Duke Graduate Employees Withdraw Union Petition

Graduate student employees at Duke University on Tuesday withdrew their petition to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union. The union organizing committee in a statement said the move was “not a decision to quit fighting — rather, it is a recognition that the source of our strength is not lawyers or litigation, but our collective knowledge, power and experience as graduate student workers.” 

Vote counting for a recent union election at Duke was delayed over some 500 challenged ballots. The preliminary tally, not counting those disputed votes, was 398 for and 691 against unionization. 

The National Labor Relations Board decided in August that graduate student employees on private campuses are entitled to collective bargaining. Since then, a union vote at Harvard University proved inconclusive, while a majority of voting departments at Yale University approved "micro-unit" union bids. Students at Columbia University and Loyola University at Chicago voted to form unions.

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President of Calvin College writes a response (essay)

A recent piece in Inside Higher Ed on Calvin College by Susan Resneck Pierce was disappointing to me on numerous levels. It characterizes Calvin as an academic community indifferent to teaching traditional academic skills such as critical thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, Resneck Pierce selectively pulled one element without context from our Expanded Statement of Mission but failed to even reference the actual Calvin mission statement, which is to “equip students to think deeply, act justly and live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.” This selective cherry-picking was not present as she described the mission statements of other institutions in her piece.

In addition, while it is certainly true that Calvin seeks to ensure that the values that guide our teaching and scholarship will be Christian, at Calvin we also contend that it is possible to be simultaneously grounded in a Christian worldview and capable of critical thinking. A recent example might serve to illustrate my point.

In a March 1, 2017, piece on Calvin on The Atlantic, Jane Zwart, a Calvin English professor, said, “When you hear a phrase like ‘the kingdom of God’ around here, the point is that the world belongs to God -- which is not the same thing as the world belonging to those of us who believe in God, to those of us who are Christians … the kingdom of God does not thrive on exclusion; it chokes on exclusion … It thrives when we remember that Jesus wanted to make every last one of us a sibling and that, in consequence, we need to treat every person as a sister or a brother.” Calvin is not perfect, but Zwart gives a passionate account of our aspirations.

Baylor historian Thomas S. Kidd believes that “Christian colleges and universities may be the best educational institutions today for fostering real political diversity.” In the midst of a season of tremendous uncertainty and considerable political polarization, this is more important than ever, and at Calvin we believe we possess an opportunity in our teaching, scholarship and service to model civic and public discourse that meets arrogance with humility, hatred with love, bluster with wisdom, falsehood with truth, injustice with justice, ignorance with learning.

That none of the depth and nuance of Calvin came out in the recent Inside Higher Ed piece is unfortunate, so we think it’s important to try to create a fuller picture of the college. You are also welcome to visit Calvin anytime to learn even more.

Michael K. Le Roy is president of Calvin College.

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Smaller institutions report increase in personalized phishing attempts

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Smaller institutions report an increase in sophisticated attempts to gain access to financial and personal information.

Report documents white supremacist activity on campuses

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Report documents 107 incidents at colleges and universities in the current academic year.

Delay in Gainful Employment Deadlines

The U.S. Department of Education on Monday announced roughly three-month delays to deadlines for colleges to submit appeals or public disclosures under the gainful employment rule, Obama administration performance standards for the ability of graduates of vocational programs to repay their federal student loans.

The rule applies to for-profits and nondegree programs at community colleges and other nonprofit institutions. Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have signaled that they will seek to roll back gainful employment.

The department's announcement this week means colleges have until July to submit appeals to academic programs' debt-to-earnings ratios. The deadline had been this month. Likewise, colleges will have until July to meet a previously set April mark for updating their public disclosures for 2017 rates. The Obama administration in December had announced a delay to a template for programmatic disclosures under the rule.

The Trump administration's Education Department said in a written statement that it decided to make the new delays to "allow the department to further review the gainful employment regulations and their implementation."

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Princeton Students and Faculty Members Participate in Day of Action

Hundreds of students and faculty members participated in teach-ins and attended talks at Princeton University Monday as part of a day of action to address political challenges currently facing the U.S. and the world. A number of panels were critical of policies of the Trump administration, but organizers said the event was open to those of all political persuasions and ideologies. They encouraged other campuses to follow their lead in taking time to engage in action-oriented discussions about the current political climate.

“The goal of the day is to reaffirm the responsibilities of a community devoted to scholarship, the use of knowledge for the common good, and the ideals of diversity, democracy and justice,” said Sébastien Philippe, a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering and president of Princeton Citizen Scientists.

Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, who delivered a talk on U.S. immigration policy and the proposed border wall, said that he wanted to participate because “illegal migration has been net zero or negative for nine years now. Border apprehensions are at their lowest point since 1971. Building a wall at this point makes no sense at all. It is simply a symbolic affront to our southern neighbors and a bone to the Republican base.”

John Cramer, university spokesperson, said via email that Princeton didn’t sponsor the day of action but “applauds the effort by students and faculty to study, discuss and learn about important national public policy issues and what those issues mean for the Princeton community and the principles of equality, diversity, freedom and justice.”

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Study details tool to help professors measure the amount of active learning happening in their classrooms

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Study details tool to help professors measure how much active learning is happening in their classrooms.

USA Funds Becomes Strada Education

United Student Aid Funds, often called USA Funds, this week announced a name change, to Strada Education Network. The nonprofit former guaranty agency began a restructuring in 2013, which shifted its focus to supporting college completion and success after college.

“We are proud of our work of promoting financial access to higher education during the past half century,” William Hansen, Strada Education president and CEO, said in a written statement. “But the challenges facing higher education, as well as the evolving needs of our nation’s work force and economy, compel us to direct our attention to helping more students succeed in postsecondary education and graduate with the skills and competencies they need to smoothly transition to their careers and lives following graduation.”

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Art College President's $9.6 Million Pay Package

Paula Wallace, president of the Savannah College of Art and Design, earned $9.6 million in 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper's report on nonprofit compensation found Wallace to be the highest-paid college leader and the eighth-highest-paid employee of an American charity.

The $9.6 million included a base salary of $859,000, a bonus of $1 million and $7.5 million in deferred payments. However, Wallace's annual pay at the nonprofit SCAD has topped $1 million every year since 2008. She earned more than $19 million from the college and its affiliates between 2008 and 2014, according to the report.

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NLRB Office: Columbia Grad Union Vote Was Valid

A National Labor Relations Board office rejected Columbia University’s objections to a recent graduate employee union election Monday, recommending that United Auto Workers be certified as the students' collective bargaining representative. Columbia has challenged its graduate employees’ right to form a union at all, but also lodged specific complaints with the NLRB about the December election. Those included that UAW employees were too close to one of the polling sites on election day. The local NLRB office decided, however, that the mere presence of union agents within the vicinity of an election, absent evidence of coercion or other objectionable conduct, does not warrant throwing out the results.

The local office also found uncompelling Columbia’s claim that the election was invalid since voters did not have to show identification, in part because the university only presented evidence that four ballots may have been affected. Votes supported unionization by a much bigger margin, with 1,602 in favor and 623 against. Columbia has until later this month to file exceptions to the decision. The Columbia graduate student union, which includes teaching and research assistants, on Twitter called the decision an affirmation of its “historic election.” Graduate students at private institutions have long faced legal challenges in seeking collective bargaining, but a major national NLRB decision last year in favor of Columbia graduate students who hoped to organize paved the way for such unions.

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