Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 28, 2013

Khan Academy last week released its first batch of videos to help students prepare for the revised version of the Medical College Admission Test, which will debut in 2015. The 150 videos were created by the winners of a student competition hosted this year in collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health organization. The videos have been fact-checked by the AAMC. New videos will be added to Khan Academy's MCAT page over the course of 2014.

October 28, 2013

Brown University announced Sunday that its board has decided not to sell off investment holdings in coal companies. Brown's policies set out criteria for divesting the endowment of certain kinds of investments, and a letter released from Christina H. Paxson said that while she believed coal production causes "social harm," one of the criteria, she was not convinced on other requirements.

"The existence of social harm is a necessary but not sufficient rationale for Brown to divest," she wrote. "Once social harm is established, divestiture may be warranted if either divestiture is likely to help reduce the harm or the harm is sufficiently grave. Taking the second of these criteria first, is it the case that the social harm from coal is so grave that divestiture is warranted? Absent a bright-line threshold for gravity, this is a judgment call, and a difficult one at that. I believe that although the social harm is clear, this harm is moderated by the fact that coal is currently necessary for the functioning of the global economy. Coal is the source of approximately 40 percent of the world’s electricity, and it provides needed energy for millions of people throughout the world. In many regions, there are serious technological impediments to transitioning away from coal. In addition, coal is used in the production of other products, such as cement and steel, which are central to the economies of both developed and developing countries. The comparison to tobacco is instructive. Unlike tobacco, which arguably has no social value, a cessation of the production and use of coal would itself create significant economic and social harm to countless communities across the globe." She added that "Brown’s holdings are much too small for divestiture to reduce corporate profits. Furthermore, because the profits of these companies are determined primarily by the demand for their products rather than their stock prices, divestiture would not reduce profits even if Brown’s holdings were orders of magnitude larger."

The student group that has been pushing for divestment of coal holdings outlines its position here.

 

 

October 28, 2013

Just about every year, Halloween brings campus disputes over costumes built around ethnic or racial stereotypes. Several universities this year are trying -- in advance of Halloween -- to discourage offensive costumes. The University of Colorado at Boulder has put posters up on campus that show members of different racial and ethnic groups -- and some of the stereotypes that have been the basis of costumes. The tag line for the posters: "You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life." The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities sent a letter to students urging them to avoid costumes that perpetuate stereotypes, The Star Tribune reported.

 

October 28, 2013

Department chairs at the Columbia Gorge Community College in Oregon passed a resolution expressing no confidence in the college's president, who some said erred when announcing a high-profile personnel decision that warranted faculty input.. The nine department chairs passed a no-confidence resolution in President Frank Toda’s leadership.They are upset that Toda named a chief academic and student affairs officer without consulting faculty.

Faculty members are concerned that chief academic and student affairs officer Lori Ufford does not have the necessary background in academic instruction for the position, and are asking the president and the college’s governing body to agree to make future hires using a process that considers faculty recommendations.

Toda and Ufford did not respond to requests for comment.
 

October 28, 2013

Campus Equity Week -- organized by the New Faculty Majority to draw attention to the conditions of faculty members off the tenure track -- kicks off today. On different campuses there will be lectures, rallies and teach-ins. A list of events may be found here.

October 28, 2013

The University of Illinois at Chicago spent $1 million on a house for Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares when she took office five years ago. The idea was that the house would then be used for events that would support the university. But The Chicago Tribune reported that in the last four years, only 11 events have been held there. The article raises questions about why so much money was spent on a facility used for its stated purpose so rarely.

University officials defended the limited use of the house, saying that it is relatively small (4,600 square feet) and lacks street parking, making it a problematic location for many events. But Robert Easter, president of the university system, called for a committee to "make recommendations on the best use" of the house.

 

 

October 25, 2013
Faculty members housed in several main academic buildings at the University of Dayton were surprised Thursday to receive an e-mail from the institution telling them to take down "homemade" and "personal" signs on their office doors and in hallways, lest they be removed by maintenance personnel. Some faculty members said it was a violation of academic freedom, fearing they were being censored. "This includes information about campus events (e.g. a talk) and photos of historic figures (Nelson Mandela or Adrienne Rich), articles from newspapers, as well as anything that would note advocacy (and safe place) for any group/individual who needs it," one professor wrote in an e-mail to an academic listserv. "Is this happening at other universities you work at? How do I fight back?"
 
But Cilla Shindell, university spokeswoman, said the e-mail, sent at the request of campus maintenance, was merely a reminder of existing guidance that faculty members should install small bulletin boards instead of hanging things directly on doors or walls in those buildings, which were refurbished several years ago. Greg Scholtz, director of tenure, academic and governance for the American Association of University Professors, said the organization has no policy related to wall or door hangings, and a university policy against them would violate academic freedom only if it was a form of censorship. Still, said Carolyn Roecker Phelps, associate professor of psychology and president of Dayton's Academic Senate, "Personally, I do think it detracts from what we consider the life of the university. ...You can see it when you walk down the hallways. Where there are things posted on doors there are exchanges happening. Even without the person being [in his or her office], it adds a richness I think will be lost."
October 25, 2013

Career Education Corporation, a major for-profit higher education chain, on Thursday announced the sale of its European education properties to a private equity firm. The company said it expects to receive $277 million in cash for the deal, which includes all of the for-profit's international schools division. Career Education's share price shot up 51 percent after it announced the news.

October 25, 2013

The University of Kansas has ended the suspension of a professor whose Twitter comment about the National Rifle Association angered many -- but the professor will not be returning to class this year. David Guth "has been assigned additional non-classroom responsibilities in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications for the remainder of the semester, including various service and administrative assignments," said a statement from the university. "Those assignments will be completed away from campus to the greatest extent possible. The decision, made by Provost Jeffrey Vitter and approved by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, is based on the recommendation of a seven-member committee of faculty and staff, assembled at the chancellor’s request. The committee was asked to assess the current environment and recommend whether Guth could return from administrative leave without disrupting the student learning environment."

 

October 25, 2013

As his lawyers warned he would, Evan S. Dobelle sued Westfield State University trustees and other officials Thursday challenging his being placed on leave a week ago, Masslive reported. Dobelle's lawsuit -- which follows Westfield State's decision last week to push him out amid allegations of misspending of state money -- accuses several trustees and the state's commissioner of higher education, Richard M. Freeland, and others of conducting a "guerrilla war" to force him from his job.

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