Higher Education Quick Takes
Officials in Ontario are considering a plan -- not yet made public but obtained by The Canadian Press -- under which students would take three of their five courses each semester online. "As the world of online learning expands, Ontario will be at the forefront of this digital, portable and low-cost alternative," the plan says. The plan also calls for more students to graduate in three years, and for colleges to improve their productivity by 3 percent a year. Student groups aren't impressed by the plan. "The fact that they're talking about such a massive overhaul without having reached out to faculty or students is cause for concern," said Sandy Hudson, president of the Canadian Federation of Students. "To think that three in five of all courses — the majority of courses in a year that students would be doing — would be online, that is definitely harming the quality of education."
Susan Aldridge, president of University of Maryland University College, has been placed on leave, The Washington Post reported. No details were released about why she was placed on leave and she did not respond to an e-mail inquiry. Aldridge has been a prominent figure nationally in discussions of distance education and teaching with technology.
A Virginia jury on Wednesday convicted George Huguely V of second-degree murder in the death of Yeardly Love in 2010, The Washington Post reported. The case, involving lacrosse players at the University of Virginia, attracted national attention to the issue of domestic violence among college students. Huguely did not deny that he played a role in Love's death, but his lawyers had urged a conviction of manslaughter, while prosecutors sought a first-degree murder conviction.
The Michigan Legislators is trying to block graduate research assistants at the University of Michigan from unionizing. AnnArbor.com reported that the Michigan Senate voted Wednesday to define the graduate assistants as students, ineligible for collective bargaining. Michigan's Board of Regents has backed unionization rates for the students, but many administrators have criticized the union drive.
Seventeen students and two alumni have sued police officers and administrators of the University of California at Davis over being subjected to pepper spray during a peaceful protest last year, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The suit charges excessive force and suppression of free speech. "When the cost of speech is a shot of blinding, burning pepper spray in the face, speech is not free," said a lawyer in the case, Michael Risher of the American Civil Liberties Union. A spokesman for the university declined to comment on the specifics of the suit, but said that officials have been talking to the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
The U.S. Education Department's federal student aid office has fallen short in several ways of ensuring that foreign medical schools are meeting federal requirements that their students pass licensing exams, meaning that there is no assurance that student loan funds were "disbursed only to students who attended schools that were eligible to participate in the Federal student loan programs, the department's inspector general said in an audit last month. The audit found that the federal student aid office was "not timely in taking appropriate actions against schools identified as having failed to submit the required pass rate data or meet the pass rate threshold, inconsistent in its methodology for calculating pass rates, and accepted from some foreign medical schools pass rate data that were not complete or were not in the required format."
Indiana University at South Bend has dismissed Otis B. Grant, a tenured professor, for "serious personal and professional misconduct," The South Bend Tribune reported. Grant could not be reached, but is appealing the decision. While the university did not detail the misconduct of which Grant was accused, the Tribune has previously reported on allegations that he allowed non-employees to grade some student work, canceled classes, and dismissed students from classes without due process.
Following a major e-textbook pilot last year, the California State University System announced Wednesday that it has cut a deal with Cengage Learning that could give students steep discounts on that publisher's e-textbooks. “Beginning in the fall, students will have the choice to rent digital versions of [Cengage] texts… at a cost savings of 60 percent or more compared with the cost of purchasing the same text as a new printed version,” the Cal State system office said in a release. Students who want to benefit from the discount but still prefer to read ink on paper will be allowed to print out the pages, according to the release.
Importantly to faculty groups, the university does not plan to mandate that professors adopt e-textbooks. Cengage is not requiring that California State promise a certain number of professor adoptions or student purchases as a condition of the discounts, according to Bill Rieders, executive vice president of global strategy and business development for Cengage. (Publishers, perennially undercut by a booming secondary market for used copies of their printed textbooks, have for years been pushing universities and their constituents to adopt electronic versions that cannot be resold.) For now, the 60-percent discount will only apply to e-texts — not the digital homework tools and other learning applications that Cengage and its fellow publishers see as the future of their products. The company’s hope is that the uptake of Cengage’s digital texts will happen organically as a result of lower prices and better availability, Rieders said. California State is planning a campaign to “increase awareness” of the discounted Cengage e-textbooks on its 23 campuses, according to a system spokesman.
A draft of new regulations proposed as part of the Education Department's negotiated rule making process for teacher preparation programs would require states to report data on such programs' employment outcomes (for their newly graduated teachers) and student learning outcomes (for those teachers' students). The draft regulations, which will be discussed and modified at the rule making panel's meeting next week, also would require states to make "meaningful differentiations in teacher preparation program performance," based in large part on learning outcomes for their graduates' students. So far, the regulations leave the definition of a "high quality teacher preparation program," a key point in the panel's discussions, to individual states to determine.
WASHINGTON -- The Georgetown University law student who one week ago wasn't permitted to speak at a Congressional hearing on whether President Obama's birth control mandate violates religious liberties spoke here Wednesday night at a gathering of the American Association of University Women. In an interview before the pro-choice panel event, Sandra Fluke lamented that the student voice has been largely absent from a national debate that has tempers flaring over whether Roman Catholic and other religious institutions should be required to cover contraception in their insurance policies, including student health plans. "I think that unfortunately, some folks assume that young people's reproductive health is less important or less of a priority than other adults'," said Fluke, who chose Georgetown despite its policy, she said, because she didn't want to forgo a quality education and the other values she shares with the university. "Students have been invisible in this." About 2,000 colleges offer student health plans, and estimates of how many students are enrolled in them range from 1.1 million to 4.5 million. (The health care overhaul's effect on such plans has been controversial for other reasons as well.)
Students are also marginalized, Fluke said, because of their often precarious personal financial situations and a campus political structure that allows administrators to brush them off easily. "They know that each one of us is there for three years and they can outlast us," said Fluke, who has been lobbying her administration on this and other women's health coverage issues for as many years. "[Students] need to know that this kind of treatment on college campuses is not acceptable and they should come out fighting." Even though students are active on the issue on campuses across the country and are paying great attention to the dialogue at the federal level, she said, they're not yet organized enough to connect and advocate nationally. Panelists said students should write letters to editors and continue using social media to put pressure on legislators, particularly by posting their local representatives' contact information.