Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, January 30, 2012 - 3:00am

With longstanding tensions rising between the wealthiest and most powerful programs and all other Division I members, the National Collegiate Athletic Association plans to study how its top division is governed, with an eye toward further separating the biggest programs from others, President Mark Emmert told USA Today. The biggest and richest programs have long dominated NCAA decision making, often getting their way on major decisions because of a veiled threat that they might break away from the rest and take their value to television networks with them. But the major programs' disproportionate power was memorialized when Division I abandoned its one-institution, one-vote form of democratic governance in favor of a representative system more than a decade ago.

Tensions have flared at various times when the larger and richer programs have sought rules changes that smaller programs either cannot afford or do not support, and at this month's NCAA convention, opponents blocked adoption of proposals to increase the value and length of athletics scholarships. In comments to USA Today Sunday, Emmert said the new panel would examine how Division I makes decisions, and unidentified officials cited by the newspaper said the association would consider some further subdivision of members in how they govern their programs, but not in who they compete against.

Monday, January 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Tih-Fen Ting, professor in environmental studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, resigned as chair of the Senate at the campus on Friday, after being linked to an e-mail scandal, The News-Gazette reported. Ting was found to have sent numerous e-mail messages from faculty leaders (which they assumed were not being shared with administrators) with the chief of staff of the president of the university system. That chief of staff has since resigned amid a report suggesting she sent anonymous e-mail messages to faculty leaders, seeking to influence their stands on various issues.

Monday, January 30, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut explains why artificial sweeteners can be thousands of times sweeter than real sugar. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, January 30, 2012 - 4:30am

"Undergrads," a new online video project by James Franco, is not going over well at the University of Southern California, where it is set, The Los Angeles Times reported. Shots of hard drinking, hook-up culture and plenty of apparently trouble-free wealthy students are stereotypical, many students and university officials say. The university has been pushing hard to be a more serious academic institution, and "Undergrads" is seen by many as outdated at best. Many of the comments students have been posting at The Daily Trojan, the student newspaper, are also critical, but some students are writing that the video is an accurate portrayal of Greek culture at the university.


Monday, January 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Sophia Stockton, a junior at Mid-America Nazarene University, in Kansas, got a surprise when her textbook Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives and Issues arrived from the supplier she located through Amazon.com for a spring course on terrorism. As WPTV reported, when she opened the used textbook, a bag of white powder fell out. She thought it might be anthrax, and so took it to the police. The substance turned out to be cocaine.

Friday, January 27, 2012 - 4:23am

Update: The Obama administration has released a fact sheet with full details of the plan President Obama will discuss in a speech today on college prices and costs.

President Obama is planning to talk about the specifics of his college affordability plan today at the University of Michigan, and leaked details appear in The New York Times. According to the Times, the proposal will focus on campus-based aid programs, such as Perkins Loans and work-study, with funds linked to colleges' ability to control college prices and to show that they are providing value to students. The plan will also seek to require colleges to provide more information about financial aid packages (to help families compare offers) and about the earnings and job placements of graduates. The administration will also propose a $1 billion competition (modeled on the Race to the Top program for the states on elementary and secondary education) that would reward states that meet certain goals.

Obama administration officials told the Times that major parts of the program -- including a substantial increase in Perkins Loan funding -- would not require more federal funds, because the funds are repaid and create a revolving fund for future loans. However, Congress would have to approve the plan -- and Congressional approval of any Obama administration proposal is uncertain in an election year when Republicans control the House and have the ability to block most legislation in the Senate.



Friday, January 27, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Kim Middleton of the College of Saint Rose explains how budding filmmakers are using YouTube as a place to develop their creativity. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, January 27, 2012 - 3:00am

A group of presidents from 12 research universities are calling for restored federal investment in the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, which had its budget slashed by 54 percent last year. The department's research arm works with universities to create technologies to guard against terrorist attacks and disasters, according to a letter from the group to Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security. Research funded by the department "will lead to critical breakthroughs in national security," they said. The signers including the presidents of Carnegie Mellon, Drexel, George Washington, Northeastern and Rutgers Universities; the State University of New York at Buffalo; the Universities of Delaware, Maryland at College Park, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island; and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Friday, January 27, 2012 - 4:29am

The National Council on Teacher Quality is suing the University of Wisconsin for access to the syllabuses used in teacher education programs throughout the system, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The council is in the process of rating teacher education programs in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report. While the council has some support in the teacher ed world, many deans are dubious of the council's methodology, and accuse it of unfairly bashing programs. The council wants to review syllabuses to see what material is covered in courses, and has had success in obtaining such information from other public universities. But University of Wisconsin officials maintain that a syllabus is subject by copyright, and thus is not covered by the state's public records law.

Friday, January 27, 2012 - 3:00am

U.S. authorities have arrested Seyed Mojtaba Atarodi, an assistant professor at Sharif University of Technology, in Iran, and charged him with violating U.S. export laws by purchasing high-tech lab equipment, the Associated Press reported. He is being held in California.



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