administrators

Honors Group Opens Membership to Students With Criminal Convictions

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a membership and scholarship organization for community college students, has extended its participation criteria to students who are incarcerated or serving probation for criminal convictions. Those criteria previously would have been disqualifying.

“It’s our desire -- our mission -- to be part of the solution to a set of very complex social problems,” Lynn Tincher-Ladner, the group's president and CEO, said in a written statement. “It’s our way of ‘unchecking the box’ -- saying to students that their mistakes shouldn’t follow them forever.”

The group cited an influential study by the Rand Corp., which found that incarcerated individuals who actively participate in higher education are far less likely to return to prison after their release. The Obama administration also referenced that study in its 2015 decision to open up federal Pell Grant aid for up to 12,000 incarcerated students as part of an experimental program. Community colleges, including Michigan's Jackson College, are among the 67 institutions that are participating in the so-called Second Chance Pell pilot.

“The goal is to open the door to opportunity to people who are starting over,” said Daniel Phelan, president of Jackson College and a member of PTK's Board of Directors, which voted last month to expand its membership.

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Fallout From Abuse Charges at Michigan State

Michigan State University on Monday announced the suspension of Kathie Klages, who is in her 27th year as women's gymnastics coach, MLive reported. The university did not indicate the reason for the suspension, but it follows allegations that a woman on her team reported concerns about treatments by the then head of sports medicine at the university and that the coach dismissed the concerns as a likely misunderstanding. Dozens of woman have sued or filed criminal complaints against the former head of sports medicine, Larry Nassar, who has been fired by the university. The suits and complaints say that he digitally penetrated their vaginas or anuses, without gloves or permission to do so. Nassar has declined to comment on the charges. Klages did not respond to requests for comment.

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Howard students protest Trump, DeVos

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As the White House and congressional Republicans plan overtures to black colleges, activists on one campus rally to bar the president from campus.

Harvard Cutting Graduate Admissions

Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is cutting the size of its incoming class. “In the process of developing the fall 2017 admissions targets in conjunction with the graduate financial aid budget, it became clear that a modest year-over-year reduction in class size would be necessary in order to ensure no disruption of support for current students,” the university said in a statement Monday, declining to share an exact percentage decrease in slots.

The decision was driven in part by lower-than-expected endowment results. Harvard announced earlier this academic year that its endowment had suffered a 2 percent, or $1.9 billion, loss, and that performance could be “muted” for some time to come. Harvard’s graduate school has relatively generous aid packages, with most Ph.D. students guaranteed funding and benefits for at least five years. At the same time, Harvard remains the world’s wealthiest university, with an endowment of $35.7 billion.

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Appeals court rules marijuana legalization group can use Iowa State logo

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U.S. appeals court says Iowa State can't bar a student group from using the university's logo when advocating for marijuana legalization.

Faculty, Alumni Criticize Kentucky State Search

Faculty members and alumni at Kentucky State University are unhappy that a search to find a new president resulted in what they see as a disappointing set of finalists that does not include well-liked interim President Aaron Thompson.

The list of finalists for Kentucky State, a historically black university in Frankfort, includes M. Christopher Brown, Said Sewell and Thomas Colbert, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Brown is currently provost at Southern University in Louisiana but previously resigned as president of Alcorn State University in Mississippi after controversial upgrades to that university’s presidential residence, reportedly without legally required bids. Sewell is the provost of Lincoln University in Missouri but was the target of a no-confidence vote from faculty members there last year. Colbert is the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s first black justice but only has two years of experience in higher education -- from 1982 to 1984, when he was assistant dean at Marquette University Law School.

Thompson became Kentucky State’s interim president last year following the sudden resignation of President Raymond Burse. He is executive vice president and chief academic officer at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Many Kentucky State alumni and faculty members had hoped to see him become president permanently, as did local community members.

The university performed its search for a new president under a $120,000 contract with a search firm. Some faculty members have described the search as failed.

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White House, Republicans reach out to historically black colleges

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White House and congressional Republicans look to build ties with historically black colleges.

Yale removes Calhoun name from residential college, but name remains at other colleges

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After years of debate, Yale removes name of slavery defender from a residential college. But names and symbols associated with white supremacy remain visible on other campuses. Plus a chart of names that have not been changed.

George Mason Students Sue for Donor Agreements

Transparent GMU, a group of George Mason University students, is suing the institution to obtain grant and gift agreements between private donors and the George Mason University Foundation. They’re concerned about the university’s ties to the Charles Koch Foundation, which has donated heavily to their campus and whose previous donation to Florida State University raised concerns about influence over hiring and curriculum decisions. Transparent GMU filed a public records request for copies of relevant agreements, but the university claimed those documents fall outside the scope of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

“We believe the public has a right to know the details of our university’s operations, including its relationship with private donors,” student Gus Thomson said in a statement. The foundation “is doing work for our public school, so it should be held to the same disclosure standards as the university itself.”

Evan Johns, the students’ attorney, said the law “simply does not allow a public university to conceal its records by outsourcing its public business to a private company.”

Michael Sandler, university spokesperson, said via email that gifts come through the institution's foundation, a nonprofit organization "exempt from Virginia public records laws. Donors have the right to request anonymity. And the university and foundation have a responsibility to respect the privacy of those donors. The state recognizes this. If not for the support of private gifts, many of our students would not have the opportunity of higher education. And many of our researchers wouldn’t be able to pursue their work without that support, either.”

UnKoch My Campus, a group fighting donor influence in academe, has previously argued that a gift, according to federal tax regulations, is defined as an “irrevocable donation made without expectation of exchange for anything of significant commercial value.” Yet a 2016 donation from the Koch foundation, related to renaming George Mason’s law school after late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, says that if the institution doesn’t live up to various provisions, the Koch foundation can end the agreement and demand the return of all unexpended funds.

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Court: Kean U Broke Law in Ending Professor's Contract

A state appeals court ruled last week that Kean University in New Jersey violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act when its Board of Trustees declined to renew a professor’s contract without first warning her of the decision, NJ.com reported.

In 2014, the board voted without discussion to terminate the contract of Valerie Hascup, an associate professor of nursing. The board also voted on personnel decisions that affected a number of other unnamed employees.

The university should have provided Hascup with a warning letter at least two weeks in advance of the meeting, according to the decision from the three-judge panel. The letter, which is called a Rice notice, would have informed Hascup of her rights to have the board discuss her employment openly at the meeting.

By holding a “silent unexplained vote,” the judges said, Kean violated the open public meetings law.

This parts with an earlier ruling from a trial court, which said the public university was acting within the law when it chose not to warn Hascup or any other university employees affected by decisions made at that board meeting.

Last week’s ruling overturns all the employment changes made in that meeting over two years ago, but Hascup’s attorney, Robert Fagella, told NJ.com he doesn’t know how that decision will play out. Fagella also said the ruling properly admonished Kean’s Board of Trustees and their “abominable” conduct.

Kean University officials objected to the outcome. A spokeswoman for Kean said they are reviewing the decision and may consider an appeal.

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