Higher Education Quick Takes
The hit comedy "Big Bang Theory," about a group of scientists, has had Stephen Hawking plot lines. BBC reported that Hawking has now filmed a cameo that will air on the show next month. In the show, he will interact with Sheldon Cooper, known for being socially awkward.
The Pennsylvania Board of Trustees on Monday issued a statement clarifying the reasons that it dismissed Graham Spanier as president and Joe Paterno as football coach in November. The dismissals came as the university reacted to the scandal involving allegations that one of Paterno's top assistants had for years molested boys, sometimes at Penn State facilities. Many alumni have criticized the board in particular for its decision on Paterno, who had already announced he would retire at the end of the football season and who has since died. The board said that it fired Paterno because he did not notify police when he learned of allegations involving the abuse of one boy. (While Paterno did notify a Penn State administrator, meeting the legal requirements for reporting abuse allegations, the board statement said that "his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno.") As for Spanier, the board said that he "insufficiently" informed the board of his knowledge of various incidents, and that he issued press statements as the scandal became public that were "without authorization of the board or contrary to its instructions." Spanier declined to comment on the board's statement.
The social media site LinkedIn has declared college adjunct to be one of the fastest growing job titles in the United States, The Economist reported. The LinkedIn analysis is based on people adding the job title, and is offered as an example of how LinkedIn can analyze labor market trends. Some commenting on the article suggest that LinkedIn may be a better reflection of the population that is job hunting or in need of better work, not the entire labor market. The Economist's comment on adjuncts: "an ill-paid, overworked species of academic."
Another group of college presidents and chancellors has been invited to the White House for a meeting on college affordability and productivity. Details about the meeting, scheduled for March 23, are scant, including whether President Obama will attend (as he did when another group of college presidents was invited to White House in December).
According to an email forwarded to Inside Higher Ed by a person connected to an invited guest, "administration officials will engage presidents and chancellors in exploring constructive solutions to bringing down college costs, making higher education more affordable and attainable, and regaining America’s global leadership in higher education attainment."
The White House has focused increasingly on college costs and productivity as Obama ramps up his re-election campaign, including proposals to tie some forms of financial aid to measures of "value" in higher education.
Canadian athletic officials gathered last weekend to discuss what they consider a worrisome trend: Most of the top female hockey players in the country go to colleges and universities in the United States, The Edmonton Journal reported. Many said that Canadian universities have failed to put enough money into their programs, frequently operating with just a head coach, and not the assistant coaches found on teams in the U.S.
Open records requests by The Independent have revealed that British universities have found that 45,000 students cheated in the last three years. Officials blamed the sophistication of digital cheating techniques, the pressure to succeed in higher education and (from critics of the expansion of higher education) increased enrollments of students who may not have been well-prepared. Thirteen universities reported discovering finding, on average, more than one case of cheating a day.
The man who went on a shooting rampage at a University of Pittsburgh clinic last week had been a graduate student in biology at Duquesne University until that institution barred him from its campus, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. John F. Shick, who was shot by police officers responding to the incident, was barred because Duquesne found that he had been sending harassing text and e-mail messages to female students.
China's government is encouraging its universities to hire more Western academics, The New York Times reported. Much of the recruiting is through the Thousand Foreign Experts program, which aims to recruit 1,000 people from outside China to work in Chinese universities over the next 10 years. Similar efforts in the past have focused on Chinese immigrants to Western countries, but the new program is designed to attract top academic talent without existing ties to the country.
Peter Thiel is the investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist who likes to deride college as pointless. He even offers fellowships for talented students to drop out of or stay out of college. So what's he doing this spring? He'll be teaching at Stanford University, Reuters reported. His course, "Computer Science 183: Startup," is already full, and students are enthusiastic.
Some at Stanford question the idea of having as an instructor someone who questions the rationale behind college. Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford's Rock Center of Corporate Governance, said, "It's hypocritical, but I'm not surprised.... The same people who go around bashing education are the most educated. What's he going to do? Tell students, 'When you graduate from my class, drop out right after that?' "
That may just be correct. Thiel, through a spokesman, told the news service of his course: "If I do my job right, this is the last class you'll ever have to take."