U.S. Higher Education News for September 14, 2015


Barragan, James. “’Ask a Mexican’ Columnist to Keynote UT’s Hispanic Month.” Austin American-Statesman [TX] 14 Sep. 2015: B, 1.

Gustavo Arellano, the writer behind the nationally syndicated column “Ask a Mexican” and the book “Tacos USA,” which discusses how Mexican food penetrated American culture, will give the keynote speech Tuesday for the University of Texas’ first campus-wide Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. Arellano, a consulting producer on the TV show “Bordertown,” which will premiere on Fox in 2016, will speak on the importance of ethnic studies in higher education.

Before the event, he answered a few questions from the American-Statesman:

JB: What are you going to be chatting about during the keynote event?

GA: Victoria (DeFrancesco Soto, a professor at the center and its community outreach director) wanted me to talk about the importance of ethnic studies in general, but specifically whatever you want to call it, Chicano, Latino – no one calls it Hispanic studies, thank God – but the idea that colleges and universities should be paying attention to ethnic studies. . . .

JB: You write a column called “Ask a Mexican.” Do you catch some flak for the column?

GA: I always have. I’ve been doing this column for over a decade. There are some people who love it, some who hate it. There are gabachos who love it or hate it, Mexicanos who love it or hate it. The issue of anti-Mexican racism is very important to me. I’m also an investigative reporter. That said, humor is by far one of the most powerful tools of anti-racism. Satire. Look at the work of Lalo Alcaraz over the years, or Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. In no way am I comparing myself to them, but I draw inspiration from the idea of humor to talk about serious issues. . . .


Gronberg, Ray. “Pope Group Pans English Curricula,” Herald-Sun [Durham, NC] 14 Sep. 2015: A, 1.

CHAPEL HILL – English departments at UNC and other universities are in decline in part because they’ve focused on “superficial and trendy topics” rather than front-line works of British, U.S. and European Renaissance literature, a conservative group says.

That’s left them unappealing to “the brightest minds who are most inspired by the great individuals, great events, great drama and great ideas of the past,” said the report for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, authored by staffer Jay Schalin.

The group, bankrolled by the family of former state Rep. Art Pope, R-Wake, is often critical of the UNC system and more broadly is dubious of the idea that higher education in the U.S. can promote upward mobility.

Schalin’s report continued in that vein, contrasting a past where “college students came from an elite stratum of society” and had “intrinsic interests in acquiring knowledge” with today, where “students are poorly prepared for college-level” work.

“Poring over intricately woven passages filled with complex ideas written by long-dead members of an elite society is an agony for such students,” the graduate of Stockton University and the University of Delaware said.

Academics have responded by spinning off the “vocational” aspects of English departments into separate programs like communications, he said.

In what remains, their scholarship is more concerned with looking for sub-text “about the tools the ruling class ostensibly uses to remain in power,” rather than in “preserving or passing on a culture” or trying to understand an author’s intentions, he said. . . .


McDaniel, Justine. “WCU Joining Battle against Sexual Assaults.” Philadelphia Inquirer 14 Sep. 2014: B, 1.

When several sexual assaults were reported at West Chester University during the last school year, students started paying attention. But no one knew quite how to react.

It was as though students shrugged and said, ” ‘We’re just going to let it go, we’re just going to let it happen, and next weekend we’re going to let it happen again,’ ” said junior Ma’Shiya Queen.

The incidents occurred as national scrutiny of sexual assaults on college campuses was intensifying. Students elswhere were taking action, and even the White House was getting involved.

One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while attending college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and the majority of assaults are never reported.

Following the lead of dozens of colleges nationwide, this year West Chester staff and students have signed on to Green Dot Etc., a violence-prevention program that seeks to get bystanders to intervene. . . .

Already, almost 450 students and 60 faculty and staff members at the 16,000-student university have been trained in one- or eight-hour sessions.

They are learning to take simple actions to prevent sexual assaults and other violent incidents, such as dating violence or stalking. It might mean checking on a friend to make sure everything is fine, or interrupting a quarreling couple to ask for directions and potentially derail a fight. . . .


