Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 3:00am

The board of the National Association for College Admission Counseling on Monday announced its endorsement of a statement on promoting integrity in standardized testing, proposed by NACAC's advisory committee of people concerned with international issues.

"Recent alarming reports, combined with the cumulative experience of practitioners in the field, have highlighted a growing, significant and immediate challenge: how to curb cheating on exams in the U.S. and abroad when the technological means to cheat have never been more available," says the statement. "Students seamlessly, and oftentimes innocently, share test content within minutes of finishing their exams. Organized cheating rings use social and mobile tools to share that same content in real time. Standardized testing organizations monitor popular websites and attempt to ensure that what is illicitly shared is quickly removed. The effectiveness of these efforts is further undermined by the proliferation of private messaging channels, whether SnapChat, WeChat or platforms yet to come. As an organization that is sympathetic to this problem, NACAC appreciates that this is an overwhelming task."

The statement urges a number of steps to promote testing integrity. The first recommendation: "Recognize that while the reuse of entire standardized test forms or test questions is a longstanding practice, the proliferation of modern communications technology today has rendered it vulnerable to easy exploitation."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 3:00am

A group of sociologists and librarians said on Saturday that they, in partnership with the Center for Open Science, will develop a new open-access archive for social science research. The archive, called SocArXiv, will let anyone upload, read and share academic papers, according to the announcement. The announcement comes less than two months after the publishing giant Elsevier said it had acquired the Social Science Research Network, a move many open-access advocates criticized. Although the announcement does not mention the SSRN acquisition, it states that the "dominant networks [that make preprints available and help researchers connect with each other] are run by for-profit companies whose primary interest is in growing their business, not in providing broad access to knowledge."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 3:00am

John Brademas, who played important roles in higher education in Congress and at New York University, died Monday. He was 89.

Brademas was a U.S. representative from Indiana from 1959 until 1981, and held key roles on education committees in the House, using those positions to champion student aid programs and grants to the arts and humanities. From 1981 until 1992, he served as president of New York University, where he is credited with helping to shift NYU from a commuter institution into a residential research university.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 3:00am

A new group, Historians Against Trump, announced itself Monday with an open letter explaining its mission. The group is not endorsing anyone or affiliated with a party but plans to take steps against the candidacy of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

"Today, we are faced with a moral test. As historians, we recognize both the ominous precedents for Donald J. Trump’s candidacy and the exceptional challenge it poses to civil society. Historians of different specialties, eras and regions understand the enduring appeal of demagogues, the promise and peril of populism, and the political uses of bigotry and scapegoating," the letter says. "Historians understand the impact these phenomena have upon society’s most vulnerable and upon a nation’s conscience. The lessons of history compel us to speak out against a movement rooted in fear and authoritarianism. The lessons of history compel us to speak out against Trump."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Sweet Briar College expects 175 new students when it opens its doors for the fall semester, increasing total enrollment but missing targets for the first recruiting season after the women's liberal arts college nearly closed last summer.

The college in rural Virginia on Monday reported 139 incoming first-year students, 18 transfer and nontraditional students, 11 new graduate students, and seven students returning after transferring to other schools. That's expected to bring total enrollment on campus to more than 325 for the 2016-17 academic year, up from 245 in 2015-16. It also means more students have decided to come to Sweet Briar since early May, when 125 applicants had sent deposits. But officials in Sweet Briar's new administration had higher targets, initially shooting for 250 students before revising their goal to 200. The college said it received a record number of applications, 1,390.

Sweet Briar's board moved to close the college in March 2015, pointing to rising tuition discounting, dropping enrollment and trouble attracting students. Alumnae resisted the move, winning a deal last summer to keep the college open. The college, which had wound down many operations, reopened under new trustees with a new president, Phillip Stone, and new fund-raising goals.

The college has now raised $10.25 million over 10 months, outpacing a $10 million goal, it said. Last year it raised $12 million in three months in order to remain open.

