Being Practical About College; Excused Absence At Halloween

Plus: a disconcerting grant funding disparity

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Today in academia: the grant funding disparity, brushing off Sierra Club rankings, a convenient pagan holiday and the very practical American public.

  • Students at Vanderbilt may now get an excused absence at Halloween.  Or at least, those that identify as Wiccans will. The school's Office of Religious Life sent out the 2011/2012 calendar with allowances to the pagan religions. According to Reuters, the school released a statement saying that its calendar was drawn from the BBC Interfaith Calendar. A campus spokesperson told The Tenessean she wasn't sure how many of the 12,000 students were Wiccans. Whatever the number now, we're guessing that there'll be a few more by the time Halloween arrives. [Reuters, The Tennessean via Campus Progress]
  • A disconcerting finding: whites are a lot more likely than blacks to win research grant funding. Research published in the academic journal Science found that even after controlling for a variety of factors, black applicants were found to be less likely than white candidates to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health. "About 27 percent of white applicants’ requests were successful, compared with only about 17 percent of blacks,'" reported The Washington Post. The lead author of the study, Raynard Kington, said of racism playing a role: "We can't rule it out, but that's not what we think is happening," he stated to NPR. "I think the more compelling case is that it is unconscious in various ways." [The Washington PostNPR]
  • Boulder is so green, it doesn't even need the Sierra Club. Earlier this week, the Sierra Club released its list of the most "planet-minded" colleges. The University of Colorado at Boulder wasn't on the list, because it didn't bother to send in a survey, a Club spokesperson tells the Daily Camera. "CU wasn't even considered for the Sierra list this year because the university, along with some other colleges across the country, is playing hard-to-get when it comes to responding to ad hoc surveys." [The Boulder Daily Camera via Inside Higher Ed]
  • Professor: run for the hills!  The education boom will bust soon, maybe. Inside Higher Ed published a downbeat article by James D. Miller at Smith College, who frets about everything that could dismantle the university system (cheap online classes, less stigma for those not attending college, Republicans etc.) and leads with this urgent sentiment: "Start making alternative career contingency plans now because this collapse could be sudden and catastrophic." At the end of the essay, he concedes that things might just turn out OK too: "I'm far from certain that the higher education market will disintegrate. But the reasonable chance that it might should be enough to get young and middle-aged tenured professors to think about what we would do if forced out of academia." [Inside Higher Ed]
  • Americans won't even pretend that students go to college for idealistic reasons.  Money! It's a very valid reason for going to college. But, call us romantic, we'd think that more Americans would at least feign idealism to a Gallup pollster when asked the question below. Nope, just look. The poll, conducted May 17-29, was released this Thursday by the Gallup Daily and the Lumina foundation. [Gallup via Chronicle of Higher Education]


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