Essay on decision to become a provost

Terri E. Givens describes her decision, six years after returning to a faculty job, to become a provost.

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U of Kentucky Will Overhaul Body Donation Program

The University of Kentucky has pledged to overhaul its body donation program, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Like most universities with medical schools, Kentucky uses donated bodies as teaching tools, and encourages such donations. The pledge for improvement followed a report in the Herald-Leader that some body remains were being left to sit for three to five years before burial. Currently 235 cremated remains have not been buried.

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Campuses need to be prepared to produce sexual assault surveys (essay)

“The first step in solving a problem is to name it and know the extent of it -- and a campus climate survey is the best way to do that.” -- The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

Campus climate surveys have become an important tool for universities in the battle against sexual assault on campus.

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, in its April 2014 report “Not Alone,” gave the higher education community a strong hint by writing: “We urge schools to show they’re serious about the problem by conducting the survey next year.”

The task force characterizes regular climate surveys as “a best-practice response to campus sexual assault” and recommends that schools use them to examine the prevalence and incidence of sexual assault on campus, and to assess students’ perceptions of a university’s response to sexual assault.

In the wake of the task force’s report, although climate surveys are not yet required by law, colleges would be ill advised to ignore the drumbeat of support for climate surveys by the federal government.

Here are five things you should know about campus climate surveys.

1. They Will Be Mandated. The task force’s suggestion that schools conduct climate surveys is one of several signals that surveys soon will be required as part of a Title IX/Clery Act compliance program.

Beginning with the University of Montana in 2013, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has made conducting climate surveys a standard requirement in resolution agreements it enters into with schools to resolve Title IX complaints. In addition, a bipartisan group of legislators recently reintroduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, S 590, HR 1310. This bill would require schools to administer “a standardized online survey of students regarding their experiences with sexual violence and harassment” every two years.

Thus, whether de jure or de facto, institutions can count on soon being required to conduct climate surveys.

2. Model Surveys Are Being Developed. The task force included a detailed campus climate survey tool kit with the “Not Alone” report, including sample questions, and selected Rutgers University to pilot the survey. Rutgers has been posting what its team has been learning here and plans to publish a revised survey suitable for widespread use.

The Association of American Universities, an organization of 60 U.S. research universities, is conducting its own survey with 28 members, which will be identical for each participating campus except for five questions that will address campus-specific issues.

Since each campus has a unique culture, it is important to keep in mind that the examples developed by other schools and groups are just that -- examples. Some institutions opted out of the AAU survey because they preferred to conduct a survey tailored to their particular cultures.

Another institution, the University of Alaska, made sure to include questions addressing online harassment in its March 2015 survey, due to its large online-learning community. Colleges with limited resources can begin with the task force’s sample survey (or another model) and adapt the questions to their unique settings to assure the most meaningful results possible.

3. Participation Is a Challenge. CASA would require schools to have an “adequate, random and representative sample size of students” complete the biannual campus surveys. This vague standard may be challenging; an informal review of the results of recent school surveys indicates that 19-25 percent of students participated. Obvious questions exist about whether the students who participate represent a true cross section or are motivated by personal experience with sexual misconduct.

Institutions will have to work creatively to promote the surveys to an often apathetic student body (some designs include incentives for participation, such as nominal gift cards and drawings for larger prizes).

4. How the Surveys Will Be Used Remains an Open Question. A poll of 620 college presidents conducted by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup in 2014 revealed discomfort with mandated surveys, which is likely grounded in several factors.

First, climate surveys are still works in progress (only 21 percent of the presidents indicated that their schools had constructed a survey within the previous two years), and their validity and reliability remain unproven.

Second, as expressed by the American Council on Education in comments on CASA last year, it is unclear for what purpose a climate survey would be used: “Is it intended as a consumer information tool, an institutional improvement tool, an enforcement mechanism or some combination of all three?” The answer to this question could have a substantial impact on how a survey is designed and on how schools and others react to its results.

Underscoring concerns about how results would be used, CASA would require surveys to include questions about how reports of sexual violence were handled, and results to be published by the individual institutions and the Department of Education.

The publication of survey results could have wide-ranging implications -- from reputational harm to enforcement activity. But one can legitimately question whether, for example, negative responses in an anonymous survey with limited participation would truly reflect a systemic problem or an isolated instance.

Other questions relate to the degree, if any, that OCR and courts would consider schools to be “on notice” of a problem reflected in survey results, and the validity of side-by-side comparisons of schools using different survey instruments.

