Higher Education Quick Takes
Watch what you tweet. The student government of the College of Charleston voted 15-to-14 (short of the two-thirds required) on Tuesday to impeach Ross Kressel as student body president, The Post and Courier reported. Kressel nearly lost his job amid campus debate over his Twitter account, where he expressed views about women, black people, his student government colleagues and others that offended many on the campus. The controversy set off a debate over the appropriateness of his tweets and of holding student leaders accountable for what they write online. After the vote, Kressel offered the following advice for those who use Twitter: "If it would upset your mom, don't post it."
Poets & Writers magazine has released its annual rankings of M.F.A. programs -- in the face of an open letter from 190 faculty members in writing programs who are questioning the methodology behind the effort. The rankings feature some factual data (on such issues as job placement, fellowship availability and so forth). But the main ranking -- of popularity -- is based on a survey of prospective applicants on where they plan to apply.
The open letter takes issue with this approach. "To put it plainly, the Poets & Writers rankings are bad: they are methodologically specious in the extreme and quite misleading. A biased opinion poll — based on a tiny, self-selecting survey of potential program applicants — provides poor information," says the letter. Leslie Epstein, one of the organizers of the effort, and a novelist who is director of the Boston University creative writing program, said the idea of letting applicants rank programs was "analogous to asking people who are standing outside a restaurant studying the menu how they liked the food. Why wouldn’t you ask those who’ve actually eaten there for an informed opinion?”
The magazine is standing behind the rankings -- while noting that it shares its methodology, and urges potential applicants to look at a wide range of information in deciding on programs to consider. Mary Gannon, editorial director, released a statement in which she defended the use of an applicant survey and rejected the idea of focusing on faculty quality, as some have suggested. "To continue the analogy Leslie Epstein used to describe our approach in the press release, that would be like asking diners who only frequent their favorite restaurant to assess the quality of all restaurants," she said.
A recent incident at Canada's York University illustrates the reason students may want to listen to what gets said in class -- at least before seeking anyone's dismissal. The Toronto Star reported that Cameron Johnston, a social sciences professor, was talking to students about the difference between facts and opinions, and the role of dangerous opinions. As an example of a dangerous opinion, he offered the idea that "all Jews should be sterilized." A female student, who heard the statement as the professor expressing his own view, quickly left class, alerted Jewish groups on campus and elsewhere, and websites started demanding the professor's dismissal. Not only doesn't Johnston believe the statement, but he is Jewish.
Sheldon Goodman, co-chair of Toronto's Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told the Star: "This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic."
The programs that train special education teachers for K-12 systems will lose up to half of their faculty members to retirements in the next five years, according to the Special Education Faculty Needs Assessment, a report being issued today by researchers at Claremont Graduate, Vanderbilt and Western Carolina Universities. These retirements pose a significant danger because special education programs already have a shortage of faculty members. The report outlines ways that programs can produce more Ph.D.'s, who in turn can meet the demand for trained teachers for schools.
The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues on Tuesday issued its full report on experiments conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service in which people in Guatemala were exposed in the 1940s to sexually transmitted diseases, and the conclusions are clear from the report's name: "Ethically Impossible." President Obama charged the panel with studying the research after it became public last year. Amy Gutmann, chair of the commission and president of the University of Pennsylvania, said: “In the commission’s view, the Guatemala experiments involved unconscionable basic violations of ethics, even as judged against the researchers’ own recognition of the requirements of the medical ethics of the day. The individuals who approved, conducted, facilitated and funded these experiments are morally culpable to various degrees for these wrongs."
A new federal study shows great variation by race in the degree to which parents of would-be college students are saving for their children's postsecondary costs. The study, which provides data from a longitudinal study of American ninth graders, shows that among those students whose parents expected them to enter postsecondary education and who planned to help pay for their education, 41 percent of the parents of Asian-American ninth graders and 23 percent of the parents of white ninth graders reported saving more than $25,000 for their child's postsecondary education, compared to 12 percent of the parents of black ninth graders and 8 percent of the parents of Latino ninth graders.
Adrian College in Michigan must make broad improvements to its women’s athletics programs – including the addition of at least one sports team and a locker room in its multipurpose stadium – under a settlement between the college and the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The Resolution Agreement, which was first reported in the Title IX Blog, would bring the college into compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which Adrian was accused of violating in two separate complaints filed with OCR in 2007.
It’s not unusual for institutions found in violation of the federal legislation prohibiting sexual discrimination to have to make changes in multiple areas, nor are Adrian’s inequities unique.But, as Title IX blogger and Western New England University associate law professor Erin Buzuvis pointed out in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed, it is “somewhat unusual” that Adrian must remedy inequities in nearly every program area covered under Title IX. By June 1, 2013, the college must survey and evaluate its female students’ athletic interests and abilities, and address several shortages and inequities in women’s equipment and supplies; scheduling of games and practice times; locker rooms, practice times and competitive schedules; coaching; medical and training facilities; publicity and recruitment.
Among the specific requirements, the college must: boost the number of events in which women’s teams compete to equal that of men’s teams; provide each team with complete practice and game uniforms, including warm-ups and rain gear at levels equivalent to men’s teams; provide recruitment funds to teams in proportion to that gender’s participation rate, or at higher levels for women’s teams, because females are underrepresented in Adrian’s athletics programs; and assign the same number of qualified medical and training personnel to teams of each sex based on the needs of the sport.
The director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education must have experience working at a college or university and must hold an advanced degree, according to an opinion issued this week by Dustin McDaniel, the attorney general. The opinion largely quotes from statutes that outline those qualifications. In the case of advanced degree, the statutes state that the director should have degrees similar to those who work at colleges and universities. Two Republican legislators requested the opinion after Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, recommended that the next director be a former state senator, whose highest degree is a bachelor's degree. While that candidacy was withdrawn, the dispute has continued. A spokesman for the governor told the Arkansas News Bureau that the Republicans who requested the opinion were seeking "a pricey national search at taxpayer expense."
The nation’s best college football and basketball players are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to their programs and yet live below the poverty line at 85 percent of the institutions where they receive full athletic scholarships, a new report asserts. The report, which was first obtained Monday by the Associated Press, argues that colleges should award students at least some of that revenue, which amounts to $121,000 annually for the average Football Bowl Subdivision player and $265,000 for a basketball player at the same level.
The National College Players Association and a Drexel University professor calculated the players’ value by applying the same revenue-sharing models used in professional sports to colleges. Athletic conferences have begun discussing ways to bridge the gap between the full cost of attendance and what students actually receive through sports scholarships – a gap that the report found ranges by college from $952 to $6,127 – but officials are resistant to the idea of paying athletes outright.