Higher Education Quick Takes
Joel Miller, a biomedical engineer at the University of Western Australia, is this year's winner of Science's "Dance Your Ph.D." contest in which scientists create and perform dances based on their doctoral work. He won for "Microstructure-Property relationships in Ti2448 components produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story." The video -- as well as videos of the three semifinalists -- may be found here.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is receiving new backing from academe. The Council of the American Studies Association has released a statement expressing support as faculty members who study and teach about American society. "As educators, we experience the dismantling of public education, rising tuition, unsustainable student debt, and the assault on every dimension of education," the statement says. "As American Studies scholars, our work includes, among other things, addressing the problems and challenges societies face, drawing lessons from the past, comparing across polities, and making informed recommendations that will spark open debate. We draw inspiration from earlier social movements that have challenged the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and authority. Today’s movements continue this necessary work. The uprisings compel us to lift our voices and dedicate our effort to realizing the democratic aspirations for an equitable and habitable world. We are the 99 percent."
The Council of University of California Faculty Association created an open letter of support, now signed by more than 1,000 faculty members, that says in part: "We, members of the faculty of the University of California, write in solidarity with and in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement now underway in our city and elsewhere. Many observers claim that the movement has no specific goals; this is not our understanding. The movement aims to bring attention to the various forms of inequality – economic, political, and social – that characterize our times, that block opportunities for the young and strangle the hopes for better futures for the majority while generating vast profits for a very few."
In today’s Academic Minute, York University's Aaron Dhir discusses the regulatory techniques used to encourage multinational corporations to respect human rights around the world. Dhir is an associate professor at York's Osgoode Hall Law School, in Toronto. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
New York University is dropping out of the National Merit Scholarship Program, becoming the latest institution to say that it is wrong to award scholarships in which a standardized test score (in this case the PSAT) is the sole criterion for becoming a semifinalist, Bloomberg reported. Shawn Abbott, assistant vice president of admissions at NYU, said, “We simply do not feel that enrolling a larger number of National Merit finalists is a necessary way for us to attract the most academically qualified freshman class." The College Board, the sponsor of the PSAT, has always said that its tests should not be used in isolation for high-stakes decisions, and critics have for years said that using the PSAT alone violates much expert advice about how tests should be used, but the National Merit Scholarship Program has declined to change. The University of Texas at Austin dropped out of the program in 2009.
More than 2 million American taxpayers received as much as $3.2 billion in education tax credits to which they were not entitled, the U.S. Treasury's inspector general for tax administration said in a report Wednesday. The refundable tax credits were expanded as part of the federal economic stimulus legislation in 2009, and the report said an inquiry had found that 1.7 million taxpayers received $2.6 billion even though the Internal Revenue Service could not document that they had attended an accredited college or university. Another half million or so taxpayers got tax breaks even though they did not attend college for long enough, did not have a valid Social Security number, or were claimed as dependents on another taxpayer's return. “Based on the results of our review, the IRS does not have effective processes to identify taxpayers who claim erroneous education credits,” J. Russell George, the inspector general, said in a news release.
Officials of the Peralta Community College District have promised to promote transparency, but they redacted large portions of thousands of pages of trustee e-mails that had been requested by journalists, The Contra Costa Times reported. California law generally requires the release of such e-mails, and experts questioned the legality of the district's redactions, the newspaper reported. District officials are now promising to review their policies on such information requests.
The American Association of University Professors, which thought it was on the verge of lifting the censure of the Savannah College of Art and Design, now seems likely to keep the institution on its censure list. A report released by the AAUP Thursday details a tentative agreement by SCAD to change its policies and to make cash payments to faculty members who the AAUP found were dismissed unfairly in the 1990s. But the report notes that a final step in the removal process -- a campus visit -- led discussions with SCAD to fall apart. The college wanted assurances of the lifting of censure, and control over the visit, the AAUP says. And these actions demonstrate serious academic freedom problems, the AAUP found. The college told the AAUP that "fundamental issues" separate SCAD and the AAUP. Further, SCAD asserted that these disagreements "have nothing to do with the high quality education that our faculty provides or with student achievement."
The University of Kentucky's Board of Trustees took a major step Thursday toward taking control of the university's high-profile sports program, which now is formally overseen by the separately incorporated University of Kentucky Athletic Association, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. A special committee of the university's board approved a recommendation that the board of the athletic association -- which approves the sports department's budget -- be dissolved, so that the athletics program would ultimately report to the trustees. Kentucky is one of a relatively small number of big-time sports programs (mainly in the South) that are overseen by freestanding entities designed to ensure that no state money flows to athletics.
Robert Ward, dean of the new law school at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, announced Thursday that he is resigning to deal with health issues, but his decision comes amid the news that he made personal charges on a university credit card, The Boston Globe reported. Ward said that he reimbursed the university for the credit card charges, and that the accounting issue had nothing to do with his decision to resign.