Five More States to Create Student Success Centers

Five additional states will create statewide student success centers in an effort to help more community college students earn a credential. The announcement this week means the total number of states with such centers in place will grow to 12. This approach, begun five years ago in Michigan and Arkansas, seeks more coordination and cooperation across institutions and systems and among state policy makers on strategies that work to boost college completion.

“These centers build a cohesive approach to engagement, learning and policy advocacy across each state’s two-year institutions,” said Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of the Kresge Foundation's education program. “The colleges can then spend their resources more effectively and create reforms that help the most students possible graduate.”

Kresge and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are funding the work. Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit group, is helping to create the centers. The new states are Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Student success centers currently are up and running in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas.

Fort Wayne Faculty Rejects Plan to Split Campus

Faculty members at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne formally opposed a recommendation that the university split into two separate universities, Indy Star reported. The Faculty Senate voted unanimously this week to urge the presidents and boards of trustees at Indiana University and Purdue University to reject a recent proposal by a working group tasked by the state's General Assembly to divide the campus. The working group of Indiana, Purdue and Fort Wayne representatives voted 6-2 to approve the recommendation, but Fort Wayne Chancellor Vicky Carwein said she voted against it, according to the Star. Fort Wayne Faculty Senate President Andrew Downs, an associate professor of political science, also voted against it.

According to the working group’s recommendation, Indiana would keep control of the School of Medicine and bolster its health science and medical education programs, while Purdue would control everything else. The senate resolution says that the group’s recommendation was based on an “insufficient investigation” and lacks supporting data. Supporters of the plan say it would streamline operations and clear up who's in charge of what on campus. The recommendation goes next to the boards of trustees for Indiana and Purdue for consideration.

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U of Illinois Approves Background Check Policy for Professors

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a revised policy requiring criminal background checks for new employees, including faculty members. The new policy addresses concerns about privacy and fairness raised by faculty members on various campuses about a previous policy approved by the board in September. That policy had been prompted in part by the revelation that the Urbana-Champaign campus hired James Kilgore, an ex-convict and former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, as an adjunct instructor of global studies and urban planning.

While Kilgore had shared his record with the university and it hired him anyway, local media reports sparked backlash against that decision and questions about the university’s background check policy for all faculty members (it didn’t have one). That resulted in the adoption of the older policy, which some said was too vague, didn’t address issues of rehabilitation and repaying one’s debt to society, and could have a disproportionate impact on minority applicants.

A working group of faculty and administrators worked to review the policy, consulting with faculty governance bodies. The revisions seek to put a bigger focus on campus safety and distinguish between criminal background checks and other kinds of checks, as well as on supporting workforce diversity. Under the new policy, there is no list of crimes that automatically disqualify someone from employment. Checks yielding criminal records will be weighed against a variety of factors, such as one’s age at the time of the crime and employment record since. Checks are only done after job offers are made, contingent upon a successful result.

The Urbana-Champaign Faculty Senate approved a resolution rejecting the policy, citing residual concerns.

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Justice Department: 1 in 5 Women Sexually Assaulted in College

One in five female undergraduates have experienced some kind of sexual assault while in college, according to a new study of students at nine institutions released Wednesday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The study included survey responses from 15,000 women and 8,000 men, and defined sexual assault as including both rape and sexual battery, such as forced kissing, touching, grabbing or fondling.

The study found that 21 percent of female undergraduates said they had been sexually assaulted while in college. On average, one-quarter of female seniors reported the same, as did 7 percent of male undergraduates. In the previous year alone, 10 percent of female students reported being sexually assaulted, and 4.2 percent said they were raped. Only 12.5 percent of women who said they were raped reported the assault to colleges or law enforcement.

The study joins several others released in the last year that have consistently found that one in five female students have experienced sexual assault, lending further support to the oft-cited, but frequently contested, statistic popularized in recent years by activists and the White House. The new study, however, is unlikely to silence critics, who often argue that such surveys should focus on rape, specifically.

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Adjunct and Tenure-Line Faculty at U of Minnesota File for Union Election

Tenure-line and adjunct faculty members at the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities will soon file cards with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services asking to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced this week. The filing is the first of its kind for SEIU, in that both tenure-line and non-tenure-track faculty members -- full-time and part-time -- would be part of the same bargaining unit; up until now SEIU has mostly focused on organizing adjuncts. Teri Caraway, an associate professor of political science, said in a statement that faculty members “want to work with the administration as equal partners to help them resist the pressures that divert resources from our classrooms and labs. We are not forming a union in search of a bigger paycheck, but because our working conditions have deteriorated as resources for teaching and research have dwindled and the proportion of tenured positions has declined.”