Sweet Briar finished its 2016 fiscal year under budget by $2 million, it said. It did not draw from its endowment.

Describing 2016 as “a rebuilding year,” Stone said in a statement, “We took over a mostly shuttered institution and could not start recruiting a new class until September of 2015, six months later than other institutions. The fact that we will have a student body of this size in such a short time is one more Sweet Briar miracle.”

Sweet Briar had 561 students in 2014-15 before the near closure.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Anthony Corbeill, professor of classics at the University of Kansas, explores why some objects are described as feminine and others masculine, and whether things are changing. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, July 11, 2016 - 4:15am

El Centro College on Sunday night released details on its police officers who were on duty when the Dallas shootings took place at and near the campus. Two of its police officers were injured and both continued their work before seeking treatment. Bryan Shaw (at right) was shot by the suspect while protecting an entrance to an El Centro building. After being shot, and with bullet fragments inside him, he continued to work for hours before seeking treatment. He will require additional surgery.

John Abbott (at left) sustained injuries in both legs from flying glass. He attempted to save the life of a Dallas police officer before he sought treatment. He is recovering. The college also noted that a number of its off-duty officers also rushed to the scene to help Thursday night.

Monday, July 11, 2016 - 3:00am

The Reverend John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame (at right), spoke in Mexico City Friday to a group of academic and business leaders, and he used the speech to denounce anti-Mexican rhetoric in the United States. Father Jenkins did not mention Donald Trump by name, but he described the kind of rhetoric he has used. In his speech, he noted Notre Dame's Roman Catholic heritage and its tradition of educating immigrants.

“The vitriol directed at the Irish … and later the Italians, and other waves of immigrants to the United States, sadly is not a thing of the past; certainly not for Mexicans in the United States who have been slandered in extraordinary ways, as has Mexico itself,” Father Jenkins said. “It is churlish, insulting political theater, for certain. But it is not only that. It suggests that the United States distance itself from Mexico at just the time that our nations are most positively engaged with each other and poised to reap the benefits of robust trade, industrialization and entrepreneurship.”

Father Jenkins was in Mexico City to open a Notre Dame office there.

Monday, July 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Plymouth State University officials say that they were shocked to learn last week that Zak Allan Brohinsky, a part-time faculty member in geography, was convicted 10 years ago of lewd sex acts against a fellow undergraduate at the University of Connecticut, The Union Leader reported. Brohinsky was among three undergraduates who ejaculated onto a sleeping female student. He pleaded no contest to reckless endangerment and received a 75-day jail sentence. The incident prompted changes in Connecticut's sex crimes laws, which at the time had a loophole for incidents in which there was no direct contact. Plymouth State officials said that they were surprised the incident didn't come up in a background check on Brohinsky when he was a new employee.

He told the newspaper: "What I did was very immature, it hurt the woman involved very much when she found out, and it's still difficult to talk about now. I didn't use a lot of judgment …. But I owned up to it, and I've worked very hard since then to become a responsible, professional person."

Monday, July 11, 2016 - 3:00am

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has repeatedly cited his education at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as evidence of his intelligence. On Friday, hundreds of students and alumni issued an open letter to state that they do not want Wharton associated with Trump.

"We recognize that we are fortunate to be educated at Wharton, and we are committed to using our opportunity to make America and the world a better place  -- for everyone. We are dedicated to promoting inclusion not only because diversity and tolerance have been repeatedly proven to be valuable assets to any organization’s performance, but also because we believe in mutual respect and human dignity as deeply held values," the letter says. "Your insistence on exclusion and scapegoating would be bad for business and bad for the American economy. An intolerant America is a less productive, less innovative and less competitive America. We, the undersigned Wharton students, alumni and faculty, unequivocally reject the use of your education at Wharton as a platform for promoting prejudice and intolerance. Your discriminatory statements are incompatible with the values that we are taught and we teach at Wharton, and we express our unwavering commitment to an open and inclusive American society."

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