Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

William Pollard is drawing mixed reviews in his first year as president of Medgar Evers College. The New York Times reported that some faculty members and leaders of the City University of New York praise his efforts, but some of his changes are angering others at the college. One dispute involves the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, which works with former prisoners. The new administration is asking a series of questions about the program, suggesting a lack of confidence that it is a national think tank. Further, administrators have angered supporters of the center by hesitating to endorse a plan to bring 300 nonviolent drug offenders to campus over the next three years, the Times reported.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

Stevens Institute of Technology appears to be moving past last year's administrative and financial turmoil, in part due to reforms pushed by New Jersey's attorney general, The Star-Ledger reported. The president whose compensation levels were criticized has stepped down and the board has instituted a series of new rules designed to assure proper oversight and greater transparency.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department has told state officials in California that the federal government will terminate its agreement with EdFund, the state agency that guarantees federal student aid, and replace it with another entity, the Sacramento Bee reported. The department's decision could threaten Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to sell the troubled agency, which has been in turmoil for years.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has revived concerns at the University of California at Berkeley over the institution's ties to BP. The oil company gave the university $500 million for energy research in 2007 -- and many faculty members questioned the deal at the time. On Friday, a rally at Berkeley drew attention to the deal in light of recent events, with those at the rally saying it was time to revisit the university's ties to BP, the Associated Press reported. But Berkeley officials said that now isn't the time to walk away from the research. "The horrible events in the Gulf should only strengthen our commitment to find alternatives to fossil fuels," Graham Fleming, vice chancellor of research, told the AP. "Why would anyone's interest be served by stopping this research?"

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The long-awaited rankings of doctoral programs by the National Research Council -- years behind schedule and with an evolving methodology -- aren't coming this month, but are apparently due soon. NRC officials have been declining to give public indications of when the rankings will be released, but the Web site for the project posted a notice last week that indicated some campus officials were asking about the timing of August vacations in light of the potential release of the project. According to the notice, the rankings won't come out in August, but universities should find out in August when they will receive the data and when the public will receive the data -- at a later point also not in August.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

A new California law requires public colleges and universities to let students from foster care -- who frequently have no place to go during the summers -- to have access to dormitories year-round, the Los Angeles Times reported. About 700 University of California students came from the foster care system, as did 1,200 at California State University campuses and several thousand at community colleges.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday admitted that it tracked Howard Zinn, the noted historian and political activist who died in January, from 1949 to 1974, and the bureau released 423 pages of records from the monitoring of Zinn. Salon noted that this monitoring took place "despite having apparently no evidence that he ever committed a crime." And TPM noted that the records indicate that a senior official at Boston University, where Zinn taught, tried to have him fired in 1970. (If you are wondering if that official might have been John Silber, the long-time BU president with whom Zinn had many disagreements, it wasn't, as Silber hadn't been hired at the time.)

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

As Facebook has faced one criticism after another for the last year over its various privacy failings, many educators have worried that students were oblivious to the need to keep private some of the information they post about themselves. New research in the journal First Monday, however, suggests students may be more aware of privacy issues than they are given credit for. The research followed college students during 2009 and 2010 and found that as news spread of Facebook's privacy issues, more students started to modify their privacy settings, suggesting both awareness of the public debate and concern about its ramifications.

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

The Educational Testing Service has announced that it is resuming registrations in Iran for the Test of English as a Foreign Language and the Graduate Record Examination. New United Nations sanctions against Iran led ETS to cut off registrations as the testing service could not process funds coming from the country. Now, ETS has a new arrangement in place to process credit and debit cards in Iran in ways that do not violate U.S. enforcement of the sanctions.

Friday, July 30, 2010 - 3:00am

Even though women now make up half of medical school enrollments, they lag in assuming leadership roles in the classroom -- but that need not be the case, according to new research led by Nancy Wayne, a professor of physiology at the University of California at Los Angeles. For the research -- results of which are appearing in the August issue of Academic Medicine -- Wayne tracked the roles of men and women in small group discussions in medical school courses requiring such discussions and presentations by team leaders. Leaving the roles to volunteers, she found, very few women assume leadership positions. But when a brief pep talk is given to students about the importance of trying out leadership roles in small groups, she found, women are significantly more likely to go for the leadership position.

Wayne said the finding is important because the medical school curriculum is shifting away from lectures toward more group work, and also because many people assume that once women achieve a critical mass in enrollments, no further issues related to gender will need addressing. "People assume that if you have parity in the numbers of men and women training to become physicians, then everything else will fall into place," said Wayne. "Surprisingly, we found that wasn't the case."

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