Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Susan Aldridge, president of University of Maryland University College, has been placed on leave, The Washington Post reported. No details were released about why she was placed on leave and she did not respond to an e-mail inquiry. Aldridge has been a prominent figure nationally in discussions of distance education and teaching with technology.


Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Following the second allegation of sexual assault this season by a member of the Boston University men's ice hockey team, the university has announced the creation of a panel that will study the culture surrounding the team. The panel will not focus on the guilt or innocence of the accused athletes, whose cases are being handled by local authorities (and both of whom have been thrown off the team and are no longer enrolled). In a statement, President Robert A. Brown said that the panel would focus on broader questions.

"We will ask the task force to look at our program with fresh, impartial eyes, to determine whether the culture of hockey at BU meets the high standards of our academic community. If it does not, if the task force finds a culture where players are privileged or entitled or held to lesser standards, it will recommend changes to the way we think about and manage our hockey program," Brown said.

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Emily Bernhard Jackson of the University of Cambridge examines the philosophical questions presented in the writing of Lord Byron. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

The Council of the American Sociological Association released a statement this week criticizing the federal government for seeking to force a Boston College library to turn over to British law enforcement officials confidential oral history records. The case remains in the courts and has caused considerable alarm among historians who rely on oral history. (The documents in question relate to a violent period in the history of Northern Ireland, with many key players still alive and not expecting their interviews to be public until after their deaths.) The statement from the sociology group says, in part: "The release of the 'Belfast Project' interview data threatens the academic freedom to study difficult and controversial topics. It undercuts the willingness of potential participants in future research to share valuable information. In the short run, such intrusion in research seeking to understand past tragedies can harm the processes through which Northern Ireland now seeks political stability. And in the long run, we must weigh the potential damage to social science that can provide a firmer knowledge base for avoiding these types of conflicts in the future."

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 3:00am

For the first time ever, just over 30 percent of adults in the United States, aged 25 or older, have at least a bachelor's degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday. In 1998, not even 25 percent of the comparable population had a bachelor's degree. The data show numerous gaps among members of various groups:

  • Fifty percent of Asian Americans 25 years and over reported having a bachelor's degree or higher in 2011. This level of education was reported by 34 percent of white people, 20 percent of black people and 14 percent of Hispanic people.
  • Of the 61 million people 25 and over with bachelor’s degrees, 30 million were men and 31 million were women. The number of women with bachelor's degrees increased 37 percent in the last decade, while the increase for men was 23 percent.
  • The number of men 25 years old and over with doctorate degrees increased 24 percent in the last decade, from 1.5 million to 1.9 million. The increase for women was 90 percent, from 0.6 million to 1.2 million.
Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 4:44am

Indiana University at South Bend has dismissed Otis B. Grant, a tenured professor, for "serious personal and professional misconduct," The South Bend Tribune reported. Grant could not be reached, but is appealing the decision. While the university did not detail the misconduct of which Grant was accused, the Tribune has previously reported on allegations that he allowed non-employees to grade some student work, canceled classes, and dismissed students from classes without due process.

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 3:00am

Following a major e-textbook pilot last year, the California State University System announced Wednesday that it has cut a deal with Cengage Learning that could give students steep discounts on that publisher's e-textbooks. “Beginning in the fall, students will have the choice to rent digital versions of [Cengage] texts… at a cost savings of 60 percent or more compared with the cost of purchasing the same text as a new printed version,” the Cal State system office said in a release. Students who want to benefit from the discount but still prefer to read ink on paper will be allowed to print out the pages, according to the release.

Importantly to faculty groups, the university does not plan to mandate that professors adopt e-textbooks. Cengage is not requiring that California State promise a certain number of professor adoptions or student purchases as a condition of the discounts, according to Bill Rieders, executive vice president of global strategy and business development for Cengage. (Publishers, perennially undercut by a booming secondary market for used copies of their printed textbooks, have for years been pushing universities and their constituents to adopt electronic versions that cannot be resold.) For now, the 60-percent discount will only apply to e-texts — not the digital homework tools and other learning applications that Cengage and its fellow publishers see as the future of their products. The company’s hope is that the uptake of Cengage’s digital texts will happen organically as a result of lower prices and better availability, Rieders said. California State is planning a campaign to “increase awareness” of the discounted Cengage e-textbooks on its 23 campuses, according to a system spokesman. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 3:00am

A draft of new regulations proposed as part of the Education Department's negotiated rule making process for teacher preparation programs would require states to report data on such programs' employment outcomes (for their newly graduated teachers) and student learning outcomes (for those teachers' students). The draft regulations, which will be discussed and modified at the rule making panel's meeting next week, also would require states to make "meaningful differentiations in teacher preparation program performance," based in large part on learning outcomes for their graduates' students. So far, the regulations leave the definition of a "high quality teacher preparation program," a key point in the panel's discussions, to individual states to determine.

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- The Georgetown University law student who one week ago wasn't permitted to speak at a Congressional hearing on whether President Obama's birth control mandate violates religious liberties spoke here Wednesday night at a gathering of the American Association of University Women. In an interview before the pro-choice panel event, Sandra Fluke lamented that the student voice has been largely absent from a national debate that has tempers flaring over whether Roman Catholic and other religious institutions should be required to cover contraception in their insurance policies, including student health plans. "I think that unfortunately, some folks assume that young people's reproductive health is less important or less of a priority than other adults'," said Fluke, who chose Georgetown despite its policy, she said, because she didn't want to forgo a quality education and the other values she shares with the university. "Students have been invisible in this." About 2,000 colleges offer student health plans, and estimates of how many students are enrolled in them range from 1.1 million to 4.5 million. (The health care overhaul's effect on such plans has been controversial for other reasons as well.)

Students are also marginalized, Fluke said, because of their often precarious personal financial situations and a campus political structure that allows administrators to brush them off easily. "They know that each one of us is there for three years and they can outlast us," said Fluke, who has been lobbying her administration on this and other women's health coverage issues for as many years. "[Students] need to know that this kind of treatment on college campuses is not acceptable and they should come out fighting." Even though students are active on the issue on campuses across the country and are paying great attention to the dialogue at the federal level, she said, they're not yet organized enough to connect and advocate nationally. Panelists said students should write letters to editors and continue using social media to put pressure on legislators, particularly by posting their local representatives' contact information.

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University reveals the positive and negative side of exposure to video games. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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