Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 15, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute: Priya Kanan-Narasimhan, associate professor of management at the University of San Diego, determines the key to innovation at large companies may be looking at what they’re already succeeding in and doing it differently. A transcript of this podcast can be found here.

June 14, 2018

In November, the case of Lindsay Shepherd became a major controversy when recordings surfaced of how officials at Wilfrid Laurier University questioned her use of a video in class showing a professor who does not back transgender rights. Shepherd never endorsed that professor's views, and she used the video in a communications course for which she was a teaching assistant to talk about language. But university official grilled her about it, although the university later apologized for how it had treated her.

Now she is suing the university for 3.6 million Canadian dollars (the equivalent of $2.8 million) over what she is calling an "inquisition" that left her unemployable in academe, CBC News reported. The university, while affirming its apology, said it would "vigorously defend" itself against the lawsuit.


June 14, 2018

Some research suggests that student evaluations of teaching are influenced by students’ expected grades. And some professors report feeling pressure to make their courses easier as a result. A new study says that professors don’t have to worry about grades negatively impacting their student ratings as long as they use classroom practices students perceive to be fair. For their study, researchers surveyed a group of undergraduates’ perceptions of course fairness. They found that the relationship between grades and teaching ratings is attenuated when students believe their marks are determined by a fair process, and when professors seem consistent and responsive in their classroom practices in general.

“We’ve long known there’s an association between expected students’ course grades and how they evaluate teachers,” lead author Thomas Tripp, associate dean of business at Washington State University at Vancouver, said in a statement. “Faculty may not feel a need to award artificially high grades, if they knew how students’ perceptions of justice might influence this relationship.” Tripp and his co-authors found that students’ perception of fair classroom practices is based on four teaching practices: using rubrics and sticking to them; obtaining student feedback and acting on it; grading blindly to avoid bias; and adopting policies that allow for makeup work and absences. The full study, published in the Journal of Marketing Education, is available here.

June 14, 2018

The University of Iowa responded Tuesday to hundreds of allegations on social media that Nick Caracci Jr., a student at the university, sexually harassed women online and in person, the Iowa City Press Citizen reported.

A tweet posted Sunday asked users to retweet or respond if they had also been harassed by Caracci. The tweet has garnered 1,200 retweets and 220 responses, many of which include screenshots of unwanted messages from Caracci. The University of Iowa stressed that while it takes the allegations seriously, social media posts do not classify as an official report and the university can only take limited action.

The University of Iowa has received two formal reports of online harassment by Caracci from the same woman, the first filed in December and another in April, detailing that Caracci stalked her and she worried that he would harm her. It is unknown whether any incidents have been reported to Iowa City police.

June 14, 2018

The White House said Wednesday that Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, plans to meet with Senate lawmakers this week to push for a reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

The House passed a Perkins reauthorization bill last year, but negotiations over Senate legislation have been stalled for months over philosophical differences between Republican and Democratic negotiators.

The Trump administration has identified work-force training as a major priority, and Ivanka Trump will press senators on the urgency of reauthorizing the Perkins law, said Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley in a statement.

“The important legislation benefits more than 11 million Americans across the country and is integral to the administration’s working families and work-force development agenda," Gidley said. "Thanks to the robust economic environment and historically low unemployment rates, there is a record number of unfilled jobs and we are committed to ensuring current and future American workers have access to the high-quality vocational education needed to secure family-sustaining careers and thrive in the modern economy.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, plans to hold a committee vote on Perkins reauthorization on June 20 -- whether or not there is a bipartisan agreement in place.

In a statement, Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said there is broad bipartisan support to get a deal done.

"I am ready to get this done, and I know there are a whole lot of Democrats, Republicans and business groups who join me in hoping that we can do this in a bipartisan way," Murray said.


June 14, 2018

Thomas Brock was announced Wednesday as the next director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Brock is succeeding Tom Bailey, who founded CCRC and was named the next president of Teachers College.

Brock will take over as CCRC director in September. He is stepping down at the end of June as commissioner of the National Center for Education Research at the U.S. Department of Education and as director of the Institute of Education Sciences. Prior to joining IES, Brock was also the postsecondary policy area director at MDRC, a social policy research organization.

"I wanted to join CCRC first and foremost because I am drawn to its mission," Brock said in a news release. "Community colleges are a uniquely American institution -- offering virtually unfettered access to higher education to millions of students -- but are often beset by inadequate funding, low completion rates and other challenges. CCRC provides an objective analysis of community colleges' performance, examines the factors that impede their success and generates ideas and evidence for how they can improve."

June 14, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Lisa Wisniewski, assistant professor of sociology at Goodwin College, discusses the challenges foreign-born students can face at academic institutions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 13, 2018

Three poetry editors at the Boston Review resigned in protest of the publication’s decision to continue its relationship with author Junot Diaz, in light of the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, the Associated Press reported. The editors, Timothy Donnelly, Barbara Fischer and Stefania Heim, announced their resignation, effective July 1, on Twitter. Donnelly said via email that it was it was “painful to leave but we couldn’t possibly stay.” He referenced the recent announcement in support of Diaz by Deborah Chasman and Joshua Cohen, editors-in-chief, saying it “was deeply at odds” with the poetry editors’ positions and their work. Chasman and Cohen in the announcement said that the accusations against Diaz, which include unwanted kissing and bullying behavior towards female authors, are not of the “severity that animated the Me Too movement,” either individually or in the aggregate.

“We had to make a practical decision about a relationship with an editor,” Chasman and Cohen told the Associated Press in an email. “We think we made the right decision and stand fully by the reasons we presented in support of it.” VIDA: Women in Literary Arts last week condemned the Boston Review for its stance on Diaz. Feminist academics remain divided in their support.

June 13, 2018

William Paterson University is reviewing allegations that a professor of sociology taught conspiracy theories, according to northjersey.com. The professor, Clyde Magarelli, allegedly said during a course on social problems last semester that Nazi secret police only engaged in torture during the “last part” of World War II, that Irish people were the first slaves in the U.S. and that the moon landing was faked because it is impossible to wave a flag there. A student recorded some of Magarelli’s comments and shared them on Twitter. Magarelli did not respond to a request for comment. "A review of this matter is underway to determine what action may be warranted," Mary Beth Zeman, university spokesperson, said via email.

June 13, 2018

The University of Oxford is being mocked for an email in which administrators suggested that the "highly developed social conscience" of students draws homeless people to the city of Oxford, the BBC reported.

Two administrators wrote to students to dissuade them from participating in a tradition known as “trashing,” where they cover one another with champagne, confetti, eggs and foam.

The email from a senior and junior proctor said, “Oxford's students have a highly developed social conscience, as is evident from the number of homeless people who come to seek assistance in this city.”

"Needless waste of food is an aggravation of their distress."

The email also said that trashing is "unlikely to have a positive effect on applications from underprivileged minorities."

Those criticizing the message said its tone is problematic, and that it's disingenuous to suggest that the city’s rate of homelessness is connected to the generosity or social consciousness of students. In a statement the university said the intention of the proctors "was to appeal to the social and environmental consciences of Oxford students, urging them to consider the impact of the waste and inconvenience caused by trashing."


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