Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 25, 2013

With Friday's announcement that it had raised another $20 million in venture capital funding, the massive open online course provider Coursera's Series B round has reached $63 million in total. The company pegged that number at $43 million as recently as July. GSV Capital, Learn Capital and three universities that produce Coursera courses supplied the additional funding. The $20 million will be invested in "ongoing technological developments, strategic partnerships and the build-out of Coursera's product and recruiting teams," according to a news release.

November 25, 2013

Indiana Wesleyan University and Houghton College, in New York, have announced plans for collaboration. Both colleges are part of the Wesleyan Church. While details of the partnership haven't been finalized, the idea is to share areas of expertise. Houghton is a traditional, residential institution, and Indiana Wesleyan officials hope to learn from its strengths in internships and study abroad. In turn, Indiana Wesleyan plans to share its approaches to growth and serving campuses off of its traditional campus. Indiana Wesleyan has nearly 3,000 students on its main campus, but has grown considerably with adult students (more than 12,500 of them) who enroll online or at centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The university also recently announced plans to acquire a Christian-oriented arts college in Australia.

 

 

November 25, 2013

The winner of the annual football game between Claremont-Harvey Mudd-Scripps Colleges and Ponoma-Pitzer Colleges (all members of the Claremont Colleges consortium, in which colleges join forces to filed teams) used to display a Peace Pipe trophy -- a tradition discontinued this fall after some students said the practice was culturally insensitive.

After hearing concerns from members of the Claremont Colleges' Indigenous Student Alliance that using a Peace Pipe — a sacred object for many indigenous groups that is used in religious rituals — was akin to using a cross or a Menorah, the colleges decided to end use of the symbol, said Ponoma-Pitzer sports information director Jeremy Kniffen said. The students were uncomfortable with the symbol being used as a sports trophy, he said.

The tradition of awarding the Peace Pipe trophy to the game winner began in 1959 when Claremont Colleges went from having one common athletic program to two. The trophy was chosen to symbolize a friendly rivalry between the two teams, Kniffen said. But there’s no symbolic story behind the trophy, so there “wasn’t really a compelling reason to keep it, other than that’s what we’ve always had,” he said. Claremont-Harvey Mudd-Scripps won this year’s game, 29-23, but no trophy was awarded. The athletic departments will design a new trophy before next year’s game that will include the scores of past games, but no reference to the pipe.

November 25, 2013

The Harvard Ichthus, a student-run journal of Christian thought, on Saturday apologized for publishing an essay last week that said Jews brought suffering upon themselves for killing Jesus. The anonymous author of the piece claimed to be Jewish (although he urged all Jews to become Christians). The article has since been removed from the site but Talking Points Memo published excerpts, such as this one: "We, the Jews, rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we richly deserved all of the punishments that were heaped on our heads over the last 2000 years." The apology in the journal said that editors should have been more careful about monitoring what was being published. "[W]e apologize for publishing offensive content on our blog. While this does not excuse the post of responsibility, it was not the intent of the writer, nor the Ichthus, to present a piece that is anti-Semitic in nature or in interpretation. The writer holds nothing but love for his heritage and feels very deeply for the welfare of the Jewish people. The blog was not intended to communicate animosity, but concern and a sincere desire to communicate the necessity of salvation through Jesus Christ alone."

 

November 25, 2013

Syracuse University became the second American university, after Brandeis University, to sever its ties with Al-Quds University after a Nov. 5 protest on the Palestinian campus in which demonstrators used the traditional Nazi salute and honored "martyred" suicide bombers. Saying that the university "does not condone hatred or intolerance in any way," Syracuse announced that it would suspend the relationship between Al-Quds and its Institute for National Security and Terrorism. Meanwhile, Bard College said that it would continue its partnership with Al-Quds, which includes a joint master of arts in teaching program and a liberal arts college.

