The Justice Department on Wednesday published revised regulations on certain aspects of the Americans With Disabilities Act, dealing with some issues that relate to higher education. More detail is provided on the obligations to make sure that their athletic stadiums are sufficiently accessible to people with physical disabilities, for example, an issue on which some universities and advocates for those with disabilities have clashed in the past. Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, said she had not yet studied the revisions -- which are lengthy and complicated -- in detail, but that it appeared that the department had responded to concerns expressed by colleges about some parts of earlier drafts of the regulations. One example is in another part of the regulations -- concerning service animals. The regulations state, for instance, that "service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler's disability." Meloy said that some colleges have received requests to treat other animals -- including reptiles -- as service animals and that officials wanted specificity of the sort outlined in the regulations.
Higher Education Quick Takes
For the first time ever, white students do not make up a majority among freshmen at the University of Texas at Austin. According to figures announced by the university Tuesday, white freshmen make up 47.6 percent of students, down from 51.1 percent a year ago. Hispanic enrollment now makes up 23.1 percent, up from 20.8 percent; black enrollment is up to 5.1 percent, from 4.9 percent; and Asian enrollment is 17.3 percent, down from 19.6 percent.
Chicago State University, which was in danger of losing its accreditation over very low retention rates and a graduation rate of 14 percent, is holding on to its accreditation, the Chicago Tribune reported. The university has started a series of programs to improve retention, responding to some of the concerns expressed by accreditors, and the university said that its retention rate of freshmen has started to increase. Still, the publicity about the problems may be having an impact. Enrollment of first-time, full-time freshmen is down 12.9 percent this fall, although many urban public universities are reporting increases.
In the latest twist in the legal fight over Fisk University's prized modern art collection, a judge has rejected a plan by Tennessee's attorney general to move it to a Nashville arts center, reopening the prospect that Fisk may be able to sell a half-share in the collection and allow it to be displayed elsewhere for part of the year, The Tennessean reported. Fisk, a financially troubled historically black college, says that it cannot afford to maintain the collection and that proceeds from a sale are needed to support the institution. The judge earlier rejected that idea, saying that Fisk accepted the collection as a bequest to maintain the art, not to raise money. But the judge found that the attorney general's response was not sufficiently long term in its approach. The ruling came on a day that Fisk students protested the plan to move the art to the local arts center.
The White House Summit on Community Colleges is scheduled for Oct. 5. President Obama asked Jill Biden, a community college professor who is the wife of the vice president, to convene the event “to provide an opportunity for community college leaders, students, education experts, business leaders and others to share innovative ways to educate our way to a better economy.” More details about the summit are expected in the coming weeks. A short video posted by the White House Wednesday morning features Biden, students and alumni talking about the value of community colleges and their importance in American society. The White House is also inviting community college students and others to submit their own videos or online comments about community colleges.
New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that many medical students suffering from depression are afraid to seek help because of the stigma associated with treatment. The research notes that the finding is a serious one because medical students are more likely than those in the general population to experience depression.
The DREAM Act, which has progressed through Congress in starts and stops for close to a decade, again edged closer to a vote Tuesday as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he plans to offer it as an amendment to a defense spending bill next week. “I think it is really important that we move forward on this legislation,” he told reporters. Though “I know we can’t do comprehensive immigration reform," he said it might be possible to pass the DREAM Act, which would create a path to permanent residency for college students or members of the U.S. military who have been in the country illegally for at least five years since before age 16. Reid said Monday that he also planned to attach a motion to repeal the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gay and lesbian members of the military to the appropriations bill.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that Reid made the defense spending bill "needlessly controversial" by introducing those issues into the bill. Reid said he had not talked to the White House about pushing ahead on the DREAM Act as part of the defense appropriations bill and did not know if he had the votes for it to pass.
Georgetown University on Tuesday announced its largest gift: $87 million to support medical research. The gift originated with a $1.2 million charitable trust created by the will of the late Harry J. Toulmin in 1965. His widow, Virginia Toulmin, managed the trust for 45 years and led it to its present value.
Gay students and faculty members, in a national survey by Campus Pride, were much more likely than their straight counterparts to report experiencing harassment -- 23 percent to 12 percent. The most common form of harassment reported was to be the target of derogatory remarks, followed by being stared at or singled out as "the resident authority" on issues related to sexual identity and orientation. The survey found particularly high rates of harassment reported by transgender people in academe and people who do not conform to traditional gender identities.
The Texas Board of Education, whose textbook rules are influential and sometimes controversial, is getting back into the culture wars and is going to consider whether school textbooks have become (as its conservative members appear to believe) pro-Islamic and anti-Christian, The Dallas Morning News reported. A draft of a resolution prepared for the board states that "diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions in social studies texts," and suggests that too much attention is paid to Christian attacks on Muslims during the Crusades (ignoring attacks by Muslims on Christians), "implying that Christian brutality and Muslim loss of life are significant, but Islamic cruelty and Christian deaths are not."