Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The provost of Drake University, Michael Renner, announced Tuesday that he would step down next month because of differences with David Maxwell, the president, The Des Moines Register reported. “In my recent conversations with the president, it has become clear that our respective leadership philosophies differ in important ways,” said Renner, in an e-mail to the campus. “In view of this, I believe that it is in the best interests of the university for me to step aside and allow the president to seek a new provost.” Renner declined to elaborate on the differences and Maxwell could not be reached.

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Marc Hauser, a Harvard University psychology professor who the university determined committed scientific misconduct, will be barred from teaching for the next year, The Boston Globe reported. While the university has announced that it found Hauser guilty of misconduct, it has been vague about the nature of the misconduct. Hauser had previously been scheduled to teach in the fall.

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The cheer team at California State University at Long Beach has been stripped of its national title after the discovery that one of the members was no longer a student, NBC Los Angeles reported. The university is investigating the possibility that another team member may also have not been a student.

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Dharun Ravi, who was the roommate of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who killed himself last year, was charged with 15 counts related to allegations that he filmed Clementi's encounter with a man and broadcast it in an act of anti-gay bias, the Associated Press reported. Ravi also was charged with trying to cover up what he did. Ravi's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Ellen Lewin, a professore of anthropology and gender, women's and sexuality studies at the University of Iowa, is under fire for her response to a mass e-mail from a campus Republican group about "Conservative Coming Out Week." Lewin replied "FUCK YOU REPUBLICANS" from her university account. Now Republicans are complaining about her language, The Iowa City Press Citizen reported. Lewin has apologized, sending a subsequent e-mail message in which she said: "I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times."

Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Mount Saint Mary College's Charles Zola examines the meaning of Easter to Christians through history and in the present. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 3:00am

A Michigan State University panel has found that Sharif Shakrani, a professor there, plagiarized in a 2010 analysis he wrote of school-consolidation plans in the state, The Grand Rapids Press reported. The panel also found three other instances of plagiarism by Shakrani, who declined to comment on the findings. His analysis has been heatedly debated in the state by people with various positions on school consolidation. A decision on any punishment of the professor is pending.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Susanne Freidberg of Dartmouth College explains the egg's path from seasonal consumption to year-round staple. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 3:00am

A state judge in North Carolina has ruled that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill improperly cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to deny journalists access to athletes' parking tickets and certain phone records of athletics officials. Additional requests from both The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper, and several other publications are still pending.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Blackboard, the e-learning giant, announced on Tuesday that it has received "unsolicited, non-binding proposals" to be bought out. The company, which is publicly traded, appears to be taking the offers seriously; it has retained the investment firm Barclays Capital to help it figure out whether it wants to sell. Blackboard's stock leaped by nearly 30 percent with the news.

The entity that has proposed to acquire Blackboard is not known. Scott Berg, a research analyst with the investment bank Feltl and Company, told Inside Higher Ed he thinks it is unlikely that the suitors would be other software companies, since the software products Blackboard sells -- online learning platforms, emergency notification systems, and data analytics tools, among others -- would not make an obvious addition to the arsenal of any other software firm. (The only software-related companies Berg speculated might make a bid for Blackboard are Microsoft and Pearson. Neither of those companies elected to comment.) It is more likely that a potential suitor would be a private equity firm, Berg said, in which case the consequences for Blackboard's many higher-ed customers would be difficult to predict.

Kenneth C. Green, director of the Campus Computing project, speculated that an acquisition could mean increased costs for colleges. “Blackboard has been aggressive in buying other firms,” Green wrote in an e-mail, “more than half a billion dollars in acquisitions since 2006…. That's a lot of debt to pay down, and more debt is likely to come following an acquisition. All of which suggests that the company's new owners will be looking for new revenue, which could well mean price increases across the range of Blackboard's current product lines and services.”

This article in The Financial Times explores reasons some companies may or may not be likely to be making a bid for Blackboard. Joshua Kim, who writes the Technology and Learning blog for Inside Higher Ed, has written in the past why a Blackboard purchase would make sense for either Microsoft or Google.

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