Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 16, 2018

Randy Dunn (right), whose future as president of the Southern Illinois University System has been uncertain for weeks, will agree to step down Monday.

The SIU board has scheduled a meeting to vote on a separation agreement to which he has agreed. He will be on leave for the rest of July and will officially step down at the end of the month, in return for which he will receive $215,000 over the next six months. The SIU board released the agreement with Dunn on Friday, as part of the board's notice of a special meeting Monday. In a statement reported by the Chicago Tribune, Dunn said, "In my role, I had become a polarizing figure, so my retirement … can allow healing to begin across all parts of the organization and advance important decisions that will need to be made for the future."

Some board members tried to remove Dunn last month, but that plan collapsed. Faculty opposition to Dunn has been particularly intense at the system's largest campus, Carbondale. Many there have been outraged by a plan by Dunn and others to shift more than $5 million from its annual state appropriation to the smaller but growing Edwardsville campus. The situation worsened when a faculty leader obtained emails from Dunn in which he discussed how it was time to “shut up the bitchers from Carbondale.” To many faculty members and others from Carbondale, this email and others suggested not only a disagreement over budget policy but a sense that the president did not respect them.

Southern Illinois hired Dunn in 2014 as he was seven months into the presidency of Youngstown State University. While there is no consensus on what a minimum time is that a president should stay in a position before considering jobs elsewhere, seven months is almost universally seen as inadequate. Defenders of Dunn's move noted that he is a native of Illinois, taught at SIU early in his career and had served as the state schools superintendent. Critics said that the costs of presidential searches, and the time spent by a new president learning the issues and meeting constituents, made his departure after such a short tenure unprofessional.

July 16, 2018

Colleges and universities are continuing to re-evaluate their ties to John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s Pizza, after he used a racial slur to describe black people. Schnatter apologized Wednesday, but many colleges are already distancing themselves from his company.

The University of Kentucky announced Friday that it will discontinue its financial relationship with Schnatter and that he will no longer be recognized by the Gatton College of Business and Economics or the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise.

“We appreciate Mr. Schnatter’s understanding that his unacceptable language is contrary to the values of the University of Kentucky. We believe in his sincerity to try to make amends. But attempting to continue any financial relationship with Mr. Schnatter would be a painful and unnecessary barrier to our efforts of building a community where everyone is welcome and belongs," Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky, said in a statement.

Neeli Bendapudi, president of the University of Louisville, announced Friday that the university’s football stadium (above), Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, would be renamed Cardinal Stadium. The university will also remove Schnatter’s name from the Center for Free Enterprise at the College of Business.

“Over the last 24 hours, our community has been fractured by the comments made by former UofL trustee John Schnatter,” Bendapudi said during a press conference. “These comments were hurtful and unacceptable, and they do not reflect the values of our university.”

Morehouse College tweeted Friday that it is also parting ways with the pizza company.

“Due to a recent racial slur made by Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, @Morehouse is immediately suspending its campus dining relationship with Papa John's. The college is exploring all options for removal of the franchise from campus in light of this highly offensive behavior,” the tweet read.

July 16, 2018

German police allegedly beat an Israeli-born professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University last week after he was attacked by another man for wearing a yarmulke in the city of Bonn. The Jerusalem Post reported that the professor, Yitzhak Melamed, was assaulted by a German-Palestinian man who knocked the yarmulke from his head and yelled insults at him, including, “No Jew in Germany!” In the midst of the fight, German police reportedly confused Melamed with the attacker and punched him multiple times in the face.

Ursula Brohl-Sowa, the head of the Bonn police, reportedly called it “a horrible and regrettable misunderstanding.” Melamed posted an account on the incident on Facebook, saying that he was in Germany on Wednesday to give a lecture at Bonn University. He was touring the city with a colleague when a man approached him and asked him if he was Jewish. “I started saying that I have sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians and deeply regret the current depressing state of Islamic-Jewish relations,” when the man starting cursing and following him, Melamed wrote.

The man allegedly grabbed Melamed’s yarmulke and tried to throw it away it away as the professor repeatedly put it back on his head. The man lunged at Melamed again and again, he said, until the police arrived some 20 minutes after his colleague called them. The attacker allegedly ran away as the police approached, so Melamed followed him. But the police ignored the attacker and ran toward Melamed instead, he said.

