Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 31, 2013

Governor Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, will outline a plan today to add $1.5 billion over the next decade for science, mathematics and technology at the University of Connecticut, The Hartford Courant reported. The goal would be to increase enrollments in those fields by one third, and the funds would pay for new faculty positions, new facilities and full scholarships for top students.

January 31, 2013

Amherst has not tried to sweep a sexual assault problem under the rug, a committee told the Amherst College Board of Trustees at its meeting Wednesday, but it has often responded inadequately to cases of misconduct. After a string of rape allegations and accusations of administrative carelessness roiled the Amherst campus in October, President Carolyn (Biddy) Martin formed the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct to review policies and make recommendations to prevent and address sexual misconduct.

“This committee believes strongly that Amherst must acknowledge the problem of sexual misconduct openly and address it directly,” the committee said in its report, while noting that the problem is not unique to Amherst. “If our system is believed to be unfair or unjust it will serve no one well.” The college’s response to sexual misconduct cases have been “quite mixed and at times inadequate,” the report says.

Martin said in a letter to the college Wednesday that many of the committee’s recommendations are already being put in place. She also revealed the findings of a separate but related external review of whether Amherst followed its policies in responding to the student who made a visceral, public rape allegation that sparked a string of similar stories. The investigation found that Amherst failed at protocols that “precluded a successful response.”

Broadly speaking, the committee recommends that the college should: improve its compliance "to both the letter and the spirit of the law" of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; continue fostering an inclusive, respectful campus community; improve communication within student affairs, which was a major obstacle for alleged victims; try harder to integrate first-year students, especially women, onto campus; raise awareness of sexual violence and its effects in society and on campus, reach out to all campus constituencies – male and female; revisit its alcohol policies and student programming to encourage healthier drinking habits and more low-alcohol alternatives; and develop more appropriate spaces for social activity that are large, open, and minimize the risk of sexual misconduct.


 

January 31, 2013

For months now signs have suggested that law schools are losing their appeal to applicants. All year long, far fewer people have been taking the Law School Admission Test than were doing so the year before. Now data examined by The New York Times indicate a 20 percent decline in the number of applications to law school, compared to this time last year. The long-term trend is even more dramatic. Currently, there are projected to be 54,000 applicants this admissions cycle, down from 100,000 in 2004.

 

January 31, 2013

The Anti-Defamation League says it is “troubled” by an upcoming event at Brooklyn College, co-sponsored by the college’s political science department, that the ADL says is "anti-Israel." The event, which the political science department is sponsoring along with the college’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, will feature two speakers who are part of the BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement, which encourages organizations to cut off all ties to Israel. Ron Meier, the ADL New York regional director, said in a press release that the political science department’s co-sponsorship of the event constitutes institutional endorsement of the sentiments of the BDS movement, and in a letter to Brooklyn College president Karen Gould, Meier urged Gould to tell the political science department to revoke its sponsorship.

But the college is backing the right of the political science department to sponsor any event it wants. In a letter to students, faculty, and staff, Gould wrote that principles of academic freedom grant students and faculty the right to “engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree.” Gould emphasized that while the college endorses free speech, it does not endorse the views of speakers it brings to campus.

A spokesman for the college also noted that another student group, the Israel Club, will host its own event in February.  

January 31, 2013

Federal financial aid programs should be quicker to punish colleges with high loan default rates and more vigilant in ensuring that all students are making satisfactory academic progress, a white paper released Wednesday by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities argued. The white paper, "Federal Student Aid: Access and Completion," is the latest in a series funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called for using both loan default rates and repayment rates to judge colleges' eligibility to participate in financial aid programs. The association argued that standards should be tightened, saying colleges can game the current system by forcing students into forbearance and deferment.

The group also called for rewarding colleges with high completion rates for at-risk students with additional financial aid, cracking down on fraud and improving advising. The paper is somewhat an outlier among the Gates-funded efforts in proposing provisions that appear aimed at for-profit colleges, including the loan default provisions and a recommendation that the government count veteran's benefits as federal aid under the 90/10 rule, which governs how much of a college's revenue can come from the federal government.

January 31, 2013

Excelencia in Education has released a new report, "Growing What Works" that highlights relatively small and affordable programs started at various colleges that have had a significant impact on improving retention and graduation among Latino students. The idea of the report is to spread the news about concrete successes various colleges have had.

 

January 31, 2013

The U.S. State Department is proposing to raise two fees related to the Exchange Visitor [J-1 visa] Program. Under the proposed changes, described  in Wednesday’s Federal Register, the fee assessed for sponsor designation or re-designation would increase from $2,700 to $3,982, and the administrative fee charged for changes to a J-1 visa holder’s status (such as extensions or requests for reinstatement) would increase from $233 to $367.

Short-term visiting scholars fall under the Exchange Visitor Program, as do some students who are being supported by sources other than personal or family funds. Public comments on the proposal are being accepted through April 1.

January 31, 2013

The new president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities pledged to make the group "the happy warriors of a great and godly cause," telling the association's president that his goal was to create a movement of Christian colleges incorporating faith into all areas of academic life. "I want to make not just the spiritual case, but the educational and economic case -- and yes, there is an economic case -- for the integration of faith and learning," Edward O. Blews, Jr., the former president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, told the Christian college group at his inauguration at its annual meeting Wednesday.

January 31, 2013

A faculty investigative committee at the University of California at Berkeley has determined that Terrence Deacon, a professor there who was accused of plagiarism in an unusually public manner, did not commit academic misconduct.

The research misconduct allegations were levied by Michael Lissack, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence, on behalf of himself and two other researchers, Alicia Juarrero, a professor emerita at Prince George’s Community College, and Carl Rubino, a classics professor at Hamilton College. In addition to filing a complaint with Berkeley’s administration, Lissack also created a website detailing the works in question and tracking each instance of supposed plagiarism.

In response, Berkeley has taken the unusual step of creating a website detailing the committee’s findings, which exonerate Deacon. The committee’s findings state that overlap between one of Juarrero’s books and Deacon’s Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter was merely the result of two authors writing about the same topic. In other instances of alleged plagiarism, the committee found, Deacon’s works were actually published or submitted to the publisher before the supposedly plagiarized works were available.

The Berkeley committee also addresses Lissack’s assertion that failing to cite an important work in one’s field constitutes plagiarism. Calling this a “novel standard,” the committee argues that works by Juarrero, Rubino and Lissack also fail to cite previous research in their fields. The committee writes that neglecting an important work is not within the scope of plagiarism, generally defined as knowingly or recklessly using someone else’s words or ideas.  

The committee’s report concludes: “Would it have been better if Deacon had read and cited Juarrero’s book? Yes.… Still, the failure to cite an earlier work with the same subject matter, even an important one, is not by itself research misconduct.”

January 31, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Thomas Reichler of the University of Utah explains the connection between winds in the upper atmosphere and deep ocean currents. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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