Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 30, 2014

In a match seemingly made in open educational resource heaven, the free textbook producer OpenStax College and OER support provider Lumen Learning on Wednesday announced a partnership that aims to save college students $10 million on textbooks by 2015. Lumen Learning helps institutions transition away from traditional course materials, and will use OpenStax College's textbook offerings to bolster its catalog of open resources. The free textbook producer, based at Rice University, has published six textbooks so far and has another seven in the works.

"Lumen is the latest example of a growing coordination amongst philanthropic grantees to further the mission of access in a dynamic way," Richard Baraniuk, the founder of OpenStax College, said in an email. "Greater coordination will fuel a more rapid transition to a more efficient and open market."

January 30, 2014

After a surge of protest from its members, the International Studies Association announced Wednesday afternoon that it would table a proposal to ban its journal editors from blogging

Harvey Starr, the association's president, said in an email to the Governing Council of the ISA that he intends to task the Committee on Professional Rights and Responsibilities to explore the "idea of balancing academic freedom and potential conflicts of interests" that blogging present. The committee will spend a year gathering input before making any recommendations at the 2015 annual meeting.

"Along the lines of the ISA Code of Conduct, our aim was to protect academic freedom while fostering civil discourse and freedom to express valid professional evaluations of the work of others in the contemporary world of social media -- and to the issues that can arise with people confusing the personal blogs of the editors of ISA journals with the editorial policies for their journals," Starr wrote. "Clearly, however, this is a far more complex issue, and your voices have been heard."

January 30, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Tom Coulthard of the University of Hull reveals the presence of ancient rivers that flowed across the Sahara Desert. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 30, 2014

Blackboard will create a virtual bookstore accessed from within the company's learning management system, Blackboard Learn. As seen in two conceptual screenshots shared by a Blackboard spokeswoman, the bookstore will automatically gather the materials assigned in a student's courses for easy checkout. The spokeswoman also said the bookstore, created in cooperation with MBS Direct, will help faculty members find materials -- both traditional textbooks and open resources -- for their courses.

The new feature can be seen as an effort to expand the LMS beyond a course repository, and also as an attempt to keep students inside the Learn ecosystem. By offering students an integrated bookstore that doesn't require a separate login, Blackboard can prevent them from shopping at sites such as Amazon or eBay's Half.com.

January 30, 2014

Columbia University announced Wednesday that it would start to release more aggregate information about sexual assault complaints and how they are handled, The New York Times reported. The university has been facing criticism from student groups that it has failed to respond appropriately, or to be transparent enough about its policies.

 

January 30, 2014

The University of Notre Dame will spend $400 million to upgrade its football stadium with the addition of three new buildings to house student services and academic departments, officials announced Wednesday. They're calling it the Campus Crossroads Project, and the largest building project in Notre Dame’s history could take up to five years to complete. Integrating academics, student life and athletics, the new buildings will be home to the anthropology, psychology and music departments; student organizations and a recreation and career center; and 3,000 to 4,000 “premium seats” for game days. “Since its founding, one of Notre Dame’s greatest assets has been the boldness of its vision – the ability to see possibilities and connections where others saw only obstacles and fragmentation,” Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins said. “This project continues that boldness.”

January 30, 2014

A redshirt freshman kicker at Willamette University this week became the first active college football player to come out publicly as non-straight, revealing to Outsports.com that he’s bisexual and has a boyfriend. Conner Mertens first told his team and coaches at Willamette, a Division III program in a politically conservative area of Oregon, before going to the media. Mertens also tweeted out a letter explaining his decision and encouraging his peers.

“I refuse to apologize for being who I am. I am the same person that I was yesterday,” he wrote. “Don’t let society dictate who you can and cannot be simply because it doesn’t fit their perception of who you are supposed to be.”

January 29, 2014

The New York Senate has passed legislation that would bar public or private colleges in state from using state funds to fund groups that support academic boycotts, The Albany Times-Union reported. The bill is designed to take a stand against the American Studies Association, which has voted to back a boycott of Israeli universities. Many defenders of academic freedom -- including those who have said that the American Studies Association move amounts to an attack on academic freedom -- have criticized the New York bill.

 

January 29, 2014

Tom Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, was among several business leaders and policy experts to testify before the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Tuesday on the effects of the Affordable Care Act's so-called employer mandate. The law requires large employers to provide health insurance to employees working 30 or more hours per week, or face fines. Snyder said that the college already had reduced some adjuncts' hours and had to compensate by hiring others in anticipation of the law taking effect in January. Many other colleges and universities have done the same during the past 18 months, capping adjuncts' maximum course loads to ensure that aren't full-time, benefits-eligible employees under the law.

"Because of the unique role of the adjunct in the community college, the end result may be less access for the students and the inability of faculty to stay with one college,” Snyder said, noting that adjuncts' hours include not only contact time with students but also preparation time outside of class. The president said Ivy Tech supported the idea of expanding access to health care, but that it would cost the college system up to $12 million annually to provide all its employees working 30 hours or more weekly with health insurance.

Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy group, testified in November to the House Education and the Workforce Committee about how institutions' responses to the law were hurting adjuncts. She was not invited to Tuesday's hearing. 

Via email, she said: "The problem with colleges like Ivy Tech doing it is that they are not putting the mission of education first. The mission of higher education is not to figure out ways to cut costs by cutting faculty-associated costs; the mission of higher ed is to invest in the people who make education happen -- the teachers and the students."

January 29, 2014

Journalist, biographer, and Aspen Institute Chair and CEO Walter Isaacson will deliver the 43rd annual Jefferson Lecture, the National Institute for the Humanities announced Tuesday. The lecture is the federal government's top honor for scholarship in the humanities.

Isaacson has written a number of widely read biographies, including the 2011 international bestseller Steve Jobs. Previous books focused on Henry Kissinger, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin, among others. Before becoming chair of the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization, he was chairman and CEO of CNN and editor of Time magazine. Isaacson will give his lecture, "The Intersection of the Humanities and the Sciences," on Monday, May 12th, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

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