Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 13, 2012

Sudan is seeing major student protests this week in the wake of the deaths of four students at Gezira University who participated in a protest over tuition rates, AFP reported. Protest organizers said that the four students were among participants in a peaceful protest that was disrupted by a pro-government student group. University officials said that the students drowned.

 

December 13, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Stephanie Pfirman of Columbia University explains the importance of the geographic area destined to be the last refuge for year-round Arctic sea ice. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 13, 2012

California Competes, a group led by U.S. Department of Education veteran Robert Shireman, on Wednesday filed a legal challenge to the shared governance structure of California's community college system. In a filing with the system's Board of Governors, the group seeks to overturn what it asserts are veto powers for local academic senates. The resulting "tangled bureaucracy" has contributed to accreditation crises in the system, the group said, most notably at the City College of San Francisco. Faculty leaders, however, have said that the system's governance structure functions properly and that governing boards have the power to act.

December 12, 2012

The board of Morgan State University announced Tuesday that it had decided not to renew the contract of President David Wilson, meaning that he will leave office in June, after three years in the position. The official announcement gave no reason for the decision. The Baltimore Sun reported that the university's board was divided on the issue, and made the decision last week in a "heated" meeting. Recent months have seen two shootings on the campus, and the indictment of a professor for obtaining grants fraudulently, but the Sun quoted sources as saying those incidents were not behind the ouster. The Sun quoted from a letter Wilson sent to the campus in which he suggested he was being punished because he had been considered for another job (even though he withdrew from contention).

Marybeth Gasman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studies historically black colleges such as Morgan State, wrote a column for The Washington Post questioning the way the university's board decided to end Wilson's presidency. "Wilson is an exceptional leader," she wrote. "When I look across the landscape of university presidents for an example of an individual who is ethical, personable, forward-thinking, brave, data driven, charismatic, scholarly and committed to student-centered education, I think of Wilson."

 

December 12, 2012

Carolane Williams has been "separated" from her position as president of Baltimore City Community College, the two-year-college's board announced Tuesday, The Baltimore Sun reported. Faculty members voted no confidence in Williams two years ago, and reports have criticized graduation rates at the college. In September, Governor Martin O'Malley, a Maryland Democrat, named five new members of the college's board. "The board strongly believes that the time is right for a leader who will bring new urgency to our urban educational mission," said a statement from the board chair, Rosemary Gillett-Karam.

 

December 12, 2012

Many public universities have created honors colleges with smaller classes and special privileges for students. Many other public universities shower non-need-based aid on top students. An article in The New York Times looks at how the University of Oklahoma has emphasized those strategies, creating an educational experience for top students (many of them National Merit Scholars) that is decidedly different than that of most other students at the university.

 

December 12, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeff Lane of the University of Alberta reveals how shifting weather patterns are disrupting the lifecycle of hibernating mammals. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 12, 2012

The disproportionately low employment of minority coaches has long been documented and discussed. A new study focusing on one of the most visible college sports proposes that in top-tier football programs, where nearly half of all athletes are black but only about 10 percent of coaches are, “race is important in channeling, but not necessarily racism.” The disparity is in part due, the study argues, to black and white athletes playing different positions, some of which are more likely to lead to assistant coaching positions, some of which in turn are more likely to lead to head coaching jobs.

The University of Georgia researchers, in an article to be published in Social Science Quarterly, found that quarterbacks, linebackers and tight ends – all positions disproportionately occupied by white players – are more likely to have obtained head coaching positions. Similarly, offensive and defensive coordinators -- the assistant coaching positions that transition most directly to head coaching jobs – are disproportionately occupied by white men. The researchers also note that while 6 percent of white coaches never played football in college, that was not true of any black coaches in the study.

December 12, 2012

Unions that represent faculty members, teaching assistants, lecturers and others at Michigan's public colleges and universities stand to lose funds (exactly how much isn't clear) under the state's new "right to work" law for public employees. The law says that employees can't be forced to pay anything to unions that represent them. Until now, employees who did not want to join the unions that won collective bargaining elections could opt not to, but they had to make "fair share" payments to cover work done by the unions. (Such payments typically exclude political activity by unions.) Such workers could now pay nothing, if they want.

Republicans who pushed the legislation said that they were trying to "free" workers from unions. David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan (the largest union in higher education in the state), said that the move was designed to weaken unions. He noted that unions still must represent workers who don't pay anything, so the measures will leave unions with smaller budgets than they had before. He said that the AFT has not done an estimate of how much the union budgets could shrink, but said that in other states with similar laws, "there has been a hit."

 

December 11, 2012

Echoing the findings of other reports and statements about doctoral education in recent months, a commission of the American Chemical Society issued a report Monday that urges significant changes in the structure, curriculums, and financing of graduate programs in chemistry to better align the interests of students, institutions and the discipline. Among the recommendations are that the median time to Ph.D. for individual chemistry departments be no more than five years, that financial support for students be uncoupled (to the extent possible) from grants and contracts, and that universities set the size of their doctoral programs based on the availability of "truly attractive opportunities for graduates" in chemical science professions. "A large undergraduate teaching need is not a sufficient justification for a large graduate program," the report states.

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