Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 14, 2014

Faculty members and students at Peking University are criticizing the creation of a new elite unit, which will offer a Rhodes Scholarship-style program for foreign students, The South China Morning Post reported. One student told the newspaper that those in the special program "will live on the school’s best plot of land, have the best teachers, they will have bright and spacious class and dorm rooms.... They will be the privileged elite and all the other Peking University students will be second-class citizens.”

July 14, 2014

Intellectuals in Italy are objecting to a plan of a hotel developer to use property that includes the one-time home of Antonio Gramsci to build an upscale hotel that would be named for him, The Guardian reported. The intellectuals believe that it would be an insult to the name and work of Gramsci, a Marxist thinker who was known for the idea of cultural hegemony, to use his name in such a commercial way.

In a letter to the mayor of Turin, the academics and others write: "It is always a cause of pain when a place that safeguards a part of our history becomes the container of something else that is trivial rather than a space in which the collective memory is cultivated. But this time the pain is atrocious because the trivialization is directly hitting one of our fathers, a man who wrote pages which still speak to us today, a martyr who paid for the freedom of his ideas with his life."

July 14, 2014

Are you crushed by the end of World Cup 2014? Perhaps you would enjoy some sites to help with the transition back to academic interests while still holding on to the excitement from Brazil.

  • For the chemistry professor, analysis from the chemistry blog Compound Interest on the chemistry of the World Cup football.
  • For the literature professor, a literary World Cup sponsored by Three Percent, the University of Rochester blog on international literature, literary translation and related topics.
  • For the political scientist, context from The Duck of Minerva on the collapse of Brazil's team and how it relates to political and economic issues in the country.
  • For the philosopher, a cartoon from Existential Comics on the German-French showdown.

If you need a (faux) intellectual laugh this morning because your team lost or because the competition is over, this old Monty Python video may be your best bet.




July 14, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Jodie Plumert, professor and chair of psychology at the University of Iowa, discusses an experiment designed to help us understand how safety and danger are perceived. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 11, 2014

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees is ending an internship and grant program for students at United Negro College Fund institutions, to protest the UNCF's acceptance of a $25 million grant from Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation. The gift had critics from the moment it was announced, with people noting efforts by the Koch brothers that they viewed as inconsistent with the interests of many black Americans. In a letter to Michael Lomax, the UNCF president, Lee A. Saunders, president of AFSCME, pulled no punches. His title for his letter -- "A Principle Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" -- is a play on the UNCF's slogan.

"Like many supporters of the UNCF, I was deeply troubled by your decision to accept $25 million from David and Charles Koch. But I assumed that in accepting those funds you were in no way supporting or lending the name of the UNCF to the political or social causes or substantive views of the Koch brothers," wrote Saunders. "So I was truly stunned to learn that less than two weeks later, you attended and spoke at the Koch brothers summit in California. This was a betrayal of everything the UNCF stands for. The avowed purpose of this private event was to build support -- financial and political -- for the Koch brothers' causes. Your appearance at the summit can only be interpreted as a sign of your personal support and the UNCF's organizational support of the Koch brothers' ideological program. The Koch brothers and the organizations they fund have devoted themselves for more than a decade to attacking the voting rights of African Americans. They support voter identification laws. They seek to restrict early voting and voter registration. They support laws that threaten organizations that register voters in the African American community."

Lomax issued a statement about the letter. "UNCF has over 100,000 donors with a wide range of views, but they all have one thing in common: They believe in helping young students of color realize their dreams of a college education. For over 70 years we have never had a litmus test and we have asked all Americans to support our cause," he said. "While I am saddened by AFSCME's decision, it will not distract us from our mission of helping thousands of African American students achieve their dream of a college degree and the economic benefits that come with it.”

July 11, 2014

The publisher SAGE has announced that its Journal of Vibration and Control has retracted 60 articles following an investigation that found an apparent "peer review ring" that used phony identities to dupe the regular peer review process. The publisher said that a 14-month investigation uncovered the problems.


July 11, 2014

Ersula Ore, an Arizona State University faculty member, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of resisting arrest, but several other charges against her were dropped, The Arizona Republic reported. Ore, a black woman, said that she was stopped and treated harshly by a police officer when she jaywalked, even though others had been doing the same. She and her supporters said that she was a victim of racial profiling. Ore's lawyer said that she was comfortable admitting to resisting arrest, because that was true -- even if the arrest itself was inappropriate.

Arizona Critical Ethnic Studies, one of the groups that has been backing Ore, issued this statement: "What transpired was a tragedy, which no one should have had to endure from simply walking on a street. We continue to believe that this incident should never have happened in the first place, and that it is emblematic of the need for a comprehensive review to ensure that university safety policies protect and remain accountable to the rights and dignity of all members of the community. We urge the public to keep watch and the FBI to thoroughly investigate the incident, as we await ASU’s official response to our call for an audit of their police force and a plan for community accountability."


July 11, 2014

The University of Southern California and the Scripps Research Institute have abandoned talks about Scripps becoming part of USC, The Los Angeles Times reported. The end of the talks comes amid widespread opposition among Scripps researchers to the merger idea.



July 11, 2014

AUSTIN, Tex. -- The chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents said he was displeased with how some factions protested the attempted ouster of UT Austin President Bill Powers, whose job was saved this week, arguably by some of those very protests.

Board Chairman Paul Foster, during a regents' meeting Thursday here, said it was inappropriate to direct insults at system Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa. The chancellor last week threatened to fire Powers if Powers did not resign by Thursday's meeting. Reports of the threat prompted faculty, alumni and students to rush to Powers's defense in recent days. The result was that Powers did tender his resignation Wednesday but as part of a deal that allows him to continue to lead the campus until next summer, long past the chancellor’s exit plan for the president.

Foster, a wealthy businessman, carefully but firmly reproached a host of factions: university leaders who would not respect the authority of the board; alumni and external groups who apparently sent “derogatory and threatening notes” aimed at the chancellor; and lawmakers who were trying to interfere with the system’s operations. “I sincerely hope we never revisit this unfortunate chapter in the history of our great state,”  Foster said.

Another board member, Alex Cranberg, agreed things had gotten quite heated over the past week. “I think it’s time for people to put their swords down and look to the future,” he said.

July 11, 2014

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is releasing draft policy guidance on conditional admissions policies clarifying that international students must meet all admissions standards for a given program – including English language proficiency requirements – in order for the university to issue an I-20, the legal document that students need to apply for visas. The draft guidance would mean that universities can't issue I-20s for a degree program in cases in which admission is conditional on successful completion of an English language program, but they can issue two separate I-20s, one for the English language program and one -- once a student meets the English language requirements – for the degree program.

The draft guidance on conditional admission, to be posted on the Study in the States website today, is the first installment of a second draft (the first draft, on conditional admission and pathway programs, came out in May 2013). Because of the complexity of the issue SEVP has opted to release this draft in multiple installments.


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