Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The long-debated merger of New Jersey's flagship public university and its health professions campus appears to be back on track. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey on Tuesday expressed his support for the dismantling of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the transfer of its medical school to Rutgers University, The Record reported. The newspaper said that a preliminary recommendation released by the governor's office would merge UMDNJ’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, School of Public Health and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey into Rutgers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The faculty at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York has passed a resolution condemning the New York Police Department for infiltrating Muslim student groups, the Associated Press reported. The AP earlier revealed the strategy, which professors said threatened the civil rights of their students. "The use of undercover police agents and the cultivation of police informers on campus has a chilling effect on the intellectual freedom necessary for a vibrant academic community," the resolution said. A spokesman for the college said that Karen Gould, the president, shared the professors' concerns.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Harvard University welcomed the Navy's Reserve Officers Training Corps program back to its campus after 40 years on Tuesday, as the Obama administration formally ended the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gay service members in the military, The Boston Globe reported.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The playwright Tom Stoppard has joined a campaign in Scotland against what humanities professors say is the gradual elimination of university programs in Russian, Czech and Polish, The Scotsman reported. Stoppard, who is Czech, said he does not speak the language and that his reaction is based not on his personal ties, but his view of the intellectual contributions of a broad language program. A proposal by Glasgow University to eliminate its Slavonic studies department has set off the latest efforts on behalf of language and culture programs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Two White House officials told a group of leaders of historically black colleges and universities gathered here for a conference that the sector has "friends in the White House," but that the institutions need to do more work to meet President Obama's goal for the country to have the world's highest proportion of degree-holders by 2020. The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which organized the conference, has pushed the colleges to do more to retain and graduate students, including by creating a new website that specifies how many additional students colleges will have to graduate each year to meet the president's goal.

In two speeches at the conference's opening session, Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and John Silvanus Wilson Jr., director of the initiative, each recognized some colleges for attracting grants, better retaining students or incorporating technology in the classroom. But the sector needs to make a "collective and individual commitment to step up and work even harder, just as we ask our students to do every single day," Jarrett said.

Wilson highlighted the department's work to increase the endowments and facilities at historically black colleges, as well as their profile. But improving alumni giving is crucial, he said. "We don't want to criticize," he said. "We want to help."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Academics were among the fortunate few to receive calls Monday from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation naming them as new MacArthur Fellows. The program (commonly called the "genius awards" even if the foundation doesn't use that term) provides $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. The academics are:

  • Roland Fryer, Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University.
  • Elodie Ghedin, assistant professor of computational and systems biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
  • Markus Greiner, associate professor of physics at Harvard University.
  • Kevin Guskiewicz, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Tiya Miles, professor of history at the University of Michigan.
  • Matthew Nock, professor of psychology at Harvard University.
  • Sarah Otto, professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia.
  • Shwetak Patel, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington,
  • Kay Ryan, chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
  • Melanie Sanford, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan.
  • William Seeley, associate professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco.
  • Jacob Soll, professor of history at Rutgers University at Camden.
  • Yukiko Yamashito, assistant professor of cell & developmental biology, University of Michigan Medical School.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jill VanTongeren of Yale University explains how super volcanoes continue to forge one of the Earth’s most valuable metals. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The boards of regents at the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma on Monday afternoon gave their presidents the O.K. to leave the Big 12 Conference, paving the way for another major (though not unexpected) shakeup during what has already been an eventful week in college athletics. On Sunday, the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University came nearly out of nowhere in announcing they would leave the Big East Conference to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, triggering an online explosion of speculation about the fate of the Big East. While further conference realignment was anticipated after Texas A&M University received approval from its governing board and announced last month that it would leave the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference, Sunday’s news seemed a shock to many.

Texas and Oklahoma are expected to seek membership in the Pacific-12 Conference, part of a general movement of Football Bowl Subdivision colleges away from regional leagues and toward four, 16-team “superconferences.” The athletics futures of the universities that have not made a move this far are unclear, and officials at several of the institutions said that their presidents were involved in intense discussions with their peers. Many speculated Monday that the Big East and Big 12 leagues could implode, combine, or dissolve completely. Reports surfaced Monday that the University of Connecticut and Rutgers University, two of the remaining colleges in the Big East, were aggressively exploring their options.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill acknowledged in a report to the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Monday that two former employees had given improper academic help to football players, and said it would impose several penalties on its athletics program as punishment for that and other violations. The university made public a redacted version of its response to a notice in which the NCAA alleged a series of violations by the Tar Heel sports program. It responds point by point to the charges made by the NCAA, which include improper payments to football players and other breaches, and states that North Carolina will cut scholarships and vacate 16 football victories from 2008 and 2009, but stops short of tougher penalties.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The Boston Globe today explores what The Harvard Crimson has called U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's "Harvard Problem." The issue is that being a Harvard professor may impress academics, but Republicans hope to use the Cambridge connection to suggest that she is out of touch with voters. Last month the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s communications director called Warren “someone who has spent many years ensconced in the hallways of Harvard.’’ And a Twitter account linked to an adviser to Senator Scott Brown, whom she is challenging, called her a “typical Harvard elitist." If you doubt that such attacks can be effective, ask the academic who thought he could become prime minister of Canada.


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