“I didn’t have much time to wonder, as almost immediately four or five policemen with heavy guard jumped over me (two from the front, and two or three from the back),” he wrote. “They pushed my head into the ground, and then while I was totally incapacitated and barely able to breathe (not to mention move a finger), they started punching my face. After a few dozen punches, I started shouting in English that I was the wrong person. They put handcuffs on my hands, behind my back, and after a few dozen additional punches to my face while I am shouting that I’m the wrong person, they finally moved from my back. I was now able to breathe."

Melamed said the police eventually caught the other man, but that he was warned by the first responders, “Don’t get in trouble with the German police!” Melamed said he told the officers, “I am no longer afraid of the German police. The German police murdered my grandfather. They murdered my grandmother. They murdered my uncle, and they murdered my aunt. All in one day in September 1942.” Melamed was asked to give testimony at the police station, where he eventually received an apology and filed a complaint, he said. One of the police officers allegedly tried arguing that Melamed had "touched his hand" during the altercation, forcing him to respond, but the professor called that a “flat lie.”

July 16, 2018

Washington University in St. Louis announced Saturday that its next chancellor will be Andrew D. Martin (right), dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan. He will take office June 1, 2019, succeeding Mark S. Wrighton, who has served as chancellor since 1995. Martin has strong ties to Washington University, having earned his Ph.D. there and teaching there for 14 years.


July 16, 2018

Israel’s science minister, Ofir Akunis, blocked the appointment of Yael Amitai, a prominent brain scientist, to a binational German-Israeli science committee because Amitai signed a petition 10 years ago supporting soldiers who refused to serve in the occupied West Bank, Haaretz reported.

An aide to the science minister, said Akunis, “decided not to sign the recommendation to appoint Ms. Amitai as a representative to the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research, not because of her opinions but because in the past she had signed a petition encouraging draft refusal to the Israel Defense Forces.

“The science minister believes it is improper that someone who encourages refusal should represent Israel in international forums.”

Israeli university officials have protested the decision, saying it risks damaging Israel’s academic standing, according to Haaretz. “This is an embarrassing situation for the State of Israel, in which the minister in charge of science will stop at no means to glorify himself among his political supporters, while sacrificing on the altar of politics the interests of the State of Israel and the status of Israeli academia as a whole, putting millions of euros that are supposed to reach Israeli researchers and scientists at risk,” the Forum of University Heads said in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to overrule the science minister.

The executive committee for the Alliance for Academic Freedom, which defines itself as a group of scholars “who are dedicated to combating academic boycotts and blacklists, defending freedom of expression and promoting empathy and civility in the debate over Israelis and Palestinians,” has also issued a statement urging the reversal of the decision, which it says “politicizes the work of a fundamentally academic and non-political international committee.”

“The unacceptable and invasive character of the Minister’s decision is made clear by the reason he offered -- that Professor Amitai years earlier had signed a petition supporting the right of Israelis to refuse military service as a matter of conscience,” the alliance’s statement says. “That political position clearly has no bearing on the work of the scientific committee, which includes reviewing applications for science grants.”

July 16, 2018

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education has acquired the Voluntary Support of Education survey from the Council for Aid to Education and is using the annual survey to help build a clearinghouse for global advancement data.

CAE has conducted the Voluntary Support of Education survey since 1957. It decided to divest of the survey in order to focus on core assessment and learning efforts.

The survey’s director, Ann Kaplan, is joining CASE as part of the transaction. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. CASE is a longtime sponsor of the survey.

The new clearinghouse for advancement data is called AMAtlas and was announced Sunday. It is intended to bring together data from the Voluntary Support of Education survey, which is one of the key sources of data on giving to educational institutions in the United States, with data from more than 20 surveys CASE conducts around the world.

“CASE has done and continues to do a number of important surveys globally each year which relate to fund-raising, which relate to alumni relations, which relate to marketing across universities, colleges and schools,” said Sue Cunningham, president and CEO of CASE, in an interview. “And therefore the view was that we would create a hub, as it were, a sort of key resource.”

