Higher Education Quick Takes
Three buildings at the University of Pittsburgh were evacuated Wednesday due to bomb threats, the latest in a series of threats that have frustrated just about everyone on the campus, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. PItt has had 16 bomb threats since late February. The university is receiving Federal Bureau of Investigation help in investigating the threats.
Jack Scott, chancellor of California's community college system, on Wednesday called the president of Santa Monica College to ask him to put on hold a controversial plan to start charging more for some high-demand academic programs, The Los Angeles Times reported. Scott also told the Santa Monica president, Chui L. Tsang, of concerns over the clash campus police had with students during a protest Tuesday, a clash in which pepper spray was used. Scott said he told Tsang that the believed the plan violated state education codes and also could deny access to some low-income students. He also said he was worried about the plan setting a precedent others might follow. Santa Monica officials said that they would consider the chancellor's request. "The president will discuss it with the board to get a sense of where they stand," said a Santa Monica spokesman. "He listened to what the chancellor had to say but was noncommittal. No decision has been made at this point."
A new study published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that students in states with greater levels of income inequality are more likely to engage in academic dishonesty. The study examined the rates at which people in different states conduct Google searches for topics such as "buy term paper," and found more such searches in states with more income inequality. Lukas Neville, a doctoral student at Queen's University, in Canada, said that the study was based on the idea that trusting environment promote honest behavior and that income inequality may be associated with environments that lack trust.
New York University, which named the former president of Swarthmore College to lead NYU Abu Dhabi, has named another former campus leader to head NYU Shanghai. This morning NYU named Jeffrey S. Lehman, chancellor and founding dean of the Peking University School of Transnational Law, to lead the Shanghai campus, which will be a full, degree-awarding institution enrolling its first undergraduate class in 2013. The law school Lehman has led in China is the first in that country to teach an American style J.D. curriculum. Formerly, Lehman was president of Cornell University and dean of the law school at the University of Michigan.
A 50 percent improvement in community college graduation rates would create $5.3 billion in taxpayer revenue as well as $30 billion more in lifetime income for the 160,000 new graduates, according to a study by Mark Schneider, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Lu Michelle Yin, an economist and researcher at the American Institutes for Research. The report praised Valencia College for its "competency-based model," and said community colleges could boost graduation rates by streamlining the degree path, using more online courses and borrowing innovations from for-profit colleges.
Unite Here, a labor group, announced Tuesday that Harvard University was going to stop investing in HEI Hospitality, a company accused of unfair treatment of its workers (a charge it has denied). The Unite Here announcement said that Harvard was joining "a growing trend of universities across the country distancing themselves" from the company. The group released e-mail messages from Harvard officials to confirm the decision. But those e-mail messages said that the reason for the decision had nothing to do with the accusations made by Unite Here against HEI. An e-mail from the head of the Harvard Management Company said: "Harvard Management Company has decided not to reinvest in funds managed by HEI. Importantly, this decision was based on factors related to the HMC portfolio and its strategy and needs; not on concerns about HEI's practices."
The U.S. Education Department has told Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, in Indiana, to repay $42 million in grant and loans funds that the agency says the college was not eligible to award, the Associated Press reported. The department said that the college classified many students as being in telecommunications courses when their proper category was correspondence courses. The aid and loan funds provided are not permitted at institutions with a large share of students in correspondence courses. College officials said that they had done nothing wrong and would challenge the finding.
Professors at the University of Ottawa, in Canada, want the right to bar laptops from their classrooms, CTV Ottawa News reported. Marcel Turcotte, one of the professors pushing the idea, said of his students: "They are distracted and we are competing with that for their attention.... You see one student who is really not listening, would be watching the video and then it's kind of contagious." A faculty vote is planned for May.
Students protesting Santa Monica College's plan to institute a two-tiered tuition policy tried to storm a meeting of the college's board Tuesday night, and were met with campus police and pepper spray, The Los Angeles Times reported. Several protesters suffered minor injuries and others were overcome with pepper spray. The college says its plan is a creative way to deal with deep budget cuts. But students say that the plan effectively favors those who can afford to pay more, and abandons the community college traditions of equity and access.