Professor eMail controversy strikes higher ed once again

Conservative groups aren't happy about the way faculty members are using university-issued eMail accounts.

University of Iowa professor Ellen Lewin kept her eMail to the campus’s College Republicans short and not so sweet: “F*** YOU REPUBLICANS.” A week later, the message has prompted more questions about how–or if–faculty should use campus eMail addresses in political debates.

Lewin, a women’s studies professor at the Iowa City campus, sent her eMail to the university’s Republican student organization after the group announced its “Conservative Coming Out Week,” a four-day event that reminded right-leaning students that they were “not alone” in the university’s “liberal town.”

“Conservatives in Iowa City: it is time to come out of the closet!” said the eMail sent from the College Republicans to Iowa students.

Lewin said the College Republicans’ use of language traditionally used by marginalized groups was offensive, as first reported in The Iowa Republican.

University President Sally Mason responded with a swift rebuke of Lewin’s use of her Iowa eMail account.

“Student organizations are sometimes formed along political lines and act on their political beliefs. Even if we personally disagree with those viewpoints, we must be respectful of those viewpoints in every way,” Mason said in a statement. “Intolerant and disrespectful discord is not acceptable behavior.”

Thomas Moore, a university spokesman, said Iowa wouldn’t disclose plans for disciplinary action against Lewin.

“Disciplinary matters are confidential personnel issues,” Moore said in an eMail to eCampus News. “We will not speculate about any actions the university may or may not take.”

Lewin’s eMail exchange with Iowa conservatives “reaffirm[s] the necessity of a ‘Conservative Coming Out Week’ in Iowa City,” Will Gries, a spokesman for the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, wrote in an April 23 blog post.


Editorial: Failing the middle class on higher ed

The 9.3 percent tuition hike approved for most students at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus should serve as a warning for those who care about affordable higher education in this state, writes the Denver Post. It’s not this year’s increase in isolation, or even just those at the state’s flagship university, that worries us, it’s the hikes in years prior and those assuredly coming at all of Colorado’s public colleges and universities. If nothing changes, there will come a point in the not-too-distant future when a college education becomes too expensive for the middle class…

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Analytics: Not just for IT anymore, educators say

The rise of analytics is partly due to the popularity of social media.

Demand for business school graduates who can gather, analyze, and translate reams of online data will steadily rise over the next decade – a statistic that could make business analytics curriculum a focal point for campuses large and small.

A partnership between Yale University’s School of Management Center for Customer Insights and IBM, announced April 29, gives business analytics a high profile in higher education, as Yale business students will get free access to IBM’s analytics technology and curriculum that, until recently, was only essential in the IT world.

The ability to make sense of millions – sometimes billions – of bits of information can make a recent graduate valuable to companies with a strong online presence, Yale officials said.

About 70 percent of consumers’ first interaction with a service or product is now on the internet, according to a Yale video detailing the school’s IBM partnership.

With more than 2 billion people using the web worldwide, small companies and gigantic corporations have piles of customer data to sift through – data that can show who is attracted to a certain product online.

Sharon Oster, dean of the Yale School of Management, said that over the past five years, business leaders have sought ways to make sense of “masses and masses of numbers” that could help improve the bottom line through personalized advertising campaigns aimed at specific demographics.

“It’s more than statistics, and that’s a challenge to teach,” Oster said in Yale’s video announcement. “When you have a plethora of data it means you have to think a little more strategically up front about what you do with that data.”

Demand for professionals with management analysis skills will increase by 24 percent by 2019, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There will also be a 22 percent increase in demand for operation research analysts and a 13 percent jump in demand for statisticians.


Subsidy at risk for Wis. students

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is taking another controversial approach to fight the state’s budget crisis, and this time, it could affect students at the University of Minnesota, MN Daily reports. Walker’s budget proposal suggests changing the Minnesota-Wisconsin tuition reciprocity agreement to eliminate a subsidy that helps Wisconsin students pay for higher tuition costs in Minnesota…

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Virginia Tech appeals fines from 2007 shooting rampage

According to CNN, Virginia Tech is appealing the $55,000 it was fined by the federal government for failing to provide a timely warning about a shooter on the loose in 2007, the Virginia attorney general said Wednesday.

