Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has announced a $150 million grant from the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation for genetic research, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The funds will pay for a new building and endowed professorships, among other purposes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 3:00am

With most college students still opting for printed textbooks in lieu of electronic ones, publishers are taking aim at an unlikely demographic in order to make e-books look cool: slackers. CourseSmart, a consortium aimed at marketing and selling e-books on behalf of the four top textbook companies, has teamed up with the website CollegeHumor.com to hold an essay contest in which participants are asked to boast of their slacker bona fides. “We’re looking for the smartest slacker,” explains a spokesman for CollegeHumor — a popular destination for procrastinating students — in a promotional video on the site. “We want to hear your story of the smartest, cleverest, most creative academic shortcut you’ve ever taken, short of cheating.” The winner of the contest will get $1,000 and a year’s worth of e-book access from CourseSmart, as well as the privilege to have his or her story immortalized in a short, animated video on CollegeHumor.com. CollegeHumor.com, started by two college freshmen in 1999, has seen its brand blossom in recent years. It now publishes original content and hosts 3.3 million unique page views each month.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Harvard University's James Simpson leads you on a search for the real Sir Thomas More. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Pensacola State College on Tuesday fired a tenured professor, Robert Ardis, over allegations that he used a sabbatical to obtain a master's degree from a diploma mill and then presented that degree to obtain a promotion and higher salary, The Pensacola News Journal reported. Ardis did not attend the meeting at which he was fired. A union representative who was at the meeting on his behalf said that he was still reviewing documents that might be the basis of a possible appeal and that Ardis "looks forward to his day in court."

Thursday, January 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The team of big movers advocating the use of technology to advance the national college completion agenda just got some more muscle. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has joined forces with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the Next Generation Learning Challenges, or NGLC — a series of grants for technology-based, completion-oriented projects. Hewlett will be contributing $1.4 million to the program, adding to the $20 million Gates has already committed. NGLC, which is co-sponsored by Educause, is currently reviewing hundreds of proposals submitted in the first round of grants, which focus on higher education. Despite its comparatively small funding stake, Hewlett is expected to be deeply involved in various strategic aspects of NGLC, which it has advised for several months.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Skidmore College's Gordon Thompson examines the cultural and technological borrowing that made the music of the 1960s British Invasion possible and why its popularity is now multigenerational. Find out more about him here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The Middle East Studies Association is urging the Turkish Coalition of America to withdraw a lawsuit against the University of Minnesota over materials, since removed from the university's genocide studies website, calling a website of the Turkish group an "unreliable" source for information about the Armenian genocide, which most scholars say happened, and which the Turkish group questions.

In a letter to the coalition, the Middle East studies group said: "Your organization, and those who hold perspectives different from those expressed by scholars associated with the Center, certainly have the right to participate in open scholarly exchange on the history of the Armenians in the late Ottoman Empire or any other issue, by presenting their views at academic conferences, in the pages of peer-reviewed scholarly journals or by other means, thereby opening them up to debate and challenge. We are distressed that you instead chose to take legal action against the University of Minnesota and its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, apparently for having at one point characterized views expressed on your website in a certain way. We fear that legal action of this kind may have a chilling effect on the ability of scholars and academic institutions to carry out their work freely and to have their work assessed on its merits, in conformity with standards and procedures long established in the world of scholarship. Your lawsuit may thus serve to stifle the free expression of ideas among scholars and academic institutions regarding the history of Armenians in the later Ottoman Empire, and thereby undermine the principles of academic freedom."

Bruce Fein, one of the lawyers for those suing the University of Minnesota (a group that includes a student there), rejected the criticisms from the Middle East scholars. Via e-mail, Fein said that "it is obvious that the letter writers never bothered to read the complaint.... The complaint explicitly renounces what the misinformed letter authors assert: that we are challenging the right of professors to voice their opinions about the reliability of web or other information sources. The complaint questions the authority of a state school to de facto prohibit students from visiting websites solely because of the viewpoint expressed and not for any bona fide educational purpose. If I were a teacher, I would give an F grade to the letter for failure of the writers to do their homework and egregiously misrepresenting the facts without even contacting the opposing side."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 3:00am

A set of transactions involving radio frequencies in California presented a new opportunity for one university and a lost opportunity for students at another, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The newspaper said that the University of Southern California had bought the Bay Area's only classical music station, which it plans to move to the FM frequency (90.3) that had been occupied by KUSF, the largely volunteer station operated by students at the University of San Francisco. USF officials shut down the station's operations Tuesday morning, which they said was necessary to undertake the transition to an online-only format. But the seemingly sudden move drew complaints from students and others at the station.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Miami University in Ohio stopped using a Redskins logo in 1997, but has continued to permit the sale of some merchandise with it as a "heritage logo." The university has decided to stop that practice, The Oxford Press reported. While some students and alumni have objected, university officials said it was time for everyone supporting the university to do so with clothing and banners for the new team logo, the Red Hawks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 3:00am

A legislative panel in Texas released a first pass at a state budget for the next two years Tuesday night, threatening a bleak outlook for higher education and college students. With the state facing a deep deficit, the draft budget would end funding for four community colleges (Brazosport, Frank Phillips, Odessa and Ranger Colleges), cut hundreds of millions of dollars from public universities, and slash financial aid for freshmen and new students, the Associated Press reported. Over all, funds for higher education would face a 7.6 percent cut, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

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