Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 3:00am

Spending on "529" savings plans for college is up 75 percent in the last two years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The state-sponsored plans provide tax breaks for contributions to various investment funds. The article attributed the surge to continued concern among families about college costs, but also to renewed confidence in the possibility of making money through investments.

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal this week upheld the right of the University of Victoria to evict a man who had been living in a campus apartment for 20 years, long after he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1997, The Vancouver Sun reported. Alkis Gerd'son, the long-term resident, had argued that the university had no right to evict him because he has a mental disability, but the tribunal rejected his argument.

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican known for his efforts to limit federal spending, on Thursday issued a report attacking the National Science Foundation for "waste, fraud, duplication and mismanagement." The report details various grants (mostly in the social sciences) that Coburn finds hard to justify. A statement from Coburn said that the NSF plays a role in key discoveries but that much of its spending "contributes to our debt rather than science." Coburn is a long-time critic of social science research at the NSF -- in 2009, he tried without success to ban political science research from receiving NSF support. An NSF statement about the report said: "The National Science Foundation is renowned for its gold-standard approach to peer review of each of the more than 40,000 proposals it receives each year, While no agency is without flaws, NSF has been diligent about addressing concerns from members of Congress about workforce and grant management issues, and NSF's excellent record of tracking down waste and prosecuting wrongdoing is apparent from Senator Coburn's report. We believe that no other funding agency in the world comes close to NSF for giving taxpayers the best return on their investment."

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Many students and faculty members at Tsinghua University, in China, have been stunned to find that "the No. 4 Teaching Building" has been renamed for a corporate supporter, Xinhua reported. The building is now called "Jeanswest Building" after a clothing company. Officials noted that Jeanswest had helped the university financially, but some on campus are saying that the university is "selling itself."

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Yale University announced Thursday that the Reserve Officers Training Corps would be returning to the institution, with a Naval ROTC unit. Yale's new unit will be the only Navy ROTC program in Connecticut and will welcome participants from other colleges in the state. Yale is the latest elite college to invite ROTC back to campus in the wake of the authorization by Congress of the end to military discrimination against gay people.

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

A state jury on Wednesday awarded more than $500,000 to a deaf former professor at Texas Tech University, agreeing that his disability played an illegal role in the university's refusal to renew his employment, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. Texas Tech denied wrongdoing. Michael L. Collier, who had been on the tenure track teaching American Sign Language and courses about deaf culture, presented evidence that Texas Tech violated its own rules. The university states that it deals with any concerns about employees by talking with them informally first, so the concerns can be remedied. In his case, Collier said, he never was told of any concerns until the department chair told him his contract would not be renewed.

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

The Executive Committee of the University Faculty Senate of the City University of New York passed a resolution of no confidence Thursday in the system’s provost, Alexandra Logue, and its Office of Academic Affairs for not seeking its advice in a comprehensive reform of student transfer between the system’s two- and four-year institutions. The effort would create a general education framework for all of the system’s institutions, causing some senior institutions to significantly trim their requirements. The overarching transfer agreement would guarantee that liberal arts and sciences courses taken for credit at any CUNY institutions be accepted for credit by any other CUNY institutions, even if an equivalent course exists at the transfer institution. The University Faculty Senate, a group representing all institutions but dominated by four-year faculty, argues that the reforms, as initially written, “would have undermined educational quality and threatened the accreditation of many CUNY programs.” It also argues that a recent revision of the transfer proposal, done with what it feels was insufficient faculty input, “still does not adequately provide for student transfer in a way that safeguards the quality of general education at CUNY.” In response, Jay Hershenson, system spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed: "Allowing transfer students greater access to quality course choices is a big change from a highly prescriptive out-of-the-mainstream system installed in the last century. But the students deserve our support and commitment to academic quality."

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Swarthmore College is offering a special service for Spanish-speaking family members of graduates. They will be able to use wireless headsets to receive simultaneous translation of the commencement ceremony into Spanish, the Associated Press reported. Students suggested the idea as a way to enable all family members to follow the events.

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Philip Fernbach of Brown University reveals that when it comes to proving a point, weak evidence is often worse than no evidence at all. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, May 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Two members of Congress -- Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican -- are asking the College Board and ACT for more information about the policies they have to protect the privacy of those who take the SAT or ACT, Bloomberg reported. The lawmakers note that the associations not only collect names of test-takers, but also sell the names to colleges seeking potential applicants. Officials of the two testing companies said that they hadn't received the information requests, and so couldn't comment on them.

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