A group of companies and higher ed groups on Tuesday announced a project aimed at expanding Internet capabilities at rural colleges and universities across the country. The project, called AIR.U., would increase the broadband available to those institutions and their neighbors by harnessing the unused frequencies, called "white space," of defunct television channels. The partners in the deal, which include Microsoft, Google, the New America Foundation and the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (among many others), are billing the project as an altruistic effort to "[upgrade] broadband offerings in those communities that, because of their educational mission, have greater than average demand but often, because of their rural or small town location, have below average broadband." The first networks are expected to come online early next year.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A California judge on Tuesday ordered the University of California to reveal the names of police officers cited (critically) in a report about last year's incident of pepper spraying at the Davis campus, The Los Angeles Times reported. That newspaper and The Sacramento Bee sued for access to the names (which were redacted in the report) under the state's open-records law, which the judge agreed applied to the information. The university says that it would be willing to release the full report, but the union that represents the police officers is expected to appeal Tuesday's ruling.
Lou van den Dries, a mathematics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been fined $500 by the state for skipping ethics training that is required of all state employees, the Associated Press reported. He also has now taken the training. Given that Illinois has two former governors behind bars, many professors have said that forcing them to take ethics training is a waste of time. But the law requires it of all employees. In 2007, van den Dries wrote of the requirement: "It is Big Brother reducing us to the status of children. Symptoms: monitoring of the test taking, the 'award' of a diploma for passing the test. It betrays a totalitarian urge on those in power to infantilize the rest of us."
Three in four Americans believe higher education is a right for everyone, according to a poll released Monday by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Nearly half of Americans (46 percent) said that this was a belief they held strongly. Carnegie released the poll as part of this week's celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act, which created the land-grant university system in the United States.
The College of Saint Rose announced Monday that it will start a three-year test of ending the requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. College officials said that their studies indicated that high school grades in a college preparatory curriculum and extracurricular activities were the best predictors of success at Saint Rose.
Dmitry Livanov, Russia's new education minister, has unveiled controversial reforms for his country's universities. Chemistry World reported that the changes proposed include consolidating universities and ending the tradition of free tuition. Livanov and others argue that they need to change the universities to keep scientific talent, and the plan also calls for significant increases in faculty salaries. Many academics are criticizing the proposal, saying that it would make it more difficult for those in low-income, remote parts of the country to obtain a spot in a top program.
California Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders have reached a deal that would bar public universities from receiving $125 million that could become available for them if voters approve a tax hike unless the universities freeze tuition, The Los Angeles Times reported. Lawmakers dislike planned tuition increases, and see the deal as another incentive for voters to pass the tax increases. But university officials are dubious, saying that they can't give up the tuition revenue, especially given that passage of the tax measure is uncertain.
The board of Saint Paul's College, a historically black institution in Virginia that was stripped of accreditation last week by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, announced Monday that it is considering a range of options. The board formally announced that it is appealing the SACS decision. But Saint Paul's is also considering these options: seeking accreditation from another agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, forming new partnerships or a merger.