“The relatively small monetary penalty is not the reason for this appeal. The university has already expended millions as a result of the tragedy,” Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement. “The main purpose of the appeal is to compel the DOE (Department of Education) to treat Virginia Tech fairly and to apply a very poorly defined and subjectively applied federal law consistently and correctly.”

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New master’s degree in STEM education approved for fall

Boise State University received permission to offer a new master’s degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education from the Idaho State Board of Education (SBOE) April 21, the Arbiter reports. The new degree program, which will be offered through the university’s Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies in the College of Education, is designed to address a growing national emphasis on student improvement in STEM subjects and to meet demand for qualified high school STEM teachers created by new requirements that Idaho high school students take three years of math and science, rather than two…

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Ed Department: Half of community college students need remedial classes

Duncan spoke at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Md.

Community colleges should tailor remedial curriculum for students who are unprepared for introductory English and math courses, and in some cases, developmental classes “hinder” student progress, according to a report released by the Education Department (ED) during an April 27 virtual symposium.

ED Secretary Arne Duncan and Second Lady Jill Biden spoke to educators and students at a symposium broadcast on the internet from Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Md., a two-year school with more than 60,000 students on three campuses.

ED officials and educators who led sessions at the symposium outlined “bridge programs” for adult learners who want to return to college after many years in the workforce, and customizing those remedial classes that come with high costs to colleges, students, and taxpayers.

ED released the report to coincide with the symposium that said as much as 60 percent of incoming community college students enroll “in at least one developmental education course to bring their reading, writing, and mathematics skills up to college level.”

Developmental classes that help new community college students catch up with their peers can be critical to earning a degree, according to the ED report, but remedial education “may not improve students’ persistence or completion rates and, in some cases, may actually hinder their progress toward educational goals.”

A more flexible slate of remedial class options on two-year campuses would have educators pinpoint precisely where a student needs improvement, said Shanna Smith Jaggars, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center in New York.

Targeting specific academic vulnerabilities, Smith Jaggars said, would allow a student to move through remedial classes quickly without redundant lessons that lead to high drop-out rates among remedial students.


Sony: Credit data risked in PlayStation outage

If the intruder successfully stole credit card data, the heist would rank among the biggest known thefts of financial data.

Sony Corp. said April 26 that the credit card data of PlayStation users around the world—including, presumably, thousands of college students—might have been stolen in a hack that forced it to shut down its PlayStation Network for the past week, disconnecting 77 million user accounts.

Some players brushed off the breach as a common hazard of operating in a connected world, and Sony said some services would be restored in a week.

But industry experts said the scale of the breach was staggering and could cost the company billions of dollars.

“Simply put, one of the worst breaches we’ve seen in several years,” said Josh Shaul, chief technology officer for Application Security Inc., a New York-based company that is one of the country’s largest database security software makers.

Sony said it has no direct evidence credit card information was taken, but said “we cannot rule out the possibility.”

It said the intrusion was “malicious” and that the company had hired an outside security firm to investigate. It has taken steps to rebuild its system to provide greater protection for personal information and warned users to contact credit agencies and set up fraud alerts.

“Our teams are working around the clock on this, and services will be restored as soon as possible,” Sony said in an April 26 blog post.

The company shut down the network April 20 after it said account information, including names, birthdates, eMail addresses, and log-in information, was compromised for certain players in the days prior.


Online law school applications to be accessible for the blind

The Justice Department says online law school applications will be more accessible to blind students in time for fall 2012 admissions.

Online law school applications soon will be useable by the blind under a court settlement obtained by the federal Justice Department.

The National Federation of the Blind had sued the Law School Admission Council, complaining that its online application service used by laws schools across the country wasn’t compatible with screen readers that blind persons use to navigate the internet.

The Justice Department got involved and announced April 26 that a settlement had been reached that will make the applications accessible for fall 2012 admissions.

The department also reached a related agreement with Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School to modify its own website to let applicants know how to apply by telephone before the council’s online application becomes fully accessible.

The department is working with other law schools to reach similar agreements.