Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 4:24am

Holden Thorp, the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says that in his last year in the position, major reforms will be announced for athletics at the institution, placing "academics first," The News & Observer reported. Thorp, after facing numerous scandals involving athletic programs, recently announced plans to step down. And he told the newspaper that one reason he did so was that the changes ahead would be so difficult. He said that admissions standards for athletes would be toughened, and that the number of exceptions to admissions standards would be reduced. In the last five years, 53 football players at UNC have been admitted under such exceptions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Notre Dame has invited President Obama and also Mitt Romney to speak on campus during the presidential election campaign. The university's announcement of the invitation noted that Notre Dame has a tradition of inviting presidential candidates to appear, and that many have done so. The university also has a tradition of inviting presidents to deliver commencement addresses, and when Obama did so in 2009, there was a huge uproar from some Roman Catholic and anti-abortion organizations that objected to such an honor going to someone who supports abortion rights. An official of the Pro-Life Action League told The Indianapolis Star that the organization didn't object this time, since Romney also received an invitation. The Cardinal Newman Society is criticizing the new Obama invitation -- and also expressing concerns about a possible Romney appearance, noting that Romney has expressed support for embryonic stem cell research.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 4:26am

Students at the University of California at Irvine have recaptured the world record for the largest dodgeball game, The Los Angeles Times reported. More than 6,000 players participated to set the record.

 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 3:00am

An academic at the University of New England, in Australia, has lost his job over a poem he wrote to offer sympathy to a colleague who lost his job, The Australian reported. The poem referred to senior officials in the music program by their instruments, calling them names such as Oboe, Horn and Organ. The university considered the poem a work "calculated to bring senior officers of the university into disrepute." After various letters from lawyers, the poem is no longer online, nor is its author working at the university.

 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 3:00am

Wetakeyourclass.com, one of several websites featured in an Inside Higher Ed story last week about services that offer to complete a student’s online course for a fee, has been taken offline.

Inside Higher Ed received a call Tuesday from someone claiming to be the site’s owner. The caller, Kevin, who declined to give his last name, said the site was not all that lucrative and with the added attention garnered last week, he decided to take it down. He added that he does not think sites like We Take Your Class are a problem; the problem, he believes, is that education is structured in a way that makes it easy to cheat. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Science Board added its voice Tuesday to the chorus of groups and agencies expressing concern about the future of public research universities. Its report, Diminishing Funding and Rising Expectations: Trends and Challenges for Public Research Universities, argues that declines in state funding, which it documents, "threaten the ability of major public research universities to educate new scientists and engineers, recruit and retain the best faculty and students, and continue performing top-quality research."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Fridley of Syracuse University explains how and when many invasive plants outcompete indigenous species. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 3:00am

Colorado Technical University improperly awarded financial aid dollars to dozens of students, the U.S. Education Department's inspector general said in an audit this month. The audit, whose findings were challenged by the for-profit college, a unit of Career Education Corp., recommended that the university be required to reimburse the government for $173,000 in improper payments and to examine the records of thousands of other students in its CTU Online unit to see if similar improprieties occurred.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 4:24am

Students and faculty members at Long Beach City College gathered at the college's board meeting Tuesday night to protest the planned elimination of 17 academic programs (and the likely layoff of 10 full-time faculty members), The Contra Costa Times reported. Most of the programs are in the arts or skilled trades, and those protesting said that these programs are vital for many students. College officials said that they had few options, given the severity of budget cuts in California.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 3:00am

The 10-person commission charged with plotting the future of the University of North Texas at Dallas released its recommendations Monday, largely backing a consultant's advice that the university focus on hybrid learning, minimizing the time to degree, and aligning courses of study with regional needs.

In 2011 the university commissioned 10 leaders from higher education, business, and local government, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, to develop a strategy to expand the university from 2,000 students to 16,000 students while decreasing the cost of education and improving graduation rates. The Commission on Building the University of the 21st Century reviewed reports from the consulting firm Bain & Company, brought in on a pro bono basis in 2011 to suggest long-term plans for the 11-year-old institution, and from a group of faculty and staff who, critical of Bain’s analysis, drew up their own recommendations. While Bain advised increasing teaching loads and freshmen enrollment while decreasing the array of majors and integrating online courses, the faculty plan proposed focusing on transfer and underprepared students, developing a liberal arts core, and emphasizing research.

The commission’s recommendations, which its members will vote on a vote of who? dl Tuesday, largely fall in line with Bain’s suggestions. The 10 strategies the commission lists include developing hybrid courses that blend in-person and online instruction, increasing freshman enrollment, providing students with the option for year-round instruction, and working with local business leaders to develop degree programs that mesh with local workforce needs. The report states that the university will have a student focus and will value teaching over research, but acknowledges as one of its guiding principles, “Faculty play a key role in the success of students and UNT Dallas,” and suggests a comprehensive development program to engage faculty and staff in this “new model.”

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