blackboard Learn. According to university spokesman Steve Tally, the downtime was not the result of one big problem, but of several small glitches that needed to be fixed.

Blackboard, for its part, acknowledged that the back-to-school period can be particularly problematic, since the systems see much more traffic than usual. But Matt Maurer, a spokesman for the company, said Blackboard has seen a decrease in the downtime for all users in the past few years, along with a faster response time by technicians when there is a problem. In Purdue's case, a representative from Blackboard was sent to the university to help deal with the problem on-site.

 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Florida A&M University on Tuesday announced that it has suspended its torque dancing team after allegations of an off-campus hazing incident, the Associated Press reported. A hazing death of a student in the marching band last year has focused attention on hazing at the institution.

 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 3:00am

The number of 18-year-olds is shrinking in Japan, so many universities are creating new incentives to get prospective students to visit campuses, The Asahi Shimbun reported. Some universities are paying the travel costs to campuses. Others are offering discounts on fees normally charged for entrance exams. Still others are starting programs for parents so that they can learn more about the university.

 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Tim Gunn was a faculty member at Parsons The New School for Design before "Project Runway" occupied too much of his time. A new meme imagines Gunn as an outside committee member helping to prod a doctoral student to the finish line. With advice such as "I hate two-part titles, but they're very now," and "I think your article is confused about its genre," on photos of Gunn advising would-be designers, the meme is attracting followers.

The meme is the work of a husband-and-wife team: Sarah Summers, a Ph.D. student in rhetoric and composition at Pennsylvania State University, and Bill Riley, a recent M.F.A. grad. Via e-mail, Summers explained: "We're both 'Project Runway' fans. Last week we were marveling at how Tim Gunn manages to be critical and incisive while also being encouraging. Working on a book project and a dissertation, we realized that a kindhearted kick in the pants seems pretty valuable!"

Make it work.

 

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