Higher Education Quick Takes
Update: Robert A. Kennedy announced his resignation this morning as president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education in Connecticut. Kennedy said that controversy around decisions he had made had "become a distraction" to the work of getting the new system off the ground. The board's chairman, Lewis Robinson, said in a statement of his own that he had accepted Kennedy's resignation.
Pressure built on Thursday for the president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system to resign, the Connecticut Mirror reported, amid two weeks of intensifying controversy and confusion over leadership in the higher education system. Robert A. Kennedy, the first president of the recently created system, has been closely aligned with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and has carried out an aggressive reform agenda that included a contentious plan to remake developmental education at public colleges. Last week, though, system leaders clashed with presidents of some of the state's community colleges over their future employment, and that paved the way to revelations that Kennedy had approved big raises for some system leaders.
In the wake of those revelations, leaders of the state board distanced themselves from Kennedy on Thursday, saying that they had not been informed about some of the system's decisions. That prompted a flood of news reports including non-supportive statements from Malloy and outright calls for Kennedy's resignations from legislators in both political parties. The system's board is scheduled to meet today.
More than 40 percent of students and recent graduates with high levels of student debt report that they never received the loan counseling required by federal law, according to a new survey released by NERA Economic Consulting and Young Invincibles. The overwhelming majority of such students favor recent Education Department initiatives to standardize aid award letters so students have a better idea of college costs, and what they may need to borrow. Far too many student borrowers "lack adequate counseling and do not understand basic student loan terms," said Rory O’Sullivan, policy director at Young Invincibles and co-author of a report on the survey.
Mo Yan, the a pseudonym for the Chinese novelist and short story writer Guan Moye, was this morning awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. "Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition. In addition to his novels, Mo Yan has published many short stories and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors," said background material from the Nobel committee.
Several of his books are available in translation through university presses including: Change and Pow! (both from University of Chicago Press) and a collection of short stories in a bilingual Chinese and English edition from Columbia University Press.
College completion gets plenty of attention these days. But the challenges many students face in transferring from community colleges to four-year institutions is less visible, according to a new report from the American Association of Community Colleges. In addition to examining those challenges, the report looks at the role of transfer as a pathway to the bachelor's degree and the mobility of credits between institutions. For example, students are almost twice as likely to earn a bachelor's degree when all of their community college transfer credits are accepted by four-year institutions, according to the report, which was written by Christopher M. Mullin, the association's program director for policy analysis.
Gallaudet University placed its chief diversity officer on leave Wednesday, citing her decision to sign a petition endorsing a Maryland voter initiative designed to overturn the state's gay marriage law, the Associated Press reported. Angela McCaskill's signature on the petition was first reported in July, but on Wednesday, T. Alan Hurwitz, president of the Washington, D.C., university that specializes in educating the deaf, announced that he had placed McCaskill on paid administrative leave. "It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as Chief Diversity Officer; however, other individuals feel differently," Hurwitz wrote. "I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university."
Dozens of students at the University of South Alabama protested Wednesday over a recent deadly shooting by a police officer of a naked, unarmed student, the Associated Press reported. The police officer said that the student was charging at him. Since the death, authorities found that the student was on LSD at the time. Critics, including those at Wednesday's protest, said that the police should have used tasers or non-lethal force, and that the student -- by virtue of being naked -- was clearly unarmed. Others held a protest to back the police officer.
Much of the work of the HathiTrust (a consortium of universities) to make books in university collections more easily searchable and accessible to people with disabilities is protected by "fair use" and is not subject to a copyright suit brought by authors' groups, a federal judge has ruled.
"The totality of the fair-use factors suggest that copyright law’s 'goal of promoting the progress of science ... would be better served by allowing the use than by preventing it," said the ruling by Judge Harold Baer Jr. "The enhanced search capabilities that reveal non-copyright material, the protection of defendants’ fragile books, and, perhaps most importantly, the unprecedented ability of print-disabled individuals to have an equal opportunity to compete with their sighted peers in the ways imagined by the [Americans With Disabilities Act] protect the copies made by defendants as fair use...."
The judge added: "Although I recognize that the facts here may on some levels be without precedent, I am convinced that they fall safely within the protection of fair use such that there is no genuine issue of material fact. I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by Defendants’ MDP and would require that I terminate this invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts that at the same time effectuates the ideals espoused by the ADA."
A blog post by James Grimmelmann, a professor at the New York Law School who has followed the case, said that "on every substantive copyright issue, HathiTrust won."
In the last year, some politicians and pundits have been questioning the value of a college degree, but data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau are the latest in a long series of statistics to demonstrate that college degrees have strong value in terms of lifetime earnings of recipients. The statistics focus on field of study and also document that certain majors on average result in much higher lifetime earnings than do other majors. In terms of the impact of bachelor's degrees, engineering degrees had the most payoff, while undergraduate majors in visual and performing arts, communications, education and psychology had the smallest payoffs. (A key caveat is that in some of those fields, graduate study is common and becomes the likely determinant of income.)