Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 23, 2013

The University of Southern California is under investigation over allegations of sex discrimination, the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights confirmed this weekend. USC is the latest institution where students filed federal complaints alleging violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 stemming from the handling of sexual assault cases. OCR also recently opened up investigations at Swarthmore College, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, all in response to a renewed focus on the issue by the Education Department and an unprecedented wave of student activism and awareness of their rights.

July 23, 2013

Harvard University acted in "good faith" in conducting secret searches of e-mail files of some instructors, an outside report has concluded, The Boston Globe reported. The outside report, by a law firm, was commissioned amid widespread faculty and student anger over the e-mails searches, which were conducted as the university was concerned about leaks about a cheating investigation. Administrators believed at the time that they were acting in ways consistent with university policies, and administrators did not read the e-mail messages in the accounts that were searched, the report said.

 

July 23, 2013

Two months after faculty and staff votes of no confidence in his leadership, Ray Staats has been placed on leave as president of Gadsden State Community College, in Alabama, WBRC News reported. Faculty said that his priorities were misplaced, charging him with creating administrative positions and spending on facilities that weren't needed at a time that programs important to students lacked for funds. Staats did not respond to a requeset for comment.

 

July 23, 2013

A college education has a positive impact for men on health and tends to extend lifespan, according to a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (summary available here). The study uses data from the enrollment decisions of men during the Vietnam War era, when going to college greatly decreased the odds of one's being drafted, and so encouraged many men who might not have otherwise gone to college to do so. Looking at these cohorts and tracking them over time, the study finds that going to college decreases the odds of morbidity over time. Decreases are noted for college-going men in the rates of cancer and heart disease. Many factors could be at play, the authors note. The men who completed college, for example, were less likely to be smokers and more likely to have health insurance.

 

July 23, 2013

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has revoked the operating certificate of the University of Northern Virginia, an unaccredited institution that was raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in 2011 in relation to its enrollment of foreign students. In a letter sent to the institution, the State Council cites the university's failure to obtain candidacy status with an accrediting agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education in five years. The letter also states that the university waived its right to appeal the revocation upon entering into a 2012 consent agreement that extended the deadline to obtain said candidacy status until June 1 of this year. 

The university has been instructed to immediately cease offering postsecondary educational programs in the Commonwealth of Virginia and to provide the State Council with enrollment and financial records. The university, whose Manassas and Annandale locations are certified by the U.S. government to enroll international students, has also been instructed to confer with the U.S Department of Homeland Security "to determine viable options” for F-1 visa holders enrolled at the institution.

Officials at the University of Northern Virginia did not immediately respond to voicemail messages on Monday afternoon. An e-mail to the general mailbox bounced back as undeliverable.

 

July 22, 2013

The American Anthropological Association has written to the Travel Channel objecting to and asking for changes in the TV show "Dig Wars," in which contestants are sent to various locations with metal detectors to see if they can locate and dig up antiquities. The material they dig up is called "loot," and is evaluated for its financial value.

"Reasonable viewers watching this program may be mistakenly led to believe that such behaviors are ethically acceptable," says the letter. "On the contrary, the looting as portrayed in the show is deeply disturbing. The overall message is that this nation's cultural and historical heritage is 'loot' that is up for grabs for anyone with a metal detector and shovel. This is the wrong message to give the public, especially in an age when so many historical sites are disappearing." The association offered to identify trained archaeologists who could help the network "communicate the excitement of discovery and of history in a more responsible, ethical and engaging manner."

A spokeswoman for the Travel Channel said via e-mail that no laws are broken. She said that the competition takes place with the full permission of the owners of the land where digging take place. Further, she said that items that are excavated are either returned to the land owners or given to local museums, and she said that the channel believes that "metal detecting enthusiasts should always abide by state and federal laws." She added: "We respect the numerous opinions as it relates to the gathering and  preservation of artifacts. We welcome the dialogue, and hope that Travel Channel's programming will continue to inspire viewers to travel to new destinations to discover each location's unique history."