Messenger, Tony. “Before Denying College Aid to Areli, Lawmakers Should Say Her Name.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch 14 Sep. 2015: A, 2.

In lawmaking, there is no more surefire way to get your bill noticed than to put a kid’s name on it.

Want to stop sex abusers? Jessica’s Law.

Help children in the autism spectrum? Bryce’s Law.

But how about when elected officials want to take something from kids?

That’s what some of them plan to do Wednesday to 19-year-old Areli Munoz-Reyes.

You won’t hear the sponsors of Senate Bill 224 refer to it as Areli’s Law.

But they should.

The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature in May and smartly vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. It does one very simple, and equally cruel, thing: It takes away the A+ tuition assistance that Areli earned fair and square before she graduated from University City High School. It does so because Republicans of Donald Trump vintage believe that electoral success is earned on the backs of “illegal immigrants.”

Here’s the problem:

Areli isn’t an illegal anything. She’s a hard-working, tax-paying student trying to do her parents and her adopted country proud.

“I’ve been here since I was 8,” Areli says. “I was raised here. I consider this country my country. My parents brought me here when I was little. I didn’t have any say in it.”

Like an estimated 1.2 million other young people like her, Areli is in the country legally under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program created by President Barack Obama’s executive order in 2012. Children brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrant parents can apply for the special status so they can continue to go to school and work while this country’s divided political system haggles over yet another presidential election how we are going to fix (or not fix) our broken immigration system. . . .


“Texas to Try Free Freshman Online Courses.” Amarillo Globe-News [TX] 14 Sep. 2015.

The Texas State University System has an idea for future students busy with families and jobs: Don’t even show up on campus freshman year.

Starting next fall, the system plans to encourage nontraditional students to take free massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, before arriving on campus. If they take 10 courses and pass tests for college credit, students could show up at school with a year’s work complete before paying a single tuition bill.

The courses will be run by the New York-based nonprofit the Modern States Education Alliance through a program called Freshman Year for Free. The group plans to launch a free online portal providing access to about three dozen free online courses next fall. Students who complete the courses will be eligible to take Advanced Placement or College-Level Examination Program tests to collect credit.

The students would only have to pay for the tests, costing about $90 per class.

The program will be available to all students planning to attend schools that accept AP or CLEP test scores, including all public schools in Texas. But Texas State is the first system in the state that has committed to actively promote the program.


Donald, J. Wylie, and Jennifer Black Strutt. “Academic Institutions Are under Cyber Attack. The Right Insurance Is Essential, Not Optional.” University Business 14 Sep. 2015.

Academia’s cyber preparedness (or lack thereof) has received less media attention than that of certain retailers and financial institutions, but nonetheless the cyber risks confronting universities are pervasive and alarming. Consider recent breaches suffered by educational institutions. At the University of Maryland, an outside source gained access to a secure records database that held information dating back to 1998, including names, social security numbers, dates of birth, and university identification numbers for over 300,000 people affiliated with the university on two campuses.

During a data breach of the Maricopa County Community College District, the names, social security numbers, and financial information of more than 2.4 million former and current students, employees, and vendors (from as far back as 30 years ago) were exposed on the internet. These security breaches are not isolated incidents; since 2005, educational institutions have suffered more than 700 reported incidents of security breach.

A majority of recent security breaches result from sophisticated, targeted cyber attacks. The Ponemon Institute, a leading research organization concerned with cyber issues, reported that forty-four percent of this nation’s breaches were caused by malicious or criminal attacks, as opposed to a system glitch or human error, and this percentage has increased in recent years. Indeed, the University of Wisconsin has reported approximately 90,000 to 100,000 attempts per day, from China alone, to penetrate its system. The day-to-day cyber threats facing universities include malicious software (malware), phishing, infrastructure attacks, social networking targeting, and peer-to-peer (P2P) information leakage.

One might postulate that an institution is targeted for cyber mayhem if two criteria are met: data within the institution has value, and the institution’s cyber security is weaker than that of other targets. Universities meet both criteria. . . .


