administrators

Michael Bérubé publishes follow-up to his 1996 book about his son with Down syndrome

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Michael Bérubé publishes follow-up to his 1996 book about his son with Down syndrome. Jamie’s now a working adult who’s offered his dad, who has become a leading figure in disability studies, a whole new education.

Brigham Young to Offer Amnesty to Assault Victims

After months of criticism, protests and an internal study, Brigham Young University announced Wednesday that it will provide amnesty to sexual assault victims who disclose honor code violations. Previously students who reported being sexually assaulted could be -- and, according to many students, were -- investigated for violating the college's chastity requirement. The Mormon institution also announced that it will create a full-time Title IX coordinator position, hire a victims' advocate to work on campus, and ensure that the Title IX office and honor code office are no longer housed in the same physical space.

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Ex-Professor Must Pay Disabled Man's Family $4M

Anna Stubblefield, former chair of philosophy at Rutgers University at Newark, must pay $4 million to the family of a disabled man she was found guilty of sexually assaulting, a New Jersey judge decided this week, according to NJ.com. Stubblefield is already serving 12 years in prison following a related criminal trial. Stubblefield alleges that she and the man in question, known as D.J. in court records, were in a consensual relationship. But the man’s brother and mother say he suffers from severe cerebral palsy, has the intellectual capacity of an 18-month-old and was incapable of giving consent. Stubblefield began working with the man around 2008 via a disputed method called facilitated communication; eventually they traveled together to out-of-town conferences and published an academic paper in 2011. Stubblefield informed the family that year that the relationship had become romantic, and D.J.'s family members eventually took legal action against her.

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Details on Strike-Ending Deal With Faculty Union

New details have emerged about the strike-ending tentative agreement reached between the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the faculty union for 14 state university campuses, and the State System of Higher Education, PennLive reported. The three-year deal includes raises each year, among other changes. Current professors will get a step increase retroactive to last spring, at 2.5 percent or more for senior faculty (or cash payment for those at the top step of the pay scale), and 5 percent for junior faculty, according to PennLive. All faculty members also get a general pay increase of 2.75 percent retroactive to the beginning of this semester. Next year, the pay increase would be 2 percent. Current base salary for full-time faculty is $46,609 to $112,239. Part-timers get a minimum of $5,838 per three-credit course.

Full-time faculty members will see their health care contributions increase to 18 percent of the premium from 15 percent if they participate in the Healthy U wellness program. Contributions for nonparticipants in the wellness plan are 28 percent of the premium, up from 25 percent. Drug and office visit co-payments will increase, but health care benefits for faculty retirees not yet eligible for Medicare will be preserved. Full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members must also now be notified by May 31 if they’ll be renewed the following year, and adjuncts won’t see their workload increased by 25 percent or their pay cut by 20 percent.

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NCAA: San Jose State Coach Lied About Violations

The former head women's basketball coach at San Jose State University violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules when he allowed a transfer athlete to practice when she was still serving her year in residence and when he conducted impermissible team activities during the off-season, the NCAA announced Wednesday. The NCAA also said the "coach acted unethically when he falsely claimed to be unaware of violations in his program."

The former coach, Tim La Kose, resigned from the university in 2013. The NCAA placed the team on probation for one year and fined the university $5,000. La Kose was given a one-year show-cause order.

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Advice for ensuring boards are prepared to deal with what's ahead (essay)

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” said Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate in physics. While he wasn’t speaking specifically about governing boards, his quotation is apt. How well prepared is your board for the future, predictable or not?

Boards must work concurrently across three points of time: past, present and future. The oversight work of boards by definition is historical. Boards look to the past to understand how well the college, university or state system is performing against plans and goals. Events happen in the past that the board reviews. Did we meet our institutional objectives this past year? How accurate was the budget projection, or were there shortfalls or overages? Did the institution hit its enrollment goals?

Boards also live in the present. How is the university responding to a crisis, such as student protests, or how well is it addressing pressing issues, such as the employment conditions of adjunct faculty? What are the financial costs of a new tuition and aid policy?