In a statement, Bard said that immediately following the protest, Al-Quds contacted the college “and provided an unequivocal denunciation of that protest, a clear condemnation that has since been repeated publicly, as recently as yesterday, by the university’s president, Sari Nusseibeh. Suggestions that the university administration condoned the actions of a very small group of students within a university of 12,000 are simply inaccurate.”

“The incident and the ensuing controversy demonstrate that it is more important than ever to maintain our educational partnership with Al Quds," the college said.

In severing ties with Al-Quds, Brandeis cited not only the Nov. 5 protest but also the administration’s “unacceptable and inflammatory” response to it. In a statement, Al-Quds espoused values of equality and mutual respect but also criticized “vilification campaigns by Jewish extremists” who “spare no effort to exploit some rare but nonetheless damaging events or scenes which occur on the campus of Al Quds University…. These occurrences allow some people to capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies. Without these ideologies, there would not have been the massacre of the Jewish people in Europe; without the massacre, there would not have been the enduring Palestinian catastrophe.”
 

November 25, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Aaron Ellison of Harvard University’s Harvard Forest describes efforts to intervene before ecosystems pass their tipping points. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 25, 2013

A Maryland appeals court has turned down a challenge to the right of Johns Hopkins University to develop land it purchased at below-market rates in 1989, The Baltimore Sun reported. The family of the woman who made the deal said that she never would have done so unless she believed the farmland would never be developed. But the appeals court said that the university was within its rights to develop the land into a research park.

 

November 25, 2013

Thirty-two students at American colleges were named Saturday as winners of Rhodes Scholarships. Harvard University students won six of the scholarships -- more than those won at any other institution. Yale and Stanford Universities were tied for second, with three winners each. Two institutions -- New York University at Abu Dhabi and Smith College -- had their first winners. The win for NYU Abu Dhabi comes with a student in its inaugural class. Smith has had prior winners in the competitions for students from other countries (with scholarships for Smith students from Zambia and Zimbabwe), but not for American students.

 

November 22, 2013

The BACCHUS Network, a university collaboration that focuses on health and safety issues including alcohol and drug abuse and other high-risk behaviors, will merge on Jan. 1 with NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the organizations announced Thursday. "This merger between NASPA and BACCHUS significantly expands the range of resources available to student affairs professionals working in the health and wellness area," NASPA President Kevin Kruger said in a statement. "For 38 years, The BACCHUS Network has been providing networking, educational and programming opportunities to college peer health educators and their advisors on a national and regional level. We are thrilled to have all of this available to NASPA members.”

November 22, 2013

Policy leaders stressed Thursday that the best way to strengthen relations between the U.S. and China is one person at a time, starting with a concentrated effort to increase the number of American students studying in China.

At a conference sponsored by the 100,000 Strong Foundation, the financial executive Stephen Schwarzman described the Schwarzman Scholars program, a $300 million scholarship program that will support 200 students annually who enroll in a yearlong master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing. The first class of scholars will begin in 2016. Of the 200 students, 45 percent will come from the U.S., 20 percent will come from China and 35 percent will come from other countries, Schwarzman said Thursday.

Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, said the scholarship program aims to give students experience beyond the classroom. The scholars will meet with Chinese leaders, travel widely throughout China and be mentored by leaders in their field of study. Learning a language “gives you a window into the culture,” Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said, but cultural literacy is equally important to foster diplomacy. And the “seeds of friendship,” trust and mutual respect are most likely to come from young students, said Vice Premier of China Liu Yangdong. 

The conference was sponsored by the 100,000 Strong Foundation, which is housed at American University. The foundation grew out of a 2010 U.S. State Department initiative to increase the number of Americans studying in China to 100,000. In the 2011-12 academic year, 14,887 American students studied in China, a 2 percent increase from the 2010-11 academic year, according to recent data. China was the fifth most popular destination for American students. The number of Chinese students studying in America increased from 194,029 in 2011-12 to 235,597 in 2012-13.

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