Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

A state audit released Friday revealed that Dickinson State University, in North Dakota, had awarded hundreds of degrees to Chinese students who did not complete required coursework and who in some cases may not have been able to do so, The Forum reported. The report described a campus that was so focused on attracting students that it cut corners to build its international enrollments. When the audit is shared with various authorities, Dickinson could face sanctions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (over visa issues), from the state (over enrollment figures) and from accreditors (over failure to assure educational quality). At a news briefing Friday, officials said that there was no one person or office responsible for the problems, but rather a series of inappropriate decisions involving the multicultural affairs, admissions and academic records offices, as well as a number of academic departments.

Briefings on campus about the audit were interrupted by reports that a university official, with a weapon, was missing. Later, Doug LaPlante, dean of the College of Education, Business and Applied Sciences, was found dead from a self-inflicted gun wound. The audit did not mention LaPlante by name, but officials said that many of the students who were awarded degrees inappropriately had been enrolled in the college he led.

No disciplinary actions were announced against anyone involved in the scandal, but officials told The Forum that Jon Brudvig had resigned as vice president for academic affairs, but would continue in another position.

The institution has been under scrutiny for months, starting with reports in August that it had listed about 180 people as enrolled who never were enrolled.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

China has seen a surge in private colleges in recent years, with hundreds of new institutions created in the last 15 years, The Washington Post reported. Many of the institutions are seen as second choices for those who can't win a spot at a public university, and they charge double the tuition of public institutions, but so many students want a higher education that these institutions continue to attract enrollments.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Friday rejected the University of Connecticut's request that the association waive a penalty that will ban the Huskies from the NCAA men's basketball championship in 2012-13 because of its players' past academic underperformance, the university announced. UConn officials, who said they would ask an NCAA appellate panel to review the decision by the association's Committee on Academic Performance to an appellate panel, had argued that it would be unfair to penalize next year's UConn players for the academic woes of players who have long since left the university. Connecticut proposed a set of alternative penalties, including forgoing revenues that its conference would have received from the university's participation in the tournament and restricting recruiting by its head coach, Jim Calhoun.


Monday, February 13, 2012 - 4:38am

The University of New York, Tirana promises an American-style education and offers a path to an American degree. But does the Albanian university -- locally called "New York University-Tirana" even though it has no ties to NYU -- really provide an American-style education? Those are questions raised in an article in The New York Times that focuses on the institution's arrangement with Empire State College of the State University of New York. For an extra $100 per credit for the first three years, and an extra $5,000 the fourth year, students can obtain an Empire State degree. The article says that the photograph of a library on the university's brochure was taken elsewhere, that most faculty members are locally hired without input from SUNY, and that only 3 of the 15 courses identified as being from Empire State are taught by instructors with doctorates. "SUNY’s influence seemed more like a label than an active presence," the article said.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

"Student Voices," a website at San Francisco State University, has provided a way for students to tell their individual stories on the impact of tuition hikes at the institution. One student comments: "This year I had to take out two student loans and only had $90 left. Needless to say, I couldn’t buy some of my books right away and instantly fell behind in some classes. There are no more loans that I, as a student, can pull out." A veteran wrote: "I have to be very careful about what classes I take. Sections of classes I need to take have been closed because there aren't enough students to take them. I only have partial coverage from the 9/11 GI Bill, so I still have to pay 3 or 4 thousand in tuition and fees because I'm also an out of state student... This is the first semester that I've ever taken out student loans. I've managed to make it through college on scholarships so far, but the tuition increases make it more difficult to cover the cost of education."

An article in The San Francisco Chronicle details how the site was created out of a protest in which President Robert Corrigan and frustrated students started talking about their differing perspectives on tuition increases, and the need for legislators to better understand the impact of tuition increases.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 4:41am

Colby College has punished 15 students -- including 12 who were suspended for a semester or more -- for a sexual misconduct incident in November, The Boston Globe reported. The college has not revealed details of the incident, citing confidentiality requirements. But students have been focused on the incident since it took place, and there have been several widely attended campus meetings about sexual harassment since the incident took place. The charges against the students include sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, lying to college officials and conspiring to obstruct an investigation.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

President Obama on Friday announced the recipients of the 2011 National Humanities Medals:

  • Kwame Anthony Appiah, a professor of philosophy at Princeton University.
  • John Ashbery, the poet.
  • Robert Darnton, a professor of history and librarian at Harvard University.
  • Andrew Delbanco, professor of humanities at Columbia University.
  • Charles Rosen, the music writer.
  • Teofilo Ruiz, a professor of history and chair of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California at Los Angeles.
  • Ramón Saldívar, a professor of English and comparative literature at Stanford University.
  • Amartya Sen, a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University.

Complete biographies of the winners may be found here.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

The State University of New York at Canton will be closed this week as a result of a fire Friday in a chemistry building. There were no injuries in the fire, but because of chemicals in the building, the university is working with authorities to be sure that there are no dangers on campus due to the chemicals that were in the building.


Monday, February 13, 2012 - 4:46am

The Alabama Board of Education is divided over the performance of Freida Hill as chancellor of the state's two-year college system, with four of the nine members giving her low marks in numerous areas as part of a recent evaluation, The Birmingham News reported. Three board members gave her high marks, and two others mixed marks. The criticisms were wide ranging, including a lack of communication with the board, poor relations with the state's K-12 system and poor morale in the system. Hill's defenders said that disgruntled college presidents have encouraged the criticisms. Hill is the sixth person to lead the system since a corruption scandal in 2006.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Bard Ermentrout of the University of Pittsburgh explains what the colorful patterns on a seashell can reveal about the evolutionary history of the creature that created it. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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