Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 24, 2012

Shirley M. Tilghman announced Saturday that she will leave the presidency of Princeton University in June, and will return to the faculty there. Tilghman has served as president since 2001, and had an unusual route to the presidency. She had been serving as the faculty-elected member of the presidential search committee when other members of the panel asked her to leave that role so she might be considered for the presidency. As Princeton's leader, she has been a national advocate for women in science and for improvements in science education, while overseeing growth in Princeton's undergraduate student body and completion of a $1.88 billion fund-raising campaign.

 

September 24, 2012

Christopher Newport University, following a protest letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, may change its protest policy, The Daily Press reported. The university requires groups planning a protest to provide notice 10 days in advance. Last week, the university refused to grant an exception to the rule when some students wanted to protest a visit by Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate. Ryan's visit was announced only a day in advance, so there was no way those who wanted to protest could have met the university's 10-day requirement. "It is very disconcerting that an institution of higher education, which is supposed to educate young people, has instead abridged their constitutional rights," said Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. In response to the ACLU letter, the university has invited the student government to propose changes in the protest rule, and has said that it will try to have changes in place soon, given that the election season may lead to other situations similar to the Ryan visit.

 

September 24, 2012

Saylor.org, a clearinghouse for open educational resources (OER), announced on Thursday that it has teamed up with Google to offer its recently unveiled line of free online courses through Google's new massive open online course (MOOC) platform. Google leaped into the MOOC fray earlier this month with Course Builder, which it has pitched as an "open-source," do-it-yourself platform for colleges and individuals that want to adapt their courses to the trendy MOOC format.

Saylor.org, which is run by the nonprofit Saylor Foundation, recently announced it will be opening 240 peer-reviewed courses. It also announced partnerships with Excelsior College and StraighterLine that could give learners who take those courses pathways to formal college credit. Right now the Saylor courses live on their own website; the organization has not yet promised to migrate the lot of them to Google's platform -- just one for now, an introductory course in mechanics.

Google is not the only MOOC platform provider that has expressed an interest in letting other developers and course designers build freely on its code. edX, a nonprofit MOOC provider funded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been talking about making its own software platform similarly "open source."

Google's arrival in the fray has produced some unusual bedfellows. Peter Norvig, the company's director of research, has been involved with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider that grew out of an open teaching experiment Norvig led last year with Sebastian Thrun, a colleague of Norvig's at both Google and Stanford. Google has now made Norvig a figurehead for Course Builder, and he has been talking up a potential collaboration with edX. "edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms," wrote Norvig in a blog post for Google.

"We're all still experimenting to find the most effective ways to offer education online," he says in a video introducing Course Builder. "And that's why we're so excited to be offering this initial set of tools: so that there will be more of us trying different approaches and learning what works."

September 24, 2012

Cornell University officials are criticizing an e-mail sent to student leaders by an unknown person with the fake signature of David Skorton, the university's president. The fake e-mail appears to suggest a lack of interest in dealing with bias issues on the campus. Tommy Bruce, vice president for communications at Cornell, sent an e-mail to student leaders to tell them the alleged Skorton e-mail was a forgery. In a statement, Bruce said: "In a community of trust, that is Cornell, where our collective efforts should focused on improving the Cornell experience and lifting the climate on campus, this fraudulent behavior can have serious unintended consequences." The text of the fake e-mail can be found here.
 

September 21, 2012

The Ig Nobel Prizes, an annual spoof of the real Nobels, for 2012 were awarded Thursday night. Among the research achievements honored were work on why coffee spills when you walk (the fluid dynamics award), why some people in a town in Sweden have their hair turn green (the chemistry award), why chimpanzees can recognize other chimpanzees individually from photographs of their rear ends (the anatomy award) and a report about reports about reports (the literature prize). Details of this year's awards may be found here. The first real Nobel for 2012 will be announced October 8.

 

September 21, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Justin Halberda of Johns Hopkins University examines how our ability to work with numbers changes over time. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 21, 2012

The University of the Philippines has barred a planned showing today of "Innocence of Muslims," the film that has sparked violent outrage in much of the Middle East, the Associated Press reported. The film was to have been screened in a course discussing freedom of expression.

 

September 21, 2012

Adjuncts at Duquesne University’s McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts have voted 50 to 9 to form a union, the United Steelworkers union announced Thursday. The union, the collective bargaining agent for the adjuncts, said that Duquesne administrators now have a legal duty to bargain with them. Last week, the National Labor Relations Board voted to count the ballots on the adjunct vote. The ballots were impounded following an appeal by Duquesne that the adjuncts should not be allowed to unionize because a union might affect the Roman Catholic university’s religious freedom. The NLRB decided to count the votes saying that if the effort was defeated, there would be no reason to consider the appeal. Now that the votes favor a union, the university’s appeal will go forward.

September 21, 2012

The Parti Québécois government that assumed power in Quebec on Thursday promptly killed the tuition increases that sparked months of protests, The Canadian Press reported. Annual tuition will return to $2,168, eliminating a $600 increase approved by the prior Liberal government. The new government pledged to limit tuition increases to the rate of inflation, while saying that officials would consider other proposals. Some of the student protest groups want tuition eliminated entirely.

 

September 21, 2012

A Republican-backed bill to increase the number of visas for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields failed to pass the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday. The vote was 257-158, short of the two-thirds tally needed for a bill to pass under a suspension of House rules.

The STEM Jobs Act would have eliminated the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which allocates slots to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States – a sticking point with Democrats, who have introduced their own bill to increase visas for STEM graduates without affecting the Diversity Visa Program.

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