Higher Education Quick Takes
Alumni of Cornell University's Africana Studies and Research Center on Monday issued a harshly worded statement denouncing the university's recent decisions about the center as "regressive and colonial in nature." Cornell recently brought the center -- which had been freestanding -- under the College of Arts and Science. While that move was opposed by some at the center as intruding on its autonomy, Cornell officials argued it would allow for better support of the center, and was reflective of the way other interdisciplinary programs were housed at the university. Further, the university announced plans to add new faculty lines and to create a Ph.D. program. In August, the university announced that efforts had failed "to identify a faculty member who was both willing to serve and acceptable to a substantial majority of the Africana faculty...." So the university appointed two administrators from outside the center to jointly lead the program. The Africana alumni group said this amounted to holding "the Africana Center hostage under an externally appointed administrative regime." A Cornell spokesman said that the university was preparing a response to the alumni.
The Center for Equal Opportunity, a group that opposes the consideration of race in college admissions decisions, released reports today showing what it says are large and likely illegal boosts that the University of Wisconsin at Madison gives to black and Latino applicants. The center periodically releases such studies, and they have prompted state debates about affirmative action policies. According to the center, the median composite SAT score for black applicants who are admitted is 150 points lower than for whites and Asians, and the Latino median SAT score is 100 points lower. At the law school at Madison, the center said that the data suggest a greater focus on race and ethnicity than on state residency (typically a key factor for public universities). An out-of-state black applicant with median grades and LSAT scores would have a 7 in 10 chance of being admitted, the center said. But an in-state Asian student with similar grades and scores would have a 1 out of 6 chance and an in-state white applicant would have only a 1 out of 10 chance.
Wisconsin officials said Monday evening that they had not had a chance to see and review the data. But The Capital Times reported that Damon Williams, vice provost for diversity, in a talk with student leaders, questioned the motives of the center. "These organizations have as their mission to systematically dial back the gains from the Civil Rights era," he said.
The huge advantage of the United States in having many highly educated citizens may be shrinking with age and with growth of education systems elsewhere, according to data released today by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. According to the "Education at a Glance" report, one in three university-educated retirees in OECD nations resides in the U.S., but only one in five university graduates entering the workforce does so.
The report found significant links between educational attainment and employment levels, across countries studied. Unemployment rates among university graduates were 4.4 percent on average across OECD countries in 2009. But people who did not complete high school faced unemployment rates of 11.5 percent, up from 8.7 percent the year before.
The full report has extensive data on education attainment and spending on all levels of education.
Long Island University's Faculty Federation has voted to ratify a five-year contract for full-time and adjunct faculty members at the university's Brooklyn campus, clearing the way for an end to a faculty strike that started Wednesday. Classes are expected to be staffed normally today.
The Authors Guild on Monday sued the HathiTrust (a consortium of universities) as well as Cornell and Indiana Universities and the Universities of California, Michigan and Wisconsin, charging widespread copyright violations. The universities and the trust have worked with Google on its project to digitize books (a project now on hold) and on a recent effort to release to their campus communities digitized copies of "orphan works" on which copyright has expired. The suit charges the universities with moving ahead without being sure that the works are truly copyright-free. “This is an upsetting and outrageous attempt to dismiss authors’ rights,” Angelo Loukakis, executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, said in a statement about the suit. “Maybe it doesn’t seem like it to some, but writing books is an author’s real-life work and livelihood. This group of American universities has no authority to decide whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection. These aren’t orphaned books, they’re abducted books.”
John Wilkin, executive director of the HathiTrust, said that the organization hasn't received official notice of the suit yet. But he said via e-mail that the organization was surprised because "we've been in communications with the Authors Guild and had scheduled a meeting to discuss our efforts on orphan works determinations and uses." He said that the trust and its members "have only made lawful uses of the digitized volumes we store online. Our proposed uses of the orphan works are lawful, as well, and constitute important scholarly and academic uses." He added that it is important to note the parameters of use planned: "Only in those cases where we are unable to determine a rights holder for an in-copyright work will we provide access, and then only to authenticated users at partner academic institutions that have purchased corresponding print copies of those works."
The Foundation for Educational Success today released voluntary standards of conduct that would apply to for-profit colleges that sign on to the statement. The foundation, which is affiliated with the Coalition for Educational Success, a membership group representing for-profit institutions that collectively enroll more than 350,000 students, said that experts from higher education, business and government had developed the standards. Signatories will have one year to implement the requirements, which those behind it say "will provide strong new student protections; guidelines for training, enrollment and financial aid; and include an enforcement mechanism to ensure that participating schools adhere to the principles of the new standards."
The standards, which have been developed over a period of months, appear to be an attempt at self-regulation, with what sponsors call "rigorous third-party" enforcement. They cover several controversial areas for the industry, with recommendations that prohibit incentive compensation for admissions and financial aid employees, and that require disclosure to students of information about transferability of credit, entrance and exit loan counseling, and a trial period of 21 days during which students can withdraw without incurring tuition-related expenses. The major question that surrounds the standards -- one of several efforts by for-profit colleges to hold themselves accountable amid heavy government scrutiny -- is whether institutions will choose to participate.
Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, announced last week that it was suspending D.A. Stapel from his positions as professor of cognitive social psychology and dean of the school of Social and Behavioral Sciences because he "has committed a serious breach of scientific integrity by using fictitious data in his publications." The university has convened a panel to determine which of Stapel's papers were based on false data. Science noted that Stapel's work -- in that publication and elsewhere -- was known for attracting attention. Science reported that Philip Eijlander, Tilburg's rector, told a Dutch television station that Stapel had admitted to the fabrications. Eijlander said that junior researchers in Stapel's lab came forward with concerns about the honesty of his data, setting off an investigation by the university.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced Sunday afternoon that it is investigating "credible" information about "possible inaccuracies in student profile data" about its law school's class of 2014. The data -- involving median law school entrance test scores and grade point averages of the incoming class -- have been removed from the law school's website. The university said that it is investigating all of its data and that, pending conclusion of this probe, the assistant dean of admissions has been placed on administrative leave, and the associate dean for academic affairs has assumed those duties. The data identified are among those reported to the American Bar Association and used in various rankings of law schools. But a university spokesman said that the data are new, and have not yet been reported and so should not be the basis of any current rankings.
In August, the ABA censured the Villanova University law school over an incident in which it reported inaccurate information in an attempt to raise its rankings. In the most recent rankings by U.S. News & World Report, the Illinois law school was in a three-way tie for 23rd, which got it (barely) on the top-25 list that many law admissions officials consider crucial.
In today’s Academic Minute, Joshua Miller of Smith College explores the psychological landscape individuals must navigate in the wake of disasters. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.