administrators

Texas Bill Would Regulate Public College Bathrooms

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick on Thursday introduced and said he would push legislation -- similar to a controversial North Carolina law -- that would bar public colleges and universities from letting transgender people use multiple-unit bathrooms other than those associated with their biological gender at birth. Patrick is a Republican and his position is a powerful one in Texas. Civil rights groups have vowed to fight the bill and have noted that the North Carolina law has led many organizations to move events outside the state. Further, they note that the law would violate the Obama administration's interpretations of federal law -- although those interpretations currently face court challenges and are likely to be withdrawn by the incoming Trump administration.

Many public colleges and universities nationally permit transgender students to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities.

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Kentucky Legislature Moves to Revamp Louisville Board

Kentucky's State Senate passed a bill Thursday to replace the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees and change the way its members are appointed, echoing an attempt made by Governor Matt Bevin last year that was blocked by a judge and prompted accreditation trouble for the institution.

The bill, which passed with Republican support on a mostly party-line vote, would allow Bevin to appoint a new, 10-member Board of Trustees drawn from a nominating commission's recommendations. Bevin's nominations would then need to be confirmed by the Senate.

The Senate's president, Robert Stivers, introduced the bill, saying it is intended to fix long-running issues at Louisville, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. He added that in the future he intends to introduce a bill requiring Senate confirmation for all state university board members. Democrats, however, said the Louisville measure was being rushed through after it was unexpectedly added to a bill related to dog ownership.

If Kentucky's House of Representatives approves the measure, Bevin could sign it into law right away because of an emergency clause.

The legislation comes after Bevin attempted to reconstitute Louisville's board in June through executive order, a move blocked months later by a judge who called it inconsistent with statutes governing higher education in Kentucky. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges then placed Louisville on probation in December, months after warning that the attempted board changes put the university at risk of falling out of compliance with several standards, including those governing external influence and due process for dismissing board members.

Bevin has appealed the judge's ruling against his executive action. The new legislation's backers said it would nullify the issue. Kentucky's attorney general, who took Bevin to court over the board reconstitution, argued the new bill could cause additional accreditation problems.

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UBC Apologizes for Rescinding Speaker's Invitation

Santa Ono, president of the University of British Columbia, this week released a statement apologizing to John Furlong (right) for the cancellation of a speech he was scheduled to give a scholarship fund-raising event. Furlong was CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and was widely praised for his work to make the event a success. But when word spread that he was going to speak at the UBC event, some First Nations groups (those representing indigenous Canadians) circulated an open letter criticizing the appearance. The letter cited allegations -- which Furlong has denied -- that he was abusive to First Nations children he taught at a school in 1969 and 1970.

Canadian authorities have said that they have investigated the allegations and that they did not result in charges. Many have criticized the university for effectively lending credibility to the allegations by withdrawing the invitation.

Ono's statement said that organizers of the fund-raising events erred in withdrawing the invitation for Furlong to speak.

"UBC made this decision in good faith, but without proper consideration of its potential impact on Mr. Furlong or his family. While this decision was made without my knowledge or that of the UBC Board of Governors, I deeply regret this error and have apologized to Mr. Furlong on behalf of UBC. We do so again here," said Ono. "While some take issue with Mr. Furlong, he also has a great number of supporters in the community, and there can be no question over his record of public service and his extraordinary contributions to amateur sport, to B.C. and to Canada. There is also no question that he deserved better in UBC’s handling of this matter. At root, the university’s decision making throughout this matter did not meet the standard I am eager to instill. While a modern university should neither court nor shy from controversy, our decision making should be the result of a robust deliberative process."

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Two For-Profits Must Pay Restitution to Students

A Minnesota judge this week ruled that Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business, two embattled for-profits, must pay restitution to more than 1,200 defrauded students, reported the Star-Tribune.

The state's attorney general, Lori Swanson, had sued the for-profits, alleging they had misrepresented job opportunities for graduates of their criminal justice programs. A court agreed last September, finding the two institutions had engaged in consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices.

Following that ruling, the U.S. Department of Education last month cut off the flow of federal financial aid to the two for-profits.

The institutions said in a statement that they are considering an appeal. In the meantime, they will continue to work with regulators while winding down academic programs.

"The court’s final order was limited to one program -- criminal justice -- which has not been offered for more than two years and which represented no more than 4 percent of the schools’ overall student population at any given time," the institutions said. "We are disappointed that the court’s findings, based on the testimony of only 16 students, have resulted in such significant harm to the education and degrees of tens of thousands of students and alumni."

Note: This article has been updated from a previous version to add a statement from the two institutions.

