The uproar over the "KUboobs" Twitter account is being called a "boobment." The account features photographs that women send in showing their cleavage with University of Kansas T-shirts and other KU accoutrements. Fans of other colleges and universities have started similar accounts. Rumors spread this week that the University of Kansas was trying to have the site -- with which it has no affiliation -- shut down. Online outrage followed, along with new hashtags such as #saveKUboobs and #IloveKUboobs. The university has denied trying to shut down the site, maintaining only that it was seeking to prevent the site's founders from selling merchandise that infringes on university trademarks for KU material. The dispute appears to have drawn more attention to the Twitter account, which now has more than 63,000 followers.
Gary Russi, president of Oakland University, announced Wednesday that he is stepping down. The Detroit Free Press noted that the announcement, which was a surprise, came the same day the university fired his wife, Beckie Francis, as women's basketball coach. Any connection between the two events was not immediately clear, the newspaper said.
"Holding Colleges Responsible” is the latest example in a slew of articles – many of them quoting the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – that are meant to alarm anyone with a voice, and the author’s use of selective quotes out of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights's response to FIRE only fans the flame.
At issue is whether the Education Department’s enforcement of a law and guidance that are designed to promote compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and prevent sexual harassment put free speech at risk. In particular, the recent cause for concern is language in the agreement between OCR, the Department of Justice, and the University of Montana, which the government called a "blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country."
Readers should know that preserving free speech and academic freedom and ensuring an environment free from sexual harassment are not mutually exclusive goals, and OCR has never published guidance or decisions that aim to limit even the most explicitly sexual academic material.
The issue seems to be the department’s acknowledgment that conduct that is not yet severe or pervasive may still constitute sexual harassment. OCR clarified in a letter to FIRE that only severe or pervasive sexual harassment actually violates Title IX. The department’s view requires defining sexual harassment broadly and understanding the difference between an institution’s obligation to educate and proactively problem-solve and the obligation to "bang the gavel."
The Office for Civil Rights's "Dear Colleague" letter from April 4, 2011 is less concerned with gavel-banging and more concerned with how the complainant is treated during the reporting and grievance process. The outcome sought is the elimination of the hostile environment, if one exists, and maintaining a campus climate free from sexual harassment and violence -- not the termination, suspension, or expulsion of each accused individual.
It is not new for an institution to encourage reporting so that it may determine whether the report warrants action. "See something, say something." Surely not every forgotten bag contains explosives, but because citizen bystanders are not experts with bomb-sniffing German Shepherds, we are encouraged to report what we see.
Despite OCR’s recommendation for broad-based training and notification of sex discrimination definitions and procedures, students and employees are not experts in this area, and they are not expected to be equipped to make a final decision about whether actionable sex discrimination exists. That responsibility falls specifically to the Title IX coordinator or designee under the grievance procedures. By encouraging reporting of unwelcome conduct, the coordinator or designee also has the opportunity to spot patterns, which is a requirement of that job.
Imagine that 10 students report similar instances of sexual harassment (unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature) by another student or an employee that, individually, would not rise to the level of a hostile environment. Together, this conduct is a pattern of sexual harassment behavior that may create a hostile environment in a particular classroom, department or residence hall. Certainly, at the least, it warrants a conversation with and training for the accused individual.
The Education Department and higher education administrators are well aware of the First Amendment and academic freedom. Encouraging the campus community to report instances of sexual harassment and leaving the evaluation of such reports to designated experts is appropriate and lawful.
Andrea Stagg is an associate counsel in the State University of New York’s Office of General Counsel. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of the State University of New York.
The foundation of San Francisco State University has agreed to not invest in companies "with significant production or use of coal and tar sands." Further the foundation will seek to limit investments in fossil fuel companies. Advocates for divestment of fossil fuel companies said that they viewed the move as significant. To date, colleges that have embraced divestment have been small, private colleges in the Northeast, while San Francisco State is the first Western or public institution to take such a stand. The foundation's endowment is in the range of $50 million.
The faculty athletics representative at the University of Richmond has circulated an e-mail to colleagues calling for the institution to leave Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and to stop playing intercollegiate football,The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. "I have come to the conclusion that it’s hard-to-impossible to consistently make DI-level sports conform and submit to the primary institutional focus on academics, because there’s just too much money and ambition involved," said the e-mail from Rick Mayes, an associate professor of political science. Noting concerns about the impact of concussions on football players, he asked whether it would not be better -- for the sake of athletes and to prevent future lawsuits -- to drop football. University administrators indicated that Richmond has no intention of taking the advice Mayes offered.
It has become trendy if not clichéd in recent years to declare that higher ed is the next "bubble" in the American economic system will pop. This view has been particularly dominant in business publications. Forbes has run columns about the coming higher ed bubble, or why a higher ed bubble should be coming, numerous times (see here and here and here and here and we could go on). Many of those articles predict that one or more "disruptions" in higher education (online learning for example) will be key to the higher ed bubble popping.
So we were surprised on Sunday to read in Forbesthat the bubble might not be traditional higher ed. A column that starts off by bemoaning the high cost of elite private higher education ends up noting that students go to college (and parents pay for them to do so) for a lot of reasons other than just the learning in the classroom. Students get connections and they value "the experience," writes a staffer for the magazine. The piece may not please all professors and college administrators because it suggests that students want a fun experience, not just the personal educational experience. But based on this conclusion, the author writes: "There’s no college-education ‘bubble’ forming simply because teens go to college with an eye on a fun four years, after which they hope the school they attend will open doors for a good job. Online education only offers learning that the markets don’t desire, and because it does, its presumed merits are greatly oversold. There’s your 'bubble.' "
Could this be the start of the bursting of the higher-ed-bubble-story bubble?
Conventional wisdom holds that -- on standardized tests -- when test-takers aren't certain, they should stick with their first choice of answer and not change it. Research being released today by the Educational Testing Service challenges that assumption. ETS studied 8,000 test-takers worldwide on the GRE, and found that of those who changed answers on the quantitative reasoning section, 72 percent saw scores increase, while of those who changed answers on the verbal reasoning section, 77 percent saw scores increase. At the same time, ETS surveyed test-takers and find that they still tend to believe they shouldn't change their answers, with 59 percent saying that they believed that their first answer was more likely to be correct than a changed answer.
Parker Executive Search, currently in the news because of its role in the controversial selection of a new athletic director at Rutgers University, has grown considerably in its influence, and also has been involved in a number of botched searches, The Indianapolis Star reported. The search firm has been involved in 12 executive searches for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, so many searches that one consultant is quoted in the article as saying the NCAA relationship "looks a little incestuous." The article cited examples of Parker-led searches for athletics positions in which the eventual selections had short-lived careers due to failure to win games, arrests for driving under the influence, and an arrest for domestic violence. The article also said that critics say the firm "pushes certain candidates regardless of their fit for a position." At the same time, the search firm has many fans and repeat customers.
The University of Maryland University College recently closed its Center for Intellectual Property, citing a universitywide budget gap of $35 million that caused dozens of other layoffs. The closure of the noted center cost four people their jobs, said university spokesman Bob Ludwig. "The decision to close the Center for Intellectual Property was basically based on a process we went through to refocus our priorities and meet our budget gap we were facing for the next fiscal year," he said. "So, through that process, it was determined that the Center for Intellectual Property was not central to UMUC's core mission." The center -- whose work was followed by experts elsewhere -- worked on "education, research and resource development on the impact of intellectual property issues in higher education," according to its website.