Ideally, these questions will be addressed before surveys are mandated but, as written, CASA would require schools to complete a survey within one year of its enactment.

5. Climate Surveys May Uncover Blind Spots. Despite the potential pitfalls with mandated climate surveys, they can generate valuable data points for schools looking to learn about the success of their efforts to combat sexual violence.

For example, in late January, George Washington University released the results of a 2014 survey that revealed that 80 percent of the students responding did not know how to contact the Title IX coordinator or the university’s sexual assault response team.

The survey results may simply reflect a general challenge in communicating sexual violence resource information to students -- the information might not be important to students until it is needed.

Still, this eye-opening result gives GW valuable insight and will encourage it to communicate the information through additional or alternative means.

Consider these five issues as you plan for your own campus climate survey.

Scott A. Coffina is a partner in Drinker Biddle & Reath’s white collar criminal defense and corporate investigations practice group. Rachel M. Share is a litigation associate at Drinker Biddle & Reath.

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U of Virginia Board Extends President's Contract

The board of the University of Virginia has extended the contract of President Teresa A. Sullivan by two years, through 2018, The Washington Post reported. Sullivan was named president in 2010, and narrowly avoided ouster by some board members in 2012, but a protest movement by students, alumni and faculty members kept her in office. In recent months, Sullivan's contract negotiations have taken place against a backdrop of difficulties for the university -- such as the now discredited article in Rolling Stone about an alleged rape -- that were not of Sullivan's making. While board members expressed strong support for Sullivan in extending her contract beyond 2016, they included a clause that would permit her term to end in fall 2017 if a successor has been selected. One board member -- Helen Dragas -- abstained from the vote. She led the effort to oust Sullivan in 2012.

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College sports leaders worry about NLRB ruling and Jenkins lawsuit

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At a Knight Commission meeting about the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit, discussion turns to fears about other upcoming court and labor board rulings.

New presidents or provosts: Austin Peay Bethany ECU Mountain View Richmond St. Clair Spring Hill Swarthmore Va Wesleyan

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  • Ronald A. Crutcher, former president of Wheaton College, in Massachusetts, has been selected as president and professor of music at the University of Richmond, in Virginia.
  • Patti France, senior vice president for college operations at St. Clair College, in Ontario, has been promoted to president there.

Columbia Student Brings Mattress to Graduation Event

Despite the administration's attempt to ban "large objects" from Columbia University's Class Day ceremonies Tuesday, a student carried a mattress with her on stage in protest of the university's handling of sexual assault complaints.

Emma Sulkowicz has carried the mattress around campus all year as her senior art thesis and was expected to bring the mattress with her to the Class Day ceremony, an event separate from the main commencement ceremony. The day before the ceremony, the university sent an email to Columbia's seniors, warning them of a new rule that barred students from bringing "large objects which could interfere with the proceedings or create discomfort to others in close, crowded spaces shared by thousands of people."

Sulkowicz brought the mattress on stage with her anyway, prompting cheers from the crowd. Her alleged rapist, a fellow graduating senior who was never charged and is suing the university for allowing the art project to go on, was listed on the Class Day program. Many students and activists praised Sulkowicz for seeing her project through to the end. Other students criticized the university for not forcing Sulkowicz to follow the rules it set.

“We communicated to all students that the shared celebratory purpose of Class Day and commencement calls for mutual respect for the security and comfort of graduating students and their families in attendance,” Columbia said in a statement. “We are not going to comment on individual students; it is a day for all members of the Class of 2015. We were not going to physically block entry to graduates who are ultimately responsible for their own choices.”

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Dispute on Arts and Sciences Deficit at Ohio State

Faculty members and administrators are arguing over the roots of a $10 million deficit facing the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State University, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Administrators said that more students are arriving at college having completed some general education requirements in high school, meaning that enrollments in arts and sciences programs are lower. Many faculty say the university isn't admitting enough students who want to study the humanities. The university says that while applications are up from students who want to study the humanities, the increases are larger for other fields.

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'Mutual Parting of Ways' at Portland Community College

Portland Community College, in Oregon, on Monday announced that President Jeremy Brown was leaving. “This is a mutual parting of the ways,” said a statement from Deanna Palm, board chair. “The board and Dr. Brown realized they were each heading in different directions and have agreed to this separation in service.” The Oregonian noted that Brown will receive $300,000 as part of an agreement with the college. He started as president there two years ago.

Florida Atlantic U offers academic advising in parking garages

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Florida Atlantic University has turned two parking garage security booths into academic advising offices for commuter students.


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