Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 3:00am

As President Obama's first term nears an end, two Education Department officials -- Russlynn Ali, head of the department's Office of Civil Rights, and Justin Hamilton, the department's chief spokesman -- are leaving the federal government. Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights, headed an office widely perceived as more aggressive than its predecessors on issues like such as Title IX and sexual harassment. Seth Galanter, the office's deputy assistant secretary for policy, will take her place as acting assistant secretary. Hamilton plans to work on education reform outside the federal government; Daren Briscoe, a former deputy press secretary, is acting press secretary.

The departures are among several from education policy positions as Obama's first term draws to a close. Zakiya Smith, a key White House adviser on higher education policy, left in November for the Center for American Progress.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 3:00am

The chancellor of Patrick Henry College, an evangelical Christian college in Virginia, briefly threatened legal action against authors of Queer Patrick Henry College, a blog about being gay at the institution, over their use of the college's name. In a Facebook message, Michael Farris, the college's president, said he would take legal action against Facebook to force the group to change its name because it violated the college's copyright. After the blog's authors, three anonymous students at Patrick Henry, posted about the threat, Farris rescinded it in a Facebook comment. 

Franciscan University of Steubenville, a conservative Roman Catholic college in Ohio, made a similar legal threat over name use against a group of gay alumni earlier this year.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Sera Young of Cornell University explores why some pregnant women experience a compulsion to eat odd things. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty and student leaders who have expressed a lack of confidence in the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, president of Saint Louis University, had been trying to patch things up with the president and the board, which backs him. But The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a leaked memo to trustees has inflamed tensions. In the letter, posted to the Facebook group "SLU Students for No Confidence," the board chair urges fellow trustees not to talk to the press and to trust the advice of an outside public relations firm hired to help calm the situation. Comments posted to the site suggest that Father Biondi's critics are furious at the idea that the controversy at the university is a situation that can be managed by image consultants.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 4:25am

Wellesley College is joining edX, one of the primary providers of massive online open courses, or MOOCs, The Boston Globe reported. Anant Agarwal, president of edX, said that the college will try to preserve some of the features of liberal arts colleges in its four MOOCs to be offered through edX. The courses will allow instructors to divide classes into small groups for discussions. "We want to create the aura of a small-group setting, so that students can discuss among themselves," Agarwal said. To date, research universities have dominated the MOOC space. edX's other members are Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas System. Of the 33 institutions that offer MOOCs through Coursera, only one -- Wesleyan University -- is a liberal arts college.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 4:28am

A new blog for grad students and professors who need a little distraction as the semester winds down is "When in Academia." Nothing long to read -- just quick images on such topics as "When I realize that the professor I was talking about was within earshot," "When a student asks me to excuse a sorority-related absence," "When someone says that I blame everything on capitalism" and "When I hear undergrads talking about their plans for holiday break."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 3:00am

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has issued a stay of its ruling that invalidated a vote by Michigan citizens to bar public colleges and universities from considering race in admissions decisions. The ruling by the appeals court will not take effect until the Supreme Court has decided on an appeal, The Detroit News reported.


Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The French higher education minister has replaced the interim director of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, an elite institute of political science commonly known as Sciences Po, The New York Times reported

The school’s longtime director, Richard Descoings, died in April. He is credited with increasing the institution’s international profile, to the degree that 40 percent of students come from outside France. However, the national audit office recently completed an investigation of the school's finances from 2005-10, raising questions about Descoings’ compensation – about $700,000 per year – “weak internal and external controls,” abuse of credit cards by staff, “toxic loans” for faculty housing, and the practice of paying some professors more than others, despite the fact that they taught fewer hours.

The Times notes that the controversy seems to stem in part from Descoings’ attempts to recruit top talent. As the newspaper explains, “French professors are civil servants, whose salaries and working hours are strictly controlled. It was difficult for Mr. Descoings to recruit the faculty he wanted without offering the kind of arrangements, on pay and teaching load, that were criticized by the auditors.”

Hervé Crès, a deputy to Descoings and the faculty pick for Science Po’s directorship, has been replaced by Jean Gaeremynck, the head of the finance section for the Council of State.

Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

Chris Krumm, the son of a faculty member at Casper College, shot and killed his father with a bow and arrow on Friday while his father was teaching at the Wyoming institution, The Casper Star-Tribune. While the father -- Jim Krumm -- died from the wounds from that single shot, he struggled with his son, allowing students to escape the room. Just before coming to the classroom, Chris Krumm had gone to his father's home and killed Heidi Arnold, an instructor at Casper who lived with Jim Krumm. Chris Krumm killed himself after killing his father. Casper College has created a memorial page with information about the career of Jim Krumm, who taught computer science, and Arnold, who taught mathematics.


Monday, December 3, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin reveals how the Mayans would have viewed the end of the year 2012. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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