Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 27, 2011 - 3:00am

When presidents bring appointments to boards, they are typically approved (at least those discussed in public). But the trustees of San Joaquin Delta College surprised the new president, Jeff Marsee, by rejecting his proposed promotion of the dean of planning and research to serve as acting vice president for business, The Record reported. Trustees said that more candidates should have been considered. Board members have in the past been accused of micromanaging.

Monday, June 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Three men have been arrested for selling fake caste certificates to applicants to Delhi University, The Times of India reported. Under India's affirmative action formulas, applicants from disadvantaged castes have radically improved odds of admission. The Times reported that at least 13 students have been determined to have been admitted with fake certificates of their castes.

Monday, June 27, 2011 - 3:00am

An article in The Chicago Tribune examines the issues associated with the awarding of a merit scholarship -- a taxpayer-funded full ride for four years -- to the granddaughter of a public university president. There are no allegations that Maddie Poshard is anything but a top student, or that Glenn Poshard, her grandfather and the president of Southern Illinois University, interfered in the process. But several of those quoted suggest that, strictly from a perception perspective, others would have discouraged her from applying.

Monday, June 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Leading academics are threatening to resign from peer review panels of Britain's Arts and Humanities Research Council unless it removes references to the "Big Society" from its agenda, Times Higher Education reported. The Big Society is a policy term coined by the governing Conservative Party to reflect its goals of encouraging local decision-making (as opposed to national), voluntarism and other values. Critics of the Big Society say it is window dressing for a policy of ignoring many problems, and critics of its mention in the humanities council's agenda say that it effectively favors grant proposals consistent with the Conservative philosophy.

Monday, June 27, 2011 - 3:00am

President Obama on Friday announced a series of efforts involving research and education to promote advanced manufacturing. In one program, the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Agriculture will create a $70 million fund to support research on next generation robots. In another program, Carnegie Mellon University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and University of Michigan will create "a multi-university collaborative framework for sharing of educational materials and best practices relating to advanced manufacturing and its linkage to innovation." The universities will also work with businesses and government agencies "to define research opportunities and build a collaborative roadmap for identify key technology priorities."

Friday, June 24, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday released its latest data on students with disabilities in higher education. As of the 2008-9 academic year, 88 percent of two- and four-year institutions reported enrolling students with disabilities. Specific learning disabilities were the most common (31 percent), followed by Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (which were counted separately) at 18 percent, then mental or psychiatric conditions at 15 percent. About a tenth of the reported learning disabilities were related to physical health and illness. Students who have trouble seeing accounted for 3 percent. The survey also revealed deficits between the needs of students with disabilities and what their college are providing. For example, while nearly every college has a main website, only 24 percent of them said they accommodated disabled users "to a major extent." About half of institutions cited financial barriers to training faculty and staff to accommodate various disabilities and buying "appropriate technology" for students with impairments.

Friday, June 24, 2011 - 3:00am

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved long-debated legislation to revamp federal patent laws, a measure that has strong support from higher education groups. The House-passed bill will have to be reconciled with a version the Senate approved in March, but the legislation is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

Friday, June 24, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Edward Wasserman of Washington and Lee University discusses whypoverty and the poor are often inaccurately portrayed in the media. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, June 24, 2011 - 3:00am

A horrific attack on a University of British Columbia graduate student, home visiting her family in Bangladesh, has led to renewed discussion at the university of defending the right of women to an education. The Globe and Mail reported that the husband of Rumana Monzur, a graduate student in political science at British Columbia and an assistant professor at Dhaka University, has been charged with gouging out her eyes, leaving her blind. While Monzur was planning to return to Vancouver to defend her thesis, her husband reportedly opposed the idea of her leaving the country.

Stephen J. Toope, president at British Columbia, sent a letter to students and faculty members in which he said: "This tragic occasion is a poignant marker of the need to work to protect the fundamental human right of all women to pursue education. The allegations that her commitment to her studies was a factor in the attack are of grave concern."

Friday, June 24, 2011 - 3:00am

The nation’s historically black colleges and universities need to assume a far more active role in the national push to get more students to complete their degrees, a group of HBCU presidents said Thursday.

"We need to be much more aggressive in taking the lead in setting the agenda," said Walter Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, at a press conference in Atlanta that took place during a seminar organized by the Southern Education Foundation. "We are going to have to make a break from some of our historical ideology and looking at ourselves in a defensive posture."

Greater participation of HBCU's in the larger public debate will become only more urgent, many speakers noted, because of the shifting demographics of the student body. Kimbrough cited preliminary 2010 U.S. Census data showing that the majority of babies born in the U.S. over the past two years were not white. "By 2019 there’s not going to be one racial majority in this country," said Kimbrough. And, several speakers said, with nearly one in five black college students attending HBCU's, these institutions have a lot to contribute to conversations about how these students can succeed in higher education.

But, even as HBCU's need to increase their expectations of students and welcome the push for accountability, several speakers lamented the funding environment. "You have these two trains running," said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University in Baltimore. "You have the college completion goal, and we’re not investing in the students we need to achieve that goal."

That trend is holding true in higher education more broadly, said Carlton Brown, president of Clark Atlanta University. "We want to regain a position from which we have fallen, but we haven’t addressed how we got there in the first place," said Brown, who added that a college education had been slowly redefined over time as an individual benefit rather than a broader societal one. "When you redefine it to an individual benefit, the real consequence is an erosion of national capacity," Brown continued. "How we got to this position was through an investment of the government and private entities. How we lost it was a disinvestment of government and private entities."

The press conference, which included six HBCU presidents, covered wide ground. Several discussed the importance of connecting more to each other, to other private and public colleges, to K-12 education and to the wider public. Others talked about the need to advocate for continued support for Pell Grants (some presidents said that 70 percent of students at their colleges were Pell-eligible), and about the communal and historical value of their institutions.

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