Finally, boards must work in the future. They approve a five-year strategic plan, for example. But they also are stewards of the university and long-term guardians of its mission, looking well into the future. It is this third area that is most difficult, given the flux in which most colleges, universities and state systems find themselves.

While it is impossible to “futureproof” a board, assessing its strengths and potential vulnerabilities can go a long way toward ensuring that it is prepared for what’s ahead. Such assessments give board leaders and the administrators a sense of the board’s strengths and the areas where it is potentially vulnerable, and can provide a road map for improvement.

We know that boards vary in their level of functioning, in the scope of their work and in their level of sophistication. Governance is rarely uniform, and different boards will find some approaches resonate more with them than others. But here are some general ideas you might consider to help your board be prepared for the future.

Baseline Fundamentals

Certain key fundamentals support governance, and most boards should already have these in place. But some boards lack these elements and, without a firm foundation, will struggle to address future challenges.

The board chair and institutional president should easily answer the following questions, which are intended to help a board determine a baseline of its effectiveness.

  • Are there written expectations for trustees?
  • Are there mechanisms for orienting new board members?
  • Are board members asked to prepare for board meetings so they can contribute to the discourse? (For example, are key documents sent out 10 to 14 days in advance?) Do board members actually prepare for meetings?
  • Do board members physically attend all meetings, with rare exceptions? How many join by phone? And how many simply don’t show up?
  • Is it possible to tell what is most important for the institution by looking at the board agenda?
  • Does the board have a set agenda, and is it designed to promote discussion and debate about the most pressing issues?
  • Has the board (or a board subcommittee) reviewed the board bylaws within the last five years?

Performance

Boards need to know where they are performing well, where they have blind spots and where they might need to improve. As they discuss their ability to navigate the whitewater ahead, boards may wish to consider the following:

  • Time spent on meaningful issues. There are many complex issues to address and time is limited, so a board must spend it effectively and efficiently. Does the board have clear goals and objectives for each meeting? To what extent do discussions allow it to explore complicated topics? Is the meeting efficient? Does the board take the necessary time to deliberate important issues? Does it have the information it needs to govern well?
  • The use of board member talent and knowledge. Board members should be intentionally selected or invited to participate based on their talents, skill sets, knowledge and ability to work well together. To what extent is the board composed of diverse thinkers? Are the areas of expertise that the institution needs reflected in the various members of the board? How well does the board tap into the collective wisdom of its members? Does the board work together as a high-performing team? Does the board add value?
  • The relationship between the board and the president. The board-president relationship is complex, in part because of the multiple roles involved: the board oversees the president as boss, serves as a strategic thought partner and is also a coach. Does the board play these three roles well, or is it predisposed to one type of work over the others? Does the board regularly and effectively evaluate the president? Does the board listen to the president? Is there mutual trust, respect and accountability? Is there open, two-way communication and transparency?
  • Board integrity. The board should evaluate its sense of integrity as well as that of the president and college, university or system. Does the board have the capacity to ensure that both it and the institution or system it oversees are operating within the boundaries of applicable laws? Does the board have and uphold a conflict-of-interest policy? How transparent is the board in its decision making? Does the board maintain confidentiality?
  • Board member satisfaction. It is important to understand the extent to which board members believe their work has a positive impact, their level of overall satisfaction with the board, and the degree to which they find the experience rewarding. After all, these roles are voluntary. And boards want to ensure they are getting the most from their volunteers.

Other categories of possible assessment include the participation and engagement of board members, the effectiveness of board education, and the depth of board knowledge.

Furthermore, boards can assess performance in a number of ways. One approach is to look at simple yet potentially powerful questions as presented in a two-by-two matrix defined by frequency and value or impact.

