Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 24, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Elizabeth Tippett, associate professor in the school of law at the University of Oregon, discusses why employers should be prepared to act without outside assistance. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 23, 2018

Last week, Syracuse University first suspended and then expelled its chapter of Theta Tau after The Daily Orange published video of an initiation ceremony that featured members mocking black, Latino, Jewish and gay people and using slurs about all of them.

Now many at the university are outraged over a new video published by The Daily Orange. This one, below, features simulated sexual assault of people pretending to have physical and intellectual disabilities.

Kent Syverud, chancellor of Syracuse, on Sunday issued a statement in which he said the second video was part of the evidence reviewed by the university in deciding to kick out Theta Tau. "The words and behaviors in the second video are appalling and disgusting on many intersecting grounds. They especially offend all Syracuse University holds dear about diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities," said Syverud.

April 23, 2018

Graduate students at Harvard University voted 1,931 to 1,523 to form a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers, they announced Friday. The election, held earlier this month, was the second on the union issue, as a 2016 vote proved inconclusive. "Harvard appreciates student engagement on this important issue," the university said in a statement. "Regardless of the outcome, this election underscores the importance of the university’s commitment to continuing to improve the experience of our students."

April 23, 2018

A California institution that a U.S. senator recently characterized as a suspected “visa mill” has shut down after state authorities revoked its certificate to operate. A notice on Silicon Valley University’s website says it has been notified by California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education “not to conduct any classes or exams at this time, effective immediately.”

A spokeswoman for the California bureau said that Silicon Valley's approval to operate expired upon the loss of its accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Independent Colleges and Schools. ACICS – a troubled accreditor in its own right -- reports on its website that Silicon Valley lost its accreditation in December after it failed to submit a required annual financial report and audited financial statements.

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, recently sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in which he singled out Silicon Valley as one among a group of “suspect schools” that bring thousands of foreign students to the U.S. each year.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Silicon Valley recently enrolled nearly 4,000 students, mostly from foreign countries. The institution, which has nonprofit, tax-exempt status, reported $30.5 million in revenue in 2016, only $11 million of which was used on salaries and other expenses.

The Chronicle also reported that Silicon Valley is embroiled in legal battles involving allegations that the divorced husband and wife pair who founded the school, Feng-Min “Jerry” Shiao and Mei Hsin “Seiko” Cheng, used university funds for their personal benefit. The university filed a lawsuit against Shiao accusing him of misappropriating $34.8 million. In a countersuit, Shiao accuses Cheng of using $2.6 million in university funds to buy three homes for herself and family members. Shiao and Cheng have both denied wrongdoing.

April 23, 2018

Jennifer Polk set off an interesting discussion on Twitter by noting that she thanked her favorite band in her Ph.D. dissertation acknowledgments and asking others for unusual thank-you notes they made when finishing their doctorates. Among those thanked were many pets as well as medical professionals who helped Ph.D. students through serious health challenges.

April 23, 2018

Newark, Del., police are investigating an assault reported at a University of Delaware fraternity party held off-campus at about 6 p.m. April 13.

A group of men approached Rancel Valdez, a former student who is Hispanic and openly gay. One man made a homophobic remark, and a fight broke out, according to Delaware Online.

Valdez told NBC10 that the attack was unprompted. “They were just being rude, telling me to leave, calling me names,” Valdez said. “I didn’t even look their way or nothing. They all just came to me.”

Valdez was hospitalized for a leg fracture. The injury will come at some cost to Valdez, as he won’t be able to work for a month and does not have health insurance, according to an online fund-raising page set up by a friend. The page had raised over $2,000 as of Sunday.

The investigation could result in hate crime charges if police find that the attack was related to Valdez's sexuality, Newark police told Delaware Online. Witnesses told police that the attackers used degrading language, said Sergeant Gerald Bryda, a spokesperson for the Newark Police Department.

