What's the future of federal push on higher education 'innovation'?

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Amid uncertainty over new administration’s stance on postsecondary education, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell exhorts colleges and other supporters of expanding postsecondary opportunity to “double down” on their work.

Some Brown U Students Removed, Threw Out Flags

Some students at Brown University removed and trashed U.S. flags that were set up last week for a Veterans Day ceremony, The Washington Post reported. The incident has set off a debate at Brown about the flag and about appropriate and inappropriate ways of showing dissent from U.S. policy and the election last week of Donald Trump as president. In this case, the issue is not just the way the flag was treated, but the vandalism of a display of flags set up by the university. A statement from the university said, "We do not condone the activities that led to the flags being removed, and destruction of property is subject to disciplinary review."

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Columbia Suspends Wrestling While Offensive Posts Investigated

Columbia University has suspended wrestling competition while the university investigates offensive posts that team members have apparently shared for years, The New York Times reported. Last week, when the posts were first revealed, the university said its team would skip a weekend competition. Now, the team will skip all competitions until the investigation is complete. The posts included racist, sexist and homophobic comments.

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Berkeley Finds Professor Guilty of Harassment

Another professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been found guilty of sexually harassing a student in violation of institutional rules, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. A five-month investigation by Berkeley found that Nezar AlSayyad, a professor of architecture, planning and urban design, spent months becoming close to, or "grooming," a graduate student before placing his hand on her upper thigh and proposing that they travel together to Las Vegas. The Chronicle found two additional allegations of harassment against the professor. In an alleged incident that happened more than 20 years ago and was never investigated, a student complained that she felt taken advantage of after she and AlSayyad had sex; a third student accused him of sexual misconduct this spring, and an investigation is pending. He is reportedly barred from teaching next semester.

AlSayyad denied all allegations of misconduct in an interview and told the Chronicle that he'd fight any suspension from teaching. He said administrators are overreacting to his case for fear of being perceived as soft on sexual harassment. Berkeley was criticized last year for not firing a professor of astronomy found to have sexually harassed a series of graduate students over many years; he eventually resigned. Another assistant professor of South and Southeast Asian studies at Berkeley is currently suing several students for defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress” after they spoke publicly about a university investigation that determined he had violated Berkeley's policies against sexual harassment. That professor is on paid leave as a review of the case is pending. A former law school dean who stepped down after Berkeley found that he harassed his assistant is suing the university, saying that he was treated more harshly that white colleagues accused of harassment because he is of South Asian descent and not a U.S. citizen. The university has said it will fight the suit.

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Debate on Michigan President's Election Statement

Hundreds of University of Michigan students have signed a petition criticizing President Mark Schlissel for, in their view, going too far in criticizing Donald Trump, The Detroit Free Press reported. Specifically, the petition cited Schlissel's comments at a campus vigil the day after the election, when he said, "Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday." The petition says that the president was unfairly characterizing anyone who voted for Trump with voting for hate. Further, it says that the statements of the president and others made pro-Trump students feel their views were not respected.

A spokesman for the university sent the newspaper an email. "This was not anti-Trump rally," the email said. "It was organized by students to bring all students together following a divisive election campaign. The Central Student Government president invited President Schlissel to be one of several speakers. Most of those who spoke at the rally were encouraging all students to come together and support each other."

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New presidents or provosts: Cincinnati State Concordia IWU Kennesaw Limerick Massey Temple West Virginia Wesleyan

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  • Graham Carr, vice president of research and graduate studies and interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at Concordia University, in Montreal, has been named provost on a permanent basis.
  • Richard M. Englert, interim president of Temple University, in Pennsylvania, has been selected for the job on a permanent basis.

UVA President Criticized for Quoting Jefferson

Some students and faculty members are asking President Teresa Sullivan to stop quoting Thomas Jefferson, CBS 19 News reported. An open letter to Sullivan said in part, "Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves. Other memorable Jefferson quotes include that blacks are 'inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind,' and 'as incapable as children of taking care of themselves.' … Though we realize that some members of our university community may be inspired by quotes from Jefferson, we also realize that many of us are deeply offended by attempts on behalf of our administration to guide our moral behavior through their use."

Sullivan responded by writing, "Quoting Jefferson [or any historical figure] does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time, such as slavery and the exclusion of women and people of color from the university."

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Incarcerated Adults Lack Literacy and Numeracy Skills

More than half of incarcerated adults lack basic numeracy skills, according to new report from the federal government's National Center for Education Statistics, which also found that one-third lack basic literacy skills.

The study also found that less than half (49 percent) of prison inmates reported being employed full-time prior to their incarceration.

The U.S. Department of Education this year began an experimental program through which 12,000 inmates around the country will be able to receive federal Pell Grants while they pursue a college credential in prison. The department chose academic programs from 67 colleges and universities to participate in the experiment, which is dubbed Second Chance Pell.

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Cornell Names New President

Cornell University named Martha E. Pollack its next president Monday, tapping the University of Michigan provost to take over in April, about a year after former president Elizabeth Garrett died of cancer.

In addition to being Michigan’s provost, Pollack holds the title of executive vice president for academic affairs. She has been in her current position at Michigan since 2013 after previously holding titles including vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, dean of the School of Information, and associate chair for computer science and engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Pollack was selected for the presidency after Garrett died of colon cancer in March. Garrett, a former provost at the University of Southern California, began serving as president in September 2015.

Hunter R. Rawlings III has been Cornell’s interim president. He will continue to hold the position through April.

Cornell’s Board of Trustees elected Pollack as the next president Monday after a presidential search committee was started in April.

“I am delighted to welcome Martha Pollack as Cornell’s next president,” Board of Trustees Chairman Robert S. Harrison said in a statement. “She is the perfect person to take the helm of Cornell at this important moment in our history. She has successfully managed a comparably complex institution and is a bold thinker who will inspire our faculty and students in Ithaca and across all of our campuses; her academic background in computer science will serve us extremely well as we open the Cornell Tech Roosevelt Island campus next year; and her familiarity with the issues facing academic medicine will be invaluable as we continue to grow Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.”

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NYU Promotes 'Deplorable' Professor

An assistant clinical professor of liberal studies at New York University who he said he was strongly encouraged by administrators to take leave after it was revealed he tweeting anonymously as “Deplorable NYU Prof” has been promoted. Michael Rectenwald, the professor, previously stated that he feared his tweets critical of the university and what he sees as overzealous campus inclusion efforts would negatively affect his bid for promotion. The university has repeatedly said that Rectenwald requested leave, and that social media activity in no way affected its actions.

Rectenwald is still on leave. A university spokesperson said Monday via email that he “received an expected promotion to the rank of clinical professor in accordance with our regular procedures; he and approximately 18 others were put up for this promotion at the same time and all were informed at the same time. … It is customary for such promotions to go forward even when a faculty member requests and chooses to take leave, as is the case here.” There are no tenured positions in liberal studies, according to the university, but the promotion comes with a raise.

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