Weekly Roundup: Harvey Edition

Texas universities have been on the front lines of Hurricane Harvey in many different ways since the storm hit. Some schools, like The University of Houston and UT’s Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, found themselves in the eye of the storm, bruised and battered, but unbroken. Other institutions, while dealing with displaced students and faculty, were helping through their research, innovation and technological advances. Consider the Texas A&M scientist who was on Good Morning America, to highlight the findings of tests he conducted on floodwater. “We saw elevated levels of E. coli,” Dr. Gentry told Good Morning America. “And this indicates the very likely presence of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and other types of organisms that could cause disease in some individuals.”
 
At UT Austin, researchers leveraged the power of the supercomputer dubbed “Lonestar 5” to help track hurricane Harvey. “As far as academic computing, this is the best available that we have to us in the country,” Clint Dawson, UT Professor, said of the supercomputer they are using. Researchers are able to create high-resolution data that federal and state agencies, such as TxDOT, NOAA and the National Hurricane Center, ultimately consult “when making decisions like where to evacuate and where to send resources.”
 
In response to Harvey, the higher education community in Texas launched the HELP Harvey Students fund, which has raised nearly $20,000 toward a goal of $300,000 to “help students successfully recover from Hurricane Harvey, return to their classes, and persist on their higher education learning pathway.” HELP stands for Higher Education Learning Pathways. The fund is being spearheaded by the Coordinating Board.
 
The Texas Tribune recently added higher education outcomes to its popular “Public Schools Explorer” research tool. The Tribune used data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency “to document the education outcomes of every student who started eighth grade in a Texas public school during eight academic years (1997 through 2005).” The combined data set shows that of the more than 300,000 students who begin 8th grade in 2005 (who are now approximately 25 years of age), just 20.9 percent received a degree or certificate from a Texas college or university within six years of anticipated high school graduation. These outcomes are tracked at county, regional and state levels.
 
The Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) recently announce a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Greater Texas Foundation, T.L.L. Temple Foundation, and the Teagle Foundation to “launch an ambitious five-year effort to implement Texas Pathways reform across all 50 community college districts in the state.” The program will “help students choose their career paths and provide supports to help students reach employment and th next stage of their education.”

Week of September 3, 2017

Latest Updates

  • Dramatic Changes

    With higher education facing financial and public opinion headwinds, Rice University took a proactive step this week by unveiling a seven-point plan to demonstrate its value to the public. According to the university, the plan is partially in response to “dramatic changes” in higher education. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Rice University plans to double research funding, work more closely with Houston and make undergraduate education more affordable for middle-class students in its next decade, a recognition that even the city's most prestigious campus must show its worth in a cultural climate skeptical of higher education.”

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  • "You can’t legislate morality or civility"

    “No one should be shouted down … We need to put an end to that. But you can’t legislate morality or civility — I get that,” said Sen. Joan Huffman during a State Affairs Committee hearing on campus free speech issues last week. In the wake of a series of incidents on college campuses nationally, and here in Texas, where conservative speakers had been dis-invited or shouted down because of their political views, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tasked the panel with coming up with solutions to “protect First Amendment rights and enhance the free speech environment on campus.” The panel was co-hosted by Texas State University and held in San Marcos. “Senators seemed to agree that no one has the right not to be offended,” according to the Austin American-Statesman account. Read more here on free speech conflicts on Texas campuses in 2017.

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