SpeQtrum, an organization for LGBTQ students of color at Delaware, called the assault a hate crime in a statement published on Twitter Thursday. The organization urged the university to address "the toxic culture on campus" by making changes including training members of Greek life on assault, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and white supremacy, and creating a resource center for LGBTQ students.

"You are not alone in this world; we are here together, even if you haven't connected with us yet, we stand with you," the statement said.

The college has been "monitoring the situation throughout the week, and representatives of university are speaking with all involved," Andrea Boyle, university spokesperson, said in an interview Sunday.

Delaware president Dennis Assanis sent an email to the campus community last week denouncing the attack.

“This kind of reprehensible behavior is not tolerated at the University of Delaware. We will take all appropriate measures in the student conduct process to ensure any offenders are held accountable for their actions,” Assanis wrote.

April 23, 2018

The National Association of College and University Business Officers has selected as its new president Susan Whealler Johnston, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. She will succeed John D. Walda, who has been the president and CEO of the business officers' group since 2006.

Johnston has been at the trustees' group, where she oversees its day-to-day administration, since 2000. Before that, she was a dean and a professor of English at Rockford College, in Illinois.

April 23, 2018

A federal requirement for online colleges to tell students whether their academic programs meet state licensing requirements may be postponed.

Russell Poulin, director of policy and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, tweeted last week that the Department of Education had submitted a proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget titled “State Authorization; Delayed Effective Date.”

“We don’t know what’s being proposed,” tweeted Poulin. “It is likely a delay and possible redo of the rule set to go into effect on July 1.”

The state authorization rules have been criticized as confusing, with many institutions reporting uncertainty about implementation.

April 23, 2018

A study group convened by the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last August released a report last week documenting the university's history of racism and exclusion, including two student organizations in the early 20th century that were called Ku Klux Klan.

Two student organizations took the name “Ku Klux Klan” between 1919 and 1926, the report found. One group was associated with the national white supremacist group. The other was an interfraternity society unattached to a broader organization. These groups were widely uncontroversial, according to the report.

The study group recommended the university postpone discussions about renaming campus spaces and focus on addressing history and enforcing change.

​"We insist that the history this connection represents must not be obscured or ignored but instead confronted and addressed," the report said. "At this time, we resist the impulse to resolve this sense of shock by purging the names from our campus. It may be that, after thoughtful community deliberation, the campus will find it desirable or necessary to change the names of some facilities."

Some buildings around campus bear the names of Klan members, including the artist Porter Butts and the actor Fredric March, whose names are displayed on facilities in the Memorial Union. The report considers the notion that Klan membership "reflected the climate of the era," and that youthful decisions of members shouldn't outweigh their subsequent contributions. Butts became a local and national leader in the organization of student unions, where he advocated for policies of inclusion. He is a recipient of the college's highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. March was an award-winning actor who fought the persecution of Hollywood artists, many of them Jewish, in the 1950s.

While the report focuses on Madison's Klan groups, it notes that the college's culture of exclusion wasn't the work of a few but was "a pervasive culture of racial and religious bigotry, casual and unexamined in its prevalence, in which exclusion and indignity were routine, sanctioned in the institution’s daily life, unchallenged by its leaders."

The university is now working to expand curricular offerings on underrepresented cultural identities and to diversify the faculty and the student body, according to a Thursday statement by Rebecca Blank, university chancellor. The college committed $1 million to a public history project that elevates those who experienced and fought prejudice on campus. To increase diversity among faculty, Wisconsin Madison gave funding to ethnic studies divisions to hire four new members, and the university intends to direct additional resources to recruiting top scholars from underrepresented groups. The university is also launching programs to increase accessibility for first-generation and lower-income students, including the Badger Promise for first-generation transfers and Bucky’s Tuition Promise for low and moderate-income Wisconsin students.

April 23, 2018

Publisher Cengage is partnering with the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation to give 1,000 college students free access to its digital higher education materials for one semester.

Members of PTK, an international honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students pursuing associate degrees, can apply for a free subscription to Cengage Unlimited at the PTK website.

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