Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - 3:00am

College students today are not as empathetic as college students were in the 1980s and 1990s, according to an analysis by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. The study -- based on an analysis of student surveys over a 30-year period -- was presented last week at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science. Students were categorized based on how the responded to statements such as "I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" or "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - 3:00am

Shaw University's national alumni association is calling on the historically black college's trustees to resign, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. The alumni say that the board has not done enough -- through leadership and donations -- to help the financially struggling university. The chairman of the board -- who said that he did not expect trustees to quit -- has failed to make scheduled payments on his $10 million pledge to Shaw.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - 3:00am

Sarah Palin will earn $75,000 (and travel expenses) for a speech at California State University at Stanislaus, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing sources who have seen the contract. The appearance at a fund-raising event has been controversial, and there has been much speculation about the fees involved, which the university has declined to reveal. Many have questioned why a large sum would be paid amid deep budget cuts -- especially to a figure about whom views are sharply divided. While Palin's visit continues to be controversial, the Associated Press reported that a local district attorney has found no criminal acts in an investigation of documents about the appearance that were destroyed.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - 3:00am

University College London has fined a student £300 for starting FitFinder, a Web site the student has since abandoned that lets students flirt with one another, The Times of London reported. The student started the site at his university and it quickly became a hit among students across Britain. University College London officials said that they received complaints from other universities that the site was distracting students and so urged the student to bring it down and fined him for "bringing the the college into disrepute."

Friday, May 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Brandeis University -- amid widespread criticism -- backed off a plan last year to sell some or all of its acclaimed collection of modern art. Now the university is working with Sotheby's to rent out pieces of art, The Boston Globe reported. Details of the plan are still being developed. The article noted that loans from one museum to another are typically not made for money-making purposes, but that some museums have sought to raise funds by lending out portions of their collections.

Friday, May 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Arab-American and civil rights groups are protesting the treatment by Israel of Abeer Afana, a student at Wayne State University who last week was refused entry into Israel at its main airport and was returned to the United States, the Associated Press reported. Afana is a U.S. citizen who was traveling for a study abroad program, using her U.S. passport. But Israeli officials said that because she once held a Palestinian passport, she would be permitted entry only via a land route from Jordan.

Friday, May 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Florida Southern College's board declared a moratorium on awarding tenure in 1971. But as The Ledger reported, a new strategic plan includes tenure as a means to attract top faculty members. This month, the board awarded eight faculty members tenure -- the first such promotions since the moratorium.

Friday, May 28, 2010 - 3:00am

The House Armed Services Committee included language in its version of the military authorization bill that raises questions about the Human Terrain System, a controversial program in which social scientists are embedded with military units -- and suggests that funds could be cut off for the program if the Pentagon doesn't take certain actions. Military leaders have said that program provides the military with valuable expertise, but many social scientists have said that they are being asked to sacrifice disciplinary ethics to take actions that might hurt groups they study.

The report from the committee says: "While the committee remains supportive of the Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS) to leverage social science expertise to support operational commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is increasingly concerned that the Army has not paid sufficient attention to addressing certain concerns. The committee encourages the department to continue to develop a broad range of opportunities that leverage the important contributions that can be offered by social science expertise to support key missions such as irregular warfare, counterinsurgency, and stability and reconstruction operations. The bill limits the obligation of funding for HTS until the Army submits a required assessment of the program, provides revalidation of all existing operations requirements, and certifies Department-level guidelines for the use of social scientists."

Leaders of the American Anthropological Association, which has been outspoken in its criticism of the program, praised the House committee's action. The Senate has yet to take such action.

Friday, May 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Two of the gay presidents of colleges and universities -- Raymond Crossman of the Adler School of Professional Psychology and Charles Middleton of Roosevelt University -- have invited their fellow gay and lesbian presidents (now about 21) to meet in Chicago in August for a first gathering of such college leaders. The presidents hope to discuss advocacy efforts on behalf of gay students, faculty members and administrators.

Friday, May 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Scholarly groups cheered when U.S. officials lifted visa denials -- widely seen as ideologically motivated -- that prevented the scholars Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan from coming to academic meetings in the United States. But some have feared that others may still be being excluded. Sidonie Smith, president of the Modern Language Association, recently sent a letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, calling for the end to all such visa denials. "[I]n the interest of open inquiry and scholarly collaboration, the MLA urges you to cease the practice of denying entry visas to academics and scholars on ideological grounds," the letter says. "Former MLA President Stephen Greenblatt succinctly stated the MLA’s position in these matters: 'Truth-seeking depends upon dialogue. The advancement of knowledge depends upon more people around the table, not fewer. Excluding scholars because of the passports they carry or because of their skin color, religion, or political party corrupts the integrity of intellectual work.'"

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