Higher Education Quick Takes
Syrian supporters of President Bashar al-Assad launched an attack on Columbia University's Facebook page Tuesday, posting numerous messages praising Assad. The Washington Post reported that a group called the Syrian Electronic Army was responsible, and that its motives were not clear. Some Assad critics later posted to Columbia's page apologizing for the pro-Assad posts.
One year removed from high school, 86 percent of new graduates believe that college is "worth the time and money," according to a new survey by the College Board. The majority holds (at 76 percent) for those who have not gone to college. The survey also found that 90 percent of all new high school graduates agree with the statement: "In today's world, high school is not enough, and nearly everybody needs to complete some kind of education or training after high school." Of those in college, 54 percent reported that their courses were more difficult than they expected, and many students said that they wished that they had taken more rigorous courses in high school.
Kansas State University recently introduced EcoKat, a special mascot to promote environmental causes -- and the fans are not thrilled. The Kansas City Star reported that, on Twitter, the #ecokat hashtag suggests considerable dislike, and that a #fakeecokat has also emerged on Twitter. Among recent tweets: "#EcoKat makes me want to leave my porch light on 24hours and drive two blocks to the gas station for a pack of gum," "EcoKat: The worst idea since the Power Towel" and from a University of Kansas fan "MY GOD. What is #kstate thinking? And you ask why you get made fun of ... #EcoKat. Please never change."
Officials at Des Moines Area Community College were alarmed when they read a tweet on Twitter that said: “Who wants to shoot up the DMACC Ankeny campus the same time I shoot up the Urban campus?” That message led to the arrest on Friday of Paul George, when he arrived for his second day of classes, The Des Moines Register reported. Authorities do not believe the threat was credible, but George faces a charge of first-degree harassment. Officials at the community college found the tweet because they regularly monitor what is said about the institution on social networks.
The father of a Frostburg State University football player said doctors had told him that his son died from “severe head trauma,” The New York Times reported Tuesday. While the NCAA and Ivy League have recently ramped up safety precautions to treat concussions properly or avoid them altogether, death by head trauma is extremely rare in college sports; it is most common among youth and high school football players. According to the University of North Carolina’s Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, from 1982 through 2010, 113 high school football players died from injuries that resulted in a brain or spinal cord injury or skull or spinal fracture -- while at the college level, nine died. The most recent death was in 2002-3. The Times report noted that “a different cause of death could be identified as facts of his case emerge.”
It's rankings season, and that means everyone is rushing out lists of best college for this and best college for that, all leading up to next month's annual celebration by colleges that fare well in U.S. News & World Report's rankings, and denunciation of the magazine by those that do poorly (and a few principled colleges that did well). Gawker responded to this rankings frenzy Monday by releasing a list of the "25 most unranked colleges in America." The website had a problem though when it found out one of the colleges on its list, the Thunderbird School of Global Management, is in fact ranked (just check out its website), and so subbed in another college.
Hilary Pennington wrote to recipients of education-related grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to announce that she would be leaving the position of director of education, postsecondary success and special initiatives. The foundation has been highly influential in recent years in pushing colleges to pay more attention to college completion issues, and this focus has been most notable at community colleges. "Given the momentum we’ve built for the next phase of the postsecondary success strategy, I have decided this is a good time for me to pass the baton. I am eager to get closer to work on the ground than my role at the foundation allows, and to replenish my energy and spirit. And I want to engage more directly the challenges that face societies (the U.S. and elsewhere in the world) seeking to balance the needs of a rising generation of ethnically and racially diverse young people with those of a more homogeneous aging generation –- especially now, at a time when slower economic growth often seems to pit the interests of the young against those of the old." Pennington did not announce details on her next steps, but said she would remain on for a transition period into 2012.
Under a new agreement between Pearson and the Eminata Group, students at three for-profit colleges in Canada will begin getting their course content exclusively via Apple iPads, the companies announced on Monday. Beginning in September, all new students enrolled at CDI College, Vancouver Career College and Reeves College will get iPads from Eminata, which operates the colleges, and will buy e-textbooks from Pearson. Over the next three years, all programs at the colleges will deliver their course content via Pearson's iPad-optimized e-texts.
Sprint has sued Blackboard, claiming that the latter company isn't living up to its end of a deal in which Sprint thought it would have advantages in marketing the use of Blackboard learning management systems on smartphones, Seeking Alpha reported. (Seeking Alpha is a news service focused on stock and business trends.) Blackboard disputes Sprint's assertions. Mobile use of Blackboard services is popular with students and has been a growth area for the company.
A former graduate student has sued Webster University, arguing that he was unfairly dismissed from a master's program in counseling for his lack of empathy, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The suit also alleges that he may have been punished for criticizing the program. The student says that his grades were good, and that he was not given a chance to improve when questions were raised about his ability during work in the field to show empathy. The university declined to comment on the case.