Internet2 and Educause, two higher-ed technology organizations, announced on Tuesday that they are expanding a group purchasing effort that allows member institutions to purchase access e-textbooks from McGraw-Hill at a discounted price. The effort, which began in January with five universities, "aims to advance a new model for the purchase, distribution, and use of electronic textbooks and digital course materials," according to a press release. The program added 20 additional institutions on Tuesday, including both small liberal arts colleges and large state universities. The idea is that negotiating deals for e-textbook access at the institutional level, as a group, will make it cheaper and easier for colleges and universities to support professors who want to take their courses digital. The first five universities to sign on recently collaborated on a report summarizing the experiences of students and professors in the first semester of the pilot. The results were mixed.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A new report by the American Association of University Professors suggests various ways that the government can rewrite regulations on the research of human subjects. The report, "Regulation of Research on Human Subjects: Academic Freedom and the Institutional Review Board," is a response to a federal government endeavor to improving regulations when it comes to such research. The report says that the current review system, where an Institutional Review Board -- a local committee that monitors research that involves humans -- assesses research projects is far from ideal as the board's members might not have any special competence in the vast range of disciplines they might be asked to monitor. It suggests that university departments and faculty committees might be better equipped to deal with the job rather than these boards. "[A]lthough researchers may make mistakes in deciding whether their research methodology would be a minimal risk methodology, we think that the alternative – namely requiring that all research projects be approved by an IRB or an IRB surrogate – is markedly worse in its impact on both academic freedom and scientific research,” the report says. “...[W]e are recommending that if a research project would impose no more than minimal risk of harm on its subjects, then it therefore should be exempt from the requirement of IRB approval." so does it say that IRBs should go away? be limited to dangerous medical research? -sj
The University of Central Oklahoma has settled a lawsuit by 12 former students and employees, who charged the former debate coach with harassment and retaliation, the Associated Press reported. The lawsuit claimed that the former coach -- Eric Marlow -- threatened to take a scholarship away from a student if she didn't have sex with him, and that he sent threatening text messages. A lawyer for Marlow declined to comment except to confirm that the suit has been resolved. Details of the settlement were not released.
A freshman who was a pledge at Theta Chi and who was at an event with drinking Saturday night died Sunday, The Fresno Bee reported. While the cause of death has not been officially determined, alcohol is viewed as a factor. The university is suspending Theta Chi. Seven years ago, a death in another fraternity house -- following a night of drinking -- prompted the university to announce a series of new steps to prevent alcohol abuse.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s African and Afro-American Studies Department reportedly allowing athletes to take and pass no-show classes did not violate any National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, including those regarding athlete eligibility, the university said in a statement Friday. “On Aug. 23, 2012, University Counsel Leslie Strohm and Senior Associate Dean Jonathan Hartlyn provided an update to the enforcement staff,” the statement said. “The NCAA staff reaffirmed to university officials that no NCAA rules appeared to have been broken.”
NCAA eligibility rules require that, in order to compete, athletes earn at least six credit hours each term and meet minimum grade point averages, which vary depending on an institution's own standards for graduation. But the rules apparently do not address whether taking no-show classes would constitute a violation. The classes reportedly involved altered grades and little to no faculty supervision.
A feature in The Los Angeles Times describes a program at the University of La Verne in which children of migrant farm workers come to campus for a month in the summer to improve academic skills and to experience life at a college. Because many of these students don't have the stability of attending a single high school, and their families don't have much money, many face long odds against ever getting a higher education, which is why the university is focusing on reaching out to them. Adonay Montes, an assistant professor of education and the program director, said of the students: "They live the life of a college student here. We try to provide that experience so when they go back they know how to navigate the educational pipeline by being able to advocate for themselves."
Another faculty in Minnesota has weighed in on the November vote on the proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage. During the first faculty meeting of the year, professors at St. Olaf College voted overwhelmingly to oppose the amendment. The college has said it will not take an official position on the issue, which another Lutheran college in Minnesota, Augsburg College, did in August.
A new obstacle has emerged for the business school of the University of California at Los Angeles, which has been pushing a "self-sufficiency plan" for its M.B.A. program, in which it would give up state funds in return for more independence. The plan, seen as privatization by critics, has been debated for some time. A vote by the UCLA faculty in June appeared to clear the way for final approval by the University of California system.
But a committee of the systemwide Academic Senate has now tabled the proposal to approve the plan. According to the committee, the system does not currently have any policy that would allow a program that is not self-supporting to become self-supporting. Lacking such a policy, the committee declined to approve the UCLA plan. Officials of the business school could not be reached to discuss the implications of this development.
City College of San Francisco, already facing deep budget cuts and threats that its accreditation may be removed, has yet another problem. State audits have determined that the college placed some non-academic employees in a pension system reserved for academic employees, and that inaccurate figures were used to calculate pensions for yet other employees, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Some of the employees and retirees have been told that they are being kicked out of the pension system.