Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 31, 2013

For months now signs have suggested that law schools are losing their appeal to applicants. All year long, far fewer people have been taking the Law School Admission Test than were doing so the year before. Now data examined by The New York Times indicate a 20 percent decline in the number of applications to law school, compared to this time last year. The long-term trend is even more dramatic. Currently, there are projected to be 54,000 applicants this admissions cycle, down from 100,000 in 2004.

 

January 31, 2013

The Anti-Defamation League says it is “troubled” by an upcoming event at Brooklyn College, co-sponsored by the college’s political science department, that the ADL says is "anti-Israel." The event, which the political science department is sponsoring along with the college’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, will feature two speakers who are part of the BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement, which encourages organizations to cut off all ties to Israel. Ron Meier, the ADL New York regional director, said in a press release that the political science department’s co-sponsorship of the event constitutes institutional endorsement of the sentiments of the BDS movement, and in a letter to Brooklyn College president Karen Gould, Meier urged Gould to tell the political science department to revoke its sponsorship.

But the college is backing the right of the political science department to sponsor any event it wants. In a letter to students, faculty, and staff, Gould wrote that principles of academic freedom grant students and faculty the right to “engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree.” Gould emphasized that while the college endorses free speech, it does not endorse the views of speakers it brings to campus.

A spokesman for the college also noted that another student group, the Israel Club, will host its own event in February.  

January 31, 2013

Federal financial aid programs should be quicker to punish colleges with high loan default rates and more vigilant in ensuring that all students are making satisfactory academic progress, a white paper released Wednesday by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities argued. The white paper, "Federal Student Aid: Access and Completion," is the latest in a series funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called for using both loan default rates and repayment rates to judge colleges' eligibility to participate in financial aid programs. The association argued that standards should be tightened, saying colleges can game the current system by forcing students into forbearance and deferment.

The group also called for rewarding colleges with high completion rates for at-risk students with additional financial aid, cracking down on fraud and improving advising. The paper is somewhat an outlier among the Gates-funded efforts in proposing provisions that appear aimed at for-profit colleges, including the loan default provisions and a recommendation that the government count veteran's benefits as federal aid under the 90/10 rule, which governs how much of a college's revenue can come from the federal government.

January 31, 2013

Excelencia in Education has released a new report, "Growing What Works" that highlights relatively small and affordable programs started at various colleges that have had a significant impact on improving retention and graduation among Latino students. The idea of the report is to spread the news about concrete successes various colleges have had.

 

January 31, 2013

The U.S. State Department is proposing to raise two fees related to the Exchange Visitor [J-1 visa] Program. Under the proposed changes, described  in Wednesday’s Federal Register, the fee assessed for sponsor designation or re-designation would increase from $2,700 to $3,982, and the administrative fee charged for changes to a J-1 visa holder’s status (such as extensions or requests for reinstatement) would increase from $233 to $367.

Short-term visiting scholars fall under the Exchange Visitor Program, as do some students who are being supported by sources other than personal or family funds. Public comments on the proposal are being accepted through April 1.

January 31, 2013

The new president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities pledged to make the group "the happy warriors of a great and godly cause," telling the association's president that his goal was to create a movement of Christian colleges incorporating faith into all areas of academic life. "I want to make not just the spiritual case, but the educational and economic case -- and yes, there is an economic case -- for the integration of faith and learning," Edward O. Blews, Jr., the former president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, told the Christian college group at his inauguration at its annual meeting Wednesday.

January 31, 2013

A faculty investigative committee at the University of California at Berkeley has determined that Terrence Deacon, a professor there who was accused of plagiarism in an unusually public manner, did not commit academic misconduct.

The research misconduct allegations were levied by Michael Lissack, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence, on behalf of himself and two other researchers, Alicia Juarrero, a professor emerita at Prince George’s Community College, and Carl Rubino, a classics professor at Hamilton College. In addition to filing a complaint with Berkeley’s administration, Lissack also created a website detailing the works in question and tracking each instance of supposed plagiarism.

In response, Berkeley has taken the unusual step of creating a website detailing the committee’s findings, which exonerate Deacon. The committee’s findings state that overlap between one of Juarrero’s books and Deacon’s Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter was merely the result of two authors writing about the same topic. In other instances of alleged plagiarism, the committee found, Deacon’s works were actually published or submitted to the publisher before the supposedly plagiarized works were available.

The Berkeley committee also addresses Lissack’s assertion that failing to cite an important work in one’s field constitutes plagiarism. Calling this a “novel standard,” the committee argues that works by Juarrero, Rubino and Lissack also fail to cite previous research in their fields. The committee writes that neglecting an important work is not within the scope of plagiarism, generally defined as knowingly or recklessly using someone else’s words or ideas.  

The committee’s report concludes: “Would it have been better if Deacon had read and cited Juarrero’s book? Yes.… Still, the failure to cite an earlier work with the same subject matter, even an important one, is not by itself research misconduct.”

January 31, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Thomas Reichler of the University of Utah explains the connection between winds in the upper atmosphere and deep ocean currents. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 31, 2013

The Drake Group was born out of a meeting at Drake University in 1999, but in the years since, the faculty group intent on reforming college sports has been a nomad, lacking a permanent home. But that will change now, with the group going "in residence" at the University of New Haven, the academic home of Drake's current president, Allen Sack. a professor of sport management. The Drake Group has focused its efforts on ensuring academic integrity in college athletics.

January 31, 2013

Former men’s tennis coaches at the University of Southern Mississippi (unsuccessfully) bribed a highly recruited player to stay on the team with $5,000 and a car, paid another athlete $150 to write an academic paper for him, and offered him $200 to come back and win an in-progress match, according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association public infractions report. The NCAA announced Wednesday that it had cited the former head and assistant coach with unethical conduct and the university with a failure to monitor its men’s tennis program. The report also noted that the coaches’ refusal to participate in NCAA enforcement interviews and their encouragement of athletes to lie to NCAA investigators.

“The two coaches’ actions obviously fell short of what the NCAA membership expects of its coaches by their failure to act ethically,” Rod Uphoff, acting chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions and law professor at  the University of Missouri at Columbia, said in a call with reporters Wednesday, adding that they also were "ruining" the "opportunities” of the athletes involved, who are now permanently ineligible.

In explaining the university's failure to monitor citation, the report notes a flouting of travel policies and procedures, lack of proper documentation and general administrative oversight of the tennis program, and failure to provide appropriate resources to compliance staff. Also, obviously, the coaches' behavior occurred under supposed administrative watch. The violations took place from January 2008 through May 2010.

Citations include public reprimand and censure; four years’ probation (through Jan. 29, 2017); a seven-year show-cause order for the former head coach and a six-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, which will require any institution that wants to hire those coaches within that time frame to make its case for doing so to the NCAA; prohibition of foreign tour participation for men’s tennis until 2016; and a one-year postseason ban for men’s tennis, as well as vacation of all wins in which the former athletes competed while ineligible (both self-imposed by the university).
 

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