Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 14, 2014

The Modern Language Association on Tuesday voiced its support for regulations that ensure all traffic on the internet is given the same priority in an open letter to Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC has recently considered allowing internet service providers to create a "fast lane" for companies willing to pay to have their data delivered to consumers faster. Supporters of net neutrality, the idea that all online traffic should be treated equally, fear it could shut out content providers unwilling to pay and limit free expression online.

"Maintaining true net neutrality is imperative for continued advances in scholarship and innovation in teaching," Margaret W. Ferguson, president of the MLA, wrote. "The independent, experimental, and not-for-profit communication networks relied on by scholarly communities depend on the free interchange of information here in the United States and throughout the world."

May 14, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Phillip Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics at Virginia Tech, fills us in on one of the Internet's favorite animal oddities: the fainting goat. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

May 14, 2014

The South Carolina Senate, after lengthy debate, has voted to punish two public colleges that taught gay-themed books last year, but not to cut their budgets by sums equal to spending on the programs that taught the books, as the House of Representatives has proposed. The Post and Courier reported that the Senate bill would instead require that the two colleges -- the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate -- take funds equal to those spent on the books with gay themes and use that money to teach the U.S. Constitution and various works that relate to the founding of the United States. The House and Senate measures are both parts of budget bills on which differences will now need to be resolved.

Democrats have criticized both the House and Senate approaches as inappropriate political meddling into what colleges teach. Republicans have blasted the books as "pornography."

May 14, 2014

William E. (Brit) Kirwan will retire as chancellor of the University System of Maryland when his successor is chosen, the university system announced Tuesday. Kirwan has headed the Maryland system for 12 years, and also served as president of its flagship campus, in College Park, from 1988 to 1998. In between, he headed Ohio State University. In addition to leading those institutions, Kirwan has (particularly in his gray eminence years) become a go-to leader for seemingly every committee formed to discuss important issues in higher education. He heads or co-chairs, among other things, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, the National Research Council Board on Higher Education and Workforce, and the U.S. Senate Education Committee Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education.

May 14, 2014

A few colleges have urged this year's graduates not to take selfies during commencement. But at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse on Sunday, Chancellor Joe Gow took a selfie during each of two commencement ceremonies, saying he wanted to send it to his mother for Mother's Day. "I don't have any issues with students having fun at commencement time," he said.

May 13, 2014

Minority enrollments in law schools showed only modest gains in the last decade, rising from 20.6 percent in 2003 to 25.8 percent in 2012, according to an analysis in The National Law Journal. The figures for black students were particularly stagnated, increasing only from 6.9 percent to 7.5 percent during that time period.

May 13, 2014

A Texas House panel on Monday took the first step toward impeaching a University of Texas regent for what critics say was abuse of his power in trying to oust the president of the university system's flagship campus, the Associated Press reported. The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations voted 7-1 on an impeachment motion against Wallace Hall, a Dallas businessman who has aggressively criticized and sought the removal of William Powers, UT-Austin's president. A report prepared for the House panel said that Hall may have violated state law, which he denies.

May 13, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Yehuda Ben-Shahar, assistant professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, explains the role of RNA. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

May 13, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board took the expected next step Monday in its consideration of whether scholarship football players at private colleges can unionize. The labor board invited briefs from interested parties on whether the March 26 decision by the director of the board's Midwest region backing the right of the players to bargain collectively. The national board stayed the regional office's decision and has impounded the ballots of the April 25 vote by the players. The NLRB's invitation for briefs can be viewed here.

May 13, 2014

A Harvard University student group dropped its plans to re-enact a Satanic "black mass" Monday evening. But a New York City Satanic group announced plans to hold the event off campus Monday night after the student group ended plans to co-sponsor the event on campus. Whether the event took place was unclear. Employees of the lounge where the event was said to be taking place told The Boston Globe that some people were drinking at a bar and no rituals were being performed. But other reports in The Harvard Crimson and on social media said that later Monday night, some form of a black mass did take place at the lounge. The Harvard student group originally involved did not respond to an email seeking clarification.

Earlier Monday, Harvard President Drew Faust issued a statement condemning the planned event, but refusing to ban it. "[E]ven as we permit expression of the widest range of ideas, we must also take responsibility for debating and challenging expression with which we profoundly disagree," Faust said. "The 'black mass' had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond. The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community. It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory."

She added that she would not bar the event. "Nevertheless, consistent with the university’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs. At the same time, we will vigorously protect the right of others to respond — and to address offensive expression with expression of their own."

 

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