Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 9, 2013

The Harvard Business School has undertaken one of the most ambitious efforts ever to promote gender equity in business education, with mixed results, according to an in-depth report in The New York Times. The article describes a wide range of efforts, including coaching for female professors and students, and campaigns against social traditions that may have placed women at a disadvantage. Many women say that the efforts have been overdue, and applaud the efforts. But others see a degree of social engineering that they find inappropriate for graduate education.

 

September 9, 2013

The University of British Columbia is the second Canadian university in a week to be investigating the use of a chant seen as encouraging rape and underage sex, CTV News reported. Last week, officials at Saint Mary's University, in Halifax, responded with outrage to a sexist chant on video, with orientation leaders involved. Now, UBC is investigating with a similar chant is used during orientation at its business school. The chant: “Y-O-U-N-G at UBC we like ‘em young, Y is for your sister, O is for oh so tight, U is for under age, N is for no consent, G is for go to jail."

September 9, 2013

Athletes are protesting a shift in Lafayette College's policy about students who need medical help because of alcohol consumption, The Morning Call reported. Like many colleges, Lafayette has a "Good Samaritan" policy that assures students that they will not be punished for underage drinking when they seek medical attention for themselves or others. So far this academic year, athletes have made up half of those needing medical attention due to binge drinking, and athletics officials said that they were going to start punishing such athletes, with suspensions from competition.

Some athletes are predicting that the new policy will discourage students from seeking help, potentially endangering them. But Bruce McCutcheon, the athletics director, defended the new policy. "It is a privilege to wear Lafayette on your chest. If you choose behaviors that are not responsible, you need to be prepared for the consequences," he said.

September 9, 2013

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has lifted the sanction of "on notice" from Ashford University, according to a corporate filing from Bridgepoint Education, the for-profit university's holding company. The commission had been concerned that Ashford would not meet its new standards for accreditation, including a requirement for colleges to have a "substantial presence" in the regional accreditor's geographical domain. But the university apparently resolved those issues. In a related action, Ashford's biggest accreditation victory this year has been to successfully transfer its status to the Western Association of Colleges and Schools, a move that took two tries.

September 9, 2013

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week gave a lift to free speech rights for faculty members at public colleges and universities by ruling that a 2006 Supreme Court decision does not limit those rights. Instead, the appeals court found that a more general First Amendment analysis protects those rights. The 2006 ruling, in Garcetti v. Ceballos, limited the speech rights of public employees. But the decision, which concerned the Los Angeles district attorney's office, noted that the ruling did not deal with identical issues to those found in public higher education. Despite that, some courts have been applying the ruling to faculty disputes at public universities -- while others have not. Faculty leaders have been pushing for clarification of university policies as a way to protect free speech rights amid the uncertain legal environment.

Last week's ruling, which essentially adopted the position of faculty groups with regard to Garcetti, came in a lawsuit by David Demers, a professor who says he was retaliated against with negative performance reviews for writings that criticized the administration. A lower court, citing Garcetti, rejected the suit, which has now been revived by the appeals court. The appeals court sent the case back to the district court, however, and did not determine whether retaliation had taken place.

September 6, 2013

CourseSmart, the digital publishing company founded by higher education publishers, today announced options to make renting and purchasing educational materials more flexible. Previously, the company only allowed customers to rent e-textbooks for 180 days -- a window that is now being expanded to half a dozen options ranging from a 60-day rental to purchasing the book outright. CourseSmart also introduced Subscription Packs, which allow students to fill six slots in a "digital bookshelf" for a flat fee of $200. 

"There’s a lot that’s to be said about how digital can save students money," CourseSmart CEO Sean Devine said. "Instead of going out and spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks ..., you can come to one place."

CourseSmart is also working with its publishing partners to add more interactive elements, like embedded videos and multiple choice tests, to its e-textbooks, Devine said.

"One of the criticisms of e-textbooks to date has been that they don’t add a lot of value -- except perhaps saving students money," Devine said. "There’s a fair amount of convergence going on beween what was previously a flat textbook and the more interactive, digital products. It’s our belief that digital products in the future will look more like this."

September 6, 2013

Texas A&M University-Commerce and South Texas College will next spring launch a competency-based degree program in organization leadership, the institutions announced on Thursday. The programs will be created in cooperation with Pearson, which will create online courses totaling 90 credit hours. Pearson estimates the program will enroll 250 students in its inaugural semester -- a number that will grow to more than 6,000 students by 2019.

September 6, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Nadler of the Georgia Institute of Technology reveals how the remora is able to maintain such a strong grip on its host. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 6, 2013

The University of London has abandoned a plan to auction off an early set of Shakespeare, The Guardian reported. The university has been defending the plan, noting that it needs more money to preserve and grow its collection of historic documents, and that it has other early editions of Shakespeare. But criticism from academics has been intense, and was cited by university leaders in calling off the plan. "The university has decided to focus its attention on examining alternative ways of investing in the collection. The money raised from any sale would have been used to invest in the future of the library by acquiring major works and archives of English literature," said Adrian Smith, the vice chancellor.

 

September 6, 2013

States generally meet their obligations to match certain federal funds that go to predominantly white land-grant universities, but this isn't the case for historically black land-grant colleges, according to a new report by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Between 2010-12, the report says, the black land-grant colleges should have received an additional $56 million in state funds.

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