Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 16, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Nadine Barlow of Northern Arizona University reveals why some craters on Mars have resisted erosion. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 16, 2013

California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obipso announced Thursday that one of its students has been diagnosed with meningitis. The student lives off campus and officials said that they did not believe there was a problem with broad exposure on campus. The announcement comes as officials at Princeton University and the University of California at Santa Barbara grapple with multiple cases of meningitis at their institutions. Princeton gave vaccines to thousands last week. The vaccines are not the standard ones used in the United States, but a new version for a strain that is showing up at Princeton. Santa Barbara officials are considering whether they should offer the same vaccine, The Los Angeles Times reported.

December 16, 2013

Charles M. Vest, who was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1990 until 2004, died Thursday at the age of 72. Vest, who after he left MIT became president of the National Academy of Engineering, had been fighting pancreatic cancer. Vest was widely credited with a highly successful presidency, and with being an eloquent national advocate for science. While Vest led MIT, the institute launched a project (seen by many as the precursor of the massive open online course movement) in which all course materials were made available online and free. He also supported female professors at MIT who produced a report on the obstacles facing women at the institute, and Vest's endorsement led the institute to adopt many of their proposals. A full obituary from MIT may be found here.

December 16, 2013

Members of the American Studies Association have voted to endorse a resolution backing the academic boycott of Israel. Out of a total of 1,252 votes, 66.05 percent of members endorsed the resolution, 30.5 percent rejected it, and 3.43 percent abstained. The association’s elected National Council had previously endorsed the resolution before turning the question over to members for an association-wide vote.

The American Studies Association is the second major American scholarly association, after the Association for Asian American Studies, to endorse the boycott of Israeli universities. A full story from Inside Higher Ed will appear tomorrow.

 

December 16, 2013

Universities U.K. has withdrawn controversial guidance it released last month on gender segregation at “ultra-orthodox” religious events on campus after coming under criticism from the prime minister’s office. The guidance, which was intended to help British Universities balance their legal responsibility to protect freedom of speech while also meeting the requirements of nondiscrimination law, said that in regards to a hypothetical case study in which an outside religious speaker requested seating segregated by gender, “a balance of interests is most likely to be achieved if it is possible to offer attendees both segregated and non-segregated seating areas."

However, last week a spokesperson for the prime minister said that David Cameron felt “very strongly” that guest speakers should not be permitted to address segregated audiences and urged Universities U.K. to review the guidance, as the BBC reported. Universities U.K issued a statement saying that it had withdrawn the case study in question pending a legal review.

"Universities UK agrees entirely with the prime minister that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences at the request of guest speakers,” Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the British presidential association, said in a statement. “However, where the gender segregation is voluntary, the law is unclear. We are working with our lawyers and the [Equality and Human Rights Commission] to clarify the position.”

December 16, 2013

California has been the site of much high-level political excitement about the potential of new models of online education to provide introductory or remedial courses at low cost. But The San Jose Mercury News reported that the leaders of the University of California and California State University Systems -- in a joint appearance Friday -- were skeptical. Janet Napolitano, the UC president, said she thought online education probably wouldn't solve issues related to providing most courses, but could be a useful tool for specialized courses. Timothy White, the Cal State chancellor, meanwhile called the much-debated experiment between San Jose State University and Udacity a failure, the article said. It quoted him as saying: "For those who say, 'Well, Tim, you'll save a lot of money if ... you do more things online,' that's not correct." (A spokeswoman for California State University said Monday that the quotes attributed to White were inaccurate, and that his comments were not about a specific campus.)

 

December 13, 2013

About 2,500 applicants to Fordham University were incorrectly told this week that they had been admitted, when in reality 500 of them had been rejected and another 2,000 had been deferred, The New York Times reported. The notification came with information about financial aid notices and arrived two days before the applicants had expected to hear from the university. The emails came from Student Aid Services, a contractor working with the university. Both the company and the university have apologized and said that they are trying to figure out what happened.

 

December 13, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Bazbek Davletov of the University of Sheffield explains why Botox could be the next great pain medication. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 13, 2013

Late Wednesday the U.S. Department of Education released further revisions to its proposed gainful employment regulations, which would impose standards on vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. The new proposal dropped a loan repayment rate threshold that was added earlier in the negotiated rulemaking process, which is scheduled to conclude today.

The Education Department also released an analysis of how institutions would fare under the rules. Individual colleges were not named. The data showed that 13 percent of programs would fail under the standards. That number is more than double the amount that would have failed under the 2011 attempt to set gainful employment regulations.

December 13, 2013

Research universities are using a wide range of tools to assess and improve undergraduate education, and they are adding methods for assessment and improvement, according to a survey released Thursday by the Association of American Universities. Institutions are mixing the use of quantitative data (such as graduation rates) with student surveys and other tools.

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