administrators

Kennesaw Presidency May Go to Opposed Candidate

Students and faculty members have been mobilizing against the rumored candidacy of Sam Olens, Georgia's attorney general, for the presidency of Kennesaw State University. On Monday, state officials acknowledged that they are considering Olens and not planning a national search. Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, acknowledged Monday that Olens would interview for the job today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “Initially, I was planning to conduct a national search to find the next president of Kennesaw State,” Huckaby said in an email to KSU students and faculty. “Yet, through sincere and earnest conversations with Mr. Olens, I now believe he should be considered at this time.”

Critics have said that the position deserves an open, national search. Many have also criticized anti-gay stances Olens has taken, and his lack of experience in higher education administration.

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Clinton Campaign Criticizes Mandatory Arbitration

As part of a broad statement on corporate regulation, the presidential campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton on Monday criticized the use of mandatory arbitration agreements in higher education. Some colleges, primarily in the for-profit sector, require newly enrolling students to agree to settle any disputes through arbitration rather than through a legal challenge. Consumer groups and some congressional Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have said the companies' approach to arbitration often is unfair to students.

The Obama administration recently sought to ban mandatory arbitration agreements for all federal-aid-eligible colleges, as part of a proposed set of rules aimed at clarifying and expanding students' options for applying to have their federal loans forgiven. Clinton appears to support that move, saying mandatory arbitration clauses too often tilt the playing field to corporations.

"When the for-profit Corinthian Colleges collapsed, leaving thousands of students saddled with student loan debt, students were generally unable to sue because they had unknowingly signed away their right to take the school to court," the campaign said.

Some major for-profits, including DeVry Education Group and the Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, in recent months have voluntarily ended their use of the arbitration agreements.

Researcher Denied Immunity in Harassment Case

A federal court has upheld an earlier court decision denying a researcher qualified immunity in a former student’s sexual harassment case against him and the University of Minnesota. The plaintiff, Stephanie Jenkins, was a Ph.D. candidate in natural resources and wildlife management at the university, and she's been public about her case. She alleges that starting in 2011 during a research trip to the Alaskan wilderness, Ted Swem -- then a scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Fairbanks assigned as her mentor for field research -- began to sexually harass her, repeatedly telling her, for instance, that he wanted to kiss her and date her, and taking a picture of her buttocks and calling it “scenery.” He allegedly encouraged her to drink alcohol at night and joked about sharing a tent.

Jenkins repeatedly denied his advances, according to the suit. Jenkins was assigned a shared office with Swem back on campus that fall at Minnesota, where he was working on a one-year research agreement. He allegedly continued to seek a relationship with Jenkins but refrained from sexual comments. Jenkins still tried to avoid being alone with Swem, according to the suit, working elsewhere. She eventually told her academic adviser about the alleged harassment and was transferred to a different office, though it wasn’t fully usable for some time, according to the suit.

In early 2012 Jenkins resigned from the university and has since been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The university has argued that Swem was not one of its employees at the time of the alleged harassment, while Swem has argued that he, as a federal actor, should not be personally liable in legal proceedings.

A panel of judges in a U.S. District Court in a decision released Monday reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Swem was not entitled to such immunity. “Although disputes of facts remain, when the facts relied on by the District Court are considered in the light most favorable to Jenkins, she sufficiently showed that Swem’s conduct toward her was unwelcome harassment, and that it was serious enough to alter a term or condition of her employment,” the decision says. “She also showed that Swem’s conduct violated a clearly established right [not to be sexually harassed], based on the particular facts of this case.” Swem could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Law: California CCs Must Negotiate With Adjuncts

In a win for part-time faculty members at California community colleges, Governor Jerry Brown on Friday signed into law legislation mandating that college districts negotiate with adjuncts over re-employment and termination rules, The Sacramento Bee reported. The legislation is a pared-down version of an earlier bill that would have guaranteed a workload for long-serving adjuncts. It nevertheless has significant support from part-time faculty members who seek consideration of seniority in reappointments and increased job security.

“There are over two million students in California community colleges, and part-time faculty play a critical role in their success,” Jose Medina, a Democratic assemblyman who proposed the legislation, said in a statement. “By improving employment practices for part-time faculty, this legislation will benefit both these dedicated educators and their students.”

