Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, May 23, 2011 - 3:00am

The Syrian Studies Association last week issued a statement noting that its members are "deeply saddened by the violence that is occurring throughout the country" and "are particularly distressed by reports of deliberate shootings and mass arrests." The statement also noted the "disappointment of the many researchers who are unable to conduct their work under existing circumstances." The association is recommending that scholars who were planning fieldwork in Syria this summer "cautiously evaluate developments inside Syria before traveling." Members of the association are also being urged to "do everything they can to provide informed and accurate background and commentary regarding events in Syria, so that policy-makers and the general public alike benefit from the insights of scholars who have devoted time and energy to understanding the subtleties of Syria's internal and regional affairs."

Finally the association appeals to any members with connections to Syrian authorities to "impress upon them the importance of unrestricted channels of news and information, which offer the only viable foundation for an appreciation of the objectives and motivations of all sides in any dispute."

Monday, May 23, 2011 - 3:00am

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who has become a leading critic of for-profit higher education, took to the Senate floor Thursday night to criticize ads that he said were encouraging students to enroll at such institutions, The Hill reported. "The ad that just really troubles me shows a lovely young woman who says you can go to college in your pajamas.... You don't even have to get out of bed to go to college, and she's got a computer on her bed there." He added that "I don't believe anybody should fall for that, but some must, and they end up signing up for these for-profit schools, getting deep in debt with a worthless diploma when it's all over."

The Hill identified this ad -- in which the actress playing a student starts by saying "I love learning new things in my pajamas" -- as the one that concerned Durbin:

The ad is for EducationConnection.com, which promotes online higher education. While many of the colleges it promotes are for-profit, others are not.

Monday, May 23, 2011 - 3:00am

Georgetown University's commencement ceremonies were smooth except for one problem -- a typo on the program cover -- The Washington Post reported. Georgetown University appeared as Georgetown Univeristy. Georgetown plans to make corrected programs available.

Monday, May 23, 2011 - 3:00am

A review committee has recommended that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst not renew the contract of Chancellor Robert Holub, setting the stage for the flagship to have had four chancellors in a decade, The Boston Globe reported. Holub declined to comment on his job status, but defended his record to the Globe, saying that various academic indicators were all headed in the right direction. But people familiar with the deliberations about Holub's future said that he was faulted for, among other things, poor political instincts and insufficient concern over declines in black enrollment.

Friday, May 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Thursday that it had imposed a one-year probation on East Carolina University but instituted no limitations on recruiting, scholarships or postseason competition for a major case of academic fraud in its athletics program. Unethical conduct in the form of academic fraud is among the most serious of NCAA violations, and instances of it have been on the rise. In East Carolina's case, a female tennis player who worked as a tutor for the athletics department wrote a total of 15 papers for four baseball players in the fall of 2009, and then two of the athletes lied to investigators about the violations.

Yet the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions, saying that individual students were entirely responsible for the violations and that East Carolina had "acted appropriately at all phases before and during the investigation," required only that the institution vacate victories in which the guilty athletes had participated. Not only did the university investigate the allegations aggressively, but it altered several policies and practices to avoid future breaches, the NCAA said. Two of the baseball players were declared ineligible through the 2010-11 season; the other two, and the women’s tennis player, were ruled permanently ineligible and removed from their respective teams. The case was adjudicated through the NCAA's summary disposition process, which is used when there is no dispute between the association and an institution over a case.

Friday, May 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The business school at Columbia University -- which fares poorly in many analyses of the economic downturn -- has toughened its conflict-of-interest rules. Faculty members voted to require that they all maintain on their b-school webpages a listing of their outside activities so that any links they have to industries they analyze would be visible. Further, in cases where they or family members own at least 5 percent of a company related to their work, they must report that as well.

Friday, May 20, 2011 - 3:00am

In December, ProPublica published an article revealing that many medical schools that had adopted tough conflict-of-interest rules to limit or require reporting of professors' ties to the pharmaceutical industry weren't enforcing their rules. That report and other scrutiny may be having an impact. ProPublica reported Thursday that Stanford University has taken disciplinary action against five medical school faculty members who violated rules there by giving paid speeches for drug companies. The University of Colorado medical school this week toughened its conflict-of-interest rules -- joining other medical schools that have increased attention to these issues.

Friday, May 20, 2011 - 3:00am

The for-profit school created by Donald Trump is under investigation by the New York State attorney general for possible illegal business practices, The New York Times reported. Students pay up to $35,000 for a course, and the attorney general's office has received "credible" complaints about the operation. The program was previously called Trump University, but the name was changed (to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative) following complaints that the institution was not a real university.

Friday, May 20, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the University of New Haven's David Perry examines the historical similarities between Hillary Clinton and William Seward. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, May 20, 2011 - 3:00am

Many observers assumed that the shift away from federally guaranteed loans would deal a severe blow to Sallie Mae, but the company is bouncing back, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. By servicing older loans and moving into private lending, the company is having a strong 2011, with shares up 29 percent so far this year.

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