Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 27, 2018

An Oberlin Conservatory organ professor resigned amid a Title IX investigation by the college into allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with students, the Chronicle-Telegram reported.

On Aug. 10 the college heard a complaint that James David Christie had engaged in inappropriate behavior with students. Christie was informed of the allegation and immediately placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.

The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where Christie was an artist in residence before he resigned, is also investigating allegations against him from multiple people.

In a letter to faculty and students, Carmen Twillie Ambar, Oberlin college president, wrote that Oberlin's investigation into Christie and others accused will continue despite resignations.

“Some of the individuals facing these complaints chose to tender their resignations rather than participating in our investigative process,” Ambar wrote. “Despite these resignations, our investigative processes continue so we can ascertain the facts.”

August 27, 2018

In an email to alumni Thursday, Beloit College announced that it will lay off some faculty and staff and make salary cuts to combat a budget deficit, Beloit Daily News reported.

The plan, developed by a team call Beloit Forward, will decrease the annual $48 million budget to $43 million to accommodate for fewer students. To do so, Beloit will decrease the total size of the faculty to match the student population. Salary cuts will be made using a progressive system: staff and faculty making less than $45,000 will be exempt from the cuts, while senior staff could see a salary reduction of more than 10 percent. The college will also eliminate at least 30 administrative positions, although many of them are currently vacant.

The plan is a response to a projected $7 million budget deficit and a decline in first-year enrollment and retention rates for sophomores. The new financial model will not eliminate any academic programs.

August 27, 2018

The American Political Science Association (APSA) issued a statement Friday addressing expired union contracts at two Boston hotels where APSA conference attendees were planning to stay or hold events at the association's annual meeting starting this week.

Events for the 2018 Annual Meeting and Exposition beginning Aug. 30 are scheduled at the Boston Sheraton, part of the Marriott hotel chain. APSA had also negotiated member rates for conference attendees to stay at Westin Copley Place. The statement noted that APSA includes language in its contracts about the possibility of canceling an event due to labor disputes, but right now there are no plans to cancel the upcoming conference sessions.

“The two sides are in negotiations and further meetings are planned,” the statement read. “We have just learned that there will be picketing on Thursday afternoon and while it is too late for us to relocate events in the affected locations, we ask panel chairs and event organizers to exercise their own best judgment on how and whether to proceed with their event, and to extend understanding to those who opt not to participate.”

August 27, 2018

Urban Meyer, Ohio State University’s head football coach, has apologized to the ex-wife of the former assistant coach who allegedly abused her.

Meyer was embroiled in controversy for his handling of accusations by Courtney Smith against now-fired assistant coach Zach Smith. University officials suspended Meyer for three games after it was revealed he knew of at least two occasions on which Courtney Smith reported that her husband beat her, most recently in 2015. Meyer and athletics director Gene Smith (no relation to Zach Smith) failed to report the 2015 incident to the athletics compliance office. Gene Smith was suspended without pay for about two weeks.

At a press conference last week announcing the penalties against Meyer and the athletics director, critics blasted Meyer for not acknowledging Courtney Smith by name. The university has been sharply criticized for not bringing up the issue of domestic violence during the news conference.

On Friday, Meyer issued apology, which in full reads:

My words and demeanor on Wednesday did not show how seriously I take relationship violence. I sincerely apologize. I was taught at a very young age that if I ever hit a woman, I would be kicked out of the house and never welcomed back. I have the same rule in my house and in the football program at Ohio State. Over the years, we have worked hard to educate and remind our coaches and players of the seriousness of relationship violence. I understand my lack of more action in this situation has raised concerns about this commitment. I once again apologize for this, and I extend my empathy to all women, men and families who are affected by relationship violence. This has been a real learning experience for me. I fully intend to use my voice more effectively to be a part of the solution.

Let me say here and now what I should have said on Wednesday: I sincerely apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through.

August 27, 2018

The U.S. Naval Academy fired a tenured English professor for what officials described as “unprofessional conduct,” including inappropriately touching students and emailing photos of himself partially clothed, The Washington Post reported.

The academy notified Bruce Fleming about its decision in a letter Aug. 15, citing incidents where Fleming referred to students as "right-wing extremists," touched students without their consent and emailed shirtless photos to students.

