Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, September 9, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has unanimously approved policy changes that will give more autonomy and authority to individual campus leaders. The system will have less power on issues including the creation of new programs and auditing. The move follows a lengthy debate over governance in Wisconsin, set off by proposals (which failed to advance) to give autonomy to the flagship Madison campus. The proposal that was approved applies to all campuses.

Friday, September 9, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the University at Albany's Jeffrey Berman discusses the important role loss has played in inspiring great memoirs. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, September 9, 2011 - 3:00am

Colleges continue to face unusual weather conditions as the academic year starts. Colleges in Pennsylvania, parts of New York State and elsewhere faced flooding -- leading to some closings Thursday. Bucknell University, facing concerns about the Susquehanna River and local creeks, closed Thursday. So did Lebanon Valley College. Susquehanna University on Thursday was helping some off-campus students evacuate from areas that were no longer safe. Montgomery County Community College, outside of Philadelphia, called off classes Thursday night. In New York State, Broome Community College was among the institutions forced to close. The State University of New York at Binghamton has called off classes, but opened facilities for use as shelters by citizens who have been evacuated from their homes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Linn State Technical College, in Missouri, is subjecting all students to drug testing, an apparent first for a public college, the Associated Press reported. Linn State officials said that their numerous programs involving heavy and sometimes dangerous equipment -- aircraft maintenance, heavy engine repair and nuclear technology, for example -- necessitate the drug testing. But officials acknowledged that students in general education programs will also now be tested. Civil liberties groups are predicting a legal challenge. "I've never heard of any other adult public educational institution that presumes to drug-test all of its students," said Dan Viets of the Missouri Civil Liberties Association. "They're trying to break some new ground here. I don't think the courts will uphold it."

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, and Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas, clashed on science issues in Wednesday night's debate of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Huntsman, while declining to name Perry as a candidate who is anti-science, said: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science." But Perry, the current front-runner, repeated his view that there is no consensus on climate change and invoked economic needs and a hero of science to make his point. "The science is -- is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans' economy at -- at -- at jeopardy based on scientific theory that's not settled yet, to me, is just -- is nonsense. I mean, it -- I mean -- and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell." A transcript of the debate may be found here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus went on strike Wednesday morning, arguing the administration’s new contract offer is unreasonable.

Around noon Wednesday, about 150 faculty members picketed the entrance to the 11,200-student university. The faculty union president Edward Donahue said union members voted overwhelmingly to go on strike after administrators refused to budge on salary levels.

As it stands, the university is asking for a faculty salary freeze for the first year and a combination of lump sum and incremental wage increases over the next four years of the five-year contract, said university spokesman Brian Harmon. Administrators ventured into classrooms Wednesday, explaining the situation to students and leading classes when possible, he said.

Ralph Engelman, a union spokesman, said the problem is with the lack of increases to the base salary levels in the first three years. Lump sum payments during those first three years will not be sufficient, he said. Donahue, who is also a chemistry professor at the university, said the faculty agreed to the one-year salary freeze and to increased costs for the faculty healthcare plan. “We’re only looking for a fair settlement that works out for everybody,” Donahue said. “We’re not asking for the moon.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut explains how slight differences in molecules can have significant and possibly devastating consequences. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Many students say that they avoid early morning classes so they can get enough sleep to do well. But a study by psychology professors at St. Lawrence University, of students there, finds that the assumption of those who favor sleeping in is only partly correct. The study found that those with later classes indeed get more sleep. But those who get more sleep appear to use their rest to go out more and to abuse alcohol more than do other students. So it is the slightly more tired students who are in the early classes who earn higher grade-point averages, the professors found.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The training that new doctors receive during their residencies needs to be updated to make it more relevant to the needs of current patients and more closely linked to when students achieve outcomes than to how long they spend on tasks, says a new report on reforming graduate medical education. The report, released today by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, follows the May release of a report by the Macy Foundation and other groups on transforming medical education to focus on competencies.

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Labor now says that online advertisements in professional publications can be used by colleges and universities as part of the process of obtaining federal approval to offer positions to foreign academics. To win authorization for such hires, colleges need to demonstrate that they made a good faith effort to identify American candidates. For years, the Department of Labor demanded that institutions use a print ad to do so -- even as most job advertising in recent years has shifted online. But last month, an appeals board of the department ruled -- in a challenge by the University of Texas at Brownsville -- that there was no legitimate reason to demand a print ad instead of an online ad. And now the Labor Department has adjusted its guidance generally, not just in the Brownsville case.

Full disclosure: Inside Higher Ed stands to gain from the Labor Department's shift. Some colleges to date have purchased more expensive print ads elsewhere solely because of the now defunct Labor Department rule. In fact, the successful challenge by the University of Texas at Brownsville was over the right to be certified for foreign hiring on the basis of an ad on Inside Higher Ed.

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