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2 North Carolina A&T Students Killed at Party

Two students at North Carolina A&T University were shot and killed Sunday morning at an off-campus party. The Greensboro News & Record reported the local police said the two students who were killed -- Alisia Dieudonné, 19, and Ahmad Campbell, 21 -- were innocent bystanders when a fight broke out.

Harold S. Martin Sr., chancellor of the university, sent a message to students Sunday in which he expressed condolences to the friends and family members of the slain students. "Both Alisia and Ahmad were actively involved in campus life and vitally important members of the Aggie family," he wrote. He added that "this incident is extremely disturbing. Violence on or near our campus is unacceptable."

The university held a campus forum on safety issues Sunday afternoon, where officials urged students to stop attending off-campus house parties. "I plead with each and every one of you not to go to these house parties," said Mark Williams, the university's dean of students, according to a report in the News & Record. "I know there are party promoters that pay students to host these house parties. I don't know that that happened in this situation, but do not host these parties."

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Seattle U Says It Will Challenge Adjunct Union Vote

Seattle University is challenging the recently announced results of an election in favor of a part-time faculty union. “The issue is a jurisdictional one,” Father Stephen V. Sundborg, president, said in a statement Friday. “It involves a higher principle: the constitutionally protected right of Seattle University, as a faith-based institution, to carry out our core Jesuit Catholic educational mission free from government intrusion by the [National Labor Relations Board]. It is a right that we believe is important to the university and our Jesuit Catholic character to uphold.”

The union election took place in 2014, but ballots were impounded as the university challenged the rights of its adjuncts to bargain collectively. It argued that its Roman Catholic affiliation put it outside the jurisdiction of the NLRB, but a major 2014 board decision in favor of an adjunct union bid at Pacific Lutheran University opened the door to adjunct unions at religious institutions. A local NLRB office eventually decided that Seattle’s adjuncts could count their ballots, and the tally -- 73 for and 63 against -- was announced earlier this month.

Sundborg said in his statement that Seattle is not opposed to unions, and many of its employees already are unionized. The problem is faculty unions in relation to the college’s religious mission, he said. “For example, would the university be required to hire faculty openly hostile to our Jesuit way of teaching and Catholic identity?” he asked. “Would the university be prohibited from removing a faculty member who seeks to undermine our core religious identity?”

The faculty union is affiliated with Service Employees International Union. “We see the administration is doubling down on their specious claim of religious exception, by trying to pass off economic issues as religious issues,” Ben Stork, adjunct professor of film studies at Seattle, said in a news release. “In reality this is about not wanting to pay for the basic labor that the university runs on.”

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Kansas to End Grad Student Insurance Subsidies

Graduate student employees at Kansas public universities will lose health care subsidies starting next year, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The Kansas Board of Regents attributes the change to a recent notice from the Internal Revenue Service that providing subsidized health insurance to graduate students may violate the Affordable Care Act; in 2013 the IRS said that employer payment plans cannot be mixed with individual insurance coverage, meaning that employers can’t give employees money to purchase insurance on the individual market. Institutions may continue offering subsidies through this academic year, according to the IRS.

Graduate students in Kansas are worried about possible spikes in health care coverage costs when and if they have to start buying their own next year, according to the Capital-Journal. The University of Missouri announced that it was canceling health insurance subsidies for graduate student employees in 2015, for similar reasons. Graduate students protested the last-minute notice and the university eventually reversed its decision, pledging to continue offering students subsidies through this academic year. It's developing a plan for next year.

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Helping international students deal with work authorization problems (essay)

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Alfreda James describes the challenges of dealing with the questions and behaviors of a generation without a legal or welcoming home.

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Universities launch Zika prevention efforts in Florida and across the U.S.

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Florida colleges are facing the greatest danger, but experts say institutions everywhere must plan for possible risks, too.

Senate at Lincoln U of Missouri Criticizes Provost

The Faculty Senate at Lincoln University in Missouri voted 88 to 18 Thursday that it lacks confidence in Provost Said Sewell, ABC 17 News reported. The vote followed numerous questions raised by faculty leaders over the state of shared governance at the university. A particular concern has been a plan to shutter the history department, a move that faculty leaders said was made without sufficient consultation with professors and that is antithetical to the mission of the historically black institution. Lincoln declined to respond to Thursday's vote.

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