Kathryn Brown, Minnesota’s vice president for human relations, said the via email that the "university wants to continue working directly with faculty on governance and terms and conditions of employment. We believe the current governance structure gives faculty a strong voice and it will continue to be effective in the future."

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Kent State Prof Probed for Possible Ties to ISIS

The associate professor of history at Kent State University who made headlines in 2011 for shouting “Death to Israel!” at a campus event is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for possible ties to ISIS, ABC News reported. News of the investigation into Julio Pino was first broken by Kent State’s student newspaper, KentWired, according to ABC.

Emily Miller, a student editor, said the FBI questioned her about Pino because she has interviewed him for news articles in recent months. “A joint terrorism task force has been investigating Pino for the last year and a half, said an FBI special agent who did not wish to be named for safety reasons,” Miller wrote in KentWired. “The agent said they interviewed several faculty members and more than 20 of Pino’s students Tuesday about his alleged involvement. He is also being investigated for allegedly recruiting students to join ISIS.”

Pino denied the allegations against him in an email to Inside Higher Ed, saying, "My only commitment is to serve my students as guided by the light of knowledge. I have no ties to any political organization, nor do I recruit for any cause." A university spokesperson confirmed that he is still teaching at this time. Kent State said in a statement that it is cooperating with an ongoing investigation, and said the FBI had assured it there was no threat to the campus.

In a separate campuswide email, President Beverly Warren said it would be “imprudent” to speak further about an ongoing investigation, but the university continues to find Pino’s past comments “reprehensible and counter to our core values of civil discourse and respect.” Pino gained notoriety after the 2011 incident, which took place during a public lecture on campus by Ishmael Khaldi, an Israeli former diplomat. Many colleagues criticized him at the time, saying both his statement and his attempt to disrupt an invited speaker were outside the bounds of scholarly debate.

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New presidents or provosts: Dixie Duquesne Idaho Lake Sumter Marion Mississippi Pikeville West Liberty Widener

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  • Charlotte Borst, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Whittier College, in California, has been chosen as president of the College of Idaho.
  • Kenneth G. Gormley, dean of the law school at Duquesne University, in Pennsylvania, has been selected as president there.

National Science Board Releases Indicators Report

The U.S. is still the world’s leading science and engineering enterprise, but China is quickly closing that gap, according to a the National Science Board’s 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators report. China accounts for 20 percent of global research and development, while the U.S. accounts for 27 percent, but China’s investment in science and engineering grew 19 percent annually on average from 2003-13, greatly outpacing U.S. investment.

The U.S. invests the most in research and development, produces the most advanced degrees in science and engineering and high-impact scientific publications, and remains the largest provider of information, financial and business services, according to the report. But Southeast, South and East Asia continue to grow in terms of science and engineering, accounting for 40 percent of global investment, according to the report.

Indicators also notes that China has made significant progress in science and engineering education. It’s the world’s top producer of undergraduates with degrees in science and engineering, accounting for 49 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded there. That’s compared to 33 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded in the U.S. University degree production has grown most rapidly in China in recent years -- more than 300 percent from 2000-12. But the U.S. continues to award the largest number of science and engineering doctorates and remains a destination for international students, according to the report.

“Other countries see how U.S. investments in [research and development] and higher education have paid off for our country and are working intensively to build their own scientific capabilities,” Dan Arvizu, the science board’s chair, said in a statement. “They understand that scientific discovery and human capital fuel knowledge- and technology-intensive industries and a nation's economic health.”

Despite ongoing challenges with federal investment in research and development, Americans have favorable views toward science, according to the report. At the same time, they are losing faith in U.S. K-12 STEM education, compared to other nations.

About half of Americans say science makes life “change too fast,” and the country remains divided on global warming. Still a majority of Americans say they want more focus on alternative energy development.

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Court: Some Pennsylvania Professors Must Have Background Checks

Faculty members at Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities teaching introductory, 100-level courses must complete criminal background and child abuse clearance checks, according to a state court. The decision reverses -- in part -- a suspension of such checks imposed in September, after the Association of Pennsylvania State College and Universities Faculties challenged the State System of Higher Education’s new policy requiring all faculty members to complete them. That policy resulted from a change in state law, which was later amended to apply to only educators teaching minors. But the university system sought to keep the broader background check policy applying to all faculty members it already had adopted. The faculty union was successful in part, Penn Live reported, in that the recent decision says faculty members teaching upper-level courses, in which legal minors are less likely to be enrolled, do not have to submit to such checks. The policy can’t be applied universally until an arbiter or the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (or both) decide whether the university system has the managerial right to impose the requirement, according to Penn Live. The faculty union responded by asking the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to reconsider the lower court's decision. 

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New NCAA rules allow athletes to interact more freely with professional sports

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New NCAA rules allow basketball players to enter the draft multiple times and let baseball players hire agents.


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