Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 3:00am

Cornell University has proposed replacing temporary fences on the bridges over gorges that are omnipresent on the campus with wire mesh nets. The fences were installed last year after a cluster of suicides -- in which students killed themselves jumping into the gorges -- stunned the campus, and led to debate over whether fences were needed. The university said it needed to take action to stop suicides, but many complained that the fences were a constant reminder of the suicides and marred the natural beauty of the campus. A statement from Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, said: "We've taken care to submit designs that will preserve the aesthetic value of the bridges and vistas. We believe the designs also will make vulnerable members of our community feel safer and reduce the incidence of a highly lethal and potentially contagious form of suicide."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 3:00am

The question of whether law schools are adequately preparing their graduates for jobs after graduation -- and accurately informing them -- has been fodder for hunger-striking protesters and other critics. Now those issues are a matter for the courts, as a recent law graduate has sued California's Thomas Jefferson School of Law in state court, National Law Journal reported. The class action filed by Anna Alaburda alleges that "[f]or more than 15 years, TJSL has churned out graduates, many of whom have little or no hope of working as attorneys at any point in their careers," and that the school's placement statistics "were false, misleading, and intentionally designed to deceive all who read them." A spokeswoman for Thomas Jefferson told the legal newspaper that the institution follows American Bar Association guidelines on placement data and that its statistics are accurate. "This lawsuit is very much about a larger debate. This is part of the debate about whether it's practical to pursue a graduate degree in these difficult economic times," the spokeswoman said.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Peter Black, of the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, draws a line between the good and the bad when it comes to acidity in rain. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 3:00am

In a highly unusual move, the president of Hocking College on Tuesday sent out an e-mail newsletter in which he attacked his board and said that its members were trying to undercut him, The Athens News reported. Ron Erickson, the president of the Ohio college, said that board members were micromanaging decisions, ignoring agreements on how the president and board could work together and planning to replace him. Board members denied wrongdoing, and some criticized the president for making a public statement as he did.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Federation of Teachers released a report Tuesday on how colleges, universities and faculty unions can help recruit and retain women professors. The authors review data illustrating that women comprise a relatively small share of the faculty (both in various disciplines and overall) even though they represent the majority of undergraduate students and doctorate-earners. The paper also lists several policies and approaches that administrators can pursue to better promote gender equity in the professoriate. It is the second in a two-part series of AFT papers on diversity; the first examined racial and ethnic diversity.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 3:00am

The new edition of The Pulse podcast features the second part of an interview with Ray Henderson, president of Blackboard Learn, discussing the company's ePortfolios offerings, its Open Database Inititative, and competition from open source providers. Find out more about The Pulse here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 3:00am

Colorado's Supreme Court has agreed to hear Ward Churchill's appeal of lower court rulings that upheld his 2007 dismissal from the University of Colorado, The Denver Post reported. Colorado fired the tenured professor in the wake of his controversial comments about the September 11 attacks, which opened the way to an investigation into scholarly misconduct that prompted his dismissal. Churchill challenged the action in a state lawsuit, but after an initial jury ruling in his favor, a judge and then an appeals panel ruled against him.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 3:00am

Amid reports that legislators were not willing to back a plan for the University of Wisconsin at Madison to become independent of the Wisconsin system, Chancellor Biddy Martin acknowledged Friday that the idea -- which had her strong backing -- was unlikely to pass this year, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Martin backed the plan, arguing that Madison needs independence to thrive in an era of limited state funds. The rest of the university system, however, strongly objected, saying that the system functioned better for the state with Madison as a key part.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 3:00am

Spending on "529" savings plans for college is up 75 percent in the last two years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The state-sponsored plans provide tax breaks for contributions to various investment funds. The article attributed the surge to continued concern among families about college costs, but also to renewed confidence in the possibility of making money through investments.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 3:00am

The leaders of the University and College Union, the primary faculty union in Britain, are backing the right of students to wear burqas, The Independent reported. Union leaders argue that this right will assure that the universities are welcoming to people of all faiths.

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