Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The Authors Guild on Monday sued the HathiTrust (a consortium of universities) as well as Cornell and Indiana Universities and the Universities of California, Michigan and Wisconsin, charging widespread copyright violations. The universities and the trust have worked with Google on its project to digitize books (a project now on hold) and on a recent effort to release to their campus communities digitized copies of "orphan works" on which copyright has expired. The suit charges the universities with moving ahead without being sure that the works are truly copyright-free. “This is an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors’ rights,” Angelo Loukakis, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, said in a statement about the suit. “Maybe it doesn’t seem like it to some, but writing books is an author’s real-life work and livelihood. This group of American universities has no authority to decide whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection. These aren’t orphaned books, they’re abducted books.”

John Wilkin, executive director of the HathiTrust, said that the organization hasn't received official notice of the suit yet. But he said via e-mail that the organization was surprised because "we've been in communications with the Authors Guild and had scheduled a meeting to discuss our efforts on orphan works determinations and uses." He said that the trust and its members "have only made lawful uses of the digitized volumes we store online. Our proposed uses of the orphan works are lawful, as well, and constitute important scholarly and academic uses." He added that it is important to note the parameters of use planned: "Only in those cases where we are unable to determine a rights holder for an in-copyright work will we provide access, and then only to authenticated users at partner academic institutions that have purchased corresponding print copies of those works."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Fred Stielow of American Public University reveals how university libraries are adapting to the demands of the information age. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The Foundation for Educational Success today released voluntary standards of conduct that would apply to for-profit colleges that sign on to the statement. The foundation, which is affiliated with the Coalition for Educational Success, a membership group representing for-profit institutions that collectively enroll more than 350,000 students, said that experts from higher education, business and government had developed the standards. Signatories will have one year to implement the requirements, which those behind it say "will provide strong new student protections; guidelines for training, enrollment and financial aid; and include an enforcement mechanism to ensure that participating schools adhere to the principles of the new standards."

The standards, which have been developed over a period of months, appear to be an attempt at self-regulation, with what sponsors call "rigorous third-party" enforcement. They cover several controversial areas for the industry, with recommendations that prohibit incentive compensation for admissions and financial aid employees, and that require disclosure to students of information about transferability of credit, entrance and exit loan counseling, and a trial period of 21 days during which students can withdraw without incurring tuition-related expenses. The major question that surrounds the standards -- one of several efforts by for-profit colleges to hold themselves accountable amid heavy government scrutiny -- is whether institutions will choose to participate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

The nation’s best college football and basketball players are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to their programs and yet live below the poverty line at 85 percent of the institutions where they receive full athletic scholarships, a new report asserts. The report, which was first obtained Monday by the Associated Press, argues that colleges should award students at least some of that revenue, which amounts to $121,000 annually for the average Football Bowl Subdivision player and $265,000 for a basketball player at the same level.

The National College Players Association and a Drexel University professor calculated the players’ value by applying the same revenue-sharing models used in professional sports to colleges. Athletic conferences have begun discussing ways to bridge the gap between the full cost of attendance and what students actually receive through sports scholarships – a gap that the report found ranges by college from $952 to $6,127 – but officials are resistant to the idea of paying athletes outright.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 3:00am

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, was attacked by opponents in a debate Monday night for signing into law a bill that gave in-state tuition rates to some students who lack documentation to reside legally in the United States. Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said, "Well, I mean, what Governor Perry's done is he provided in-state tuition for -- for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract the illegal vote -- I mean, the Latino voters." And Rep. Michele Bachmann said, "I think that the American way is not to give taxpayer subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws or who are here in the United States illegally. That is not the American way," according to a CNN transcript.

Perry defended the legislation. "In the state of Texas, if you've been in the state of Texas for three years, if you're working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there," he said. "And the bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that's what we've done in the state of Texas. And I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole." (The audience booed him.)

Bachmann also said that the legislation Perry signed was equivalent to federal legislation backed by President Obama (but blocked in Congress by Republicans) that would create a path to citizenship for such students. (Both state and federal bills have been commonly called DREAM acts, but state laws cover tuition policy.) Perry stressed that he does not back the federal law. "I'm not for the DREAM Act that they are talking about in Washington D.C. that is amnesty. What we did in the state of Texas was clearly a states right issue."

