Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - 3:00am

The Texas Senate, with a strong push from Republicans, voted Monday to allow those who hold licenses for concealed weapons to carry them at public colleges and universities, the Associated Press reported. While a majority of Texas legislators have indicated support for the measure, they had been unable to schedule final votes in either legislative chamber before the Senate tally on Monday. House action is still pending. Most higher education leaders have opposed the measure.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - 3:00am

A Northwestern University psychology professor made a lot of people red in the face earlier in the spring after he allowed a man to stimulate a 25-year-old woman with a sex toy during an after-class presentation in a course in human sexuality. Offended parties can now breathe easier: the course will not be offered next year, the university said on Monday.

J. Michael Bailey ran afoul of a finger-wagging public after a “sex tour guide” he had invited to give a non-mandatory talk on sexual diversity used a motorized phallus to repeatedly induce orgasms from his naked fiancée. After initially defending Bailey, the university backpedaled after a public outcry. Morton Schapiro, the university’s president, called the demonstration inappropriate and said allowing it reflected “poor judgment” on Bailey’s part. (Schapiro later discussed the incident with Inside Higher Ed in a podcast.) Bailey apologized, and the university opened a “review” of the course. Mary Jane Twohey, a university spokeswoman, said on Monday that review is still going on and might not be made public when it concludes.

“Northwestern University’s Department of Psychology will not offer a course in human sexuality during the 2011-12 academic year,” the university said in an official statement. “That course was taught previously by Professor J. Michael Bailey, who will have other teaching assignments in the coming year. Courses in human sexuality are offered in a variety of academic departments in other universities, and Northwestern is reviewing how such a course best fits into the University’s curriculum. At Northwestern University, the dean of a college/school has the right and responsibility to determine course assignments.”

Bailey’s human sexuality course reportedly was the most popular course at Northwestern, enrolling 600 students this semester.

The university released the statement after The Daily Northwestern reported on Monday that the course was going to be discontinued. Citing several psychology department sources, the student newspaper reported that the decision had been handed down from above. The university refused to answer any questions from Inside Higher Ed about the statement, including whether “the dean of a college/school” regularly dictates course offerings to departments.

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of California system is debating the idea of charging different tuition rates at different campuses, The Los Angeles Times reported. Proponents say that the idea can bring in badly needed revenue, and is realistic, given that there is much greater demand to enroll at some campuses (Berkeley, for example) than others. Critics see the idea undercutting the unity of the system.

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 3:00am

Students at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee early Saturday morning ended a protest in which they had occupied a study room in the student union nonstop for 67 days, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The students have been protesting Governor Scott Walker's budget plans, which include legislation to deny collective bargaining rights to many state workers. The students attended class during the protests, but kept at least one person in the study room, in which they also slept and ate. Police had to escort some of the protesters out of the room, but none of them resisted.

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 3:00am

During NIU Cares Day last year, students at Northern Illinois University worked to clean up local schools and parks -- but some were also assigned to paint the home of the administrator who oversaw the event, The Chicago Tribune reported. Angela Dreessen, director of student involvement and leadership development, told the Tribune that it was a poor decision to include her house among the projects for students. The university announced that Dreessen was being reassigned, but said that the shift was unrelated to the questions raised about having students paint her home.

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 3:00am

The Technion is suing Google, claiming that the company has a responsibility to shut down a blog that is highly critical of a program at the Israeli university, Haaretz reported. The blog is on one of Google's blog-hosting sites. Google declined to comment, but is contesting the suit in an Israeli court. The blog in question is devoted to attacking the quality of a medical school program at the Technion for Americans. The blog claims that the program is a poor choice for American students, and the Technion says that the blog is spreading slander.

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 3:00am

Academic professionals in Illinois are worried that legislation under consideration would move classification of their jobs from their universities to a state civil service commission, The News-Gazette reported. The academic professionals -- and university administrators too -- say that universities are better able to determine the qualifications needed for various jobs.

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Charlene D’Avanzo of Hampshire College explains how biology professors are altering their teaching methods to address the discipline's expanding base of knowledge. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 3:00am

Harvard University scholars have noted with sadness that their former colleague -- Michael Ignatieff -- suffered a devastating political defeat last week, when Canadian voters rejected the Liberal Party he led. The Boston Globe reported that Ignatieff was "a superstar" during his years in Cambridge, well-liked by students, professors and the popular press as well. But in the Canadian election campaign, his years at Harvard were constantly used against him. One irony is that in a quote from Ignatieff's past that was used against him, he said that, if he lost, he would seek to return to Harvard. In fact, he accepted a post-election job at the University of Toronto.

Monday, May 9, 2011 - 3:00am

Many colleges have majors in religious studies or theology, but Pitzer College believes it is the first to create a major in secularism, The New York Times reported. Professors from other departments will teach courses such as “God, Darwin and Design in America,” “Anxiety in the Age of Reason” and “Bible as Literature.” Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist of religion, is organizing the new major. "It’s not about arguing ‘Is there a God or not?’” Zuckerman told the Times. “There are hundreds of millions of people who are nonreligious. I want to know who they are, what they believe, why they are nonreligious. You have some countries where huge percentages of people — Czechs, Scandinavians — now call themselves atheists. Canada is experiencing a huge wave of secularization. This is happening very rapidly. It has not been studied."

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