Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 3:00am

Syrian supporters of President Bashar al-Assad launched an attack on a Facebook page that appears to be affiliated with Columbia University (but isn't) Tuesday, posting numerous messages praising Assad. The Washington Post reported that a group called the Syrian Electronic Army was responsible, and that its motives were not clear. Some Assad critics later posted to Columbia's page apologizing for the pro-Assad posts. (This item has been corrected from an earlier version.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 3:00am

The number of Hispanic-serving institutions -- those where undergraduate enrollment is at least 25 percent Latino -- continues to increase, according to an analysis released today by Excelencia in Education. In 2009-10, there were 293 such institutions, up from 236 six years earlier. More than half of Latino undergraduates are enrolled in these institutions. Almost half of the institutions (137 of them) were community colleges. Excelencia in Education also identified another 204 colleges as "emerging" Hispanic-serving institutions, those with Latino enrollments of 15-24 percent.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 3:00am

Under a new agreement between Pearson and the Eminata Group, students at three for-profit colleges in Canada will begin getting their course content exclusively via Apple iPads, the companies announced on Monday. Beginning in September, all new students enrolled at CDI College, Vancouver Career College and Reeves College will get iPads from Eminata, which operates the colleges, and will buy e-textbooks from Pearson. Over the next three years, all programs at the colleges will deliver their course content via Pearson's iPad-optimized e-texts.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 3:00am

Sprint has sued Blackboard, claiming that the latter company isn't living up to its end of a deal in which Sprint thought it would have advantages in marketing the use of Blackboard learning management systems on smartphones, Seeking Alpha reported. (Seeking Alpha is a news service focused on stock and business trends.) Blackboard disputes Sprint's assertions. Mobile use of Blackboard services is popular with students and has been a growth area for the company.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 3:00am

A former graduate student has sued Webster University, arguing that he was unfairly dismissed from a master's program in counseling for his lack of empathy, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The suit also alleges that he may have been punished for criticizing the program. The student says that his grades were good, and that he was not given a chance to improve when questions were raised about his ability during work in the field to show empathy. The university declined to comment on the case.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 3:00am

This month saw one of the more unusual college firings in recent years, with an order of nuns dismissing the president and the board of Our Lady of Holy Cross College, in Louisiana. In his first interview since the dismissal, the Rev. Anthony De Conciliis, the ousted president, said he was given no reason for the dismissal, that he had received good reviews, and that he still doesn't know why he and the board members were fired, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. Myles Seghers, the interim president, said in a statement that he also couldn't explain the dismissal.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 3:00am

U.S. Public Health Service experiments in the 1940s in which people in Guatemala were infected with sexually transmitted diseases -- without their consent -- are not only ethically reprehensible by today's standards, but violated standards of the time, according to a statement issued Monday by the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. President Obama charged the commission with studying what happened in Guatemala decades ago, and to follow up with a report (still to come) to make sure appropriate ethical standards are being followed today. As to the historical report, the commission found that a similar study was conducted by many of the same researchers in a prison in Indiana, before the Guatemala work. But in Indiana, the prisoners were given a full briefing and gave informed consent. “This finding goes a long way to helping the commission answer the question about whether ethics rules of the time were violated,” said a statement from Amy Gutmann, chair of the commission and president of the University of Pennsylvania.

Gutmann said that the commission's work was important to honor the victims in Guatemala and to help legitimate research today. "Research with human subjects is a sacred trust. Without public confidence, participation will decline and critical research will be stopped. It is imperative that we get this right," she said.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Brandt Kronholm of St. Mary’s College of Maryland explains Partition Theory, and uses some very large numbers in doing so. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 3:00am

The parent company of Grand Canyon University said in a federal filing Monday that the U.S. Education Department is investigating potential violations of federal law in Grand Canyon's policies surrounding incentive compensation and its compliance with years-old regulations requiring that it ensure "gainful employment" for its graduates. Grand Canyon Education, Inc. said that it had received a notice of preliminary findings last week from an Education Department review that the for-profit college had previously disclosed. Grand Canyon said that the department had not "set forth any definitive findings" regarding its policies for compensating enrollment counselors during a portion of the 2008-2010 academic years, but had requested additional information from the institution about those policies and compensation plans. The university also said the department's preliminary review had concluded that students in Grand Canyon's Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program should not have been eligible for federal financial aid "because it did not provide students with training to prepare them for gainful employment in a recognized occupation," under the government's former (as opposed to recently implemented) way of measuring gainful employment. Grand Canyon also said that the department had accused it of having an inadequate "system to determine if students with non-passing grades for a term had no documented attendance for the term or should have been treated as unofficial withdrawals for the term."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 3:00am

It's rankings season, and that means everyone is rushing out lists of best college for this and best college for that, all leading up to next month's annual celebration by colleges that fare well in U.S. News & World Report's rankings, and denunciation of the magazine by those that do poorly (and a few principled colleges that did well). Gawker responded to this rankings frenzy Monday by releasing a list of the "25 most unranked colleges in America." The website had a problem though when it found out one of the colleges on its list, the Thunderbird School of Global Management, is in fact ranked (just check out its website), and so subbed in another college.

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