Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 27, 2013

Judith Shapiro has been named the next president of the Teagle Foundation, and will succeed Richard Morrill in July. Shapiro, an anthropologist, was president of Barnard College from 1994 to 2008, and was provost of Bryn Mawr College from 1986 to 1994. She joined the Teagle board in 2009 and had been leading the search for a new president when other search committee members asked her to leave that panel so she could be considered for the position.

Teagle, which finished 2012 with its endowment valued at $144 million, is small by comparison to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, but it has had influence in discussions of assessment, curriculum, academic rigor and teaching and learning. "I think Teagle has become quite famous for punching above its weight," Shapiro said in an interview. "I think that's because it has picked strategic things to do and has known how to use the bully pulpit in higher education." She noted that Teagle was working on assessment issues "before everyone else."

Looking ahead, she said Teagle will continue to focus grants and gather educators to discuss issues related to teaching and the curriculum. And at a time of rapid change in the use of technology and other tools, Shapiro said she wanted to keep a focus on the substance of what is taught along with teaching. "We'll be paying the right kind of attention to the content of the curriculum as well as the form," she said. "That's complicated because we can't agree on a canon, but that doesn't absolve us from making really good decisions about what's really important."

Shapiro is involved in efforts to use technology to change higher education, serving on the board of Ithaka (which promotes new models of scholarly publishing and communication) and the presidential advisory board of the University of the People (which offers free online education). She said she hoped Teagle and others would help evaluate the many innovations being introduced. "Not much attention has been given to the effectiveness of new ways or teaching, or the business plan," she said. "It's going to take a while to see how it is cost-effective and it could be good teaching."
 

March 27, 2013

Controversy continues to grow over an intercultural communications course at Florida Atlantic University in which students were told to write "Jesus" on a piece of paper, to fold it up and to stomp on it. A student has claimed he was suspended when he refused. The university has apologized for the exercise and said that it won't be repeated, but has said it was voluntary and that no student was punished in any way related to the class. Now Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, is calling for the state higher education system to investigate the incident and to identify or create policies to prevent such exercises from being used again, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. Scott called the exercise "intolerant to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom."

The university also issued a video statement by Charles Brown, senior vice president for student affairs, in which he said the university "deeply sorry for any hurt" caused by the exercise. He said that academic freedom must come with "a level of responsibility which we did not uphold" in the exercise. "We are truly sorry that this incident occurred," he said.

 

March 27, 2013

A new Marist Poll of sports fans nationally has found that 67 percent of them believe that it is common practice for colleges to break National Collegiate Athletic Association rules in recruiting and training athletes. That figure is up from 55 percent in a poll last year. The study also found that only 21 percent of sports fans believe that college athletes should be paid (beyond scholarships).

March 27, 2013

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has suspended an Honor Court proceeding that could charge a student for speaking out about an alleged rape, after learning that the student reportedly filed a federal complaint this week alleging retaliation. Landen Gambill learned last month that she could face penalties as severe as expulsion for “disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another.” Gambill, who is also a party to another complaint filed with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights – this one regarding UNC’s handling of her case and others – never publicly identified the alleged perpetrator. UNC said last month it cannot hear cases or alter verdicts of the student-run court, which no longer hears sexual assault cases.

“For several weeks, the University has grappled with how best to respond to a public claim of retaliation against the university while maintaining the autonomy and integrity of our Honor Court proceedings and the privacy of the individuals involved,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp wrote in a message to students, faculty and staff. “Recognizing the potential conflicts that may exist by allowing both processes to continue, we have asked the student attorney general to suspend the Honor Court proceeding pending an external review of these allegations of retaliation.”

March 27, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Richard Palmer of the University of Alberta reveals a surprising find about how some barnacles reproduce. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 26, 2013

Republican legislators in Louisiana are accusing Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, of trying to oust Jim Purcell as higher education commissioner, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. The legislators say that Jindal is upset with Purcell because he has criticized the governor's proposed budget for next year. Officials of the Board of Regents say that they know that there are tensions between the governor and higher education commissioner, but that they are not being pressured to get rid of Purcell. One state representative told the newspaper: "Clearly, the governor would prefer to run the state like a dictatorship. He shouldn’t be in the business of trying to fire people for telling the truth."

March 26, 2013

Faculty members in arts and sciences at Rollins College have voted no confidence in President Lewis Duncan, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Faculty leaders said that Duncan has not worked well with them, or communicated well to the college. In a statement, he said that he disagreed with the criticism, and that he has "honored" the principles of shared governance.

March 26, 2013

A new report from the European Commission examines the effect of the financial crisis on education budgets. The report shows that nearly half of the 28 countries for which data were available cut their spending on tertiary and adult education from 2010 to 2011, with the greatest decline observed in Slovakia (nearly 15 percent), and reductions of more than 5 percent in the Czech Republic, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Northern Ireland. In 2012, even larger cuts took place in Cyprus and Lithuania (more than 30 percent), and Greece (25 percent).

Only a few countries say that budget reductions have resulted in increased tuition fees. The report cites Spain and the United Kingdom as two countries where tuition fees are being increased “with the objective of aligning them with the real cost of studies.”

The report examines educational spending at all levels, from pre-primary to tertiary education.

March 26, 2013

South Carolina's attorney general has ordered Richard Routh, a professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate, to stop seeking investors for his business, Invictus University, the Associated Press reported. A cease and desist order accused Routh of selling unregistered securities. But Routh says that the business doesn't exist and that the website for the university, which he took down, was partly for a class project.

 

March 26, 2013

Regent's College in London has gained approval from British officials to become the second private nonprofit university in the United Kingdom, The Guardian reported. Regent's University London, as the institution will be known, will be the largest private institution in Britain, at 4,500 students. The University of Buckingham became the first private institution there, in 1983.

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