Quick Takes | Higher education round-up: Feb. 17

Dartmouth responds to fraternity hazing allegations, MIT launches its free online courseware

· February 17, 2012, 12:47 am   ·  Updated February 24, 2012, 12:45 am

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Harvard University

Harvard community concerned about library layoffs

A major restructuring of the Harvard University Library system has prompted many to voice concerns over potential mass layoffs.

In response to an announcement by Harvard Library Executive Director Helen Shenton which indicated that voluntary and involuntary staff reductions were on the horizon, members of the Harvard community have offered strong reactions.

Last week, according to The Harvard Crimson, a crowd of more than 100 protesters gathered outside the school’s Holyoke Center “to increase awareness in the Harvard community about the library workers’ concerns as well as to display opposition to the administration’s intentions.”

Harvard boasts the oldest library system in the United States, as well as the largest academic and private library system in the world.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth responds to hazing allegations

Responses to accounts of fraternity hazing published in The Dartmouth have prompted action from the school’s community.

Late last month, Dartmouth College senior Andrew Lohse wrote a guest column in the campus newspaper describing the alleged hazing he experienced as a pledge at Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Among other things, Lohse wrote that he was forced to drink a full cup of vinegar, swim through a pool full of bodily excrement and inhale nitrous oxide.

In response to the column, more than 100 Dartmouth professors signed a letter earlier this month in which they called on the administration to take a stronger stance on future hazing allegations.

“[Hazing] degrades their ability to learn and our ability to teach,” the professors wrote. “It breaks down their understanding of right and wrong, of decency and indecency, and the lines between healthy sexuality and sexual assault.”

Stanford University

Stanford breaks higher ed fundraising record

Stanford University administrators announced last week that the school’s five-year fundraising campaign had netted a total of $6.2 billion — the largest amount ever raised in a higher education campaign.

This total surpasses the $4.3-billion goal that was initially set when the campaign launched in Oct. 2006.

According to The Washington Post, Stanford received contributions of more than $50 million from alumni such as Yahoo Inc. co-founder Jerry Yang, Nike Inc. co-founder Phil Knight and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Robert King.

“We’ve undertaken a new model in higher education, with experts from different fields joining together,” Stanford President John Hennessy said in a statement. “This kind of collaboration has enabled Stanford to assume a larger role in addressing global problems.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT launches free online courseware

Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began enrollment for the first course in its enhanced online platform — through which students from around the world can take classes and gain a certificate upon completion.

While there are already online degree courses available to college students, the MIT proposal is unusual in that it invites students anywhere in the world — entirely free of charge — to earn a certificate that carries the MIT brand.

Experts have called MIT’s broad-based move into the digital education realm unprecedented.

The program’s online platform, called MITx, is expected to “break down the barriers to education,” according to a statement from MIT administrators.

Additional course offerings through the program are expected to be rolled out this coming fall.

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