Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 22, 2018

A Pennsylvania grand jury's report on the abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests in the state, and the way many church officials looked the other way, continues to force reflections by Catholic institutions in Pennsylvania. On Monday, the University of Scranton announced that it is removing the names of bishops from three campus buildings. A letter to the campus by the Reverend Scott R. Pilarz, president of the university, said that the bishops "covered up the crimes and misdeeds of men who were under their jurisdiction and placed children in harm’s way." He added, "As a Catholic and Jesuit university founded by the Diocese of Scranton, the University of Scranton will strive together with the people of the Diocese and Catholics everywhere to address the difficult but necessary questions that arise from the grand jury report."

August 22, 2018

Sixty percent of international students in Canada want to apply for permanent residency in the country, according to a nationwide survey of international students conducted by the Canadian Bureau for International Education this spring. This represented a significant jump from the 51 percent who indicated an intention to permanently migrate in an earlier survey in 2015.

Canada has experienced rapid growth in international students in recent years, a boom that's been fueled in part by policies encouraging immigration of international students.

About 14,000 students responded to the CBIE survey, which garnered a 17 percent response rate. Among the findings, 29 percent of students said they had applied to institutions outside Canada. Of those students, more than half (54 percent) applied to study in the U.S., 22 percent in the U.K. and 15 percent in Australia. The top three reasons that students gave for studying in Canada were the reputation of the educational system, Canada’s reputation as a tolerant and nondiscriminatory society and Canada’s reputation as a safe destination.

Ninety-four percent of respondents indicated they were very satisfied or satisfied with their Canadian education experience. The survey gathered information about the students' academic experiences, their participation in extracurricular activities, their housing and familial situations, their friendship circles and level of social integration, and their experiences working or looking for work in Canada, among other topics.

Slightly more than a third (35 percent) of the survey respondents were enrolled in programs at the bachelor’s level, 22 percent at the master’s level and 17 percent at the doctoral level, while most of the rest studied in certificate or diploma programs or English-language programs. Students from East Asia were underrepresented among the respondents, while students from sub-Saharan Africa were overrepresented compared to their numbers within the overall student population.

August 22, 2018

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire say that video games could play a useful role in preventing sexual violence on campus, but more work is needed to make them effective.

As part of a four-year U.S. Department of Justice-funded study, researchers designed two video games to educate students on what to do if they witness or are the victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment or stalking.

Though the researchers found that game play “shows promise” as a way of educating students on these issues, the games failed to produce consistent long-term results.

The researchers intend to keep developing games to improve their efficacy and suggest games could be effective as “one component of a comprehensive prevention plan.”

August 22, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Keely Heuer, assistant professor of art history at SUNY New Paltz, explores the ceramics of ancient Greeks. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 21, 2018

The White House announced Tuesday that President Trump will nominate Robert L. King to be the assistant secretary of postsecondary education.

King, who has decades of experience in state government but none at the federal level, is Trump’s first nominee for a higher ed post at the Education Department. All but three other Senate-confirmable positions have already been filled at the department.

King is currently the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Previously, he served as president and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation and chancellor of the State University of New York System.

Before his career in higher education, King had been a key aide and ally of former New York governor George Pataki, a moderate Republican. He served as Pataki’s budget director and director of the Office of Regulatory Reform before joining the SUNY system. Some critics said his relationship with the governor did too much to shape his leadership at SUNY. His stint there ended in 2005 after he lost the backing of trustees.

The Education Department has been slow to fill the key higher ed post -- possibly a sign of early struggles to convince top political talent to join the administration. Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, pulled his name from consideration for the assistant secretary job last year after several months of discussions with Secretary Betsy DeVos about joining the department.

Diane Auer Jones, the Education Department's top higher ed official, was delegated the duties of under secretary and assistant secretary of postsecondary education after joining the department. She'll continue to serve in both roles until King can be confirmed, a department spokeswoman said. If he is confirmed by the Senate, Jones will remain in the under secretary role. The spokeswoman said the department could not offer any updates on plans for an official nomination for that post.

August 21, 2018

The University of Texas at Austin has agreed to a $600,000 settlement with a black former women’s track coach who sued over racial and gender discrimination.

Bev Kearney settled her nearly five-year-old lawsuit with the institution in June. The terms were released to media via public records requests, the Associated Press reported.

Kearney will receive $277,450, and the rest will be paid to her lawyers.

