Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 18, 2013

Georgetown University is today announcing the largest gift in its history, $100 million from Frank H. McCourt Jr., a former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, The Washington Post reported. The funds will be used to elevate a public policy program to a full-fledged school at the university.

 

September 18, 2013

As Congress debates over a stopgap spending measure to keep the government open past October 1, the group representing America’s elite research universities on Tuesday issued a statement protesting efforts by Congress impose restrictions on or ban federal funding for social and behavioral science research.

The Association of American Universities said called those efforts “disturbing” and “inappropriate,” arguing that they would “relegate such research to second-class status in federal research funding.”

Congress in March approved a ban on the use of National Science Foundation funds for political science research. Proponents of the measure, which was sponsored by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican, argued that federal dollars should flow only to research projects that involve the physical or biological sciences or technology fields. A House subcommittee earlier this year approved a measure barring economic health research at the National Institutes of Health, but it was not included in this year’s legislation to fund the government.

“Even in the context of federal budget constraints, we believe that actions by Congress to de-fund or stigmatize entire disciplines of research would severely cripple, in principle and practice, the federal government’s historically productive commitment to the funding of basic research across all disciplines,” the statement said. It also said that social and behavioral science research was important to addressing the nation’s challenges in a variety of areas such as national security, public safety and transportation. 

September 18, 2013

Minerva Schools at KGI, the ambitious (and still heavily theoretical) project that aims to educate some of the world's best students online but in residential settings, said this week that it would give its first group of undergraduates four years of free tuition when they enroll next fall, but ultimately charge $10,000 in annual tuition and under $30,000 in total costs. The project, which is seeking accreditation through Keck Graduate Institute, part of the Claremont University Consortium, aims to enroll students who could qualify for Ivy League and other highly competitive universities but would opt for an experimental alternative. The project has been the subject of both significant interest (and support from powerful friends, such as Bob Kerrey and Lawrence Summers) and a good bit of skepticism.

Minerva's founder, Ben Nelson, said in the news release that it would ultimately charge $10,000 a year in tuition and $18,850 in room and board, and that it would offer scholarships and low-interest loans.

 

 

September 18, 2013

Among the more notable pieces of recent education research was a study finding that most of the high-ability, low-income students in the country never apply to a single competitive college, even though they would likely be admitted and be offered aid. The research found that active outreach, explaining to such students what their options are, and providing application fee waivers, can encourage more of them to apply. Today, state officials in Delaware, together with the College Board and representatives of Ivy League universities, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are announcing a plan to reach all such students in Delaware and to provide the kind of counseling that the research says could make a difference. Other Delaware high school students -- who may not be at as high levels of academic ability -- will also receive outreach, with college options that might work for them.

 

 

September 18, 2013

Grand Valley State University administrators have removed a sculpture of a wrecking ball from campus, and Miley Cyrus played a role, MLive reported. Students had noticed a similarity between the sculpture and a prop in the new Cyrus video for her song "Wrecking Ball." Students -- at least one of them nude -- were reenacting the video on the real sculpture at Grand Valley State. Officials took away the artwork, saying that they were not sure it could support the students.

 

September 18, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jordan Okie of Arizona State University explains why some species have evolved to tremendous sizes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 17, 2013

The chancellor's office of the California Community Colleges has adopted a rule requiring all publicly funded grant and contract work funded by the chancellor's office be covered by a Creative Commons license, which authorizes use by others provided that acknowledgement is provided to the creator of the work. This means that academic or financial tools created with grants from the chancellor's office will be produced in ways that one college could use another's work. A statement from Chancellor Brice W. Harris said: "The tax-paying public shouldn’t be required to pay twice or more to access and use educational materials, first via the funding of the research and development of educational resources and then again when they purchase materials like textbooks they helped fund. So, ultimately this decision to change the board’s regulations will save taxpayers money over time."

 

September 17, 2013

Two men in a grocery store in southern Russia got into an argument about the ideas of Immanuel Kant, and after the discussion got heated, one man took out a gun and shot the other, Reuters reported. The man who was shot was hospitalized but his life is not in danger. Reuters provided this context: "Many Russians love to discuss philosophy and history, often over a drink, but such discussions rarely end in shootings."

 

September 17, 2013

Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge is investigating and its Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity is apologizing for a sign that the fraternity displayed in advance of Saturday night's football game between LSU and Kent State University, The Times-Picayune reported. The sign referenced the 1970 killings at Kent State, and said: "Getting Massacred Is Nothing New to Kent St.," A statement from the university said: "LSU certainly does not condone this insensitive behavior and poor judgment by the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity,” Ernie Ballard, director of media at the university. “LSU officials have spoken with the fraternity and believe that the students now understand the gravity of their actions. The students have issued a formal apology to Kent State University. LSU is also working with local and national DKE leaders in an effort to prevent this type of behavior in the future."

 

September 17, 2013

Faculty free speech advocates gained a victory Monday when an Illinois appeals court overturned a lower court’s ruling that Northeastern Illinois University was protected by state anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) laws in a defamation suit brought by a professor who alleged retaliation for her activism on campus. In its opinion, the court said that the university “does not refute any essential element” of Loretta Capeheart’s claims of defamation, including that a university administrator had said she “stalked” a student on campus. The court also found that the university failed to meet its burden of proof that that Capeheart’s case was a SLAPP, under the Illinois Citizens Participation Act.

Capeheart’s supporters, including the American Association of University Professors, have said that the act was designed to protect individuals from more powerful institutions, and that Northeastern Illinois’ defense was turning it on its head. The ruling reinstates Capeheart’s initial lawsuit against the university, which includes claims that she was denied a department leadership position for backing students who protested the Central Intelligence Agency and for publicly criticizing administrative spending. In an e-mail, Capeheart, who is still a tenured of professor justice studies at Northeastern Illinois, said “we are thrilled that the appeals court did not allow for the perversion of the act.”

A university spokeswoman said via e-mail that Northeastern Illinois is evaluating the decision and "weighing its options."

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