Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 14, 2013

The Horace Mann School, an elite private high school in New York City, informed parents that an anonymous person has written to colleges with the goal of damaging the admissions chances of one of the school's students, New York Magazine reported. The school has contacted the admissions offices that received the material to try to undo the damage. A letter sent by Canh Oxelson, director of college counseling, to parents said: "In 20 years of college admissions, I have never witnessed anything so disrespectful.... For a student to have worked so hard for so many years, only to see those efforts jeopardized by an act of sabotage, is absolutely unconscionable."

October 14, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Matthew Heard of Winthrop University discusses the threat diseases pose to endangered species. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

October 14, 2013

A new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here) finds that college and university endowments change their policies on spending rates regularly -- a finding that was not expected. "Given the long-term and relatively static nature of the investment problem faced by the typical educational institution, existing theoretical models of endowment management predict that the permanent portion of the stated spending policy should be highly stable," the report says. But based on an analysis of more than 800 college and university endowments from 2003 through 2011, the study found that half of the endowments changed spending policies at least once, and a quarter did so every year.

 

October 14, 2013

Most of the discussions and lawsuits over concussions are coming from football players, but one former Samford University soccer player entered the fray last week, with a lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association arguing that the association didn’t do enough to educate athletes on the dangers of head trauma. Mary Shelton Wells’s athletic career ended in 2010 due to a brain injury sustained while playing soccer, WPMI Local 15 in Alabama reported.

The NCAA is facing multiple concussion lawsuits, some class action, filed by former football players. The National Football League recently agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit by former players who argued the NFL deliberately concealed the dangers of head trauma.

October 14, 2013

Some law school deans thought recent communication from U.S. News & World report indicated that the magazine's rankings were about to ignore the recommendations of the American Bar Association. It turns out that U.S. News is preserving that option, but hasn't decided what to do. At issue is one of the recommendations of a special ABA panel that last month proposed numerous changes in legal education. One of the focuses of the ABA panel was the widespread criticism that law school is too expensive and that, at many law schools, spending that forces up tuition rates may not be improving the student experience. The panel specifically cited the impact of U.S. News including spending (expenditures per student) in its methodology. "This encourages law schools to increase expenditures for purpose of affecting ranking, without reference to impact on value delivered or educational outcomes, and thus promotes continued increase in the price of law school education." The panel urged U.S. News to stop including the measure in its methodology.

As a result, some law deans were disturbed to get this year's information request from U.S. News, with the same expenditure questions as in years past. One unnamed dean wrote on the blog Brian Leiter's Law School Reports: "While the decision to rank schools according to how much they spend has always been corrosive, perverse, and misleading, it is particularly disturbing to see U.S. News continue to do so in light of the above and in light of the urgent need for law schools to hold down costs and limit expenditures in order to minimize student debt."

Robert Morse, who directs the rankings at U.S. News, via e-mail confirmed that the questions were being asked but he said it was inaccurate to say that the information will be used in the next rankings. But he said that the rankings operation "has not made a determination at this time if there will be any change in the upcoming best law schools  ranking methodology."

 

October 14, 2013

Yeshiva University no longer employs Akiva Roth, who as recently hired as a Hebrew instructor, after reports that he had been convicted of lewdness in the past, related to inappropriate contact with boys whom he tutored, The Forward reported. Yeshiva is currently facing lawsuits and considerable criticism for a series of reports about how officials did not take action against officials at its high school who abused students. Yeshiva did not indicate whether Roth resigned or was fired after the Forward reported on his past. A Yeshiva spokesman said: "While all appointments are subject to thorough background checks, the university erred in this case, permitting the new hire to begin teaching before the screening process had been completed,"


 

October 14, 2013

More medical colleges are  managing conflicts of interest in clinical care, but most still do not meet national standards for dealing with conflicts, according to a study released Friday by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession.  Researchers looked at medical colleges' policies in 2011, and found that nearly two-thirds of medical colleges did not have policies to limit ties to industry in a least one of the areas the study examined, which included gifts, meals, drug samples and payments for travel, consulting and speaking. None of the 133 medical colleges met all of the standards for the 12 areas examined, but a number of medical colleges made progress toward national standards since the institute's previous study, based on 2008 data. The proportion of medical colleges with no policies dropped from more than 25 percent in 2008 to less than 2 percent in 2011.

“We are pleased that the authors recognize the substantial efforts that medical schools have taken over the past several years to strengthen their conflict of interest policies,” said Heather Price, senior director of science policy for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

A majority of the medical schools have no policies or permissive policies for accepting drug samples and industry-funded continuing medical education, consulting, honoraria and speakers’ bureaus, according to the study. The findings should prompt medical school administrators to “take bolder steps to rid medicine of industry influence and preserve public trust,” said David Rothman, the institute's president and the study's co-author.

 

 

October 14, 2013

Pressure is growing on the board of Westfield State University to remove Evan Dobelle as president. Dobelle has been accused of lavish and inappropriate spending on travel and personal items. Richard Freeland, commission of higher education in Massachusetts said Friday that it was "highly questionable" that Dobelle remain in office, The Boston Globe reported. While Dobelle has defended his record, and said that he is reimbursed the state for inappropriate expenses, Freeland said that the record shows Dobelle to have engaged in "repeated examples of inappropriate behavior," and that "it would be hard to overstate the damage that has been done to the reputation of our public colleges and universities." A spokesman for Dobelle said that the Freeland statements "were evidence of a well coordinated public relations attack to mask political agendas."

 

 

October 11, 2013

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels has apologized for giving a speech this week at the fund-raiser for a conservative think tank in Minnesota. Daniels was the Republican governor of Indiana before becoming Purdue's president and he vowed to avoid partisan political activity in his new job. So some on campus were bothered by the appearance and an editorial in The Journal and Courier said that his Purdue role "will continue to be questioned and pulled down whenever he steps, however innocently, onto political turf." In a letter to the editor of the newspaper, Daniels stressed that the speech itself was not partisan. But he said that the editorial was correct, and that he should not have accepted the invitation, even if he didn't break any university rules in doing so. "[F]acts and rules aren’t the determining factor here. Perceptions, and understandable misperceptions, matter even more," he wrote. On reflection, this invitation should have fallen on that side of the line. I accept the validity of the criticism and will try to avoid similar judgment errors in the future."

 

October 11, 2013

Not long ago, Altius Education was a darling of the higher ed innovation world, having teamed up with the nonprofit Tiffin University to create Ivy Bridge College, which was held out as a potential model for public-private partnerships to drive college access and completion. Then Tiffin's accreditor intervened, questioning whether the privately held Altius held inappropriate control over key academic functions at Ivy Bridge that should have been in Tiffin's domain, and calling for the partnership to be shuttered.

On Thursday, Altius's ambitions not only of turning Ivy Bridge into a freestanding institution but also of creating other such partnerships appeared to have formally ended, with an announcement by Datamark that it was purchasing Altius's various technology platforms and taking on several dozen of its employees. Datamark, which provides enrollment marketing and other services to colleges and universities, said it would buy Altius's competency-based learning platform, known as Helix, as well as other technologies and invest $11 million in expanding the company's reach.

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