University News

This Week in Higher Ed: April 2, 2014

University News Editor
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wisconsin university bans student classroom videos

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is expected to issue a policy this week banning students from recording and distributing footage of university classrooms, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported Friday.

First-year student Kyle Brooks posted an online video of a guest speaker making comments critical of the Republican Party during a course lecture in February, which incited controversy at the university, the Chronicle reported. The new policy would prohibit students from distributing similar footage in the future.

University of Wisconsin Chancellor Richard Telfer wrote in a statement that faculty members are permitted to establish individual classroom policies, but the “free exchange of ideas” without fear of outside repercussions must be a right for both faculty members and students, the Chronicle reported.

But Brooks disagreed, saying the real issue should be what the guest lecturer said in the video — attacking Republicans as homophobic and racist, among other comments — instead of the video itself.

Of 72 four-year colleges, 20 indicated that they currently have rules prohibiting the recording and distribution of discourse inside classrooms, according to a Chronicle-conducted survey.


NLRB rules Northwestern football players can unionize

Northwestern University football players are employees and have the right to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board ruled March 26, marking a major development in the ongoing debate over the rights of students in institutions of higher education to unionize.

After unsuccessfully petitioning the university, a majority of the team’s players, led by senior quarterback Kain Colter and lawyers from the National College Players Association, began a hearing before the NLRB in February, CNN reported at the time.

Northwestern administrators said in a statement that the university will appeal the decision, arguing that members of the football team are students and not employees. An appeal may take years to fully resolve, CNN reported.

Athletes cited payment in the form of scholarships, 20 to 50 hours of work per week and their generation of millions of revenue dollars for Northwestern to make the case to the NLRB that they are employees.

Team members said the formation of a union would lead to the adoption of better medical services, scholarships and even the possibility of monetary compensation.

The NCAA said in a statement that it was disappointed with the NLRB’s decision and student-athletes play sports to enhance their academic experience rather than to be paid.

Students’ unionization has been a point of contention at Brown in the past. The University made headlines in 2004 when the NLRB ruled that graduate student teaching assistants are primarily students and do not have the right to unionize. Last week’s NLRB decision, if upheld on appeal, would likely have broad implications for the decade-old ruling as well as the future of college athletics.


Former Yale president to join Coursera

Former president of Yale Richard Levin will become the chief executive of Coursera this month, the New York Times reported March 24.

Levin, who left his position at Yale in June, has served as an adviser to the massive open online course platform since January and pioneered Yale’s MOOC program, Open Yale Courses, in 2007. He will focus on encouraging partner universities to expand their offerings of MOOCs and on improving Coursera’s international presence, particularly in China, which is the largest source of Coursera registration behind the United States, the Times reported.

Last year, Brown joined a number of other elite universities in setting up MOOCs, offering three such courses through Coursera, The Herald previously reported.


New study finds most STEM PhDs work outside of academia

Most professionals with doctorates  in science, engineering, technology and mathematics fields are pursuing work outside of an academic setting, according to a new study conducted by the American Institutes for Research, the Chronicle for Higher Education reported Tuesday.

The study analyzed data from over 400,000 people who have earned doctoral degrees in STEM fields between 1959 and 2010. Of those sampled, 61 percent work outside of academia, while 43 percent do not principally conduct research. Professionals with doctoral degrees in fields relating to statistics and math were the most likely to have academically-oriented careers, with over 60 percent of the doctorate recipients reporting work related to higher education. Engineering doctorate recipients were the most likely to work outside of higher education, with 74 percent doing so. The study suggests that doctoral PhD students should have additional training in skills that will be most useful outside of an academic setting, the Chronicle reported.

“Retention in STEM — particularly for underrepresented groups — would improve if doctoral training and career guidance are more relevant to the nonacademic sectors most students enter,” the authors of the study said in a news release Tuesday.

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