Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 31, 2012

Harvard University is investigating about 125 students -- nearly 2 percent of all undergraduates -- who are suspected of cheating on a take-home final during the spring semester, The Boston Globe reported Thursday. The students, who will appear before the college’s disciplinary board over the coming weeks, seem to have copied each other’s work, the dean of undergraduate education said. Those found guilty could face up to a one-year suspension. The dean would not comment on whether students who had already graduated would have their degrees revoked but he did tell the Globe, “this is something we take really, really seriously.” Harvard administrators said they are considering new ways to educate students about cheating and academic ethics. While the university has no honor code, the Globe noted, its official handbook says students should “assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is prohibited unless explicitly permitted by the instructor.”

August 30, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the Big Easy found itself once again pummeled by a powerful storm. While it lacks the force of its notorious predecessor, Hurricane Isaac has brought powerful winds and many inches of rain to the storm-weary Gulf Coast, leaving hundreds of thousands without power in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana. Among the many people and places that have lost electricity: Dillard University, one of the institutions hardest-hit by Katrina.

While no campus wants to find itself in the path of a hurricane, Dillard's new president, Walter Kimbrough, said that he expects the university will come through the storm relatively unscathed, suffering only from downed power lines, fallen tree limbs, and perhaps some roof damage.

A key difference between Isaac and Katrina: "Last time, that levee [next to Dillard] broke -- it poured right into the back of campus," Kimbrough said. Now, Dillard is safeguarded by a whole new flood protection system -- which Kimbrough, in a prescient move, personally toured just a few weeks earlier. As a result, Kimbrough believes, flooding is "not an issue for us."

Dillard students were sent to Centenary College, in Shreveport, safely out of the way of the storm; Kimbrough remains at his home in New Orleans, waiting for the winds to die down enough that he can get out and inspect the damage to his campus. But he is confident that Dillard, along with the rest of New Orleans, is much better-prepared this time around: "I think now people understand the new realities of this region, [that] based on the things that are happening to the topography, we're more susceptible [to hurricanes]."

August 30, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Mark Bertness of Brown University reveals how sport fishing is damaging marshes along Cape Cod. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 30, 2012

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.)

August 30, 2012

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."

 

 

August 30, 2012

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."

 

August 30, 2012

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.

August 29, 2012

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.

August 29, 2012

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.

 

August 29, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Mary Gauvain of the University of California at Riverside explains how exposure to cooking fire smoke in the developing world can impair cognitive development in children. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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