And here are three others—one from Canada and two from the United Kingdom—that address issues that institutions in the U.S. are also facing:


Bradbury, Danny. “Is EdTech the Next Big Opportunity?” National Post’s Financial Post [Canada] 14 Sep. 2015: 6.

Looking for the next entrepreneurial opportunity? Maybe you should go back to school.

Just as FinTech uses technology to disrupt the financial sector and MedTech for health care, so EdTech uses it to disrupt education–and it’s a growing business.

In 2014, EdTech financing hit $1.36 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 2013. Scoring $91.3 million from partners including OMERS Ventures, Kitchener, Ont.-based D2L

Desire-2Learn was Canada’s biggest venture deal last year. The firm has pulled in $165 million in two and a half years. Opportunities to disrupt education are as strong now as when the company started 16 years ago, said John Baker, chief executive of D2L, which sells online learning and analytics software to the kindergarten to Grade 12, higher education and enterprise markets. “We’re seeing challenges for different jurisdictions around the world when it comes to retention rates,” he said, describing the K-12 sector. “If we can engage more students in a better learning experience, we’ll be able to improve those graduation rates.” . . .


Curry, Stephen, Jenny Rohn, and Richard P. Grant. “Science Is Vital: Five Reasons to Be Angry about Science Funding; Failure to Commit to a Reasonable Level of Public Investment in Research Is Bad for Science–and Bad for Britain. Here’s What You Can Do about It.” Guardian [UK] 14 Sep. 2015: Science Sec.

In September 2010 the Government threatened cuts to the UK’s research budget, igniting the Science is Vital campaign and rallying thousands to protest against policies that would harm the floundering economy. Five years later–incredibly–we appear to be facing exactly the same predicament. So Science is Vital is campaigning once again, calling on scientists and supporters of science to join us at a public event (in London and online) next month.

Back in 2010 our efforts, along with that of many others, resulted in a ring-fence for the publicly funded science budget – a freeze rather than a cut.

But now, following a combination of inflation and slashed capital and Departmental research and development (R&D) budgets, our public spend on science is appallingly low by international standards. There were, towards the end of the Coalition’s term of office, apparent signs that the Government had taken on board the complex case for the value of a healthy publicly funded research base.

Yet as the first Comprehensive Spending Review of the new Government approaches, we are once again facing the threat of deep cuts to the public R&D spend. The UK may have hauled itself out of recession, but there is no talk of reversing the steady decline of the science base. Public spending remains in deficit, and George Osborne is demanding that non-protected Departments model plans for cuts of 25-40% by 2020. In turn, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has passed this demand on to the UK research councils. HEFCE, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, has already sliced £150m from university teaching budgets. And crucially, there is no commitment to protect the ring-fenced science budget, let alone give it the investment it so desperately needs.

We’re in trouble.

If you care about science in this country, it’s time to get angry. Here are four key issues:

There is little fat to trim. . . .

Our public science spend as a fraction of GDP is now the smallest of all the G8 nations. . . .

We risk driving corporate investment away. . . .

The UK is increasingly unfriendly to foreign scientists and students. . . .


Gil Natalie. “Learn from Our Mistakes: Freshers’ Week Regrets; Musicians, Comedians, Bloggers and an MP Share What They’d Do Differently if They Were Starting Uni All Over Again.” Guardian [UK] 14 Sep. 2015.

Every new university student has their own way of coping with the awkwardness of being plunged into an unfamiliar environment with the chance to re-invent themselves.

Some throw themselves hell for leather into the social scene, going to every back-to-school themed club night and into the beds of everyone on their corridor.

Others stand on the sidelines, waiting for all the clumsy mingling and false friendliness to be over, craving home comforts and a reassuring hug from mum and dad. Most students fall somewhere in between.

The early days of university can be a time for establishing the relationships and habits that last throughout your degree. And many students will emerge at the other side of graduation wishing they’d behaved differently.

Here’s what 10 notable ex-students would do if they could live their freshers’ week all over again. . . .



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