July 16, 2018

The Department of Defense announced Friday that service members who have been in the military for more than 16 years will no longer be able to transfer GI Bill benefits to their dependents, Military Times reports.

Currently, military members who have served at least six years are eligible to transfer their benefits to a spouse or a child if they agree to serve at least four more years. Members who are unable to serve an additional four years, due to mandatory retirement, medical issues or high-year tenure, are no longer eligible for transfer. The Pentagon is changing the policy “to more closely align the transferability benefit with its purpose as a recruiting and retention incentive,” they said in a statement.

The 16-year cap will be effective in one year.

"By giving them a one-year window, we believe it will give them ample time to gather information and make decisions," Jessica Maxwell, spokeswoman for the DoD, told Military Times. She also said that the policy change will affect about 9 percent of active-duty service members, National Guard members and reservists.

The American Legion has expressed concern about the cap, saying that the "transfer or lose" rule disadvantages veterans from fully using their earned benefits.

July 16, 2018

Baylor University has reached an undisclosed settlement with a female former student who reported being gang-raped by up to eight Baylor football players in 2012, ESPN reported.

In a lawsuit filed in May 2017, she accused the university of mishandling her complaint. The suit was one in a wave of sexual assault lawsuits against Baylor since 2011, and was part of an investigation by law firm Pepper Hamilton into the mishandling of sexual assault cases at Baylor, which resulted in the firing of football coach Art Briles, the suspension and later resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw, and the departure of university president Kenneth Starr.

The lawsuit claimed that several Baylor employees were informed about the rape and failed to act, and that the woman was subject to retaliation from the players, which later caused her to transfer. The woman and the her assailants have never been publicly identified. Baylor has previously settled two other lawsuits, one in November 2016 and another in September 2017, in which female students reported being gang-raped by football players.

July 16, 2018

A new report by the American Federation of Teachers shows that 41 states spend less money per higher education student today than they did before the 2008 recession. The report, titled "A Decade of Neglect: Public Education Funding in the Aftermath of the Great Recession," details the effects of austerity measures taken in the last 10 years.

"While state support has declined, the overall average cost of attending college has risen. Tuition costs for two-year colleges are up by an average 36 percent, and for four-year colleges, they are up by an average 40 percent, even after adjusting for inflation," the report says.

The findings also show that the decrease in public spending on higher education has lead to an increase in enrollment at for-profit colleges.

Extending beyond higher education, the report revealed that K-12 education is underfunded by $19 billion across 25 states. In 38 states, the average teacher salary is lower today than it was in 2009, and the student-to-teacher ratio is worse than it was in 2008.

The report points to states with Republican low-tax policies as the worst offenders. In addition, Congress is already using the tax cuts enacted by the Trump administration in December, which will cost $1.9 trillion, to call for greater disinvestment in public education. The tax cuts, coupled with the increase in voucher programs and charter schools, have put pressure on schools to cut services like counseling, libraries and special education.

"But blaming our current fiscal situation on the recession alone ignores the fact that states, mostly those controlled by Republican governors and state legislators, made things worse by pushing tax cuts for the wealthy," the report read. "These tax cuts for the very rich have drained state budgets of the resources needed to support our nation’s schools."

July 16, 2018

Worried about "preaching to the choir" on her Twitter account, Isabelle Côté, a professor of marine ecology and conservation at Simon Fraser University, analyzed the Twitter followings of over 100 ecology and evolutionary biology faculty at 85 institutions in 11 different countries.

She and collaborator Emily Darling categorized each follower as "inreach" if they were academics, scientists, conservation agencies or donors, or "outreach" if they were science educators, journalists, the general public, politicians or government agencies. They found that accounts with fewer than 1,000 followers primarily reached "inreach" followers, while accounts with over 1,000 followers had a greater mix of "inreach" and "outreach" followers.

But even with a greater diversity of followers, Côté said that there is no guarantee tweets are read or understood.

"There's clearly a lot of room for scientists to build a social media presence and increase their scientific outreach," she said in a press release. "Our results provide scientists with clear evidence that social media can be used as a first step to disseminate scientific messages well beyond the ivory tower."


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