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced Sunday afternoon that it is investigating "credible" information about "possible inaccuracies in student profile data" about its law school's class of 2014. The data -- involving median law school entrance test scores and grade point averages of the incoming class -- have been removed from the law school's website. The university said that it is investigating all of its data and that, pending conclusion of this probe, the assistant dean of admissions has been placed on administrative leave, and the associate dean for academic affairs has assumed those duties. The data identified are among those reported to the American Bar Association and used in various rankings of law schools. But a university spokesman said that the data are new, and have not yet been reported and so should not be the basis of any current rankings.

In August, the ABA censured the Villanova University law school over an incident in which it reported inaccurate information in an attempt to raise its rankings. In the most recent rankings by U.S. News & World Report, the Illinois law school was in a three-way tie for 23rd, which got it (barely) on the top-25 list that many law admissions officials consider crucial.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Joshua Miller of Smith College explores the psychological landscape individuals must navigate in the wake of disasters. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Students and some employees started a strike Sunday at American University in Cairo, Ahram Online reported. Students organized the protests, focusing on a 9 percent tuition increase that they oppose. A number of non-faculty employee groups joined the protests, citing inadequate wages. Students have put up tents, planning for a long protest.

The protests were organized on a Facebook page, on which students complained about the impact of budget cuts and questioned the quality of their education. "The administration has made a lot of budget cuts from our departments and have limited hiring new professors. This means that we should expect an even worse quality of education due to limited resources," says one statement about the reason to strike. "Services and education at AUC do not measure to what we pay for."

The Ahram article did not quote university officials, but the university provided Inside Higher Ed with a memo sent by Lisa Anderson, the university's president, to students and employees. The memo said that the university has worked hard to provide additional benefits to employees and has added financial aid for needy students. "While the request to rescind the 9 percent tuition increase cannot be met because we continue to run a budget deficit, we are preparing a number of payment plans for the next semester that would allow our students and parents to select from a range of more flexible payment options," the memo said.

Anderson wrote that the university "is committed to a freedom of expression policy that recognizes the right of all members of the AUC community to express their views as they wish, as long as they do not do so in such a way as to disrupt university activities or damage university property." She wrote that "most of the participants in today's protests displayed a high level of commitment to the principles of freedom of expression, integrity and responsibility as members of the community. Unfortunately, small groups of students and staff appear to have violated university policy in using physical force in confrontation with security staff at the gates, vandalizing university property, obstructing access to the campus and disrupting classes. Just as the university is a strong proponent of free expression, it is equally committed to ensuring that all students have access to the education they deserve and that all members of the community are afforded a safe and productive working and learning environment. Violence of any type, especially targeted at security staff, will not be tolerated. To that end, the university's disciplinary action process has begun against all students implicated in using or threatening to use force against security personnel, blocking access to the campus, vandalizing property or disrupting classes."

She said that, anticipating protests today, the university would restrict campus access to one gate. Noting the recent protests in Egypt, she added that "we look to all the members of the AUC community, but particularly to our students -- the leaders of the future -- to serve as an example of how peaceful protest, thoughtful deliberation and reasoned discussion contribute to consensus building and forward progress."

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Colleges in parts of Pennsylvania and New York that saw flooding are starting to resume normal operations, while also cleaning up and helping local efforts to repair damage. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is closed until Thursday, although the campus is providing some food service for those who are still there. Wilkes-Barre, Pa. ordered evacuations of the city, and has now lifted that order, permitting the resumption of classes planned for today at King's College. At Wilkes University, classes will resume tomorrow, and officials are reporting minimal damage to the campus. Bucknell and Susquehanna Universities are reporting on student efforts to help the surrounding areas. Further north, the State University of New York at Binghamton (in a city that was hard hit by the flooding) announced that it will resume classes today, although courses scheduled for a downtown campus have been relocated.

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 3:00am

A new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has documented a shift in Baltimore's high school graduates attending college: In the last four years, the percentage starting at two-year colleges, as opposed to four-year colleges, rose by 12 percentage points, to 52 percent. The Baltimore Sun reported that officials are concerned about the trend because only 5.8 percent of those who start at a two-year college earn a degree in six years -- compared with 34 percent who start at four-year-colleges.

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