Higher Education Quick Takes
Two national groups aim to stimulate discussions on campuses across the country this year about what the top priorities of American higher education should be and what tradeoffs the country -- and colleges -- would have to make depending on the directions they go in. The campaign, “Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help U.S. Create the Society We Want,” is headed by the American Commonwealth Partnership, a consortium of colleges dedicated to democracy, and the National Issues Forums, a nonprofit organization that organizes and promotes public discussions. The goal is to bring together a variety of stakeholders, from university administrators to local residents in various communities, to discuss the purpose of higher education. About 60 forums are already scheduled for the fall, and organizers hope to hold at least 300 community discussions this year.
As a starting point for these dialogues, the forum proposes three possible directions for higher education: focusing on competing in the global economy by emphasizing science and technology, using higher education to teach students values such as respect and responsibility, or make college more accessible. Panelists at a kickoff event Tuesday at the National Press Club acknowledged that these three choices are not independent of each other, but said they hoped laying out the options would spark debate, and maybe even action.
“My hope for these dialogues is not that they come to the right solution but that they create that ground-up passion,” said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of Syracuse University and one of the panelists Tuesday.
Internet2 and Educause, two higher-ed technology organizations, announced on Tuesday that they are expanding a group purchasing effort that allows member institutions to purchase access e-textbooks from McGraw-Hill at a discounted price. The effort, which began in January with five universities, "aims to advance a new model for the purchase, distribution, and use of electronic textbooks and digital course materials," according to a press release. The program added 20 additional institutions on Tuesday, including both small liberal arts colleges and large state universities. The idea is that negotiating deals for e-textbook access at the institutional level, as a group, will make it cheaper and easier for colleges and universities to support professors who want to take their courses digital. The first five universities to sign on recently collaborated on a report summarizing the experiences of students and professors in the first semester of the pilot. The results were mixed.
A new report by the American Association of University Professors suggests various ways that the government can rewrite regulations on the research of human subjects. The report, "Regulation of Research on Human Subjects: Academic Freedom and the Institutional Review Board," is a response to a federal government endeavor to improving regulations when it comes to such research. The report says that the current review system, where an Institutional Review Board -- a local committee that monitors research that involves humans -- assesses research projects is far from ideal as the board's members might not have any special competence in the vast range of disciplines they might be asked to monitor. It suggests that university departments and faculty committees might be better equipped to deal with the job rather than these boards. "[A]lthough researchers may make mistakes in deciding whether their research methodology would be a minimal risk methodology, we think that the alternative – namely requiring that all research projects be approved by an IRB or an IRB surrogate – is markedly worse in its impact on both academic freedom and scientific research,” the report says. “...[W]e are recommending that if a research project would impose no more than minimal risk of harm on its subjects, then it therefore should be exempt from the requirement of IRB approval." so does it say that IRBs should go away? be limited to dangerous medical research? -sj
The Aspen Institute today named 10 finalists for the second iteration of its Prize for Community College Excellence, which has sought both to shine a light on the good work of two-year colleges but also to redefine strong performance in the increasingly important sector and produce better data about it. The 10 finalists, which were chosen from among 120 semifinalists named in April, were selected based on their results in three key areas -- performance, improvement and equity. Six of this year's 10 finalists are new from last year, and four are repeat performers: Lake Area Technical Institute, in South Dakota; Santa Barbara City College, in California; Walla Walla Community College, in Washington; and West Kentucky Community and Technical College. The winner, and as many as four runners-up, will be named next March. Two are members of the Kentucky Community-Technical College System, and two are from Florida.
The finalists are:
- Brazosport College, Lake Jackson, Tex.
- Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- College of the Ouachitas, Malvern, Ark.
- Kingsborough Community College - City University of New York, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, S.D.
- Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, Calif.
- Santa Fe College, Gainesville, Fla.
- Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, Cumberland, Ky.
- Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla, Wash.
- West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, Ky.
The members of the union that represents 23,000 professors, librarians and others in the California State University System have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new contract, the California Faculty Association announced Tuesday. Union officials said the accord, which still awaits approval by Cal State's Board of Trustees, was a "balanced, good contract in light of difficult times. It acknowledges years of slashed public funding for the CSU and stands firm on the things faculty need to provide quality education to our students."
A federal judge has ruled that Florida cannot deny in-state tuition rates to students who are U.S. citizens with Florida residency who can't prove that their parents have the legal right to live in the United States. The case is not about those students brought to the United States as children, the subject of much debate, but about students born in the United States who are by definition citizens. Florida's regulations requiring them to provide information about their parents' immigration status violate these students' rights, the judge ruled. The only issue that matters is the students' citizenship, ruled Judge K. Michael Moore. He noted that the benefits of higher education (admission and in-state tuition rates) "are properly viewed as attaching to the student and not the household." It is the students, not the parents, he added, who will have their names on the diplomas.
Florida A&M University on Tuesday announced that it has suspended its torque dancing team after allegations of an off-campus hazing incident, the Associated Press reported. A hazing death of a student in the marching band last year has focused attention on hazing at the institution.
City College of San Francisco, already facing deep budget cuts and threats that its accreditation may be removed, has yet another problem. State audits have determined that the college placed some non-academic employees in a pension system reserved for academic employees, and that inaccurate figures were used to calculate pensions for yet other employees, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Some of the employees and retirees have been told that they are being kicked out of the pension system.