Friday, January 29, 2016

January 2016 News Digest

Check out the articles below for a snapshot of the higher education news for January.

What It's Like to Teach Islam 101 When Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Runs High

Donald Trump has erased the distinction between fighting terrorists and fighting Muslims and this has sparked anti-Muslim sentiments across the nation.

In the midst of this, Terje Østebø talks about what it is like to teach Introduction to Islam at the University of Florida. He has his students confront images of violence and other portrayals of Islam in the media to better understand the religion and misconceptions surrounding it.

Mr. Østebø has the task of teaching his students that there is more to the religion than what politics and the media portray. He wants them to understand that things are not that simple and to think beyond these stereotypes.

Terje Østebø, Professor at the University of Florida

State Spending on Higher Education Continues Slow Improvement

State spending has increased by 4% for a third consecutive year. Thirty-nine states have reported increases for higher education while nine states have reported decreases from the previous year.

Although spending is down for some states, the data indicates that a majority of states are spending more on higher education than they did five years ago. Texas's spending on higher education has increased 8.7% over the last year.

This represents an ongoing recovery, slow as it may be, from the turmoil caused by the last recession.

Nearly One-Quarter of College Athletes Report Signs of Depression
The results of a survey of 500 Division I athletes found that 1/4th of the athletes reported signs of depression. 
Signs of depression were reported more often by female athletes than their male counterparts. 24% of athletes across 9 sports reported symptoms of depression.
Hopefully these findings will encourage colleges to take an active and comprehensive stance in addressing this issue.

Is University Research Missing What Matters Most?

University research has long been constrained by money. This constraint is causing researchers to lose sight of the real goal, which is to make a great contribution to society.

Instead, university research is being geared toward developing profitable products or cures rather than society-wide prevention. This is limiting areas like social science and psychology, which have the potential to create policies to address the root cause of issues.

Universities still place a greater emphasis on publications. Although these publications may bring attention and awards to the professors, they do little to tackle the problems presented in their findings.

A clever graphic to demonstrate the influence of money on research

Does Technology Ever Reduce the Costs of Teaching?

More technology has meant more spending for many smaller colleges.

According to consultants, technology does not reduce the cost of education unless it completely changes a process model. For example, if technology is used for grading, it saves a professor time to teach another class and then it can reduce costs.

Flipped classrooms, a model in which student watch lectures at home and do activities in class, also do not really save money unless professors share lectures. However, this idea often makes professors uncomfortable.

In order to find ways to save money through technology, these smaller colleges need to work with startups to test out pilot programs. Some things like sharing lectures between universities may work, but first, colleges need to get on board. 

A Piece of UT Austin History

Contrary to this winter's unseasonably warm weather, it does actually get cold in Austin, Texas from time to time. In February of 1899, campus was struck by the aptly named Great Blizzard of 1899. The temperature got down to an unbelievable -1ºF and campus was blanketed by six inches of snow.

Even more surprisingly, classes started right on time at 9:00am. However, the snow proved to be a great distraction. A crowd of students, armed with snowballs, trekked up to the Old Main Building to implore UT President George Winston to declare the day a holiday. He was gracious enough to agree and thus ensued a campus wide snowball fight.

The Great Blizzard of 1899

A Campus Snowball Fight in 1963

A Snow Day in 1966

Summaries written by Kelsey Thompson and Stephanie Nandlal

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