Culture

Finally, to understand how well it is prepared for the future, the board should assess its culture. While it is important to understand if the board carries out its functions effectively, it is equally important to ask how the board does what it does. Its beliefs and ways of working and engaging are passed on to new trustees and can become deeply engrained, often without examination. The group itself becomes the “invisible director,” as Clayton Alderfer astutely noted 30 years ago (Harvard Business Review, Nov.-Dec. 1986) of the influence it can exert.

Effective governance demands that board members ask two questions: To what extent do we have the right board culture, given: 1) the work we have to do, and 2) the context in which we are working?

A board must also confront two challenges when assessing group culture. The first is to make something that is often invisible to those people immersed in it observable (“fish don’t know they’re in water”). The second is to find a shared language to describe culture in ways that can become actionable. This is difficult work and something with which boards and other groups have long struggled. We have designed a board culture self-assessment that accomplishes both of these. For more information, see the Penn AHEAD or Trower & Trower websites. Organizational culture is a complex phenomenon and difficult to describe succinctly and consistently. Without agreement about what one is seeking and a strategy to do that, boards will struggle on this dimension.

While it is important to assess the dimensions described here at the board level, board leaders should also identify variances within a board, because understanding the differences that exist across board members may be even more telling. How cohesive is the board and its culture? Do people have vastly different assessments of their experience, the board culture or how well the board is working? Do those differences vary by a trustee’s length of service, gender, race/ethnicity or membership on a specific committee?

Finally, boards can conduct the assessments themselves, but they may be better served by having outside experts help craft questions and make sense of the results. People with fresh eyes who are able to call things as they see them can help surface assumptions and keep blind spots in check. (Remember that reference to the fish and water?)

“The future ain’t what it used to be,” said Yogi Berra. Ensuring that your board is ready for that future begins with an understanding of where it is today.

Peter Eckel is a senior fellow and the director of leadership at the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and a trustee at the University of La Verne. Cathy Trower is president of Trower & Trower Inc., a board governance consulting firm, and a trustee at Wheaton College, Mass. Matt Hartley, associate dean and professor in Penn’s Graduate School of Education and a trustee at Widener University, also contributed to the ideas in this article.

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Outrage at Xavier U Over Racist Images

Students and administrators at Xavier University in Ohio are denouncing two racist images linked to students at Xavier and circulating on social media. One shows a woman in blackface with the tagline "who needs white when black lives matter." The other appears to show an African garment over a skeleton next to a banner supporting Donald Trump.

The Reverend Michael J. Graham posted a statement on Twitter in which he said, in part, "I am outraged and deeply troubled by recent racist images connected to Xavier students. Racist actions are unacceptable on our campus, and we have mechanisms to respond in a responsible and thoughtful manner. When one of us falls short, we all fall short." He added that "many of our students, of all races, are in pain" over the images.

The images in question follow.

Southern Idaho Pays $650K to Settle Ex-VP's Bias Suit

The College of Southern Idaho has agreed to pay $650,000 to settle a lawsuit in which a former vice president claimed she faced discrimination as a woman and an immigrant. Edit Szanto was placed on involuntary leave from Southern Idaho in 2014 after a total of 17 years at the institution, most recently as vice president for student services. She claimed in complaints to state and federal agencies and eventually in a federal lawsuit that the university treated her unfairly because of her gender and because she was foreign born.

In a statement, Idaho State said the settlement -- which was paid by its insurer -- did not admit any wrongdoing and would "limit the costs and distraction associated with lengthy litigation." (Note: This article has been corrected to identify the College of Southern Idaho as the institution in the settlement.)

Quick Departure for President of Jackson State

The board of Mississippi's public colleges on Tuesday announced that Carolyn Meyers was resigning as president of Jackson State University, effective Nov. 1. The board statement did not offer a reason for the sudden shift, but The Clarion-Ledger noted that the change comes amid scrutiny of the university's finances. In the last five years, cash reserves have dropped 89 percent, to $4.2 million.

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Survey finds ongoing budget issues in IT offices following financial crisis

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Campus Computing Survey finds lingering IT budget issues dating to the financial crisis colliding with demands for new technology and services.

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