Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 18, 2013

Colleges and universities are "dropping the ball" on the needs of gay and lesbian athletes, according to a new report from Campus Pride, which advocates on behalf of gay students. The report -- based on surveys of gay and straight athletes -- finds that the former are more likely to experience harassment, and much more likely to experience harassment based on their sexual orientations. The report finds a contrast on many campuses between open discussion of inclusiveness issues in general, but relative silence with athletics programs.

 

March 18, 2013

China's leading universities are dropping English as one of the required subjects on the required admissions examinations, Xinhua reported. At most universities, English is being dropped as a requirement for the test taken by prospective science and engineering majors (who will be tested in math and physics) and for art students (who will be tested in Chinese and math). Yu Han, an enrollment officer at Tsinghua University, told Xinhua that English was eliminated in order to attract more students with exceptional talent in the subjects they plan to study.

 

 

March 18, 2013

Three students at Senegal's largest university, the University of Cheikh Anta Diop, set themselves on fire Friday, as protests escalated over the way credits are counted in the geography department, the Associated Press reported. The students survived because friends threw sand on them to put out the fires. The changes in the credit rules have the effect, the students said, of forcing them to spend another year at the university, instead of graduating. Other students are on a hunger strike over the issue.

 

March 18, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Stephen Pirog of Seton Hall University explains the strong bond between many young people and their smartphones. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

March 18, 2013

Bev Kearney, a highly successful women's track coach at the University of Texas at Austin, has filed complaints alleging gender and racial discrimination in her ouster, The Dallas Morning News reported. Kearney resigned under pressure in December after disclosing that she had a relationship with an athlete in her program in 2002. The complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission. Supporters of Kearney have argued that she is being held to a higher standard than are male coaches. While the university recently announced it was studying policies about coaches and their relationships with students, it did not seek the resignation of an assistant football coach who admitted that he had a one-night-stand with a student athletic trainer four years ago.


 

 

March 18, 2013

New Hampshire's Higher Education Commission extended its approval of the troubled St. John International University, in Italy, until June 30, at its meeting last week. This is the second such short-term extension the commission has granted, as members requested that the for-profit institution present additional information on enrollment and financial data at their May meeting.

A site visit team described the financial fragility of the institution and high turnover of senior staff. It issued 15 recommendations, including the hiring of a president and provost with American higher education experience. 

The team's report also notes that several members of St. John’s board -- which mostly consists of prominent New Hampshire residents – have not visited the campus. The institution has fielded multiple lawsuits from former employees for breach of contract or unpaid wages.

March 18, 2013

The University of Glasgow has launched a new plan to promote the teaching and learning of Gaelic and increase the use of Gaelic, alongside English, in university communications. The university's principal and vice chancellor, Anton Muscatelli, said in a statement that Glasgow “aspires to securing the status of Gaelic as an official language of Scotland.”

March 18, 2013

The top two leaders of the University of California System Academic Senate on Friday released a letter expressing "grave concerns" about California legislation proposed last week to require the state's public higher education systems to grant transfer credit for courses or programs provided by an approved pool of providers, potentially including programs that are for-profit and have never been accredited. Supporters of the plan say that it will deal with the state's serious capacity issues in which qualified students can't get into the courses they need to graduate.

Robert L. Powell, the chair of the system's Academic Senate, and Bill Jacob, the vice chair, on Friday released a joint letter reacting to the proposal. The letter stated that the leaders of the Academic Senate were not consulted as the legislation was drafted, and went on to identify several concerns.

The faculty leaders state: "First, limits on student access to the courses this bill targets are in large part the result of significant reductions in public state higher education funding, especially over the last six years. Second, the clear self-interest of for profit corporations in promoting the privatization of public higher education through this legislation is dismaying. In fact, UC’s graduation rates and time to degree performance show that access to courses for our students is not an acute issue as it may be in the other segments. Lastly, the faculty of the University of California, through the Academic Senate, approves courses for credit at the University and reviews courses offered for transfer credit to determine whether they cover the same material with equal rigor. There is no possibility that UC faculty will shirk its responsibility to our students by ceding authority over courses to any outside agency."

The letter adds that the "Academic Senate is committed to exploring how important measures of student success, such as graduation rates and time-to-degree, can be improved." And the letter notes that faculty leaders have backed initiatives that include the expansion of online course offerings by the university. But the letter stressed the role of professors. "There is no alternative to the deep involvement of faculty in courses and curricula and the validation provided by rigorous and continuing review of these," it says.

March 18, 2013

Union County College is suing its former president, Thomas Brown, for $409,000 that he received during the course of nearly two decades at the college, The Star-Ledger reported. The dispute concerns funds used for Brown's retirement accounts. The college contends that contributions of $23,000 a year for his retirement funds were supposed to come out of his salary, but instead came as extra payments. Brown denies the charges.

March 18, 2013

Professors who study fracking have been at the center of much public debate over the controversial method of obtaining natural gas. On Friday, the University of Tennessee won preliminary state approval to authorize fracking on its land, The New York Times reported. The university says that the plan will generate revenue and also create an opportunity to study the impact of fracking. Many environmental groups say that, based on what is known about fracking, the university should not be using its land in this way.

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