Higher ed news roundup

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Stanford professor leaves teaching to create online startup 

Research Professor of Computer Science Sebastian Thrun gave up his teaching position at Stanford University in order to found Udacity, an online startup offering classes at low costs. During his presentation at a Digital Life Design conference in Munich, Germany, Thrun announced that his decision was driven in part by ineffective teaching practices at Stanford. 

After making his popular online artificial intelligence course available through online videos, he wanted to create a course using the Web’s interactive tools to simulate one-on-one tutoring, he said. 

One of Udacity’s first course offerings, entitled “Building a Search Engine,” will be taught over a seven-week period by David Evans, a Udacity partner and associate professor of computer science at the University of Virginia. Thrun said he hopes that 500,000 students will enroll in the course. 

“I feel like there’s a red pill and a blue pill, and you can take the blue pill and go back to your classroom and lecture your 20 students,” he told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “But I’ve taken the red pill, and I’ve seen Wonderland.”


Yale seeks to implement gender-neutral housing

A survey conducted by the Yale College Council reflected students’ support for gender-neutral housing options. Despite the Yale Corporation’s rejection of a similar proposal in 2011, the council has consulted with members of the Yale College Dean’s Office and included more data in its new report. 

The council’s survey received responses from 445 juniors and 443 sophomores, said Co-Chair of the Gender-Neutral Housing Committee Joseph Yagoda. Of the survey’s participants, 92.7 percent responded in support of or as indifferent to gender-neutral housing, while 67.1 percent said they would accept residing in a mixed-gender suite. Several respondents conveyed a concern that gender-neutral housing would lead to a higher risk of sexual harassment or assault, wrote Melanie Boyd, assistant dean of student affairs, in a letter attached to the report, according to the Yale Daily News. 

“The assault of a suitemate would be a very risky act, legally as well as disciplinarily,” Boyd wrote. “What we know of sexual offenders suggests that they are more likely to seek out other, less risky targets.”

Council President Brandon Levin said the council requested only that the university make gender-neutral housing available to juniors to encourage them to continue living on campus, since juniors — unlike underclassmen — have the choice of moving off campus and living with the opposite gender. The council’s report asserts that gender-neutral housing would in fact improve the sexual atmosphere at Yale and lessen the sexual implications of students of opposite genders socializing in a suite, according to the Yale Daily News. 

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