Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 4:38am

St. John's College, the Annapolis institution with a curriculum built on the Great Books, has updated its fight song to better reflect its values, The Baltimore Sun reported. The song that has been used for a century featured typical references to fighting. The song didn't get much use lately because St. John's athletic teams are in sports -- crew, croquet, sailing and fencing -- not traditionally associated with marching bands and fight songs. But for this year's croquet match against the U.S. Naval Academy, the college used a new fight song, with books front and center. Some lyrics:

"True love of wisdom is sheltered in her halls.

Seekers of virtue will answer to her call.

Books and a balance are all the tools we need.

St. John's forever. She will make us free."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

Brazil's Supreme Court has upheld the use of racial quotas by universities, AFP reported. The case before the Supreme Court concerned the University of Brasilia, which set quotas in 2004 that 20 percent of admissions slots would go to black, mixed-race or indigenous students. More than 70 percent of Brazil's 98 public universities have such quotas, so the case was considered likely to influence admissions practices nationally. The quotas were challenged by a right-wing party that argued that they were counter to principles of equity. But the Supreme Court ruled that the quotas were justified as a means to redress the impact of centuries of slavery in the nation.

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

Microsoft on Monday announced the purchase of 17.6 percent of the Barnes & Noble Nook unit, which also includes the company's college division, The New York Times reported. Microsoft paid $300 million for that share of the business, providing a significant infusion for the Nook/college unit. Barnes & Noble hopes that the partnership and the funds allow it to better compete in the education market with Apple, which has had considerable success with iPad sales and which is moving to expand its digital educational offerings.

 

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 3:00am

A study released today questions the extent to which Pell Grants and other need-based financial aid improved the retention and success of academically underprepared community college students in Louisiana. The study, conducted by researchers at Noel-Levitz and the American Institutes for Research and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that increasing the amount of financial aid awarded to Louisiana community college students who needed remedial coursework did not improve their academic performance.

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The fight is back on. Last week, El Paso civic leaders reacted with outrage to the news that Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, had canceled a planned boxing match in the Sun Bowl, which is part of the University of Texas at El Paso, citing unspecified security risks. The reaction was intense in El Paso, with many saying that the chancellor was playing into unreasonable fears about safety in El Paso because of its proximity to Mexico. On Friday, however, Cigarroa reversed himself, and outlined a series of security steps that he said would "mitigate" the security issues associated with the event.

Before he reversed himself, the chancellor's decision led to widespread speculation about why he was opposed to the fight. And that speculation led to exposure for Academically Adrift, a book sharply critical of the quality of higher education, in the nation's boxing press. Bob Arum, promoter of the fight, said that he believed Texas might be punishing him for comments made by Richard Arum, his son and a co-author of Academically Adrift. The younger Arum, a professor at New York University, was recently quoted in The Washington Post suggesting that students at the University of Texas at Austin don't learn very much. Richard Arum told Yahoo! Sports: "This is a crazy situation.... It's hard for me to believe it's connected to my criticisms and the book. However, the timing of things is an incredible coincidence." Texas officials responded to the alleged link between the criticism and the boxing match decision by pointing to the official statement on the match, which cited only security issues.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association cited the University of South Carolina on Friday for a failure to monitor its athletics program. The violations, which included impermissible recruiting, extra benefits and preferential treatment for athletes, primarily involved football players. Twelve athletes lived in a local hotel, considered a booster organization by the NCAA, for a daily rate of under $15 and nine received loans in the form of deferred hotel rent (the athletes signed leases to live there at about the same cost of local apartments, according to the public infractions report). The total rent added up to about $51,000. Also, two boosters, with whom the university self-imposed an “indefinite disassociation” as part of its penalties, provided $8,000 for recruiting inducements and extra benefits like cash and entertainment for football players and prospects.

The NCAA accepted the university’s self-imposed penalties, adding only a three-year probation period and a reduction of three football scholarships during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 years. South Carolina volunteered to give up three initial football scholarship for each of those years as well. Other self-imposed penalties include an $18,500 fine, limits of official visits in 2012-13 to 30 for football and 50 in men’s and women’s track and field, suspension of the head track coach from the 2012 Penn Relays meet, the withholding of an assistant men’s basketball coach from recruiting in December 2012, and the withholding of an assistant football coach from campus recruiting during January 2012.

Britton Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA and chair of the Division I Committee on Infractions, said South Carolina’s aggressive handling of the case and its strong self-imposed penalties made this “one of the best cases” he has seen in terms of process. “When information comes to their attention, a university really has a choice to make. It either decides to fully develop an investigation and go above and beyond to the truth, or it tries to manage the information in a way to protect themselves,” Banowsky said in a call with reporters. “The university wanted to get to the truth.”

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 4:18am

In 2009, Georgia Institute of Technologies uploaded sensitive information about U.S. military technologies to servers, where the information could be accessed worldwide, even though that information was supposed to be blocked to non-Americans, Bloomberg reported. The incident prompted a rebuke from the U.S. State Department. The security lapse, which wasn't intentional, came when the instructor for a course for federal employees and contractors, asked that course materials be placed on a DVD, and Georgia Tech staffers instead uploaded the material to servers. The article uses the Georgia Tech incident as an example of the potential problems faced when sensitive course material is shared on American campuses with traditions of openness.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed the University of Florida and Florida State University -- research universities where tuition rates lag national averages -- to increase tuition substantially. In his veto message, Governor Scott cited concerns about the impact of tuition increase on students and their families, and a need for more information on whether tuition increases would provide an appropriate "return" for Florida taxpayers. Florida State and University of Florida had lobbied hard for passage of the bill, arguing that they needed more money to achieve the state's aspirations for them as research universities. The veto comes amid deep budget cuts to the state's universities. Following the veto, Bernie Machen, president of the University of Florida, issued a statement saying that he was "so very disappointed" in the governor's action. "This legislation presented the University of Florida with a pathway toward excellence and would have enabled the great state of Florida to have two world-class universities."

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, G. Thomas Couser of Hofstra University explains how memoir is often the precursor of social change and the increased acceptance of minority groups. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Thirteen students at six California State University campuses are planning a hunger strike, vowing to fast until the university system freezes tuition, cuts spending on administrators and agrees to various other measures, The Los Angeles Times reported. "We've tried pretty much everything, and they just ignore us," said Donnie Bessom, a student at Cal State Long Beach. "We've talked to state legislators, written petitions, mobilized people on campus. The next step for us is in the tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience. They keep raising salaries and have those other luxuries, and we thought the symbolic nature of a hunger strike was appropriate to the crisis."

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