Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

A new poll by Gallup has found that 46 percent of Americans believe that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." Another 32 percent believe that humans have evolved over millions of years but "God guided the process." And only 15 percent believe that humans evolved without help from God. The breakdown is similar to that Gallup found in 1982, when it started asking about evolution. But in the last year, the percentage who believe in a creationist view increased from 40 to 46 percent, with the other two categories dropping.

Other findings of the new poll:

  • Among those who attend church weekly, 67 percent hold the creationist view.
  • Among Republicans, 58 percent hold the creationist view. (The figure for Democrats is 41 percent.)
  • By educational status, those with some postgraduate education are least likely (25 percent) to hold the creationist view, but among college graduates, the share (46 percent) matches that of the general population.

The analysis by Gallup states: "Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature."

Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

Manipal University, a private institution in India, is in talks to open a campus in China, in collaboration with two universities in that country, Tianjin University and Tongji University, The Hindu reported. The campus being planned would be the first in China to offer a program in information technology and other sciences, taught only in English.

 

Monday, June 4, 2012 - 3:00am

Enrollments in graduate science, engineering and technology programs have grown sharply over the last decade but slowed in 2009-10, according to new data from the National Science Foundation. The NSF study, drawn from the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering conducted by the foundation and the National Institutes of Health, shows that enrollments in graduate programs in STEM fields grew by 30 percent from 2000 to 2010, and that the growth was even larger -- 50 percent -- in the number of first-time, full-time enrollees in such programs. Enrollments of women grew at a faster pace than those of men (roughly 40 percent vs. 30 percent), and the rates of enrollments by underrepresented minority studies outpaced those of white and Asian Americans (though their actual numbers were much lower).

While enrollments continued to rise in 2009-10, hitting a historical peak, the rate of growth slowed significantly, particularly among full-time, first-time students. The enrollment of such students fell to 1.7 percent in science programs and 4 percent in engineering programs, compared to 8.2 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively, in 2008-9.

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

The College Board is being criticized by admissions officers and others over a pilot program that will test an August administration of the SAT this summer -- but only for participants in a program for gifted and talented students with a $4,500 price tag. So critics are deriding the program as a "rich kids SAT." Many students have requested an opportunity to take the SAT in August, when they might not be dealing with schoolwork, so the complaint isn't about trying out the idea, but doing so in only one setting. A statement from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (a frequent critic of the College Board) notes questions raised by a private college counselor in a letter to College Board officials: "Why is a summer test being made available only to kids whose parents can pay close to $5000 in tuition and fees? Do not College Board annual reports already demonstrate that students from the highest socio-economic backgrounds significantly out-score other demographic groups on the SAT? Why are other students who are preparing for the SAT over the summer also not allowed to take an August test?  How does the College Board justify making all these students wait until October?"

Matt Lisk, executive director of the SAT Program, issued this statement: "This program was announced publicly nearly two months ago. In response to the many requests from students, parents, and educators to consider a summer SAT administration, the College Board will be conducting a pilot SAT administration in August 2012 to begin evaluating the feasibility of a summer test administration. Because of the obvious differences in the logistics of testing in the summer due to school and faculty schedules, a pilot program such as this is the only sound way to work through any potential operational challenges before considering an expansion to millions of students and thousands of sites.  This year's pilot is being conducted in collaboration with the not-for-profit National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT).  If successful, we will examine the expansion of the scope of the summer SAT administration to additional locations in the near future."

 

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley has asked the National Institutes of Health to explain why it has provided a new grant to a researcher who was barred from receiving federal funds several years ago in a conflict of interest controversy. In a letter to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, Grassley questioned a $400,000 grant awarded to Charles Nemeroff, who resigned from Emory University in 2008 amid an investigation into his failure to report fees received from a pharmaceutical company in violation of institutional rules.