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Wisconsin-Madison Criticized for Men's Discussions

Republican legislators in Wisconsin last month threatened to cut funds from the University of Wisconsin at Madison for offering a course on race relations called The Problem of Whiteness. University officials have defended the course and denied allegations that the course denigrates white people.

Now the same legislators are criticizing a voluntary six-week program at Madison, in which men talk about masculinity, and saying that should be cut as well. “Our friends at UW Madison not happy enough with labeling 'whiteness' as a societal problem, now are attacking another societal ill … men and their masculinity,” said an email from State Senator Steve Nass to The Capital Times.

A press release from the university said that the program (similar to those at many other colleges) "operates on a transformative model of social justice allyship. First, facilitators ask students to consider how the students’ opinions about masculinity affect their own perceptions every day. Second, they consider how those opinions affect the people around them. Finally, the program examines how those perceptions affect the whole campus community."

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Ethics Panel Reprimands Wright State Trustee

The Ohio Ethics Committee has reprimanded Michael Bridges, president of the Wright State University Board of Trustees, for helping his son get a job at the university's research arm, The Dayton Daily News reported. While the ethics committee did not find evidence that Bridges forced the hiring, it said that he broke state law when he emailed his son's résumé to a potential supervisor and helped schedule interviews. The director of the research institute later recommended creating a new position for the son. The ethics panel reached an agreement with Bridges not to seek prosecution in return for his accepting “a public reprimand from the commission” and his pledge “to not participate in any employment matters related to his son or any other family member employed by WSU.”

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Minnesota Fires Coach Who Backed Player Boycott

The University of Minnesota has fired its head football coach, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday. The coach, Tracy Claeys, faced intense criticism last month after his players threatened to boycott the Holiday Bowl over the suspension of 10 teammates who had been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing a female student.

"Have never been more proud of our kids," Claeys wrote on Twitter after the boycott was announced. "I respect their rights [and] support their effort to make a better world!" Even after the boycott ended, Claeys continued to say he supported his team, saying that the tweet "was all about [him] supporting their actions to try to improve the due process." Following the coach's comments, local sports columnists questioned whether Claeys should have his contract extended, faculty members publicly condemned his comments by calling the tweet “a terrible thing” and a petition called on the university to fire the coach.

The boycott initially attracted sympathy from many alumni and those concerned about issues of due process, but support for the university's stance grew as details emerged about what happened to the female student, in particular after a redacted version of the university's equal opportunity office's report on its investigation was published online. Contrary to the team's comments, the 80-page report shows that the football players were interviewed, their assertions were considered and they were not all judged equally responsible for what happened. The report also details why the university found that four of the players engaged in sexual assault and others engaged in forms of harassment, such as videotaping the victim without her consent. None of the players face charges for the alleged assault.

"I made a difficult decision today on behalf of the University of Minnesota," Mark Coyle, Minnesota's athletic director, said in a statement Tuesday. "With the support of Board of Regents leadership and President Eric Kaler, I have decided to take the Gophers football team in a different direction with new coaching leadership. I determined that the football program must move in a new direction to address challenges in recruiting, ticket sales and the culture of the program. We need strong leadership to take Gopher football to the next level and address these challenges."

The coach's earlier comments in support of the team's boycott, Coyle said, were "not helpful."

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Presidents should recognize that a college's success is a group effort (essay)

Roger Martin advises new presidents that, while strong leaders surely make a difference, a college’s success can’t be attributed to any one person.

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Advice to boards and presidents on how to avoid forced separations (essay)

Messy breakups between colleges and universities and their presidents made headlines again this summer. Trustees have accused presidents of poor judgment, unapproved and unauthorized spending, lack of professionalism, and inadequate goals and objectives. The separations played out in public, and many of them required a legal resolution.

But litigation costs are only a fraction of the harm done to both the college and the president in these kinds of terminations.

The reputations of both the college and the president are damaged by the controversies. Stories that portray a board as not supporting its president will probably cause future candidates for leadership positions at the college to think twice about applying. Community supporters and donors may withdraw support from the institution in response to the negative press that often accompanies the termination of employment of top leadership. For their part, presidents who are fired often have trouble overcoming the damage to their careers and successfully securing a leadership position at a different college or university.

Sometimes, the breakups occur early in the president’s tenure. In 2016, the president of Lake Michigan College was ousted after only three months on the job. Others may occur later in the president’s tenure, perhaps after contentious campus issues, difficult financial decisions or the election or appointment of new trustees.

What can trustees, presidents and candidates for presidencies do to reduce the chances of such a forced separation?

