Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 4, 2019

After criticism from Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, the White House reversed its pick to replace the acting inspector general, the top watchdog within the Department of Education.

President Trump last week named Phil Rosenfelt, the deputy general counsel at the department, to the acting IG post. Warren said that raised questions about the independence of the position.

The decision to replace current acting IG Sandra Bruce, which Politico first reported, also came without explanation from the Trump administration. But the White House announced it was pulling Rosenfelt’s nomination hours after congressional Democrats criticized the choice.

Liz Hill, a department spokeswoman, told Politico that the decision was made after the pick came to the attention of new officials at the White House.

"After they re-evaluated the situation, the decision was made, in an abundance of caution, to rescind the designation," she said.

February 4, 2019

A Republican state lawmaker in Wisconsin complained to a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison about his description of President Trump -- copying the university system’s Board of Regents and president and Madison’s chancellor, along with the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and other groups. Kenneth Mayer, the professor, wrote in a syllabus for a class on the American presidency that Trump's is the most “unconventional presidency in American history, with a president who gleefully flouts the norms of governing and presidential behavior that have structured the office since George Washington,” the Journal Sentinel reported. Trump supporters “rejoice in his contempt for what they insist is a corrupt D.C. establishment. If elites are against it, Trump’s supporters are for it,” Mayer wrote.

State Representative Dave Murphy heard about the syllabus after a student complained about it on social media. He said in his letter to Mayer that he was shocked by the “politically polarized characterization of the Trump presidency.” Students who identify as Trump supporters “will be encouraged to parrot liberal views that you clearly sympathize with or remain silent in an attempt to mask their conservative opinions,” he added, asking Mayer to invite a member of the Trump administration to address his students. In 2016, Murphy also criticized a course on whiteness at Madison and its professor. Other lawmakers and professors have objected to Murphy’s recent letter as an infringement on academic freedom. Madison’s College Republicans have defended Mayer as fair and engaging. Madison said he is a respected scholar who is declining interviews on the matter.

February 4, 2019

The American Library Association’s treatment of a black librarian who complained after a white colleague directed hostile comments at her at a recent ALA meeting has prompted a difficult discussion about racism in the library profession.

Several library associations issued statements last week reaffirming their commitments to equality and diversity. The statements also highlight that much work needs to be done in these areas.

The Association of Research Libraries emailed a statement to its members Friday, saying, “The harassment and intimidation that occurred during the recent ALA Midwinter Meeting should be of grave concern to all in the profession.

“We, as a society and a profession, are far from truly realizing the vision of racial equity that so many desire and that must be a core principle if we are to be a just and equitable society,” the ARL statement said.

The Association of College and Research Libraries Board of Directors also published a statement last week, which stated that the association "also has work to do to address systemic racism and oppressive practices."

“Our profession needs to talk about the way that racism and systems that privilege whiteness have permeated our profession and our professional events,” the ACRL statement said.

February 4, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, John van de Lindt, professor of infrastructure at Colorado State University, looks to resilience science to find out if some communities are more resilient after disasters. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 1, 2019

Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, on Thursday announced a series of new programs for homeless youth, and one of the programs is a pilot to house homeless community college students. Through the program, 20 homeless students at four community colleges will be provided with dormitory rooms in which to live at nearby four-year public colleges and universities. The state will reimburse the colleges for the cost of dormitory space for 18 months during the pilot, which will include access to the rooms during the summer and academic term breaks. The colleges will cover the cost of food for the students. Details on the effort are available here.

February 1, 2019

The University of Providence in Great Falls, Mont., is moving to put in place academic program and athletic cuts as it refocuses on science, math and health care.

A dozen majors are set to be eliminated at the private Roman Catholic university, along with six minors and a graduate program. That would leave almost 30 undergraduate and graduate programs, plus concentrations, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Most of the programs on the chopping block are likely to be in the humanities, as the university is refocusing on majors in science, math and health-care fields. The university’s athletic director is putting together a list of sports programs for cuts, and men’s lacrosse is already scheduled to end this year. The university’s board is scheduled to meet Feb. 14 to vote on the changes.

Administrators called it a time of “pruning and planting,” where the university is cutting in some areas and investing in others.

In January, the University of Providence had a probation lifted by its accreditor, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The accreditor put the institution on probation this summer, asking for more information on a relationship between the university and a Roman Catholic health-care system that helped it build its school of health professions.

When it lifted the probation, the accreditor required several follow-up actions. Among them, it asked the university about its fiscal stability and asked how its plans will “positively address enrollment and retention challenges.”

February 1, 2019

Jan. 31 was a deadline set by the University of California System for its negotiations with Elsevier, but the talks continue. The University of California System is engaged in a high-stakes battle with Elsevier, the publishing giant whose contract with the UC system was slated to expire at the end of December 2018. With UC threatening to walk away unless it wins substantial changes in the way Elsevier charges for journal access, many see the showdown as significant. Late in December, UC announced that it agreed with Elsevier on a one-month extension to the contract that is expiring. A university statement said that the extension was part of a "good-faith effort to conclude negotiations by January 31."

Then early today, Feb. 1, the university posted a new statement that said in part, "As of Jan. 31: The University of California and Elsevier have agreed to continue good-faith discussions for the time being. For now, access is expected to continue. Should we learn of any changes to access at UC, we will notify our community."

February 1, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, part of New York Institute of Technology Week, Hallie Zwibel, assistant professor of family medicine, explores the injuries associated with video games and how to treat them. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 31, 2019

Opera singer David Daniels, a professor of music at the University of Michigan, was arrested this week and faces extradition to Texas over a second-degree sexual assault charge. Daniels and his husband, Scott Walters, who also was arrested, are accused of drugging and raping a singer in Houston in 2010. Their accuser, Samuel Schultz, was a graduate student in Texas at the time. Daniels’s and Walters’s attorney, Matt Hennessy, told Mlive.com that his clients participated in “adult, consensual sex,” not a crime. Daniels, who is on paid leave from Michigan, also faces a federal lawsuit brought by a former Michigan graduate student. The plaintiff, Andrew Lipian, says that Daniels undressed and groped him in 2017 after tricking him into taking sleeping medication. Daniels has called that claim “fake and malicious.” The university declined immediate comment on the arrest.

January 31, 2019

Among the deaths being blamed on the record cold created by the polar vortex is that of a University of Iowa student, found outside early Wednesday morning, The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. The air temperature at the time was -22 and the wind chill was -51. Officials said that foul play was not suspected. The student's father said he had been told that there was no alcohol in his son's system.

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