Kearney was forced out in 2013 after the university learned that she had a relationship with an athlete about 10 years earlier. She alleged that she was treated differently than a white former assistant football coach, Major Applewhite, who kept his job and was promoted despite a relationship with a student on a bowl game trip after the 2008 season.

Applewhite is now head football coach at the University of Houston.

UT spent more than $500,000 defending itself in the Kearney case, according to reports AP reviewed. The settlement also requires the two sides to keep quiet about the case beyond acknowledging that a settlement was reached.

Kearney won six national championships while at Texas, AP reported.

August 21, 2018

The University of California, Berkeley, suspended a well-known architecture professor for engaging in a "pattern of sexual harassment that created a hostile environment," the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Professor Nezar AlSayyad has been suspended for three years without pay for sexually harassing Eva Hagberg Fisher, a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Two years ago, a campus investigation revealed that AlSayyad spent months endearing himself to Hagberg Fisher before placing his hand on her upper thigh and suggesting they go to Las Vegas. He also isolated her from other faculty members and worked to make her beholden to him as a member of an exam committee that would determine if she was qualified to write a doctoral dissertation. Because of AlSayyad's behavior, Hagberg Fisher changed departments and the course of her career.

AlSayyad has been barred from teaching at the university since 2016, but he continued to receive pay, serve on academic committees and advise students until his recent suspension. The Faculty Senate held a hearing in November and deliberated for four months before recommending a one-year suspension to Carol Christ, UC Berkeley chancellor. After learning that he had also abused his faculty power, Christ tripled the suspension.

Hagberg Fisher told the Chronicle that it was “unconscionable” that it took so long for the university to suspend AlSayyad. A 2016 investigation by the Chronicle revealed past misconduct by AlSayyad, including allegations that he slept with a student and bullied students and junior colleagues who complained about his behavior.

AlSayyad denied engaging in any misconduct with Hagberg Fisher and his other accusers. His lawyer, Dan Siegel, said that AlSayyad is considering legal action to dispute the university's decision.

August 21, 2018

A credit ratings agency said in a report issued Monday that public universities in Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom “have largely maintained their creditworthiness over the past year,” despite reductions in governmental appropriations relative to total revenues.

The report from S&P Global Ratings -- titled "Australia, Canada, Mexico and U.K. Universities 2018 Medians Report: Increased International Tuition Revenues Preserve the Sector's Stability Amid Stagnant Government Support" -- finds that increases in student revenues and spending controls have "sustained solid operating margins at the high investment-grade universities" and notes their increasing reliance on tuition revenue.

“In the past year, most public universities' operating margins have come under pressure, because revenues from state transfers have stagnated or declined,” the report states. “State appropriation dependence for most higher-rated public universities in Australia, Canada, and the U.K. has declined relative to total revenues. In Australian universities, for example, international student fees have largely compensated for the decline. That said, it's still unclear if student-generated revenues will continue covering the lower government funding."

August 21, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, John Kominoski, assistant professor in the department of biological sciences at Florida International University, describes how building dams in the growing Southwestern U.S. can be harmful for fish populations. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 20, 2018

The Ohio conference of the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to the University of Akron on Friday, harshly criticizing its plan to cut 20 percent of its academic programs while investing in competitive online video gaming, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. “It is as though you are saying: Well, we are bored with education so let’s play games instead,” John T. McNay, professor of history at the University of Cincinnati and president of the state AAUP conference, wrote in his letter to Akron’s administration and governing board. “This shows a serious lack of judgment and indicates that you are violating the trust that has been placed in your hands for protecting and enhancing” the university.

Last week, Akron announced that it was cutting 80 degree programs that represent 5 percent of overall student enrollment, including bachelor’s degrees in art history, French, geography, math and physics, to free up funds for other growth programs. Also last week, the university announced that it was launching varsity and recreational esports programs, to be housed in the Drs. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Honors College. “Embracing esports allows the university to continue attracting top students while providing an innovative pathway for students to flourish academically, socially and professionally,” Matthew J. Wilson, Akron’s president, said in an announcement.

Akron’s AAUP chapter said in another statement that while faculty leaders engaged in the academic review process leading up to the cuts, “in an attempt to make it as fair and useful as possible, their criticisms of the process are strong and on the record.” Wayne Hill, university spokesperson, said that that “substantial and meaningful faculty input was obtained throughout the process but, ultimately, it is the president’s responsibility to recommend and the role of the board of trustees to make these types of decisions.”

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