The first consideration for both the board and candidate is one of fit. From the board’s perspective, it’s important to ask if the candidate is the best choice to meet the needs of the college. When a presidential vacancy occurs, the board should take the time to assess current institutional challenges, problems and opportunities. Before beginning a search, it should review the college’s mission, goals and strategic plan, and then it should agree on the characteristics and capabilities needed in a new leader. The outcome of that review should shape the position announcement, guide the search committee and determine advertising venues, screening criteria, interview questions and questions for references.

Before making a hiring decision, trustees should, where possible and with the candidate’s authorization, consider sending representatives to the institutions or organizations where the finalists are employed to talk directly with people who work with the candidates. Responses to trustee questions can be most helpful in determining fit.

Trustees bring different perspectives to their positions, so they may not all agree on a final choice for president. But the board should try hard to reach a consensus. Any implication of lack of confidence in the choice of a president can present problems for both that person and the college -- and increase the chances of a breakup.

From the President’s Perspective

When applying for a presidential position, the candidates must be as concerned about fit as the search committee and the board. They need to understand the needs and culture of the college, its current challenges and opportunities, and the culture of the community. Too many new presidents have been surprised by financial problems, pending litigation, personnel problems, labor strife or political issues. If problems must be addressed, does the candidate feel they have the experience and ability to deal with them -- and will the board support the president in tackling those difficult issues?

Candidates should view the interview as a two-way assessment and can often get a feel for the issues confronting the institution from the questions they’re asked. They should also talk to people who know the college and its issues, as well as review documents such as accreditation reports, financial audits, board meeting minutes and academic senate meeting minutes. A search for local newspaper or online articles can also be informative.

Candidates also must be concerned about the culture of the community. Some communities are more racially diverse than others. Some have deep religious traditions, while others are more secular. Some are urban, some are rural and some are suburban. Economies and culture can be based on agriculture, manufacturing, energy, chemical processing, tourism, technology, health care, higher education, policy development, mining and many other industries. Some communities are economically depressed or losing population, perhaps with community and state leaders focused on transforming the economy.

In addition, candidates should assess the strength of the college leadership team. Will changes need to be made? If so, will the board support the president in making them? And how does the candidate feel about the board itself? Is this group one that the candidate feels comfortable with? Did the board express a consensus opinion in the selection? If the board was divided, the career risk for the president will be elevated.

Easing the Transition

Some activities related to welcoming a new president should take place before that person arrives. For example, if the board sees a need to remodel the president’s office or to upgrade his or her residence (if one is provided), it is best to allocate the necessary resources before that individual is on the job. If the board wishes to schedule an inauguration to introduce the new president to the community, the board should make the decision in advance of the president’s arrival. New presidents who get involved with the details of remodeling their own homes or offices or of planning inaugurations run the risk of alienating the campus community -- especially during times of tight budgets.

The new president and board should schedule a retreat or workshop as soon as possible after the president arrives to develop a common set of goals for the president. If the board gives the president no direction -- or worse yet -- if individual trustees have different expectations for the president, there will likely be trouble ahead. The board at Lake Michigan College cited inadequate goals and objectives as one of the reasons for precipitously firing its president.

The board should also periodically schedule facilitated retreats or workshops. At those meetings, away from the demands of regular board meetings, trustees and the president can set goals for themselves, evaluate their progress in meeting those goals, and assess whether the college is advancing toward its vision of the future.

Evaluation of the president is one of the board’s most important responsibilities, and an annual formal evaluation is the key way to provide a unified and clear sense of direction. Boards need to understand that presidents must deal with conflicting demands, insufficient resources, hectic schedules and long hours. Progress toward some college goals may take longer than expected, especially when other priorities emerge. And while a president should always strive to maintain a positive institutional climate, the board’s evaluation must be more than a reflection of his or her popularity.

Colleges that have been identified as the best are those with long histories of strong and stable leadership at the board and president levels. Positive relationships between boards and presidents do not develop accidentally. They must be continually nurtured and developed. By understanding the expectations that boards hold for them, presidents can provide the leadership colleges need. And messy breakups can be avoided.

George R. Boggs is superintendent/president emeritus of Palomar College and president and CEO emeritus of the American Association of Community Colleges. He is an adjunct professor in the community college leadership doctoral programs at San Diego State University and National American University.

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Cuts in Positions and Salaries at Antioch College

Antioch College has announced that it is dealing with budget shortfalls by eliminating five positions and cutting the salaries of 23 senior administrators, The Yellow Springs News reported. The president and four other senior administrators are taking pay cuts of 20 percent, while other administrators will see their salaries cut by 5 percent. Fund-raising at the college, which was revived in 2011 after being shut down, has not met targets. Nor has enrollment. This academic year, only 45 new students enrolled, while the target was more than 80. Total enrollment stands at 220.

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