"It’s troubling that NIH continues to provide limited federal dollars to individuals who have previously had grant funding suspended for failure to disclose conflicts of interest and even more troubling that the Administration chose not to require full, open and, public disclosure of financial interests on a public website,” Grassley wrote in the letter, which he copied to Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, which hired Nemeroff in 2009.

Grassley was critical of the Obama administration last year for revising its conflict of interest rules in ways that some ethics experts thought were not strong enough.

 

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 4:21am

Some at the University of California at Los Angeles are questioning why Justin Combs is receiving a full-ride athletic scholarship, The Los Angeles Times reported. The questions don't relate to his academic or athletic qualifications, but to his wealth. Combs is the son of Sean (Diddy) Combs, who has so much money that he gave his son a $360,000 Maybach for his 16th birthday. UCLA officials stress that funds for athletic scholarships are financed separately from the budget for need-based awards. Justin Combs used Twitter this week to defend the scholarship, writing: "Regardless what the circumstances are, I put that work in!!!!"

 

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education both on Thursday expressed concerns about the way Texas A&M University at San Antonio notified Sissy Bradford, an adjunct with excellent teaching evaluations who had been told earlier she would have four courses for the fall, that she would have no courses. The university told Bradford of this development the day that a local newspaper noted her complaints about how the university responded to threats she received after her objections played a role in the removal of crosses from a tower being built at the entrance to campus. Bradford and her supporters see the university punishing her for speaking out. University officials have said that there is no relationship between her lack of courses for the fall, and her public statements. And university officials have stressed that adjuncts are not entitled to courses in any future semester.

A letter from the AAUP to President Maria Hernandez Ferrier said that "we believe that the action taken against Ms. Bradford was effectively a dismissal for cause, without the administration's having demonstrated adequacy of cause before a faculty hearing body. It thus seems to us to be a summary dismissal, fundamentally at odds with academic due process." The letter continues: "We accordingly urge that the Texas A&M University-San Antonio administration rescind her dismissal and reinstate her to the teaching that had been assigned to her for the fall semester, with any further action in her case to be consistent with the enclosed principles and standards."

FIRE announced that it was looking into the case. A statement from the organization said in part: "Many know, of course, that the job security of adjunct instructors like Bradford is nowhere near what it is for tenured professors and that universities may (and frequently do) decide not to rehire them for myriad reasons -- or no reason at all. But this does not mean that adjunct professors possess fewer First Amendment rights than their tenured counterparts. Adverse employment action taken against adjunct instructors on the basis of their protected expression as citizens violates the First Amendment."

On Thursday, the university released a letter from Bill Bush, interim head of the School of Arts and Sciences, in which he said that portrayals of the situation at the university have been "extremely one-sided." He said that the university offered support to Bradford amid the controversy over her statements about the crosses. He said that the decision not to offer Bradford courses for the fall was related to a desire to hire more tenure-track faculty members, and he said that she was in no way punished for any stances she took. He said it was a "duty" of the university to protect students and faculty members who express a range of views.

The university did not respond to a request that it explain why Bradford was initially offered courses for the fall, and then told that she would not teach those sections.

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

For the 500th Academic Minute, Art Markman of the University of Texas at Austin explains why we think round numbers such a big deal. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

Maryland authorities who have charged a 21-year-old Morgan State University student with killing a man have reported an unusual confession by the student: He said that he ate parts of the victim's brain and heart, The Baltimore Sun reported. Alexander Kinyua, the student, was "disenrolled" in January from Morgan State's Reserve Officers' Training Corps program following a disciplinary incident.

Friday, June 1, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Education Policy Center, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, evaluates many think tank reports on education policy. The center also issues "Bunkum Awards" for education studies it finds "worthless and mundane," and this year's top "winner" is the Progressive Policy Institute for a study of charter schools. (A spokesman for the institute said that it stands behind its research.) Other entities "honored" by the center include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the New America Foundation and Jeb Bush's Foundation for Educational Excellence.

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