Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, June 9, 2011 - 3:00am

There are relatively few differences in the success rates of women and men who apply for grants from the National Institutes of Health, according to a new study in Academic Medicine. But on grants after a first successful application, men are more likely than women to apply and to receive funding.

Thursday, June 9, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Klaus Lackner of Columbia University’s Earth Institute describes his efforts to combat global warming by creating carbon-capturing artificial trees. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011 - 3:00am

Pfizer Inc. said Wednesday that it would spend up to $100 million over five years to create a series of research partnerships with academic medical centers in Boston and other Massachusetts cities. The network, known as the Center for Theurapeutic Innovation, will team the pharmaceutical company with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard University, Partners HealthCare, Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester.

Thursday, June 9, 2011 - 3:00am

With many professors at public universities battling efforts in states nationwide to strip faculty of their collective bargaining rights or to roll back tenure, the president of the American Association of University Professors urged them to organize and fight -- especially locally.

“Even powerful national trends can be reversed at the local levels,” Cary Nelson, AAUP president and Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said Wednesday morning at the opening plenary address of the association's annual meeting. “That's the only silver lining that's here.... It's time to stand on your hind legs and fight.”

In keeping with its somewhat ominous title, "Something Wicked This Way Comes: What is Happening and What We Can Do About It," Nelson's speech traced the past several months of anti-union efforts, which he described as “astonishing” and unprecedented in his experience. And, though his remarks struck a less optimistic tone than the one used by union leaders at the annual meeting of the American Federation of Teachers, Nelson also seized on the recent spate of bad news as examples of why the 40 attendees at the session -- about half of whom hailed from organized AAUP chapters -- should organize.

An AAUP chapter -- whether it functions as a collective bargaining agent or as a membership organization, can serve as the public face of the faculty, Nelson said. It can also run useful grievance procedures on campuses where they might not be seen as inadequate, he continued, and they can serve as a counterbalance to and check on administrators -- even if the chapter has no formally recognized role in collective bargaining.

“It can make the faculty an organized force,” Nelson said, adding that some AAUP chapters, even though they are at private colleges where collective bargaining is barred by a 1980 Supreme Court ruling, still claim as members a solid majority of the faculty. With this share of membership united under the AAUP banner, he said, professors can still be a force on campus, stiffening the resolve of a college's faculty senate and promoting shared governance: “The AAUP chapter is the senate's political whip.”

On a more general level, Nelson said, solidarity is the best means of combating the efforts that faculty see as so harmful -- and of lessening the accompanying emotional impact. “Like it or not, fear is the primary emotion of faculty these days,” he said. “If you organize, it can help to conquer fear.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Bethany University, an Assemblies of God institution in California, announced late Tuesday that its board approved the institution's sale to a group of investors. A statement from the university did not identify the investors, and was vague on the future structure of the institution. The investors, the statement said, "will form a new nonprofit entity to assume operational control of Bethany University. The new corporation agrees to assume all debt and operational liabilities and responsibilities for Bethany University."

Rev. Lew Shelton, who has been president of the university for the last three years, will be leaving that position in July. He did not respond to questions about Tuesday's announcement.

A major controversy in accrediting of late has been the purchase or proposed purchase of regionally accredited nonprofit colleges by for-profit ventures. Ralph A. Wolff, president of the Senior College Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Bethany's accreditor, said that he had seen reports about a for-profit purchase of Bethany, but that he had been told the university would remain nonprofit.

Via e-mail, he said: "We understand that the group mentioned in this press release is intending to maintain the nonprofit status of the university, but will need to verify this and the other arrangements as we work through the transition and related transactions. It is likely that the arrangements being sought will require our review and prior approval, which would provide us with far greater detail than this press release."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Maksud I. Sadikov, rector of the Islamic University of the North Caucasus, was shot to death Tuesday, The New York Times reported. Sadikov has been a leading voice against violence in southern Russia.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 3:00am

President Obama will focus on job training programs during a visit today to Northern Virginia Community College. One idea he will propose is a series of certifications for various manufacturing jobs so someone studying a skill at one community college could indicate common competencies when seeking jobs in other areas, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Yale University is very proud of the popularity of Open Yale Courses, a program in which online videos are available of selected courses. But the university was less than pleased -- and has its lawyers objecting -- to a book published by a university in China that is based on the lectures in some courses, including material copied from translations prepared by a nonprofit group. An article in The Yale Alumni Magazine details the university's concerns.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 3:00am

New research out of Ohio State University suggests a silver lining to the cloud of loan debt faced by many students. For young adults aged 18 to 27, the more credit card and student loan debt they hold, the higher their self-esteem. Only once the young adults hit 28 do they start to realize that debt may have a downside. "Debt can be a positive resource for young adults, but it comes with some significant dangers." said Rachel Dwyer, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State and lead author of the study. "Young people seem to view debt mostly in just positive terms rather than as a potential burden." The study is being published in the journal Social Science Research.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 3:00am

Faculty members at the University of Oxford have voted "no confidence" in the higher education policies of Britain's government, Times Higher Education reported.

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