Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order today that bars federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The executive order is not expected to exempt religious organizations, as some Christian colleges and other Christian organizations have sought, The New York Times reported. Other religious organizations have said that no exemption is needed -- and many gay rights groups encouraged the president to proceed without an exemption. Within higher education, much of the impact may be symbolic as the largest federal contractors tend to be research universities that, public or private, are secular institutions.

 

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

Valerie Macon has resigned as poet laureate of North Carolina, just a week after she was appointed by Governor Pat McCrory, The News & Observer reported. Macon's appointment drew widespread criticism from literary figures and others in North Carolina, many of whom suggested that their Republican governor was trying to get in a dig at poetry by appointing someone who was not qualified for the position. Macon is a state civil servant whose work has been self-published. Further, her website (since removed) claimed incorrectly that she had been a Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet, when in fact she had been in a program to be mentored by a Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet. Past poet laureates in North Carolina have tended to be poets with numerous acclaimed collections (published by presses) and long teaching careers. Among the more detailed critiques of Macon's appointment is this one, in Indy Week.

The governor issued a statement after Macon resigned saying that he was bothered by “the way some in the poetry community have expressed such hostility and condescension toward an individual who has great passion for poetry and our state.”

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

The board of directors that governs Division I member universities of the National Collegiate Athletic Association will soon vote on a new governance model, increasing the size of its board from 18 members to 24 and giving greater voting control to the five major athletic conferences. The new board would consist of five presidents from those major conferences: the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 12, and Southeastern Conferences. It would also include five presidents from the remaining five Football Bowl Subdivision Conferences, five from the Football Championship Subdivision, and five from Division I institutions that don't have football teams. A student athlete, a faculty athletics representative, a campus senior woman athletics representative, and the chair of the Council -- the governing body in charge of the day-to-day legislative functions -- would round out the rest of the board.

The weighted voting totals of the Council gives 37.5 percent of the vote to the five major conferences, as well as a combined 37.5 percent to FCS and no-football conferences. FBS conferences would have 18.8 percent. Faculty representatives and student athletes would have 3.1 percent each.

“We will begin to focus on student-athlete welfare in ways they will feel as early as next year,” Michael Drake, president of Ohio State University and steering committee member, said in a statement.

At a Senate hearing earlier this month, Mark Emmert, the NCAA's president, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that Division I colleges were attempting to remake the decision-making process to give more control to the 65 largest revenue institutions, Emmert said, as they’re most likely to move forward on reforms that would benefit college athletes. Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and the committee’s chairman, said he didn’t believe that the colleges that make the most money from athletes would be the ones most eager to change. “I am just very skeptical that the NCAA can ever live up to the lofty mission it constantly touts,” Rockefeller said at the hearing's start.

The Division I Board of Directors will vote on the model on August 7.

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has dropped a controversial name-and-likeness release from the "student-athlete statement" signed each year by Division I college athletes, USA Today reported.

The release is a central part of the high-profile class action filed by Ed O'Bannon, a former University of California at Los Angeles basketball player, as well as other lawsuits filed against the NCAA regarding the commercialized use of likenesses of college athletes. In 2009, the same year that O'Bannon filed his class action, Ryan Hart, a former starting quarterback at Rutgers University, filed a similar complaint. In May of that year, Sam Keller, a former starting quarterback at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, also filed a class action about the NCAA profiting off athletes' likenesses in a series of video games.

The same day that O'Bannon's lawsuit finally went to trial, the NCAA settled its case with Keller, thus avoiding a trial that was set for March. As part of the settlement, the NCAA agreed to make $20 million available to Division I football and men's basketball players at certain colleges whose teams were in the Electronic Arts video games. A week earlier, EA Sports agreed to pay $40 million in a separate settlement with O'Bannon. O'Bannon and the NCAA are still waiting on a federal judge's ruling in the class action.

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Education said Friday that it will automatically reprocess the federal financial aid applications of tens of thousands of students whose aid eligibility was likely reduced because of a decimal place error. The problem came to light this month after some students and families filling out the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, incorrectly entered both dollars and cents into a box that was supposed to accept only whole-dollar values.

As a result, the agency said, the government’s computer system interpreted a student reporting an income of $5,000.19 as having an income of $500,019, which would likely reduce that student’s eligibility for need-based grants and loans.

Department officials said in guidance to colleges on Friday that they planned re-process the applications of the “fewer than 200,000 applicants” nationwide who they believe were affected by the problem. The department also said that on July 1 it reprogrammed its online FAFSA form to automatically drop any fractional dollar amounts that are erroneously entered into the system in order to prevent the problem from recurring. 

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

On the latest edition of "This Week," Inside Higher Ed's news podcast, Shapri D. LoMaglio of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities and Campus Pride's Shane Windmeyer joined Inside Higher Ed Editor Scott Jaschik and the moderator Casey Green to discuss efforts by religious institutions to seek exemptions from key federal civil rights laws; also, the constitutional scholar Rodney A. Smolla analyzed a federal appeals court's ruling last week upholding the University of Texas at Austin's consideration of race in admissions.

Stream or download the podcast here. And click here to receive an email notification when we air a new edition of This Week.

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 4:17am

Tensions continue to grow between faculty members at Pasadena City College and President Mark W. Rocha, The Los Angeles Times reported. Rocha says he is making necessary changes to deal with financial challenges. But faculty members say he doesn't consult with them, resulting in flawed decisions. Faculty members are considering their third vote of no confidence in Rocha.

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

One week after 11 higher education and library groups presented their "net neutrality" principles, the organizations last Friday released their full comments in response to the Federal Communication Commission's notice of proposed rule-making. The FCC has proposed creating a "fast lane" for online traffic for vendors willing to pay for access to it, which the organizations say could negatively impact everything from digital humanities scholarship to digitizing library resources. In the comments, the groups support reclassifying internet service providers as utility providers, which would give the FCC more power to regulate them.

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

Public universities have increased the amount of institutional funds they spend on facilities by 50 percent per square foot since 2007, as they strive not to fall too far behind on needed repairs and renovations despite declining state capital support, a new report shows. The report, The State of Facilities in Higher Education, produced by the consulting firm Sightlines, shows that while one-time capital funding from state sources had dropped to $3.32 per square foot in 2013, from $3.88 in 2008, public institutions increased their capital spending to $1.35 per square foot, from $0.89 in 2008. Sightlines draws its data on facilities growth, spending and other topics from 450 institutions in 44 states.

 

 

Monday, July 21, 2014 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Education announced on Friday that Patrick Fitzgerald, a prominent former U.S. attorney from Illinois, will lead the team of outside monitors that will oversee the closure and sale of Corinthian Colleges' 107 campuses. An agreement the feds and Corinthian reached earlier this month required that a monitor have access to the for-profit's finances and other internal controls.

Fitzgerald previously led investigations of two former Illinois governors and into leaks relating to the Valerie Plame controversy. His monitoring team will report directly to the Education Department. The team is tasked with ensuring that students are protected during Corinthian's dismantling, the department said.

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