Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 6, 2013

A California judge has ordered the University of California System to reveal how its investments in two venture capital funds have performed, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Reuters sued for the information, arguing that it is covered by the state's open-records laws, a point disputed by the university system.

February 6, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Andrew Lim of the University of Toronto explains the genetics behind the human sleep cycle. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

February 6, 2013

A Haverford College student sent an e-mail to many on campus in the name of the interim president, Joanne Creighton, falsely announcing that the college would apply need-blind admissions policies and providing generous financial aid to those who lack the documentation to live legally in the United States, Philadelphia Magazine reported. The student created a Gmail account in the president's name for the announcement. The student is denying that the e-mail was an act of fraud, which could be seen as violating the college's honor code. On a website the student created, he explained the fake e-mail as a political act. When the e-mail in the interim president's name went out, he wrote, "The World As It Is and The World As It Should Be met for a brief second and said hello. They took a good look at each other and the World As It Should Be said, 'It pains me to look at you- so ugly, hateful, and unfair you are. Why don’t you accept me? Let’s be one in the same.' But The World As It Is decided this was not to be and yelled out, 'You are a fraud! How dare you show yourself?! I am The World As It Is, and we are indefinitely separate and different!'"

February 6, 2013

Subra Suresh, director of the National Science Foundation and a former engineering dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the new president of Carnegie Mellon University. President Obama appointed Suresh as NSF in 2010, and he has been on leave as the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at MIT since then. In 20 years at MIT, he was a chair and professor of materials science and engineering as well as engineering dean. On July 1, he will be Carnegie Mellon's ninth president, succeeding Jared L. Cohon after 16 years in office.

 

February 6, 2013

Mandatory cuts to domestic and defense spending are scheduled to take place March 1, but President Obama called on Congress to postpone the cuts Tuesday with a "smaller package of tax cuts and spending changes." The large-scale mandatory cuts, known as sequestration, were originally scheduled to take effect at the beginning of this year, but were postponed as part of the year-end tax deal.

Obama did not specify what types of cuts he'd like to see. Several higher education programs (although not the Pell Grant) would see cuts of 5.1 percent should the across-the-board spending adjustments take effect, and colleges report that federal research funding has already slowed as a result.

February 6, 2013

A group of female students at Memorial University want to organize a sorority there, and a group of male students want to organize a fraternity. But as CBC News reported, the Newfoundland university's student union is blocking the efforts, saying that it will not recognize any group that discriminates on the basis of gender. Most American colleges with single-sex Greek organizations exempt them from gender bias rules, but the student leaders at Memorial won't do so.

Maxwell Page, a director at large at the student union, said the groups' applications were turned down because they are discriminatory.  The student union, he said, "will not ratify any group that the council considers to be of homophobic, racist, ageist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory nature."

But Amanda Wilkins, the co-president of Nu Delta Mu, said her sorority focuses environmental and health causes and it deserves recognition. "We're looking at maybe working with animals or a cancer society, any way we can help the environment, we plan to get involved with those charities," she said.

February 6, 2013

A panel at Heinrich Heine University has decided to strip Germany's education minister, Annette Schavan, of her doctorate because the committee found her dissertation to be plagiarized, the Associated Press reported. Schavan denies the charges and plans to appeal. A former defense minister in Germany resigned in 2011 after revelations that he had copied portions of his doctoral thesis.

 

February 5, 2013

When word spread this weekend that a massive open online course about online education had to be suspended due to technology problems that left many students angry, officials from Coursera and the Georgia Institute of Technology were not available for comment. In interviews Monday, however, officials of both Coursera and Georgia Tech confirmed that the major issue concerned the ability of the 41,000 students to discuss topics in small groups, and that the technology for that feature indeed was not working. The officials also said that they were confident that fixes would be made in a short time period, and that the course would then continue.

Richard A. DeMillo, director of Georgia Tech's Center for 21st Century Universities, said that officials were "not seeing any insurmountable problems" with the technology. There wasn't enough time to test the features for group discussions, he said. Asked if such testing should have taken place, DeMillo said that it was important to put the issue in perspective. "In a bricks and mortar course, it would have taken months to identify and make changes." DeMillo said it was important to let instructors experiment. "If we tell people to just do safe things, we'll stifle innovation," he said.

Andrew Ng, a co-founder of Coursera, said that the experiment using Google Docs for small group discussions "didn't work well enough," but was "really innovative." He said Coursera is continuing to work on quality control mechanisms that can be used before course launches. But he added that "I'm proud we let instructors experiment with different formats."

DeMillo added that he believed that the small group discussion feature, when it works, will be useful in many MOOCs.

 

February 5, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Robert Heverly of Albany Law School explores the legal implications surrounding differing definitions of the Internet. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

February 5, 2013

York University, in Toronto, announced on Monday that it had received more than $4.5 million from the Canadian International Development Agency to lead the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project in Dadaab, Kenya. York is one of four universities -- along with Moi and Kenyatta Universities, in Kenya, and the University of British Columbia -- participating in the initiative, which aims to provide higher education to primary and secondary school teachers in the six refugee camps on the Kenya-Somalia border. The BHER organizers are focusing on education for teachers – who in many cases have completed only primary or secondary school themselves – with the objective of indirectly improving the quality of education for thousands of their students.

Don Dippo, a professor of education at York, explained that the first cohort of 200 teachers/students will be admitted this summer for a foundation year program. Following the foundation year, the participating universities have committed to offer various two-year diploma and three- or four-year degree programs. The programs will be delivered through a hybrid of face-to-face and online instruction.

BHER's organizers expect to enroll 200 new students a year, for a total of 1,000, over the five-year term of the grant.

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