July 22, 2013

The College of Charleston is seeking state assistance in determining how much it can say and how it can investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by a professor now that the faculty member has resigned before the investigation was completed, The Post and Courier reported. College officials are concerned that libel and slander laws could pose difficulties, given the lack of a finished inquiry. The college did find allegations against Enrique Graf, a tenured music professor, to be credible and told him that. He resigned, denying the allegations and saying that the college was not conducting a fair investigation. Graf was being investigated for inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual harassment of two of his students at Charleston, and a former piano student of his in Maryland. He was also accused of using drugs with students.

 

July 22, 2013

Seven branches of the Indian Institutes of Technology plan to embrace the concept of massive open online courses, The Economic Times reported. They plan to produce a series of courses that, if taken together, could help students qualify for various jobs. An initial series of courses will be in computer science. Organize think that more than 100,000 people could benefit from the offerings.

 

July 22, 2013

National Journal has just completed its analysis of the college degrees (undergraduate and graduate school) of the top 250 Obama administration officials. The institutions at the top of both lists are private. Of graduate degrees in the senior ranks of the administration, only 25 percent come from public institutions. And while the top five lists lack public U.S. institutions, the University of Oxford does make one of the lists.

Top Universities for 250 Top Obama Administration Officials

Undergraduate Graduate
Harvard U. -- 23 Harvard U. -- 38
Yale U. -- 12 Georgetown -- 12
Cornell U. -- 11 U. of Oxford -- 11
Princeton U. -- 6 Columbia U. -- 9
U.S. Military Academy -- 6 George Washington U. -- 9

 

July 22, 2013

The American Historical Association on Friday released a statement criticizing the way Mitch Daniels (when he governor of Indiana, prior to becoming president of Purdue University) exchanged e-mail messages with staff members criticizing the work of the late Howard Zinn. "Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of Howard Zinn’s text, and whatever the criticisms that have been made of it, we believe that the open discussion of controversial books benefits students, historians, and the general public alike. Attempts to single out particular texts for suppression from a school or university curriculum have no place in a democratic society," said the statement.

Daniels defended himself last week in part by citing the work of historians far to his left who have also criticized Zinn. But some of those who Daniels cited (and who are no longer part of the statement posted on the Daniels website at Purdue) have since objected to his use of their statements about Zinn. Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University whose criticism was cited by Daniels, published as statement on the Academe blog of the American Association of University Professors. "I don’t think much of Zinn’s interpretation of U.S. history, it’s true. But it’s an interpretation, which like any serious work of history, chooses to emphasize certain themes and details in order to make a larger argument. I would be unhappy if Zinn’s book were the only or even the main text in a high-school or college history class (as I understand is sometimes the case). But chapters of it can be quite useful if contrasted with alternative interpretations," Kazin wrote. "When Daniels accuses Zinn of being a 'biased writer,' he just shows how little he understands about how history is now and has always been written. Every historian has a point of view about whichever portion of the past they choose to study. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be writing about it in the first place."

Sam Wineburg, a professor of education at Stanford University whose criticism of Zinn was also cited by Daniels, issued a series of comments on Twitter: "Mitch Daniels uses my work to defend his shameless attempts to censor free speech. Shame!" and "Mr. Daniels, free societies openly teach ideas we disagree with. We do not censor objectionable speech. Study your Orwell" and "I have criticized Zinn but will defend to my death the right to teach him. Shame on Mitch Daniels."

 

 

 

Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of Howard Zinn’s text, and whatever the criticisms that have been made of it, we believe that the open discussion of controversial books benefits students, historians, and the general public alike. Attempts to single out particular texts for suppression from a school or university curriculum have no place in a democratic society. - See more at: http://blog.historians.org/2013/07/aha-statement-on-academic-freedom-and...

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