Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, April 18, 2014 - 3:00am

Continuing her push to promote higher education, First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday toured Howard University with a group of Chicago public high school juniors and seniors.

The students were participating in the “Escape to Mecca” program, which is aimed at exposing high-achieving Chicago students to Howard University, which is referred to as the “Mecca” of African-American education.

Obama was joined by the rapper and television host Bow Wow for a tour of a women’s dormitory and a discussion session in a campus cafeteria.

“No longer is high school the bar,” she told the 37 Chicago students. “That is not enough in today’s globalizing economy. You have got to go to college, or get some kind of professional training beyond college.”

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on our end -- governments, private sector, the folks with money,” Obama said of the administration’s goal for the country to have the most college graduates in the world by 2020. But, she added: “You don’t have time to wait for everybody to fix the system for you.”

Bow Wow -- formerly known as Lil’ Bow Wow and whose real name is Shad Moss -- did not attend college and instead pursued his entertainment career, which began at age 13, according to his manager, Bart Waters. The First Lady on Wednesday praised Bow Wow’s commitment to promoting higher education, and has previously appeared on his BET talk show to discuss the issue. The Obama administration since this past winter has sought to highlight and address the issue of “undermatching” -- the term education researchers use to describe when high-achieving students do not apply to or enroll at the best institutions at which they would succeed.

Friday, April 18, 2014 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jessica Remedios, assistant professor of psychology at Tufts University, examines the perplexing issue of prejudice by taking a look at the variables present in nearly all social interactions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Should Sean Combs -- known to many as Puff Daddy or P. Diddy -- be Howard University's commencement speaker? Howard's announcement called him an "entrepreneur and entertainment mogul," and mentioned that he had been a student at Howard in the late 1980s. But the statement didn't state explicitly that he is a dropout. So some people are talking -- and websites are compiling Tweets -- on whether Combs is an appropriate choice as speaker. Critics ask about the message sent by having a dropout speak at commencement. For example, one comment on Twitter said "diddy is gonna make the commencement speech at Howard but what is he gonna say. 'Well I dropped outta here & got rich but good luck,'" and another said, "Can someone explain why Diddy, a person who never graduated from Howard, is speaking at graduation?"

But others defended him. One comment: "Strange to see so many people displeased w/ Diddy being HU's commencement speaker. Too caught up in his lack of degree to note his successes." And one person on Twitter offered an interesting comparison: "Diddy's net worth is greater than Howard's Endowment. Just to give some context."

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 4:21am

Phil Hanlon, president of Dartmouth College, Wednesday night told student leaders that it was time for the institution to end certain behaviors that he said are undermining the college's outstanding undergraduate education and experience.

"Dartmouth's promise is being hijacked, hijacked by extreme and harmful behaviors, masked by their perpetrators as acceptable fun," Hanlson said. "The list of offenses is familiar. From sexual assaults on campus … to dangerous drinking that has become more the rule than the exception … to a general disregard for human dignity as exemplified by hazing, events with racist and sexist undertones, disgusting and sometimes threatening insults hurled on the Internet … a social scene that is too often at odds with the practices of inclusion that students are right to expect on a college campus in 2014."

Hanlon said that these behaviors are hurting the college, citing a decline in applications this year as one example. "We can no longer allow this college to be held back by the few who wrongly hide harmful behaviors behind the illusion of youthful exuberance. Routinized excessive drinking, sexual misconduct, and blatant disregard of social norms have no place at Dartmouth. Enough is enough."

He called for a task force -- including students -- to move to come up with strategies for changing campus culture.

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Mid-Continent University, a private institution in Kentucky, will close June 30, KFVS 12 News reported. The university has been financially struggling, and facing rumors about a possible closure for months. All employees received layoff notices, and the university hopes that some faculty members will volunteer to allow a final cohort of students to graduate. The university enrolls about 300 students on campus, and another 600 online or through off-campus programs.

 

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.

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