Higher Education Quick Takes
Gay students and gay issues have become unusually visible at Brigham Young University, an institutions that bars students from sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that gay students last week released a video in the "It Gets Better" series talking about being gay at the university. Also last week, estimates are that up to 600 students attended a meeting in a room with seating for 260 to hear four students talk about balancing their gay identities with life at the university, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We’re trying to live it and create new spaces for us to be gay and Mormon and be active in the church," said Adam White, who was on the the panel and appeared in the YouTube video. The university says that gay students do not face punishments from the university as long as they don't have physical intimacy with members of the same sex.
A lengthy Bloomberg article outlines a series of incidents that have alarmed security officials and some university leaders who fear that some countries are attempting to use American universities' foreign connections for the purpose of spying. The article notes numerous incidents, including an American researcher who was invited to give a talk abroad. Then someone there asked for a copy of her paper, inserted a thumb drive into her laptop, and downloaded every document she had. In another instance, Michigan State University was approached by a Dubai-based company about providing funds and students for the university's Dubai campus, which was struggling financially. Lou Anna K. Simon, president at Michigan State, contacted the Central Intelligence Agency because she was afraid the company might be a front for Iran. When the CIA couldn't confirm the company's legitimacy, Simon passed on the deal and shut down the Dubai campus.
The article also quoted from a 2011 Pentagon report that said that attempts by East Asian countries to obtain classified or proprietary information through "academic solicitation" (requesting to see academic papers or discuss work with professors), jumped eightfold in 2010.
The University of Oregon has filed objections to a proposed union of faculty members organized jointly by the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers. Potentially the most significant challenge is to the idea of having in the same bargaining unit tenure-track faculty members, adjuncts, postdocs and others. The university filing with the state labor board states that there is not "a sufficient community of interest" in these various groups. Union organizers criticized the university's action. "The university administration appears to be headed down a long and contentious path of using every legal mechanism and a lot of public money to deny us the basic right to decide our union future for ourselves,” said Michael Dreiling, associate professor of sociology.
Old Dominion University has ended a policy adopted in 1977 that students had to pass a writing examination to graduate, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The university came to the conclusion that the test wasn't working. The percentage of students who failed the first time they took the test (they were allowed to retake it) stayed the same, at about 25 percent. And professors continued to complain about poor student writing skills. University officials said they were now focusing on embedding writing requirements within the curriculum, an approach they believe may have more impact than a single three-hour test.
The Record has exposed more cases of New Jersey colleges reporting incomplete information on SAT scores to U.S. News & World Report to inflate rankings. Ramapo College has been excluding about 22 percent of its new students (generally the most disadvantaged students) when reporting average SAT scores to U.S. News & World Report. As a result, the SAT average reported by Ramapo was more than 50 points higher than it should have been. New Jersey City University has also been inflating its SAT scores, the Record reported. Ramapo, shortly after the article was published Friday, said it would start reporting the averages for all students. New Jersey City University officials said that they were unaware of the practice.
What's so funny about a 68-year-old classics and religious studies professor -- decked out in a blue flannel shirt, navy dress pants pulled up to a generous height and sporty black shoes -- cruising around campus on a skateboard? Tom Winter still isn't sure, but the University of Nebraska at Lincoln instructor is playing along now that a photo of him riding an Arbor Pocket Rocket skateboard has gone viral, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The picture, apparently taken by a Nebraska student, was the most-viewed item on Reddit.com one day last week and has been the subject of dozens of mock captions on Imgur.com.
Winter, who rides his bike to work every day, opts for a skateboard when he moves around campus. "I'm 19, but my joints are all of 68 years old," he told the Journal Star. "Sometimes, walking is simply unpleasant."
Imgur caption writers wrote "He has a Ph.D. in epicness" and "Tony Hawk in his senior years." Others were less kind: "Suddenly, broken hip," reads one comment. Sights of Winter weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic as his gray hair and decorative ties flap in the wind have long made him a cult celebrity in Lincoln. But the former roller skating champion who has spent more than 40 years on the Nebraska faculty seems to be taking his newfound global fame in stride.
"It's a pretty good photo," he told the Lincoln newspaper.
Jorge Gilbert, who formerly taught South American history and politics at Evergreen State College, was fined nearly $120,000 last year by the Washington State Executive Ethics Board for failing to account for $50,000 in student payments he received from student for a study abroad program in Chile. With that debt looming, the state attorney general's office reported last week that Gilbert has disappeared, The Olympian reported.
Student journalists might not be as funny as they think. The latest mea culpa, from the University of Missouri at Columbia's campus newspaper editor, centers around the retitling of The Maneater's April Fool's edition as The Carpeteater.
In a lengthy statement released Friday, Editor Abby Spudich explains that she "truly did not know that 'carpet eater' is a derogatory term used for a lesbian." She also apologized for other April Fool's jokes that fell on deaf ears, including a series of vulgar references to women. The paper won't publish an April Fool's edition next year, Spudich wrote. "Our April Fool’s issue serves as a cautionary warning about the consequences of ignorance," she writes, "but I hope the actions we will take in the near future will serve as an example of how to take steps forward to promote an inclusive campus for all."
If only there had been a cautionary tale available a couple weeks ago. It's been a tough month for America's student press, as an April Fool's edition at Boston University that made light of rape led to an editor's resignation.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has issued guidelines to help countries promote open access to research findings. While the guidelines are not binding on member nations, they suggest that countries take a consistent and broad approach to assuring free access to research findings. The report with the guidelines also rejects the idea that because partial access is available or even full access to some work in some countries, that these issues have been resolved. "There is a problem of accessibility to scientific information everywhere," the report says. "Levels of open access vary by discipline, and some disciplines lag behind considerably, making the effort to achieve open access even more urgent. Access problems are accentuated in developing, emerging and transition countries. There are some schemes to alleviate access problems in the poorest countries but although these provide access, they do not provide open access: they are not permanent, they provide access only to a proportion of the literature, and they do not make the literature open to all but only to specific institutions."