Higher Education Quick Takes
A University of Maryland at College Park study of undergraduates' political news consumption habits suggests that students are spending little time on election news. The study -- whose lead investigator, Elia Powers, is a former Inside Higher Ed reporter -- asked students to keep track of how much time they spent following the news before, during and after Super Tuesday, when 10 states voted in the Republican presidential primary. Most students spent less than 30 minutes over three days, including the day of voting, consuming political news, the study found. (One possible explanation researchers noted: Only 28 of the more than 150 students studied identified as Republicans. Still, those Republicans weren't more engaged than other students.)
Roger Jenkins, dean of business at Miami University in Ohio, announced his retirement Monday, a week after it became public that he had returned to a court-appointed receiver $1.25 million in consulting fees from a man convicted of running a Ponzi scheme, The Dayton Daily News reported. In a memo to the faculty, Jenkins has denied wrongdoing, but noted that perceptions matter. "As with any deeply personal relationship and within every family, there are complex nuances that, if and when brought to light, due to surface appearance and the absence of context, are exceptionally difficult for others to understand,” he wrote. “And ironically, the reality is that perceptions matter. I have therefore concluded that my work here at the Farmer School will come to a close at the end of the semester, in no small part because this will complete a most unfortunate chapter in Miami’s history that has simply gone on too long."
The University of Texas at Austin announced Wednesday that it has it has closed an inquiry into allegations of scientific misconduct against one of its faculty members, Mark Regnerus, over a paper he wrote that found children are generally better off if they have a married mother and father. The paper, which appeared in the journal Social Science Research, has been highly controversial. Many scholars have said that his sampling techniques resulted in a pool of research subjects that resulted in unfairly negative assessments about the children of same-sex couples -- and one writer on the issue filed a complaint of scholarly misconduct. Critics of same-sex marriage have showered praise on the study.
Under Texas rules, all such complaints are evaluated to determine whether a full-scale investigation is needed, which in this case the university said was not needed. The university said that there was no evidence of scientific misconduct, even that scholarly disagreement could not be considered misconduct.
A memo released by the university outlined the reasons for dropping the matter: "Whether the research ... possessed significant limitations or was even perhaps seriously flawed is a determination that should be left to debates that are currently underway in the academy and future research that validates or invalidates his findings. Professor Regnerus has stated that the data on which the research at issue was based will soon be made publicly available. At that time scholars can examine the data themselves and arrive at their own conclusions."
A new survey of parents by Fidelity has found that only 31 percent with college-bound children are considering "the total cost" of college, defined as including graduating with debt, and the impact of college attended and program completed on earnings potential. Of families looking broadly at those issues, a majority are changing their plans due in part to concerns about student loan debt. More than a third are opting for less expensive colleges than they might have considered earlier.
More than two dozen past chairs of Pennsylvania State University's Faculty Senate have drafted a statement that blasts the National Collegiate Athletic Association of misusing the university-commissioned investigative report into its child abuse scandal to "justify its collective punishment of the entire University community." At its first meeting of the new academic year, the university's current Faculty Senate discussed the scandal that ripped the university apart throughout much of last year, and debated a set of questions about the implications of the controversy, the NCAA penalties, and other matters.
About 470,000 students are on waiting lists for courses at community colleges in California, according to a survey due to be released today, The Los Angeles Times reported. The survey by the state's community college system noted numerous impacts, such as the waiting lists, of a series of deep budget cuts in recent years:
- Enrollment has dropped 17 percent, from about 2.9 million in the 2008-9 academic year to 2.4 million in 2011-12. More declines are expected this year.
- The number of class sections decreased 24 percent from 522,727 in 2008-9 to 399,540 in 2011-12.
- Two-thirds of community colleges in the state report that students are facing longer wait times to see counselors on academic or financial issues, with an average wait time of 12 days.
The American Political Science Association announced Tuesday that it is canceling this year's annual meeting, which had been scheduled for this week in New Orleans. The APSA originally postponed the start from Wednesday to Thursday, given the hurricane that hit the region Tuesday night. On Monday, the association expressed confidence that people could arrive in time for Thursday sessions, but social media sites have been full of reports of people announcing that they were not going, and that sessions were going to be canceled.
A statement posted on the association website said: "A primary function of the association is to provide the highest quality meeting experience possible. In light of revised information we have from local officials about the trajectory of Isaac, we now anticipate the potential for sustained rain, flooding, power outages and severely restricted transportation into the city on Thursday. Under these circumstances, it is not prudent to convene the meeting.... For all attendees, we will provide additional refund information as soon as we are able. Please bear with us while we work with our vendors and local partners to provide you with detailed information."
Michael Brintnall, executive director of the APSA, said via e-mail that the association was "trying to assess all the implications." He said that the association does "carry meeting insurance to cover both meeting cancellations of this sort, and attenuated attendance had we carried on."
For years, one recruitment tool for colleges has been to buy names of students who take standardized tests, score at certain levels and meet various other criteria. At a time that many colleges are pushing to recruit more foreign students, the Educational Testing Service and Hobsons have announced a new product applying the idea to those taking the TOEFL, one of the exams that foreign applicants may take to demonstrate competence in English. Under the new program, those taking the TOEFL will indicate their willingness to be included in a database from which colleges may purchase names of potential applicants meeting criteria selected by the colleges.