Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 18, 2013

A new report from the American Sociological Association considers whether the discipline should embrace postdoctoral fellowships. Currently, postdocs are not common in sociology, although a few, small postdoc programs are successful. The question for the field, the report suggests, is whether expanding postdoc options could be done while preserving the high quality of the experience of those in the relatively few programs that exist now.

 

February 18, 2013

Morehouse College announced Saturday that President Obama will be its commencement speaker this year, Politico reported. Morehouse's new president, John Silvanus Wilson Jr., was executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities during President Obama's first term. U.S. presidents have in recent years appeared at three commencements a year -- one public institution, one private institutions and a U.S. service academy.

February 18, 2013

Last year -- with strong support from students, professors and alumni -- William Powers Jr.  held on to his job as president of the University of Texas at Austin, fending off a bid to oust him by some members of the University of Texas Board of Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry. Texas publications are reporting signs that the regents' anti-Powers campaign may be resuming. The Austin American-Statesman reported on unusually tough questioning of Powers by a regents committee last week. Further, the article noted, the terms of three regents who have been supportive of Powers recently ended, and Perry is expected to name new regents soon. The Texas Monthly reported that "regents unfriendly to Powers have reopened a review of the University of Texas Law School Foundation and its practice of granting large, forgivable loans to administrators and faculty at the law school. My source indicated that the regents appear to be trying to find evidence that could be used to discredit Powers, who is a former dean of the law school but was not connected with the problems of the foundation."

 

February 18, 2013

Two California community colleges received good news from their accreditor this week, with an easing of possible sanctions from the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, which is part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. But another two-year college in the state, College of the Sequoia received a stern rebuke from the commission and learned that it would need to "show cause" that it should not have its accreditation stripped. Cuesta College and the College of the Redwoods had their show cause orders dropped. Meanwhile, City College of San Francisco continues to work toward fixing problems that led to its show cause status. (Note: This article has been changed from an earlier version to correct a reference to Cuesta College's current accreditation status.)

February 18, 2013

A new paper based on survey data from scientists in 16 countries compares the relative strengths of the United States and other countries in attracting top Ph.D. talent. For obtaining a Ph.D. and selecting a postdoc, American universities continue to be highly regarded and benefit from the prestige of their academic programs and a perception that an American Ph.D. will help the careers of non-American scientist, the study found. But the survey found that Australia, Germany and Switzerland have made gains in recent years, relative to the U.S., in attracting Ph.D. students.

In selecting postdoc locations, non-Americans are discouraged from positions at universities in the U.S. by concerns over working conditions and fringe benefits, relative to opportunities elsewhere. "This finding will hardly come as a surprise to postdocs in the United States who lack paid health insurance coverage -especially for their families- and a formal family leave policy and have few if any specified holidays or vacation days," says the report, released today by the National Bureau of Economic Research. (Abstract available here.)

As a result, countries gaining against the U.S. in competition for top postdocs are Australia, Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland.

The authors of the paper are Paula Stephan of Georgia State University, Chiara Franzoni of Politecnico di Milano and Giuseppe Scellato of Politecnico di Torino.

 

 

February 18, 2013

Like many colleges, Brandon University, in Manitoba, has a contest at home basketball games: A student is picked at random and may either shoot from half-court or pick someone else to do so -- with a semester's tuition going to the student if he or she either makes the shot or picks someone who can. On Friday, Mason Kaluzniak was the student who had the chance to shoot or draft someone else present. Kaluzniak picked Gil Cheung, the men's basketball coach, who promptly won Kaluzniak a semester's free tuition.

 

 

February 18, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University reveal what North America’s largest predators were eating just before they died out. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 18, 2013

Unions at several Michigan colleges and universities are exploring the possibility of agreeing now to extend contracts so that they can avoid for a few years some of the impact of the state's new "right to work" law, which bars anyone from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment, The Battle Creek Enquirer reported. Many in the unions fear their position will be weakened by the law, which takes effect March 27.

 

February 18, 2013

We can't say we're sure why this is taking off at Boston University or whether it will spread, but the hot Facebook page for BU students is Banana University, featuring photographs of and commentary about students eating bananas. And, of course, Banana University also has a Tumblr and a Twitter feed.

 

February 15, 2013

A Pennsylvania judge ruled Thursday that a former student had failed to demonstrate that a professor at Lehigh University was arbitrary in an illegal way in awarding her a C+, Lehigh Valley Live reported. The judge said that he did have some questions about the grade, but that the former student had failed to show that the grade was for "anything other than purely academic reasons." The former student had sought $1.3 million, saying that the low grade blocked her from proceeding in the graduate program of her choice.

 

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