Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 24, 2014

Concerned scholars have initiated a petition in support of Alexander Sodiqov, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto who was arrested and detained while conducting fieldwork in Tajikistan last week. Sodiqov, who is married with a young daughter, has reportedly not had any contact with his family members, lawyers, or colleagues.

As Eurasianet.org reported, Sodiqov, a Tajik citizen, was detained on charges of “subversion and espionage.” Sodiquov was conducting research in Tajikistan’s restive Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region for a British Economic and Social Research Council project, "Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia."

June 24, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Meagan Schipanski, assistant professor of agroecology at Colorado State University, discusses research on the benefits of alternating the planting of cash with cover crops. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 23, 2014

Corinthian Colleges announced on Monday that it had reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education that is designed to keep the for-profit chain afloat long enough to sell off and shutter its campuses in an orderly fashion.

The struggling Corinthian faces a dire cash shortage, due in part to decision by the feds last week to put a 21-day hold on payments for federal financial aid and grants. While the hold remains in place, the department agreed to release $16 million in payments immediately. That was the minimal amount necessary to keep Corinthian from going bankrupt this week, according to a corporate filing.

Last month the company said it was considering "strategic alternatives" such as the sale or merger of some of its operations. That process appears to have progressed, according to the preliminary terms of a transition plan Corinthian is working on with department. The company agreed to hire an outside monitor as it seeks to sell or "teach out" its 107 campuses within about six months.

Corinthian owns Heald College, WyoTech and the Everest College and University chains. It enrolls 72,000 students. The company will continue to enroll new students under the agreement. However, Corinthian agreed to freeze enrollments at institutions it is closing down, once the company and the government determine which campuses those will be.

"Throughout several days of intensive discussions with the department, our goal has been to protect the interests of our students, 12,000 employees, taxpayers and other stakeholders," said Jack Massimino, the company's chairman and CEO, in a written statement.

The department said it put a hold on Corinthian's federal payments because the company had been slow to respond to several information requests over concerns about the company's marketing practices. Corinthian agreed on Monday to provide the outstanding information in a timely manner.

June 23, 2014

Patrick Harran, a professor of chemistry at the University of California at Los Angles, reached a deal Friday with California prosecutors under which he will avoid jail time in the laboratory accident death of one of his assistants in 2008, The Los Angeles Times reported. Harran faced felony counts related to alleged violations of state health and safety standards and could have served more than four years in prison if convicted. Under the deal -- opposed by the lab assistant's family -- Harran did not admit wrongdoing. He did pledge to create and teach an organic chemistry course for college-bound urban students for five summers, to perform 800 hours of community service and to pay $10,000 to a burn center.

June 23, 2014

The University of Pennsylvania board on Friday rejected a proposal that it sell endowment holdings in tobacco companies, as faculty and student groups have urged. A statement from David L. Cohen, Penn's board chair, noted that the university has established criteria for divestment, and Cohen said that tobacco did not meet a key criterion: being morally evil. "After thorough deliberation, the board has determined that the tobacco proposal does not meet the criterion of establishing that there exists a moral evil," the statement said. "The linchpin of any divestment decision at Penn rests on the interpretation of moral evil, which we would view as an activity such as genocide or apartheid. We fully appreciate and understand the concerns that were raised by those who advocate divestment, and we recognize that reasonable people may disagree on this issue. Nonetheless, it is the carefully considered judgment of the board that the manufacture and sale of tobacco products – which is widely accepted as legal, although significantly regulated, in this country – does not qualify as a moral evil." Cohen did say that the university would not seek to add tobacco holdings and that it would use its influence in companies in which it invests to promote responsible policies.

Chris Feudtner, a professor of medical ethics who has helped advocate for divestment, had this reaction via email: "Open and vigorous debate can lead to positive change. Today the trustees of the university took action to prospectively divest from tobacco holding, to use what holdings it retains to advocate for the cessation of tobacco marketing to minors and the curtailment of marketing in the developing world, and to avow the university's commitment to improving the health of individuals and the public by diminishing the harm caused by tobacco. While these steps do not constitute total divestment, they represent a victory for better aligning our institutional values and actions."

June 23, 2014

Officials of Birkbeck, University of London have confirmed a report in The Hindu that one of their scholars was unexpectedly denied entry to India to attend an international academic conference. Indian officials have not confirmed the incident or commented on it.

The statement from Birkbeck follows: “We can confirm that Dr Penny Vera-Sanso, Principal Investigator for research projects on poverty and ageing in India, at Birkbeck, University of London, was turned away at Hyderabad airport early on Sunday morning, June 8. Dr. Vera-Sanso had been invited to attend the International Federation of Aging Conference. She was refused entry by immigration officials without explanation. Dr. Vera-Sanso was traveling with a valid passport and visa issued to her for the purpose of developing further research on aging with India’s academic community, last used for a visit to India in March 2014. Dr. Vera-Sanso, a respected researcher who has undertaken research in India since 1990, has met with an official at the Indian High Commission in London since her return but the reason for the decision is not clear at this point. Birkbeck, University of London, is concerned that a member of its academic community has been excluded from India and has been unable to attend an international conference. Today’s academics work in an increasingly global environment and their contribution to the global production of knowledge is of benefit to all. It is vital that academics are given the freedom to associate with colleagues around the world and to share their research.”

June 23, 2014

In the latest "This Week" audio newscast, Arizona State University President Michael Crow and Seton Hall University's Robert Kelchen discuss the new Arizona State-Starbucks deal to promote bachelor's completion by Starbucks employees. And Juliet Lilledahl Scherer and Mirra Leigh Anson discuss their new book, Community Colleges and the Access Effect: Why Open Admissions Suppresses Achievement. Both panels discuss the issues with Casey Green, moderator of "This Week," and Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed. Click here to sign up for an email reminder about each week's program.

June 23, 2014

Students at the University of South Florida library will be able to borrow drones for academic purposes, CNN reported. The library will make the drones available. They can record video or shoot photographs.

 

June 23, 2014

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat, last week introduced a bill that would seek to encourage four-year institutions to identify transfer students who have earned enough credits for an associate degree but never received one. Through this process, which is dubbed "reverse transfer," students at four-year institutions can earn associate degrees they failed to receive before transferring. The bill would encourage reverse transfer by creating competitive grants for states.

June 23, 2014

The net price paid by students rose by an average of 10.5 percent from 2008 to 2013 at 33 independent colleges examined by The Boston Globe, faster than inflation, the newspaper reported. The Globe's study found that net price -- the amount paid by students after financial aid was awarded -- rose by at least 15 percent at 11 of the 33 institutions. College officials offered a range of explanations for the increases to the Globe.

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