Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently annoyed academics in his country by suggesting that only a law-and-order approach was needed to fight terrorism, and that people should not "commit sociology." In response, "Worldviews 2013: Global Trends in Media and Higher Education," a conference organized by academic and journalism organizations (of which Inside Higher Ed is a co-sponsor), has invited attendees (in a spoof of Britain's wartime slogan) to "Keep Calm and Commit Sociology." Details on the conference and buttons with the new slogan are available here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
There are more than 120 programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the top level of National Collegiate Athletic Association competition – but only 23 of them turned a profit in 2012, according to a new NCAA report on athletic department finances. That is despite upward movement in generated revenues: a 4.6 percent increase at FBS programs and a 9.06 percent increase at the smaller Football Championship Subdivision ones. While the median spending at FBS programs is $56 million, for other institutions, it hovers around $14 million. FBS median expenses increased 10.8 percent above the previous year, compared to 6.8 percent at FCS programs and 8.8 percent at Division I institutions without football. The report also notes the gap in the growth of expenses between institutional and athletics spending. At FBS programs, the median athletics expenses increase was 4.4 percent higher than the institutional increase. At FCS and Division I no-football colleges, the gap was 3 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.
Several leaders of University of Puerto Rico campuses have quit their jobs to protest the governor's signing of legislation to restructure the university's governance system, the Associated Press reported. Administrators of at least four of the university's campuses joined the university's president and chair of its governing board in resigning over the measure.
A successful football season causes a 17.7 percent boost in applications to an institution, but the increase is more apparent among lower-achieving students (as measured by SAT scores), according to a new paper published in the journal Marketing Science. However, victories on the field do correlate with higher selectivity, with mid-level institutions improving their admission of students with average SAT scores by 4.8 percent, wrote Doug J. Chung, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard University. To achieve a comparable bump in applications, a university would have to either decrease tuition by 3.8 percent or increase the quality of its education by recruiting higher-quality faculty who are paid 5.1 percent more, Chung said.
The City University of New York has settled a discrimination complaint made by a pregnant student.
The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) filed the complaint on behalf of Stephanie Stewart. According to the center, Stewart was told that she would not be able to make up tests or assignments missed as a result of her pregnancy; CUNY administrators suggested that Stewart should instead drop the class, since her due date was before the end of the semester.
The complaint accused CUNY of violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education. Title IX forbids schools and colleges from penalizing pregnant students for medically necessary absences.
"The university settlement with the student provided that she receive about $3,000 to cover expenses," said Michael Arena, CUNY's director for communications and marketing, in an e-mail. "The university will also renew efforts to work with its colleges to communicate the longstanding non-discrimination policy to the faculty and staff. The colleges will also provide more training in this area to ensure that the policy is properly applied and that the rights of expectant mothers continue to be respected and safeguarded."
Arena added that pregnancy was specifically mentioned in CUNY's anti-discrimination policy.
Stewart's scholarship will also be restored.
OpenStax College, the year-old Rice University startup that produces free online textbooks, will more than double the number of fields in which it has titles by 2015, the university announced today. A grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation will allow OpenStax College to add to its current offerings in physics and sociology, and its two new biology books and an introductory anatomy text coming out this fall. The new titles will be in precalculus, chemistry, economics, U.S. history, psychology and statistics, Rice said, toward its goal of producing high-quality open-source books in the 25 most-enrolled college courses. OpenStax says its existing two texts have been downloaded more than 70,000 times so far.
Faculty members at Marshall University passed a vote of no confidence Wednesday in President Stephen Kopp. Of the 420 faculty members who participated, 290 voted no confidence, 107 voted in support of Kopp, and 23 abstained. The vote at the West Virginia public university comes in the wake of Kopp’s decision to move funds from departmental accounts to a central account to analyze revenues and expenditures, a move that generated a backlash among faculty members. Kopp previously apologized and returned the funds.
In the wake of the vote, Marshall’s governing board released a statement expressing its continued support for Kopp. “Dr. Kopp has succeeded in achieving the goals set by the Board of Governors for Marshall University and he has exceeded the board’s performance expectations in numerous areas,” the board chairman Joseph B. Touma wrote in a letter released Wednesday after the vote. “The board also believes that he is the right person to keep our great university moving in the right direction.”
The lack of administrative reaction is similar to other recent votes of no confidence at New York University, Saint Louis University and Louisiana State University.
Two men charged in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings on Wednesday were in the U.S. on student visas and classmates of the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, The New York Times reported. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19-year-old citizens of Kazakhstan, were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and destroy evidence, specifically a computer and backpack containing fireworks, both belonging to Tsarnaev. A third suspect, Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, Mass. and a former UMass Dartmouth student, was charged with making false statements to authorities.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are also accused of violating their student visas. Kadyrbayev is no longer enrolled at UMass Dartmouth, while Tazhayakov, a current student, has been suspended in light of the charges.
Since the Boston Marathon bombings, there have been some signs of a backlash from the political right against the student visa system, despite the fact that, until Wednesday, there were no indications that international students were involved in the plot (the elder of the alleged perpetrators was a permanent resident and the younger a naturalized U.S. citizen). Most notably, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, issued a letter questioning whether student visas should be suspended, at least for students coming from “high-risk areas” of the world.
The denial of tenure for Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has attracted criticisms from scholars around the world, as well as from his current and former students, who have praised George's strong record as a scholar and teacher and suggested that it could only be objections to the sensitive subject of his research – press freedoms and state power in Singapore – that have blocked his tenure bid. Now, following the rejection of George’s appeal, four of his colleagues at NTU – including two former deans of the school of communication and information -- have added their voices to the chorus.
“Both the two former deans, Emeritus Professor Eddie Kuo and Professor Ang Peng Hwa, are of the view that Cherian has been one of the most valuable additions to the School in teaching, research and service,” states the letter, which is addressed to the NTU president. “He has launched some of the most innovative programs that have brought fame and funds to the School.” (Those programs are outlined in some detail in the letter.)
“It is against this backdrop that we are perplexed as to what exactly NTU expects of its staff in order to earn tenure. Those of us who are not yet tenured need to know: what more than Cherian do we have to do? Those of us who are counselors to younger staff need to explain in clear and precise terms what Cherian has failed to achieve so they may do better when their turn comes. Those of us who have helped build the School’s reputation, and indeed NTU’s integrity, need to respond to the numerous critics with unimpeachable reasons why their suspicions are misplaced. The controversy that Cherian’s case has generated is unprecedented in the School’s history and one that is causing serious damage to our academic reputation and professional integrity. It also has serious repercussions on NTU’s ability to attract top communications scholars, coming at a time especially when the School has 10 faculty vacancies to fill.”
NTU has declined to comment on George’s case, citing the confidentiality of employment matters.
The Florida Senate passed a measure Wednesday designed to allow outside groups, including the providers of massive open online courses, to offer credit-bearing courses to Florida public college students. The measure has been amended significantly since it was first introduced by a Republican senator as a way to take on the accreditation system. The new version of the bill, which the Senate inserted into a digital education bill the House had sent the Senate earlier, substitutes the phrase “Florida Approved Courses” for the old phrase “Florida-accredited” courses and adds requirements that outside course providers must meet to qualify their courses for the new pool, including limitations on the subject areas that MOOCs can be used for.