Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 24, 2018

Gregory J. Vincent announced this month that he would step down as president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, amid anonymous allegations that he had plagiarized portions of his doctoral dissertation from the University of Pennsylvania. Vincent said he believed his resignation was in the best interests of his family and of Hobart and William Smith. Vincent's resignation ended an investigation into the matter by the board of Hobart and William Smith.

But Vincent has also announced the outcome of an investigation by Penn. He posted to Facebook a statement from Pam Grossman, dean of Penn's Graduate School of Education, in which she said that Vincent's dissertation and questions about it were reviewed by faculty members. Based on their recommendations, "Vincent will be given the opportunity to make revisions to the literature review portion of his dissertation, under Penn Graduate School of Education faculty supervision, which, when completed to our satisfaction, means his degree will stand."

Vincent, in his own statement, said, "I thank the Penn GSE Faculty that reviewed my work and reaffirmed that my dissertation made an original contribution to the field."

April 24, 2018

Western Connecticut State University closed temporarily on Monday after about 100 students reported symptoms of norovirus, a highly contagious infection that causes gastroenteritis.

In a statement Monday afternoon, the university announced it would reopen today.

The state Department of Public Health confirmed the infection is norovirus. The college does not know of any more cases of norovirus, said Paul Steinmetz, a university spokesperson. "It seems like it's on the down trend."

Fourteen students with symptoms of norovirus were admitted to the local emergency room over the weekend, Steinmetz said. The university subsequently has cleaned all common areas, including its two cafeterias, to Centers for Disease Control standards.

Western Connecticut president John Clark released a statement Sunday night saying that the college made the decision to close after consulting with local health departments.

“This is the best and most conservative course of action to protect our university community from infection and spread of the disease," Clark wrote.

The closure also gave staff a day to talk to state and city health officials and allowed maintenance crews time to properly clean all areas of the university.

“While the latest data we have about the disease is encouraging, we want to make doubly sure that the university is safe and secure for all before reopening,” said Clark.

April 24, 2018

A squirrel won a spot on the 20-seat Student Senate at the University of California, Berkeley, this month, beating out 17 human candidates for the position.

Stephen Boyle, a sophomore from Stockton, Calif., donned a squirrel suit and campaigned under the name Furry Boi in an effort to "disrupt" the election, he wrote in a Facebook post.

Furry Boi originally ran on a platform of squirrel advocacy, promising safe spaces, support groups and learning centers for squirrels. However, Boyle has no plans to resign, and in a lengthy Facebook post last week he announced new platforms, including environmental sustainability and disability advocacy. Boyle also said he plans to create more opportunities for students to meet by reintroducing late-night cafeteria hours.

“I just know that actions speak louder than words, and I promise you that I will not disappoint and waste this seat that could have gone to someone else,” Boyle wrote.

The decision to elect a fictional squirrel incited some backlash from students. Student newspaper The Daily Californian published a scathing editorial last week denouncing Furry Boi's victory.

“It’s a shocking display of privilege to vote for a squirrel over candidates who have actual plans to help students who need it. Instead of electing qualified students who had real, tangible ideas -- improving UCPD relations, boosting housing, bolstering sexual violence or mental health awareness -- many of you (at least 538 strong) thought it might be a funny joke to have a man dressed up in a squirrel costume with no real platforms represent you at the administrative table,” the editorial said.

April 24, 2018

Data USA, a free data visualization platform, has created profiles for more than 7,300 universities and higher education institutions in the U.S.

The platform enables users to look at institutional stats such as costs, demographics, debt, acceptance rates, financial aid and endowments.

The site uses data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and is the result of a collaboration between Deloitte, MIT Media Lab and Datawheel.

April 24, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Elizabeth Tippett, associate professor in the school of law at the University of Oregon, discusses why employers should be prepared to act without outside assistance. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 23, 2018

Last week, Syracuse University first suspended and then expelled its chapter of Theta Tau after The Daily Orange published video of an initiation ceremony that featured members mocking black, Latino, Jewish and gay people and using slurs about all of them.

Now many at the university are outraged over a new video published by The Daily Orange. This one, below, features simulated sexual assault of people pretending to have physical and intellectual disabilities.