“Given this set of facts, I do not have confidence that you will perform at a satisfactory level in the future," Andrew Phillips, academic dean and provost at the academy, wrote in the letter.

Fleming denied the allegations.

“I do NOT apologize,” Bruce Fleming wrote in an email to The Washington Post on Friday. “Nothing I did was inappropriate.”

He characterized his firing as a "revenge campaign" to silence him as an outspoken critic of the academy, particularly about the academy's admissions practices.

About the shirtless photos, Fleming said he worked as a model and had shared a photo with a male student while discussing body imagery in a poem. He also said that the partial flex shot he sent to the class was a “meme.”

August 27, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Babson College Week, Vikki L. Rodgers, associate professor of ecology and environmental science at Babson College, examines how dry seasons in New England will take a toll on certain trees. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 24, 2018

Carol Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a press briefing Thursday afternoon that her top priority in the wake of a protest that pulled down a Confederate statue is to preserve campus safety. Folt said that Chapel Hill officials were monitoring social media and other sources, trying to learn more about rumors of protests that may be coming soon from those who are upset about Monday night's removal of the statue, known as Silent Sam. Folt vowed that the university would be true to its First Amendment obligations to permit free speech, while also protecting safety.

Folt declined to express an opinion on what should happen to Silent Sam. The statue is currently in an off-campus location.

August 24, 2018

The then athletic director of the University of Maryland at College Park last year used university funds to pay for a lawyer for football players accused of sexual assault, The Washington Post reported. The university said Thursday that the payments violated university procedures and showed "a serious lack of judgment in a sexual misconduct case, given the university’s commitment to a fair and impartial handling of all such matters." Kevin Anderson, who was the athletics director and who subsequently resigned, told the Post that the report was "inaccurate."

August 24, 2018

Yale University and its $27.2 billion endowment are making a statement on firearms, announcing a new policy this week under which it will not invest in retail outlets marketing and selling assault weapons to the general public.

The policy, announced Tuesday, comes after a faculty member asked the university to divest from companies that make military-style assault rifles. Yale investing committees considered the request and decided not to invest in traditional retail distributors or promoters and dealers who sell assault weapons at gun shows.

In a statement, the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility tied the move to mass shootings, which it said cause “incontrovertible societal harm.” Retailers supplying assault weapons to the general public cause “grave social injury,” it said.

“Yale is committed to research, scholarship and education for the betterment of the world; this requires an environment in which teachers and students are free from gun violence and the fear of gun violence,” the statement said.

The university is drawing a distinction between retail distributors and manufacturers, however. That’s because assault weapons “may be used for sanctioned purposes by the military and law enforcement,” according to the committee.

The new policy apparently won’t cause Yale to sell any of its current holdings. The chair of Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, Jonathan Macey, told Bloomberg he did not believe the university’s endowment currently has any holdings in retailers selling assault-style weapons.

Yale in the past has sold holdings amid discussion of ethical investing. In 2016, it sold less than $10 million in investments deemed inconsistent with its principles of a sustainable environment. The university is also adopted a divestment policy on companies operating in apartheid South Africa and put in place a similar policy regarding oil companies deemed to be providing assistance to militias and government actors violating human rights in Darfur, Sudan.

Although Yale merits attention because it has the second-largest endowment in the country, it isn’t the only university to consider keeping money out of the firearms industry. Earlier this year, anecdotal reports indicated college money managers were quietly inquiring about divestment options as students and parents ramped up pressure. Years ago, the University of California fund sold gun stocks after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut.

August 24, 2018

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said Thursday that the agency is investigating multiple research institutions where researchers failed to disclose improper support from foreign governments.

In a letter to grant recipient institutions, Collins said foreign entities had mounted “systematic programs” to influence NIH research. The agency’s concerns include the sharing of information on grant applications with foreign entities as well as failures to disclose financial support from foreign governments.

Collins also spoke about those research issues at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees the agency.

NIH is responding by working with other government agencies and professional organizations to push for better reporting on sources of research support and improve intellectual property.

The letter also encouraged research institutions to reach out to the FBI about information involving grant applications or awards.

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