Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, August 12, 2016 - 4:24am

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday announced that it was suing New Mexico State University for paying a female assistant track coach less than male assistant track coaches. The suite was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination in employment. The university is disputing the charges, saying that the female coach was not in fact in an equivalent position to the male coaches whose salaries were used by the department in its comparisons.

Friday, August 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Texas Tech University announced plans Thursday to open a branch campus in San José, Costa Rica, in partnership with the Promerica Group, a conglomerate of financial companies located in Central and South America. The campus is scheduled to open in spring 2018 upon approval by the university’s accreditor. Initial degree offerings will include B.S. degrees in computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, mathematics, and restaurant, hotel and institutional management, as well as two certificate programs: an undergraduate certificate in restaurant, hotel and institutional management and a graduate certificate in essentials of business.

Friday, August 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Amber Pearson, assistant professor in the department of geography at Michigan State University, examines why exposure to green and blue spaces can be beneficial for your health. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 4:13am

In legal papers filed this week, the University of Texas and the state attorney general said that professors in the university system who bar guns from classrooms face discipline, The Dallas Morning News reported. The legal papers respond to a lawsuit by three professors at the University of Texas at Austin that says the requirement that guns be allowed in classrooms is vague and inconsistent with the First and Second Amendments. The Morning News article said that the legal papers from the university and the state are "a clear message" to those professors and others to follow the campus carry law, which took effect this month.

"Faculty members are aware that state law provides that guns can be carried on campus, and that the president has not made a rule excluding them from classrooms," said the brief filed this week. "As a result, any individual professor who attempts to establish such prohibition is subject to discipline."

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

George Washington University has settled for an undisclosed amount with a cancer biologist who alleged it mishandled an academic misconduct case against him, Chemistry World reported. The professor, Rakesh Kumar, sued the university for $8 million last year, saying he lost his chairmanship of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine outside of proper protocols. That followed the retraction of three of his papers over questionable images and two expressions of concern, according to Retraction Watch.

Kumar says all but one of the misconduct allegations concerned working conditions in his lab and that he was never accused of fabricating research data or images on his own. He also says the university’s delay and relinquishment of his research grant applications hurt his chances at finding other jobs, and that his reputation and career have been irreparably damaged.

George Washington moved to dismiss the case last year, but a judge said it would proceed, according to Chemistry World. In a joint statement, both Kumar and George Washington said they “wished to resolve and settle all of their differences to avoid the delay, expense and uncertainty associated with administrative proceedings and litigation.”

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

We've seen the Hamilton-inspired introduction of a Hamilton star at a commencement. Now we have an admissions essay question inspired by the Broadway hit.

Wake Forest University has just unveiled one of its new essay questions: "Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical Hamilton has become a cultural phenomenon. It weaves together history with rap and hip-hop through the often-overlooked story of Alexander Hamilton. Choose an unsung historical figure who deserves the Hamilton treatment." Whom would you nominate?

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

One start-of-the-academic-year tradition that has grown in recent years is the discovery of a sorority recruitment video that is particularly expensive to produce and devoid of any evidence that the sorority sisters in question engage in academic work. This year's winner may be Arizona State University's Alpha Phi, which this week unveiled the video below. Pricing sorority videos is not an editorial strength of Inside Higher Ed. But Teen Vogue, citing reporting by Elle on a similar video, estimates the video cost $200,000 to $400,000 to produce. (Inside Higher Ed reached out to Alpha Phi but has not heard back.) Teen Vogue's comment on the video: "In a sorority recruitment commercial promoting Arizona State's chapter of Alpha Phi, the sisters (who are mostly white and blond) embark on a desert adventure, where they take an off-road spin in a pink Jeep, do some totally safe-looking backflips off the side of a cliff and go for a completely, 100 percent normal hot air balloon tour. While nothing says 'sisterhood' quite like frolicking in the desert, the video looks more like an ad for spring break."

The Houston Chronicle wrote of the video, "The only thing we don't see them doing is studying, attending class and performing all those philanthropic acts they claim to do. Minor detail."

You can judge for yourself.

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed’s Cartoon Caption Contest has something up its sleeve this month. Suggest an appropriate caption here.

Click here to vote for your favorite from among of three finalists for our July caption.

And congratulations to Denise Phillips, winner of our contest for June. She is an ESL instructor and assessment coordinator for the ESL program at Hudson County Community College, in New Jersey. Her caption for the cartoon at right -- "Wow! I've never seen those two words used together before!" -- was voted the winner by our readers. She will receive an Amazon gift certificate and a signed copy of the cartoon. Thanks to all of you for reading and participating.

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Wayne Gray, professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, looks at extreme experts and their exceptional capabilities. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 4:24am

The U.S. Department of Education this week asked colleges and universities not to move up their deadlines for applying for financial aid. In theory, colleges could do so this year because of the adoption by the government of "prior prior year," a policy in which students may apply for financial aid based on family income from a year earlier than has been possible in the past. A letter sent to colleges by Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education, asked colleges to publicize this change, and to use the change to provide students with earlier information on their aid eligibility. But the letter also asked colleges not to move up any of their key deadlines in the aid process. Moving up aid deadlines could "put undue pressure on high school seniors to rush through the financial aid and college admissions process." And such changes, Mitchell wrote, could particularly hurt low-income students, "who often have the least amount of information" about applying to college and seeking aid.

A statement from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators suggested that the Education Department's request may be problematic to many colleges. "The letter does not address the inherent conflict that can arise between advising schools to provide students 'with financial aid packages as early as possible' but also telling them to 'not to move any priority financial aid deadlines earlier than your deadlines for recent years.'" the statement says. "For many schools, particularly those with institutional aid, providing a package without moving a priority deadline is not functionally possible, with the alternative being first-come, first-serve packaging -- a detrimental option for low-income students. If having a priority deadline means the school does the bulk of its packaging after the deadline, a later deadline precludes early award packages."

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