An article in Science explores how some Saudi universities are building their research reputations in nontraditional ways. King Abdulaziz University has hired more than 60 top researchers in the sciences, at nice salaries for part-time work, if they agree to list the university with their other institutions in identification lines in journal articles. The idea is that rankings of citations will show a sharp increase for the university. King Saud University is working to recruit researchers to affiliate in loose ways so that their discoveries will be linked to the university. Some academics quoted in the article said that they feared such efforts would detract from the real advances being made by Saudi universities.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Larry Sager has been scheduled to step down of the law school of the University of Texas at Austin at the end of this academic year. But The Austin American-Statesman reported that he was forced to resign Thursday, following complaints from faculty members about the allocation of funds. The disagreements centered on the use of funds from the law school's foundation.
Sara Jayne Steen, the president of Plymouth State University, sent an e-mail to students telling them they could skip classes today if they wanted to stay off campus to avoid a pro-gun protest, the Associated Press reported. Opponents of the university's gun ban have vowed to hold a protest today, and to attend the protest with loaded guns. The university plans to enforce its ban.
Most department chairs and most faculty members at Columbia University's engineering school have signed letters of no confidence in Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora, The New York Times reported. While top administrators are backing the dean, faculty members say that he has broken deals he made with various departments, particularly on issues of space allocation. Peña-Mora told the Times that the culture at Columbia "takes some getting used to."
Datatel and SunGard Higher Education announced Wednesday that the U.S. Justice Department has cleared a proposed combination of the two companies. Both companies are major players in providing back-office software and a range of other services to colleges and universities. The planned merger was announced in August, but needed government approval to proceed. The companies anticipate a formal combination early in 2012.
Rob Francis, the head baseball coach at St. Petersburg College, was arrested Tuesday after authorities said he drove to a meeting in Orlando he set up with someone who identified in a chat room as a 14-year-old girl, The Orlando Sentinel reported. In fact, there was no 14-year-old but a police officer. Francis was charged with two felony counts of obscene communication and transmission of harmful material to a minor via an electronic device. The college has placed Francis on leave and barred him from campus.
As expected, the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear an appeal of lower court rulings upholding the institution's right to consider race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. Those challenging the Texas policies argue that because the university has attracted diverse students with a race-neutral approach (admitting those in the top 10 percent of their high school classes), Texas should not be permitted to consider race. The university argues that the lower courts got it right in that some level of success in one diversity strategy does not preclude a university from adopting other strategies to enhance diversity. The Supreme Court is likely to announce early next year whether it will hear the case, which would be its first consideration of affirmative action in higher education since 2003.
Some new evidence in the continuing debate over the impact of large classes on teaching and learning: The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario has just released a report that notes a lack of consensus on whether class size alone is a key factor in learning. However, the report concludes that "if size matters ... teaching methods and course design probably matter more."