Higher Education Quick Takes
As expected, Northwestern University on Wednesday filed a brief asking the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington to review a regional NLRB decision that football players are employees of the institution and should be allowed to unionize. “Northwestern presented overwhelming evidence establishing that its athletic program is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first,” the brief says. “Based on the testimony of a single player, the regional director described Northwestern’s football program in a way that is unrecognizable from the evidence actually presented at the hearing.”
The brief notes that Northwestern awards four-year athletic scholarships (optional and uncommon, under NCAA rules, which allow one-year renewable ones), and provides primary or secondary medical coverage for all athletes for up to a year after their eligibility expires. The brief also says the majority of rules that athletes must follow (regarding things like hazing, academic dishonesty and drug use) apply to the student body at large.
The athletes’ secret ballot vote to unionize under the College Athletes Players Association is scheduled for April 25, but could be delayed if the full NLRB issues a stay on the regional decision.
Students at Washington University in St. Louis on Tuesday started an outdoor sit-in, pledging to camp out on campus until the university cuts ties to Peabody Energy, a coal company. The company's CEO, Greg Boyce, has been a donor and serves on the board. Further, the students object to research that they say falsely suggests that the environmental issues associated with the use of coal can be minimized. They are vowing to continue their protest until the university position changes.
The university issued a statement affirming the right of the students to protest, but defending research related to coal. "Washington University ... is a significant contributor to finding solutions to the world¹s energy challenges. Our researchers are focused on making alternative energy sources more viable," the statement says. "Our researchers also are focused on mitigating the environmental impact of the use of coal, including approaches to capturing and storing carbon dioxide that accompanies combustion of any fossil fuel. It is this dual approach that will allow us to address the greatest global issues of this century. As a world-class research university, Washington University not only has the potential, but the responsibility, to participate in finding those solutions."
Americans care (sort of) about what politicians think about supporting medical research, according to a new poll by Research!America, which promotes medical research. Two-thirds of Americans said that it is important for candidates running for office to place a high priority on funding medical research. However, only 12 percent said that they were very well informed about the views of their senators and representative.
While Brandeis University was facing criticism for planning to award an honorary doctorate to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she remained largely silent and she didn't immediately respond when the university announced Tuesday that it was abandoning plans to award the degree, amid concerns about her public criticism of Islam. On Wednesday, however, she released a statement denouncing Brandeis and, in particular, its assertion that it was unaware of some of her past statements when it decided to honor her. "[M]y critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree," Ali said. "What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The 'spirit of free expression' referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014. Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced."
A new poll of undergraduates by Steelcase Education being released today has found that when asked about locations on campus that influenced their decision to enroll, 51 percent cited classrooms, while only 42 percent cited student centers or extracurricular places. Further, 38 percent of students said they valued study places, and 36 percent said that they valued libraries. The findings challenge conventional wisdom that students are judging campuses primarily by their leisure and recreational facilities.
The Los Angeles area has California's most pressing unmet need for community college slots, according to a new analysis released by California Competes, a nonprofit group. Much of the lagging capacity at two-year institutions around the state has been hard to track. But the report, which the group said was the first statewide analysis of student enrollment across district lines, found that greater Los Angeles should receive 24,000 of the 40,000 additional seats that the recovering state budget may fund.
The analysis builds on an interactive data tool the group released last year. That online tool charts community college enrollment and degree production rates across California's 1,700 ZIP codes. Robert Shireman, a former official at the U.S. Department of Education, is California Competes' director.
Dartmouth College today announced a $100 million gift, the largest in the college's history. Half of the gift will match other gifts. The donor is anonymous. A major use for the funds will be Dartmouth's cluster hiring initiative, in which groups of faculty members will be hired with various interdisciplinary research agendas.
The academic preparation of incoming colleges students has a strong impact on dropout rates, according to a newly released report from the ACT, which is a nonprofit testing organization. The findings show that students have the greatest risk of dropping out if they earn lower scores on college readiness assessments, particularly students with less-educated parents.