Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 27, 2014

West Virginia, like many states, provides college presidents with charge cards. But unlike other states, West Virginia exempts the presidents from rules about what they can charge, The Gazette-Mail reported. As examples of what a president can charge (but other state officials could not), the article noted these charges by Brian Hemphill, president of West Virginia State University: Chicago Bears football tickets, a $416 dinner and multiple alcohol and room service charges. A university official defended the charges, as related to "donor cultivation."

 

January 27, 2014

The job market for faculty positions in religion was relatively stable in 2012,date is sic. the religion associations aren't as current as others. -sj better than it was immediately after the economic downturn hit in 2008, but still down from earlier, according to a report by the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion.

Based on job listings with the associations, the report says that the 2012 totals were only about 80 percent of those in 2008. In the past three years, the scholarly sub-specialties in which there were the greatest increases in positions were New Testament, Christian origins and ancient Christianity; and systematic/constructive theology.

Among the specialties showing declines were introduction to religion; Hebrew Bible; and religions of the ancient Near East.

 

January 27, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Curtis Marean of Arizona State University discusses the technological developments that made early humans deadly hunters. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 27, 2014

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is starting a wide-ranging effort to promote entrepreneurship and turn student inventions into products and businesses, The Boston Globe reported. MIT is already no slouch when it comes to technology innovation, but officials have been concerned that Harvard and Stanford Universities have been expanding efforts on promoting startup culture. MIT recently started giving academic credit to engineering students for participating in a boot camp to turn ideas into businesses. Also under consideration are such steps as creating an undergraduate minor in innovation and entrepreneurship and funding student-run startups.

 

January 27, 2014

The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has started an investigation into how Pennsylvania State University has responded to allegations of sexual assault (beyond allegations involving the former coach, Jerry Sandusky, who has been convicted for abusing numerous boys), The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The OCR investigation was prompted by data the department analyzed, not a complaint. One question of interest to federal investigators is why the university reported 56 instances of forcible sex offenses in 2012, more than double the 24 reported the prior year.

 

January 24, 2014

The Education Department has again rescheduled its “technical symposium” on the Obama administration’s proposed college ratings system. The new date for the daylong, public meeting is February 6, according to an email sent Thursday to presenters.

Education Department officials, citing poor weather conditions in Washington, D.C., earlier this week postponed the event and set February 20 as the new date. But, according to emails to speakers, officials have since decided they want to hold the conference sooner.  

The symposium will feature presentations from more than a dozen people with expertise in higher education data who will make presentations on various aspects of the department’s proposal to develop a ratings system.   

January 24, 2014

Brandeis University announced Thursday that it paid Jehuda Reinharz, its former president, $4.9 million this month. The funds were due to Reinharz for deferred compensation and sabbaticals that he did not take during his presidency, a Brandeis statement said. The university has been under intense criticism from many students and faculty members over high payments to Reinharz. The university also announced new policies on executive compensation, including a faculty role on panels that review executive compensation and a commitment to release information on executive compensation before it is required. The university statement noted that in revealing the large payments made in January, before such information would be public on tax forms, Brandeis was moving toward the kind of transparency it has pledged to provide.

 

 

January 24, 2014

A Chilean university affiliated with the for-profit education company Laureate International Universities has lost its final bid to appeal the revocation of its institutional accreditation. The university reported on its website that the National Education Council has rejected its final appeal, a decision that means that new students will be ineligible for government-backed loans.

In deciding not to renew the Universidad de Las Américas' accreditation in October, the National Accreditation Commission cited the 34,000-student university’s unsatisfactory graduation rates and its rapid enrollment growth: while the number of students rose by 36 percent over three years, the increase in instructors failed to keep pace. The commission also raised concerns about the finances of the university, finding that while spending on academic salaries was low, the amount spent on leases and educational and administrative services provided by companies related to Laureate was substantial. Under Chilean law universities must be nonprofit but they may be affiliated with for-profit entities like Laureate that they contract with for services. 

UDLA plans to reapply for institutional accreditation but must wait two years before doing so.

“For more than 25 years, UDLA has played a significant role in expanding access to quality higher education for tens of thousands of students who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to pursue a university degree,” Laureate said in a statement. “As institutional accreditation is voluntary in Chile, this ruling will not stop UDLA from continuing to provide its students with strong academic and career-oriented programs."

January 24, 2014

Arizona State University on Thursday revoked its recognition of a fraternity that held a racially themed party on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. While some defenders of the members of Tau Kappa Epsilon had argued that they should not be punished for what they described as protected speech, Arizona State administrators cited several university policies that the fraternity had violated, including rules governing alcohol consumption and distribution, off-campus conduct that potentially threatened the safety of the campus, and engaging in discriminatory activity. The statement said that university officials were still investigating whether individual students should be punished under Arizona State's student code of conduct for the party, which featured the students dressed in stereotypical hip-hop clothes and drinking out of watermelon cups.

January 24, 2014

In a new requirement, applicants to the Rhodes Scholarship must attest that they received no outside help at all in writing their personal essays, certifying at the conclusion of the essay, “I attest that this essay is my own work and is wholly truthful. Neither it nor any earlier draft has been edited by anyone other than me, nor has anyone else reviewed it to provide me with suggestions to improve it. I understand that any such editing or review would disqualify my application.” 

The new requirements also speak to the responsibilities of universities in endorsing candidates for the Rhodes, asking that university officials likewise certify that, to the best of their knowledge, the institution did not provide any editorial review of the applicant's essay.

In a letter explaining the new requirements, Rhodes officials wrote, “For many years, we have required U.S. applicants to attest, with their signature, that their required essays are their 'own work.' But it has become apparent that this attestation is not taken as we have intended. Many essays are now edited extensively and repeatedly by advisors, fellowship offices, university instructors, family and others. We are no longer confident that the essays reflect the writing ability and style of the applicants, nor, even more important, that they reflect accurately applicants' true personal goals, values and aspirations.”

The letter also states that “In an age of grade inflation and resume burnishing, the essay – and the unassisted and candid letters we directly solicit from referees – are very important ingredients in our effort to make a fair assessment against our criteria of selection.”

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