Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

U.S. Representative Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican, is in his first term in Congress and is best known for having defeated Eric Cantor, who at the time was the House majority leader, in the Republican primary in their district last year. Brat, an economist, taught at Randolph-Macon College before entering Congress, and he cited that experience last week during committee debate on programs to support elementary schools. Brat's theme was that education funding isn't needed.

“The greatest thinkers in Western civ were not products of education policy,” he said. “Socrates trained Plato on a rock and then Plato trained in Aristotle roughly speaking on a rock. So, huge funding is not necessary to achieve the greatest minds and the greatest intellects in history.” (In the video below, Brat's comments start at around 45:45.)

On Friday, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a study (abstract available here) on the impact of increases in state spending on public schools. The study found that significant increases can be linked not only to an increase in the number of years of education that students receive, but to higher adult wages and lower adult poverty.




Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Several conference commissioners, based in part on a push by Pac-12 presidents and chancellors, say it is time for the National Collegiate Athletic Association to consider ending the eligibility of freshmen to play basketball, CBS Sports reported. The idea is in play because of frustration of many academic leaders over the increasing practice of star basketball players taking the "one and done" approach of playing a single year in college and then dropping out to join the National Basketball Association. Freshmen were ineligible in college sports until 1972.


Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Missouri at Kansas City announced Friday that Michael Song has resigned as a faculty member of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. “We have outstanding students and excellent programs that I helped create in the Bloch School but my presence has become an unnecessary distraction,” said Song in a statement released by the university. Song was a central player in providing false information to the Princeton Review for rankings that have since been declared invalid.


Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Antismoking groups and some academics are calling on the University of Zurich to retract two papers it published -- without peer review -- that were financed by Philip Morris International, The Guardian reported. The papers argued that there is no evidence that requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packages has an impact on tobacco use. Critics are questioning the findings and the nature of the arrangement with Philip Morris, noting that the company had the right to review the material prior to publication. The researchers defend their work and say that it is being described inaccurately.


Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Seattle Pacific University, a Christian institution, has opened part of its campus for a tent city (at right) of homeless people who together move to various locations in the Seattle area. About 80 people will live in tents at Seattle Pacific for three months. The university is adding educational and service programs on the homeless so that students can both learn about the issue of homelessness and provide direct help to those who are living on campus. The tent city reflects the university's "mission to engage the culture and change the world,” said a statement from President Daniel J. Martin. “It provides our community a unique opportunity to care for and learn from our neighbor.”

Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Canadian authorities are investigating the theft of three paintings from various buildings at the University of Toronto. Police officers say the paintings were stolen from separate locations, and that they were cut out of their frames. The most valuable of the three is "Church of Santa Maria della Salute," by Francesco Guardi (at right). The Globe and Mail reported that paintings by Guardi have sold in recent years for many millions of dollars.

Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

The National Labor Relations Board on Friday remanded another case involving a would-be adjunct faculty union at a religious college -- Duquesne University -- back to a regional NLRB office in light of the NRLB’s recent ruling regarding Pacific Lutheran University. The NRLB earlier this month sent three similar union cases back to their respective regional offices for further action in light of the Pacific Lutheran ruling.

In that case -- which many called a major win for unions and a blow to long-standing legal precedents challenging the right of tenure-line faculty members at private institutions and faculty members generally at religious institutions to freely form unions -- the board said adjuncts at Pacific Lutheran could form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union. The board based its decision on its opinion that adjuncts at Pacific Lutheran don't perform specific religious functions that might cause them to fall outside its jurisdiction, and on the opinion that the faculty members lacked the managerial duties that might prevent them from forming a union.

A majority of Duquesne adjuncts voted in 2012 to form a union affiliated with the United Steelworkers, but the university appealed their right to form a union, citing its Roman Catholic affiliation. The union has been on hold since. Experts say these remands are largely procedural, but some adjuncts at affected institutions say they're cautiously optimistic that their union bids are one step closer to becoming real.

Also on Friday, the NLRB remanded to a regional office an earlier decision granting Saint Xavier University a review of a regional director’s decision regarding its would-be adjunct union. That remand was made in light of the recent (2014) U.S. Supreme Court decision in NLRB vs. Noel Canning, which successfully challenged the constitutionality of some NLRB appointments made during a Congressional recess. Some have argued that the decisions made by implicated appointees -- including the Saint Xavier decision -- are not legal. The case already had been remanded back to the regional director in light of the Pacific Lutheran decision.

Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Peking University announced Sunday that it is replacing its president, who has been controversial, with another academic leader who has also been controversial, The South China Morning Post reported. Out is Wang Enge, who has been in the office only two years and who has been criticized for his push for an elite college within the university to educate foreign students. He is being replaced by Lin Jianhua, who has been controversial in two previous presidencies.

Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Ron Mallett, research professor of physics at the University of Connecticut, discusses theories of studying time travel. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, February 13, 2015 - 3:00am

The National Association of the Deaf on Thursday sued Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, saying the institutions violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by not captioning all of the course content they make available online. Some of the content, NAD said, relies on automatic captions provided by Web sites such as YouTube, which sometimes produce unintelligible captions depending on audio clarity, while other videos don't offer captions at all. The cases are filed in a federal district court in Massachusetts.


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