Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 16, 2018

Educause said Thursday that it is buying the assets of the New Media Consortium, a now defunct organization best known for its Horizon reports on the future of education technology.

The consortium declared bankruptcy in December, and its assets were offered for sale. Multiple offers were made, but the court presiding over the bankruptcy accepted the Educause bid.

John O’Brien, president and CEO of Educause, said his organization purchased the NMC assets out of respect for the consortium and a shared interest in its work. He said Educause would connect and consult with community leaders regarding next steps.

February 16, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Stephanie Gill, Ph.D. candidate at the University at Buffalo, discusses samples found in the Himalayas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 15, 2018

A coalition of student groups at Ivy League universities and other elite colleges issued an open letter Wednesday urging their institutions to re-evaluate their use of admissions preferences for children of alumni. The letter calls for colleges to review their practices and to be public about the preferences they grant and those policies' impact on admission rates. Calls to eliminate legacy preferences in the past have largely been ignored by elite colleges.

"The practice of providing preferential treatment to applicants based on familial relationships is, from its very inception, rooted in discrimination, having been a tool used to reduce the rising Jewish population in elite colleges," says the open letter. It adds, "This campaign is not about whether or not legacy applicants like our future children deserve their place in their respective universities. It is about ensuring that all students have equal footing in the admissions process regardless of whether or not their parents attended a certain university."

February 15, 2018

Syracuse University College of Law has won approval from the American Bar Association's accreditation division to offer a J.D. program in which roughly two-thirds of the course work will be completed online -- although about half of the credits completed at a distance will be conducted live, in real time, school officials note. The ABA has been cautious in permitting law schools to educate students via the internet, and before Syracuse, the bar association had approved two institutions to offer more than 15 of their credits online, its current limit (though an increase is under review).

Last fall the ABA panel rejected Syracuse's bid to create a virtual J.D. in conjunction with 2U, the online program management company, but the law college said it was staying the course alone. Under the newly announced program, students will take only 21 of 87 credits in either residential courses or physical externships. Of the remaining 66 credits, about half of class time will be conducted in live, synchronous sessions with professors (in smaller cohorts than students typically have in Syracuse's traditional J.D. program), and the other half will be done in an asynchronous and self-paced format, said Nina A. Kohn, associate dean for research and online education and the David M. Levy Professor of Law at Syracuse.

"If you combine the face-to-face online course work with the residential, almost two-thirds of instruction will be face-to-face," Kohn said. "We think that that ability to interact in real time, to go back and forth, see where the students are, press them -- especially in the law school curriculum -- is critical," Kohn said. Because section sizes are likely to be smaller online than in person, she added, "Just mathematically, I expect students to be called on more often in the online J.D. program" than they are in the traditional program.

February 15, 2018

Trinity College Dublin has announced that it will provide an alternate instructor for those who do not wish to continue to study Arabic with Ali Selim, The Irish Times reported. Student leaders and others have been demanding that Selim be fired in the wake of comments he made in a television interview defending female genital mutilation. While Trinity declined to fire Selim, officials said no one would have to be in his class. (He is a part-time lecturer in Arabic.)

Earlier in the week, Trinity issued a statement condemning female genital mutilation as "always wrong." The Trinity College Students' Union issued a statement demanding Selim's dismissal. "A person who would advocate, openly and without shame, for a universally condemned, dangerous and evil practice whose sole purpose is to torture and subjugate has no place in Trinity's community of learning," the statement said.

February 15, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Tamas Budavari, assistant professor in the department of applied mathematics and statistics at Johns Hopkins University, describes how a tool to map the stars could help fight urban blight. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 14, 2018

Two statistics related to college admissions and enrollment came out Tuesday:

  • Harvard University announced that 42,742 students applied for admission to its Class of 2022, an increase of 8.2 percent from the previous year. Of course it was a long shot last year, and the year before. It's just a bit more of a long shot now.
  • California announced that applications for its state aid program for undocumented students are down, apparently because many of these students are afraid of identifying themselves, given the uncertainties over U.S. policy about them. As of Monday, 19,141 had applied, about half the total of a year ago. "We're 20,000 students behind," Lupita Cortez Alcalá, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, told the Los Angeles Times.
February 14, 2018

In-the-know sources at Tufts University tell us that the appointment of Lawrence S. Bacow as Harvard University's next president has prompted memes about leaving Medford (where Bacow served as Tufts president for a decade) for Cambridge. One features the current president of Tufts, Anthony P. Monaco, on a card suitable for Valentine's Day.

Card shows a photo of Tufts president Anthony P. Monaco, with the inscription, "I won't leave you for Harvard."

February 14, 2018

Yale University’s would-be graduate student union has withdrawn its petition to form a union affiliated with Unite Here from the National Labor Relations Board. Graduate students in eight Yale departments announced they'd voted to unionize as part of a novel “micro-unit” strategy last year, but Yale has challenged the validity of that approach, details of the election and the general notion that graduate students are employees entitled to collective bargaining. The union said in a statement that it withdrew its petition over concerns that the NLRB under President Trump is increasingly hostile to union interests.

Graduate students on other private campuses have expressed similar concerns, and in particularly ominous news for Yale organizers, the NLRB in December ruled against a micro-unit organizing approach in a health care-related case. “We continue to call on the Yale administration to address graduate teacher concerns and stand with the labor movement and against the Trump administration stripping us and thousands of other workers of our rights,” Unite Here Local 33 said in a statement.

Yale said in a separate statement that it has “steadfastly maintained that Local 33’s micro-unit strategy was inappropriate and that the departmental elections were undemocratic.” The institution remains “deeply committed to graduate student education, and to providing its teaching fellows with the mentorship and training necessary to complete their degrees and go on to rewarding careers,” it said.

February 14, 2018

The Faculty Senate of Michigan State University on Tuesday passed a vote of no confidence in the board of the university, The Lansing State Journal reported. Of the 65 members of the Faculty Senate at the meeting, 61 voted for the measure. Some professors have criticized the selection of John Engler, a former governor of Michigan, as interim president there. Many have also criticized the lack of faculty input in the decision. The Michigan State board declined to comment.

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