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Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 4:23am

New York University, which has faced scrutiny in the last year over real estate perks for top administrators, was facing new questions Wednesday after The New York Post reported that Jed Sexton, the son of President John Sexton, had lived for years with his wife in apartments normally reserved for faculty members. Jed Sexton was an aspiring actor at the time and his wife was an administrative employee at the law school. NYU paid to have two apartments converted into a duplex for them, and they lived there for five years. An NYU spokesman said that they paid rent, but declined to say if the rent was at market rates. The spokesman said that combining apartments was not unusual. The Post article noted that the couple shared this apartment at a time that NYU officials were talking about a severe faculty housing shortage near campus.

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Beginning next month, the massive open online course provider Udacity will cut the first O from the acronym and only offer MOCs. Founder Sebastian Thrun, whose "pivot" last year shifted the company's focus to corporate training, in a blog post announced Udacity will stop issuing free course completion certificates on May 16. The course materials will still be available on the website for independent study, but in order to earn a certificate, students need to verify their identity. That track is currently available for about $150 a month.

"Discontinuing the 'free' certificates has been one of the most difficult decisions we've made," Thrun wrote. "We know that many of our hardworking students can’t afford to pay for classes. At the same time, we cannot hope that our certificates will ever carry great value, if we don’t make this change."

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

The University of Illinois at Chicago has agreed to a tentative contract with the United Faculty Union, whose members went on a two-day strike in February seeking what they called a living wage for full-time, non-tenure-track professors and better pay for tenure-line faculty, among other goals. The union, which is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, announced the agreement Wednesday but said details are embargoed through the end of next week, when members put it to a vote. In a news release, the union said "[m]any aspects of faculty work life and professional conditions are dramatically improved under the new agreement," and that it "averted" the possibility of a second strike planned for April 23.

University Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and Provost Lon Kaufman said in a joint statement: "We are pleased that the university and the union representing bargaining units for tenure-system and non-tenure-system faculty have reached tentative agreement on final contracts. Both sides in this long process have been focused on the teaching, research and service missions of the university, and this agreement will allow us to move forward together to serve the city and the state and, most of all, our students." The statement noted that the agreement is tentative is "subject to ratification and approval by both sides."

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Florida State University officials on Wednesday expressed “deep disappointment” in a front-page New York Times article suggesting that administrators erred in their response to sexual assault allegations against star quarterback Jameis Winston, saying in a statement that the Times omitted FSU statements and did not accurately reflect the university’s efforts to support victims. The Times wrote that an assistant athletic director knew that a former student had accused Winston of rape, but, “in apparent violation of federal law,” the AD either failed to pass the information on to higher-up administrators or did so and they failed to pursue the case. Title IX requires that once a college “knows, or reasonably should know” about sexual harassment, officials “must promptly investigate to determine what occurred and then take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.” The article also details how repeated missteps by local police sabotaged their own investigation and contributed to the inability of prosecutors to move forward with the case.

Officials said in a statement that the university “does not tolerate sexual assault” and must weigh several factors -- including federal guidance and the victim’s wishes -- in deciding how to handle sexual assault. The statement also notes many services that FSU provides, including counselor referrals and support and resources for family members.

The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights announced last week it will open an investigation stemming from the alleged victim’s federal complaint that FSU fails to protect students from sexual assault.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Seven of the 15 members of the College of Charleston’s presidential search committee warned trustees against politicizing the process that eventually selected South Carolina’s lieutenant governor.

In documents, first reported by The Post and Courier, nearly half the members of the search committee -- including the head of the college’s foundation -- said the trustees could end up doing long-term damage to the college. The trustees picked Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell, and now his promotion of Confederate history and the process by which he was picked could damage Charleston’s reputation and turn away prospective students and donors.

Faculty have said the search process was a sham, given that McConnell emerged at the top of the heap despite reports the search committee didn’t choose him as a finalist.

“After our work concluded, rumors have run rampant here in Charleston about the candidate slate presented to you and the likelihood the slate will be modified,” the seven search committee members wrote on Feb. 25, a month before McConnell was named president. “These rumors beg the question -- is the integrity of the process we worked under being assaulted? If a politicization of this process occurs, the consequences will be far reaching.”

The letter predicted the college would damage its ability to recruit quality faculty, staff, deans and future presidents and lose the confidence of nearly every campus constituent group. So far, the latter half of that prediction is playing out: students have held a major protest against McConnell and the student government and faculty have both taken a “no confidence” vote in the board.

The documents also include emails from Sharon Kingman, the chairwoman of the College of Charleston Foundation Board, that say lawmakers put pressure on the trustees to pick one candidate over another and discusses "the conspiracy theory" that McConnell could eventually seek a spot on the state’s Supreme Court. The justices are selected by the state legislature.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Sen. Claire McCaskill sent an online survey to more than 350 colleges to gather information about how institutions respond to sexual assault and comply with Title IX, BuzzFeed reported, as she and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand consider legislation to better combat the issue on college campuses. (McCaskill and Gillibrand recently wrote legislation designed to combat sexual assault in the armed forces.)

The questions cover “security and law enforcement, student resources, adjudication procedures, and barriers to reporting sexual misconduct.” McCaskill also requested information from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice on how the federal government oversees colleges when it comes to Title IX compliance.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 4:27am

Excelencia in Education has released a new report with state-by-state data on Latino college completion rates. The report notes that raising those rates can be a key strategy for those who want to increase the percentage of Americans with college credentials.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, John Roe, assistant professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is tracking, studying and helping to develop strategies that will help to revitalize the leatherback population. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 4:33am

The Tennessee House of Representatives on Tuesday, following a similar vote in the Senate, approved a plan by Governor Bill Haslam to offer free community college tuition to all graduates of high schools in the state, The Tennessean reported. The plan will take effect in fall 2015. Governor Haslam, a Republican, has pushed the plan as a key way for the state to encourage a larger share of the population to seek college credentials. The idea of free community college tuition has also been discussed in other states, but the Tennessee plan -- with the strong advocacy of a governor -- has attracted attention nationally and is now being adopted.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 4:35am

Virginia Intermont College announced Tuesday that its planned merger with Webber International University would not go through. The two institutions "have reached the joint and difficult conclusion that we do not have a viable model for merger in July. This deeply saddens the administration and the boards of each school, as we have very high regard for one another and we both strongly believe in Webber’s goal of uniting small colleges in order to preserve their identities," the statement said. Virginia Intermont has been struggling financially and hoped that linking up with a larger, business oriented university like Webber would allow the liberal arts program in Virginia to survive. Tuesday's statement said that the university would finish the semester and offer a summer session that ends June 27. But the statement did not indicate how the college plans to operate after that.

The Washington Post noted that Virginia Intermont's enrollment in the fall was 378, a 35 percent decline since 2010.

 

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