Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 1, 2014

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio must defend itself against charges that it failed to renew a nurse's contract because she had accused administrators there of sexual harassment, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated part of a lower federal court's ruling dismissing the complaint brought by Monica Hague, saying that a jury could reasonably conclude that the university's reasons for letting Hague go were "pretextual" and that it may have retaliated against her. The divided appeals panel affirmed the lower court's dismissal of Hague's harassment and discrimination claims.

 

 

April 1, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Thalia Wheatley, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, scientifically deconstructs the way humans use figurative language to convey abstract ideas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 1, 2014

The hiring of "star" professors -- defined by their research output -- results in improvement in the research productivity of the departments they join, according a study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, The study (available to subscribers; abstract available here), by scholars at the University of Toronto, Georgia Institute of Technology, and National University of Ireland, Galway, finds that the recruitment of research stars does nothing to lift the productivity of those already in the department (and actually leads to reduced productivity of some of them). But the productivity of researchers who join the department after a star joins increases significantly -- for scholars who work in related and unrelated fields alike. The study finds that the effects are most pronounced at mid-ranked institutions.

 

April 1, 2014

Institutional research offices at public colleges and universities that are part of state systems focused more heavily on data collection and report writing than on analysis and communication, and spend far more of their time examining student retention and graduation than issues related to campuses' use of money, people and facilities, the National Association of System Heads says in a new report. The study, based on surveys of campus and system IR officials and interviews with campus leaders, says that IR officials themselves are more confident than their bosses are about whether the institutional research offices can adapt to the increased demands on their institutions to use data to improve their performance.

"IR offices are running hard and yet many are still falling behind, deluged by demands for data collection and report writing that blot out time and attention for deeper research, analysis and communication," the report states. Institutional leaders "often expressed the need for some ‘outside’ help in this area, drawing from expertise from other complex organizations such as hospitals, where there is a sense that more is being done to use data to drive both accountability and change."

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April 1, 2014

A Princeton University student has sued the university and seven administrators, saying that they violated his rights when they reacted to a suicide attempt in his dormitory room by evicting him and asking him to withdraw from classes, NJ.com reported. The suit alleges that Princeton was not acting in the student's best interests, but was trying to avoid adverse publicity. A Princeton spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the case. The suit comes at a time that colleges are under increased scrutiny -- in part due to new federal regulations -- over their responses to potentially suicidal students.

 

April 1, 2014

A study by the Saint Louis University medical school suggests that medical student depression and stress levels can be decreased without reducing the level of academic rigor. The medical school adopted a series of efforts designed to help students better manage their stress levels. Comparing the classes before and after the changes, the medical school found that the percentage of students who had depression fell from 27 to 11 percent. At the same time, board scores went up.

 

April 1, 2014

Bryn Mawr College is announcing today that it is dropping the vowels from its name and questioning the use of vowels generally. The college will now be known as Brn Mwr. The move is being described as the first major initiative of the college's new president, Kim Cassidy. A statement from Cassidy said: "This is the age of Twitter, every character counts. And really, what’s the difference, no one can pronounce our name anyway." The college also announced plans for an academic conference related to the institution's new skepticism of vowels. The conference is “The Hegemony of the Vowel: Incontinence and Lipogrammatics.” One of the planned sessions is "The Habermasian Response: Communicative Ir-Rationality?"

Faculty reaction has been mixed, with English professors expressing concern about the college's anti-vowel stance, particularly if it is to be applied to works of literature. See video below, where faculty discuss the issue. If you are feeling confused by Brn Mwr's actions, consider today's date.

March 31, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Craig Vierra, professor and assistant chair of the University of the Pacific's College of Biological Sciences, discusses his work on a way to replicate spider silk. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

March 31, 2014

A Michigan Senate subcommittee has proposed taking $500,000 away from Michigan State University's budget if it continues to run a training program for unions, The Lansing State Journal reported. Language in the budget bill would punish universities that if they “participate in any instructional activity that encourages or discourages union organizing of employees.” A number of public universities have such programs, and supporters note that most universities offer extensive programming for business leaders on a range of topics, including labor relations. The blog of the American Association of University Professors calls the budget provision a "major attack on academic freedom in Michigan."

 

 

March 31, 2014

Pearson Embanet could earn up to $186 million over 11 years from its deal to manage the new University of Florida online college, The Gainesville Sun reported. The article details efforts by the university to keep many details (including how Pearson Embanet's performance will be judged) private, saying that they are trade secrets.

 

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