Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Mo Yan, the a pseudonym for the Chinese novelist and short story writer Guan Moye, was this morning awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. "Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition. In addition to his novels, Mo Yan has published many short stories and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors," said background material from the Nobel committee.

Several of his books are available in translation through university presses including: Change and Pow! (both from University of Chicago Press) and a collection of short stories in a bilingual Chinese and English edition from Columbia University Press.


Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 3:00am

College completion gets plenty of attention these days. But the challenges many students face in transferring from community colleges to four-year institutions is less visible, according to a new report from the American Association of Community Colleges. In addition to examining those challenges, the report looks at the role of transfer as a pathway to the bachelor's degree and the mobility of credits between institutions. For example, students are almost twice as likely to earn a bachelor's degree when all of their community college transfer credits are accepted by four-year institutions, according to the report, which was written by Christopher M. Mullin, the association's program director for policy analysis.

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Gallaudet University placed its chief diversity officer on leave Wednesday, citing her decision to sign a petition endorsing a Maryland voter initiative designed to overturn the state's gay marriage law, the Associated Press reported. Angela McCaskill's signature on the petition was first reported in July, but on Wednesday, T. Alan Hurwitz, president of the Washington, D.C., university that specializes in educating the deaf, announced that he had placed McCaskill on paid administrative leave. "It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as Chief Diversity Officer; however, other individuals feel differently," Hurwitz wrote. "I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university."

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Dozens of students at the University of South Alabama protested Wednesday over a recent deadly shooting by a police officer of a naked, unarmed student, the Associated Press reported. The police officer said that the student was charging at him. Since the death, authorities found that the student was on LSD at the time. Critics, including those at Wednesday's protest, said that the police should have used tasers or non-lethal force, and that the student -- by virtue of being naked -- was clearly unarmed. Others held a protest to back the police officer.


Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Susan Perry of the University of California Los Angeles explores how early stability can shape the adult lives of social creatures. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 4:25am

Much of the work of the HathiTrust (a consortium of universities) to make books in university collections more easily searchable and accessible to people with disabilities is protected by "fair use" and is not subject to a copyright suit brought by authors' groups, a federal judge has ruled.

"The totality of the fair-use factors suggest that copyright law’s 'goal of promoting the progress of science ... would be better served by allowing the use than by preventing it," said the ruling by Judge Harold Baer Jr. "The enhanced search capabilities that reveal non-copyright material, the protection of defendants’ fragile books, and, perhaps most importantly, the unprecedented ability of print-disabled individuals to have an equal opportunity to compete with their sighted peers in the ways imagined by the [Americans With Disabilities Act] protect the copies made by defendants as fair use...."

The judge added: "Although I recognize that the facts here may on some levels be without precedent, I am convinced that they fall safely within the protection of fair use such that there is no genuine issue of material fact. I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by Defendants’ MDP and would require that I terminate this invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts that at the same time effectuates the ideals espoused by the ADA."

A blog post by James Grimmelmann, a professor at the New York Law School who has followed the case, said that "on every substantive copyright issue, HathiTrust won."


Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 4:28am

In the last year, some politicians and pundits have been questioning the value of a college degree, but data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau are the latest in a long series of statistics to demonstrate that college degrees have strong value in terms of lifetime earnings of recipients. The statistics focus on field of study and also document that certain majors on average result in much higher lifetime earnings than do other majors. In terms of the impact of bachelor's degrees, engineering degrees had the most payoff, while undergraduate majors in visual and performing arts, communications, education and psychology had the smallest payoffs. (A key caveat is that in some of those fields, graduate study is common and becomes the likely determinant of income.)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 3:00am

Texas Southern University, which has spent 16 of the past 20 years either on probation or in violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, was cited Thursday with a lack of institutional control for, among other things, allowing 129 athletes in 13 sports to compete while academically ineligible.

Texas Southern will now add another five years’ probation to its record, suffer a postseason ban for the 2013 and 2014 football seasons and the 2012-13 men’s basketball season, and reduce its available scholarships and recruiting activities in those two sports. The NCAA also took the unusual steps of limiting Texas Southern’s competition while it’s on probation to only Football Championship Series teams, because of safety concerns related to the aforementioned reductions, and of requiring an in-person review and report of athletics policies and practices through the probation term (at the university’s expense). Finally, team records for all sports from the 2006-7 and 2009-10 academic years must be vacated, as well as the football and women’s soccer records from 2010-11.

The violations occurred over the course of seven years (2004-5 through 2010-11), and while the majority of the involved athletes were not meeting progress-to-degree or transfer requirements, they continued to receive athletic aid and travel expenses. Further, Texas Southern’s former head football coach “knowingly allowed” a booster to recruit for him, and the former men’s basketball gave the NCAA false or misleading information during the investigation. “The staff not only failed to dissuade the booster from making such contacts but also actively encouraged him,” the Committee on Infractions said in its summary of the case. The basketball team itself also got in trouble for failing to reduce its scholarships and athletic activity per previous NCAA violation citations. The public infractions report goes into greater detail about the committee's findings.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 3:00am

Robert J. Lefkowitz, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University Medical Center; and Brian K. Kobilka, of the Stanford University School of Medicine, were this morning named winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They were honored "for studies of G-protein–coupled receptors."



Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 3:00am

A couple from Hong Kong paid an educational "consultant" $2.2 million in an unsuccessful effort to get their sons into Harvard University, according to court documents, The Boston Globe reported. The parents are now suing the consultant, who has acknowledged taking their money, but denied many of their other allegations. The money in theory covered strategy for getting the sons in, donations made to ease their path, tutoring and more. Both the parents and the consultant declined to comment.



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