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University News

This week in higher ed: Sept. 12, 2013

By
University News Editor
Thursday, September 12, 2013

Michigan State relieves professor of teaching duties after politically charged comments

A creative writing professor at Michigan State University was suspended from his teaching responsibilities after making controversial statements on the first day of class. A student captured the remarks on a video that was then posted online and seen by university officials.

William Penn, a professor in the university’s English department, criticized Republicans and wealthy individuals while discussing taxation and black voter suppression, claiming Republicans “raped this country.” Penn later acknowledged that his actions may have “negatively affected the learning environment,” said Kent Cassella, assistant vice president for media communications at Michigan State, in a public statement.

Though Penn has been relieved of his teaching duties, he remains a paid faculty member at the university.

 

Rochester professor starts course with a prank

On the first day of class, students in Chemistry 131 at the University of Rochester were told by the instructor that 55 percent of students had failed the class the previous year. They were also told that cell phones and laptops could not be used in class and that violators would see consequences in their grades. They were not aware that they were being pranked and that the instructor in front of the class was not in fact their professor.

After being approached by Chamber Boys, a student radio show, Benjamin Hafensteiner, chemistry professor at the University of Rochester, agreed to pull a prank on his students on the first day of class. Hafensteiner wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed, “The first class is always tough to get through, and I thought this would be an ice breaker to beat all ice breakers. It set a pretty high energy tone that I hope I can carry through the rest of the semester.”

In fact, only 12 percent of students in the class last year received a C- or lower.

 

Yale to focus career services on industry-specific events

Yale’s Undergraduate Career Services will no longer hold an annual career fair in the fall, instead opting for smaller events tailored to specific industries and career fields. The university’s UCS organized six pilot industry-specific events last year and received positive feedback both from students and from employers. “The smaller events are so much more of an asset,” said UCS Director Jeanine Dames.

Student response to the announcement has been mixed, with some expecting the job search to be more efficient and focused and others commenting on the potential inconvenience.

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