Kent Syverud, chancellor of Syracuse, on Sunday issued a statement in which he said the second video was part of the evidence reviewed by the university in deciding to kick out Theta Tau. "The words and behaviors in the second video are appalling and disgusting on many intersecting grounds. They especially offend all Syracuse University holds dear about diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities," said Syverud.

April 23, 2018

Graduate students at Harvard University voted 1,931 to 1,523 to form a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers, they announced Friday. The election, held earlier this month, was the second on the union issue, as a 2016 vote proved inconclusive. "Harvard appreciates student engagement on this important issue," the university said in a statement. "Regardless of the outcome, this election underscores the importance of the university’s commitment to continuing to improve the experience of our students."

April 23, 2018

A California institution that a U.S. senator recently characterized as a suspected “visa mill” has shut down after state authorities revoked its certificate to operate. A notice on Silicon Valley University’s website says it has been notified by California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education “not to conduct any classes or exams at this time, effective immediately.”

A spokeswoman for the California bureau said that Silicon Valley's approval to operate expired upon the loss of its accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Independent Colleges and Schools. ACICS – a troubled accreditor in its own right -- reports on its website that Silicon Valley lost its accreditation in December after it failed to submit a required annual financial report and audited financial statements.

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, recently sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in which he singled out Silicon Valley as one among a group of “suspect schools” that bring thousands of foreign students to the U.S. each year.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Silicon Valley recently enrolled nearly 4,000 students, mostly from foreign countries. The institution, which has nonprofit, tax-exempt status, reported $30.5 million in revenue in 2016, only $11 million of which was used on salaries and other expenses.

The Chronicle also reported that Silicon Valley is embroiled in legal battles involving allegations that the divorced husband and wife pair who founded the school, Feng-Min “Jerry” Shiao and Mei Hsin “Seiko” Cheng, used university funds for their personal benefit. The university filed a lawsuit against Shiao accusing him of misappropriating $34.8 million. In a countersuit, Shiao accuses Cheng of using $2.6 million in university funds to buy three homes for herself and family members. Shiao and Cheng have both denied wrongdoing.

April 23, 2018

Jennifer Polk set off an interesting discussion on Twitter by noting that she thanked her favorite band in her Ph.D. dissertation acknowledgments and asking others for unusual thank-you notes they made when finishing their doctorates. Among those thanked were many pets as well as medical professionals who helped Ph.D. students through serious health challenges.

April 23, 2018

Newark, Del., police are investigating an assault reported at a University of Delaware fraternity party held off-campus at about 6 p.m. April 13.

A group of men approached Rancel Valdez, a former student who is Hispanic and openly gay. One man made a homophobic remark, and a fight broke out, according to Delaware Online.

Valdez told NBC10 that the attack was unprompted. “They were just being rude, telling me to leave, calling me names,” Valdez said. “I didn’t even look their way or nothing. They all just came to me.”

Valdez was hospitalized for a leg fracture. The injury will come at some cost to Valdez, as he won’t be able to work for a month and does not have health insurance, according to an online fund-raising page set up by a friend. The page had raised over $2,000 as of Sunday.

The investigation could result in hate crime charges if police find that the attack was related to Valdez's sexuality, Newark police told Delaware Online. Witnesses told police that the attackers used degrading language, said Sergeant Gerald Bryda, a spokesperson for the Newark Police Department.

SpeQtrum, an organization for LGBTQ students of color at Delaware, called the assault a hate crime in a statement published on Twitter Thursday. The organization urged the university to address "the toxic culture on campus" by making changes including training members of Greek life on assault, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and white supremacy, and creating a resource center for LGBTQ students.

"You are not alone in this world; we are here together, even if you haven't connected with us yet, we stand with you," the statement said.

The college has been "monitoring the situation throughout the week, and representatives of university are speaking with all involved," Andrea Boyle, university spokesperson, said in an interview Sunday.

Delaware president Dennis Assanis sent an email to the campus community last week denouncing the attack.

“This kind of reprehensible behavior is not tolerated at the University of Delaware. We will take all appropriate measures in the student conduct process to ensure any offenders are held accountable for their actions,” Assanis wrote.

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