Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:00am

Three portraits of Yale University’s Calhoun College namesake came down Monday as a larger debate over whether or not to rename the college itself continues.

"I think it broadens the symbolic space for discussion because it underlines the openness of the moment," said Julia Adams, professor of sociology at Yale and master of Calhoun College, about her decision to take the portraits down. A broader conversation about the name of the college -- which honors the pro-slavery South Carolina politician John C. Calhoun -- and how best to preserve and remember the darker elements of Yale's past is ongoing. (Pictured above is David Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of History and Professor of African-American Studies and of American Studies, delivering a lecture on Calhoun's life and the meaning of Confederate symbols at an event in September.)

Adams also noted that "the portraits are in desperate need of cleaning and artistic valuation … I have to admit, it’s also practically helpful to be taking care of them right now."

A decision about the college's name is expected sometime before summer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:08am

Mills College announced last week that it will no longer require the SAT or ACT for admissions. College officials cited research showing that many minority and low-income students want the option to be judged on measures other than test scores.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Martin Gerdes, professor of biomedical sciences at the New York Institute of Technology, delves into a new treatment that could help us live longer and better lives. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Jordan Kurland, who worked for more than 50 years at the American Association of University Professors, died Saturday morning at the age of 87. He worked for the AAUP up until Jan. 8. His title at the AAUP was associate general secretary, and his job focused on conducting investigations into alleged attacks on faculty rights and academic freedom. As an AAUP resolution honoring him noted, Kurland played a role in more than 90 percent of all of the investigations conducted in AAUP history. Last year, as part of the AAUP's celebration of the organization's centennial, Kurland compiled a list of AAUP investigations he considered particularly significant in each decade of the group's history.

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Massive open online course platform Coursera is removing the option to complete some of the courses offered on its platform for free. Coursera has previously offered a free track and a paid track that awards an identity-verified certificate, but as of last week, learners will have to pay a fee in some courses to have their assignments graded. Learners in those courses who choose not to pay can still browse the course materials, including discussions and assignments.

"We are on a mission to change the world by providing universal access to the best learning experience," Coursera said in a blog post. "To do this, we also need to have a business model that supports our platform, our partners, our content and everything we do for learners. The changes that we are making this year will move us toward sustainability and enable continued investment in our learning experience, without compromising our commitment to transforming lives for people around the world."

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

The University Senate at Loyola University New Orleans voted 38-10 to pass a measure of no confidence in the president, the Reverend Kevin Wildes, The New Orleans Advocate reported. Professors say cuts Father Wildes has announced are in large part due to poor decisions he made when the university faced earlier financial and enrollment problems. The board has expressed confidence in the president, and board leaders spoke to the University Senate before the vote.

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 4:18am

The Pentagon has asked the American Psychological Association to reconsider a ban it enacted last year on psychologists participating in national security investigations, such as those at Guantánamo Bay, The New York Times reported. The ban was adopted after many psychology professors and practicing psychologists expressed outrage over some of their colleagues helping the military in ways many viewed as unethical. The APA said it would meet soon with the Pentagon to discuss its policies. Military officials have said they don't object to the association adopting ethical standards, but urged the group to avoid a "blanket prohibition" on helping with national security interrogations.

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

An influential Republican state senator has criticized Ray Cross, president of the University of Wisconsin System, for meeting with student leaders last week to talk about how to improve the climate for minority students, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Steve Nass, vice chairman of the Senate University and Technical Colleges Committee, issued a press release in which he said Cross shouldn't have held the meeting. "President Cross needs to stop wasting time appeasing the political correctness crowd demanding safe spaces, safe words, universal apologies for hurt feelings and speech/thought police," Nass said in a press release he issued.

A university system spokesman declined to comment on the statement.

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

From 2005 to 2014, inflation‐adjusted expenditures on humanities research and development increased in every year but one, and in 2014 the total was 75 percent higher than it was in 2005, according to new Humanities Indicator data from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The rate of increase is far greater than for most science and technology fields. But the base for humanities spending is much, much smaller than that of other fields. In 2014, spending for humanities research equaled 0.6 percent of the amount dedicated to science and engineering. Unlike most other forms of research in higher education, humanities research does not rely on federal spending for a majority of its support. In 2014, federal support made up only 19 percent of humanities funding. Details may be found here.

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 3:00am

A University of Virginia student is being detained in North Korea for allegedly committing an unspecified “hostile act” against the state, The Washington Post reported. Otto Frederick Warmbier was detained Jan. 2 after participating in a five-day trip organized by Young Pioneer Tours.

An account in North Korean state media accused Warmbier of having entered the country “for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its ma­nipu­la­tion.”

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the agency is aware of media reports that an American citizen has been detained and that it is working with the Swedish embassy, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea. “The welfare of U.S. citizens is one of the department’s highest priorities,” said Mark Toner, the department's deputy spokesman.

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