Higher Education Quick Takes

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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.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Sen. Claire McCaskill sent an online survey to more than 350 colleges to gather information about how institutions respond to sexual assault and comply with Title IX, BuzzFeed reported, as she and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand consider legislation to better combat the issue on college campuses. (McCaskill and Gillibrand recently wrote legislation designed to combat sexual assault in the armed forces.)

The questions cover “security and law enforcement, student resources, adjudication procedures, and barriers to reporting sexual misconduct.” McCaskill also requested information from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice on how the federal government oversees colleges when it comes to Title IX compliance.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 4:27am

Excelencia in Education has released a new report with state-by-state data on Latino college completion rates. The report notes that raising those rates can be a key strategy for those who want to increase the percentage of Americans with college credentials.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, John Roe, assistant professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is tracking, studying and helping to develop strategies that will help to revitalize the leatherback population. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 4:33am

The Tennessee House of Representatives on Tuesday, following a similar vote in the Senate, approved a plan by Governor Bill Haslam to offer free community college tuition to all graduates of high schools in the state, The Tennessean reported. The plan will take effect in fall 2015. Governor Haslam, a Republican, has pushed the plan as a key way for the state to encourage a larger share of the population to seek college credentials. The idea of free community college tuition has also been discussed in other states, but the Tennessee plan -- with the strong advocacy of a governor -- has attracted attention nationally and is now being adopted.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 4:35am

Virginia Intermont College announced Tuesday that its planned merger with Webber International University would not go through. The two institutions "have reached the joint and difficult conclusion that we do not have a viable model for merger in July. This deeply saddens the administration and the boards of each school, as we have very high regard for one another and we both strongly believe in Webber’s goal of uniting small colleges in order to preserve their identities," the statement said. Virginia Intermont has been struggling financially and hoped that linking up with a larger, business oriented university like Webber would allow the liberal arts program in Virginia to survive. Tuesday's statement said that the university would finish the semester and offer a summer session that ends June 27. But the statement did not indicate how the college plans to operate after that.

The Washington Post noted that Virginia Intermont's enrollment in the fall was 378, a 35 percent decline since 2010.

 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 4:38am

Ball State University is planning to toughen post-tenure review to weed out "chronic low performers" on the faculty, The Star Press reported. Under the plan, faculty members whose performance is unsatisfactory two years in a row or three years out of five will be given a year to improve or to face termination. Ball State officials said that only a very small share of faculty members fit this category, but that failing to deal with them creates extra work for other professors. Dave Pearson, chair of the University Senate, said, “It’s a very, very small problem, but it can cause real problems in small departments.... I think the faculty have bought into this."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 3:00am

Black law students at Washington and Lee University, under a new group called "The Committee," have asked Washington and Lee University to take a series of steps to address "the racist and dishonorable conduct of Robert E. Lee." Lee served as president of the university after the Civil War, and has historically been revered at the institution. The Committee is calling on the university to observe the Martin Luther King Day as a formal day off, to stop allowing "neo-confederates to march on campus with Confederate flags on Lee-Jackson day," and to formally apologize "for the university's participation in chattel slavery" and "Robert E. Lee's participation in slavery."

A statement from the university noted that it does hold events to mark Martin Luther King Day every year, and that a decision to call off classes would have to be made by the faculty. The statement does not go into a detailed response on the other demands, but says that the university welcomes discussion on these issues and that "in terms of the other issues that the students have raised, we will give them all careful consideration."

In 2012, during an earlier debate about the Lee legacy at the university, the institution's president, Kenneth P. Ruscio, wrote an essay for Inside Higher Ed in which he argued for a balanced view of the general. "Lee was a dignified, humble man. His sense of duty and honor would cause him to cringe if he ever became the subject of idolatry or the embodiment of myth," Ruscio wrote. "Blindly, superficially and reflexively rushing to his defense is no less an affront to history than blindly, superficially and reflexively attacking him. What he needs, what he deserves, and what his record can withstand is the honest appraisal of those who have not made up their minds, who can appreciate the man with all his complexities and contradictions. History is indeed not kind enough to present us with simple morality tales."

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