Higher Education Quick Takes
More than 7,000 people have signed a petition calling for Florida lawmakers to defend the liberal arts. The campaign started after Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, questioned the value of educating more people in fields such as anthropology. The governor suggested that the state needs to focus on science and technology fields. But the petition states that bashing other disciplines will not promote STEM education. "Innovation and scientific discovery do not happen in a vacuum. To create the problem-solvers of tomorrow we need to maintain a well-rounded curriculum. The issue with low graduation rates in STEM programs need to be addressed at the K-12 level, not through attacks on higher education," says the petition. "Florida universities are not vocational schools. Their task is to teach students to think critically and to provide a well-rounded education, which absolutely involves the liberal arts. No government has the right to tell an individual what their chosen career should be nor does it have the right to qualify one discipline as superior to another."
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Thursday approved the elimination of undergraduate programs in physics at Prairie View A&M University and Texas Southern University, rejecting appeals from the historically black institutions, The Houston Chronicle reported. The board has identified hundreds of programs for elimination, based on low enrollment. But advocates for those two physics programs questioned why the state would be cutting off opportunities to produce more black scientists at a time that many experts say that the only way the United States will achieve its goals in science education is with more participation from all racial and ethnic groups.
A federal judge on Wednesday extended a restraining order barring Linn State Technical College from going ahead with its plan to test all new students for illegal drugs, the Associated Press reported. Judge Nanette Laughrey, while not issuing a final ruling on the legality of the plan, suggested it will run into trouble. Students, backed by civil liberties groups, are challenging the drug-testing plan.
Israel is experiencing a growth in private master's programs -- which receive no government support -- at otherwise government-funded universities, Haaretz reported. In the last six years, the number of such programs has increased from 26 to 51. The programs charge much higher tuition than the rest of the universities that house them, and proponents say that these offerings help provide funds for the rest of higher education. But critics say the growth of these programs is creating a two-tiered system, where those who can afford to pay more get better access to high-demand programs than do other students.
A federal judge has rejected a conservative student group's suit against the University of Wisconsin at Madison over student fees, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. The conservative students noted that a similar liberal group had received funds, but the judge noted that subsequent to the suit being filed, the liberal group's funding was ended. If there is evidence in the future of viewpoint discrimination, the judge said, the conservative group could sue again.
Southern University at Baton Rouge is ending Friday classes next semester, condensing the course schedule to a four-day week, The Advocate reported. The move is expected to save money on utility costs in classroom buildings, while freeing up more time for student advising and faculty office hours on Friday. Employees will all still be required to work on Fridays.
In the year since a student at the University of Notre Dame died when the aerial lift on which he was making videos of practices for the football team fell, many colleges and universities have changed their policies on the use of such lifts, the Associated Press reported. Some universities -- including Notre Dame -- have stopped using the lifts, which were designed for construction sites, not football fields. Others have continued their use but have issued new policies, such as barring their use on particularly windy days.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Skolkovo Foundation and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (known as SkTech) announced Wednesday that they would jointly create a new graduate research university in Russia. The new university will offer graduate degrees in these fields:
- Energy science and technology
- Biomedical science and technology
- Information science and technology
- Space science and technology
- Nuclear science and technology