Submitted by Paul Fain on October 22, 2015 - 3:00am
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doled out $416 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill overpayments during the 2014 fiscal year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found in a new report. The VA provided $10.8 billion in GI Bill benefits to 800,000 student veterans last year. But overpayments affected about one in four veteran beneficiaries, according to the GAO report. As of November 2014 the VA still was collecting $152 million in overpayments from last year and another $110 million from previous years.
Enrollment changes and college errors are primary drivers of the overpayments, the GAO said. And inadequate guidance, processes and training have limited the VA's ability to reduce overpayments. Many veterans may not realize they can incur overpayments as a result of enrollment changes, because the VA gives them limited guidance on its policies, according to the GAO.
Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, responded to the report with a written statement. He said the VA typically fails to account for when a student changes enrollment status during the course of a semester. That means when a student drops a class, the resulting overpayment to the college can result in the veteran unknowingly owing a sizable debt to the federal government.
"I'm concerned the VA’s current system for administering Post-9/11 GI benefits is too confusing, and that the burden for repaying overpayments falls disproportionately on veterans, many of whom may be unaware that they may have been given too much money and owe it back," Carper said. "Ultimately, we must ensure that we are not, through poor management of this program, placing yet another barrier to success in front of veterans trying to get a high-quality education."
The VA accepted the GAO's recommendations for fixing the problem and has begun working on making those changes.
Ben Carson, among the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, on Wednesday renewed his call for federal monitoring of colleges' potential political bias. Appearing on Glenn Beck's radio show, Carson was asked if he favored shutting down the Education Department. Carson surprised his host by saying that he had a job for the department. That job: "It would be to monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and to deny federal funding" when such bias is found. His campaign staff did not respond to a request from Inside Higher Ed for a definition of the type of bias that merits denial of federal funds.
The exchange starts at about 3:26 of the video below.
In a rare move of coordinated reproof, leaders of the faculty governance bodies of eight Big Ten universities are rallying around their counterparts at the University of Iowa -- decrying the lack of faculty consultation that went into the university's most recent presidential search. And at Iowa, the protests are continuing.
The Iowa Board of Regents selected the businessman Bruce Harreld as the institution's next president, despite widespread faculty opposition to Harreld's candidacy. Shortly after the selection, the Faculty Senate at Iowa passed a vote of no confidence in the governing board, saying the selection showed "blatant disregard for the shared nature of university governance."
Now leaders of the faculty governance bodies at eight of Iowa's Big Ten colleagues have signed a statement supporting the no-confidence vote. The statement was signed by leaders of the faculty groups at Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue Universities, and the Universities of Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska at Lincoln, Wisconsin at Madison and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Principles of shared governance dictate that the voice of the faculty, which carries out the core mission of the university, is accorded considerable weight in all important decisions of university governance. In appointing Bruce Harreld as the president of the University of Iowa against overwhelming opposition from the faculty, the Board of Regents, state of Iowa, appear to have violated these principles," the statement reads. "We call on the Board of Regents, state of Iowa, to adhere to the principles of shared university governance and to ethical behavior and transparency."
At Iowa on Wednesday, hundreds of protesters interrupted a Board of Regents meeting, chanting, "Resign, resign," and urging board members and Harreld to quit, The Gazette reported. While board members didn't in fact resign, protest organizers said that they would continue their efforts.
Tarleton State University, in Stephenville, Texas, says that it followed proper procedures in the events leading up to the resignation of Jeff William Justice, a former assistant professor of social science accused of performing a self-mutilation-based ritual in front of students. “Tarleton’s highest priority is the welfare of our students,” Cecilia Jacobs, a university spokeswoman, said via email. “These allegations were taken seriously and an investigation was promptly launched, during which time Dr. Justice was placed on administrative leave. In the midst of the investigation, Dr. Justice offered his resignation and it was accepted.”
The university had no additional comment on the allegations, but Inside Higher Ed obtained a campus police report. It is based on a complaint from a single student who says that Justice invited several students to his home and drank alcohol with them before complaining that he was sore from hanging by spikes in his chest from a tree branch in order to pray to the sun. He allegedly hung from the tree twice before the students left. The student who filed the complaint allegedly returned at a later date at Justice’s prompting, out of fear it would it affect his class grade if he did not. The student said he got scared and left, then talked to his father, who helped him report it to campus police in May.
Justice, who is no longer at Tarleton, could not immediately be reached for comment. The event was first reported by the Texan News Service, Tarleton's student newspaper. In a statement from Justice posted to the newspaper’s website, Justice denied giving alcohol to minors, but said he had attempted to harm himself in front of students due to severe depression, for which he is seeking treatment.
East Stroudsburg University must uphold an arbitrator’s decision that it reinstate and reimburse for lost wages a professor denied tenure by the university president, according to a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decision.
John Freeman, a former assistant professor of chemistry at East Stroudsburg, appealed through his union the president’s determination that he did not deserve tenure because he hadn’t sufficiently progressed as a scholar. (He was denied tenure by the previous president two years earlier and was allowed to reapply, when he was again reject by the new president, Marcia Welsh.) As dictated by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty-negotiated union contract, Freeman’s case eventually went to arbitration. The arbitrator decided that the university had violated the contract when Welsh denied Freeman tenure without reviewing the recommendations of the department chair and the universitywide tenure and promotion committee, and also by improperly consulting the provost.
The arbitrator said Freeman should be reinstated as a professor with the ability to reapply for tenure, to be determined by a neutral third party. The university challenged the arbitrator’s decision in court, which found that the president had indeed violated the terms of the contract by not consulting previous reviewers’ recommendations and by consulting with the provost.
The collective bargaining agreement “prescribes a detailed procedure by which faculty committees and department chairpersons are to submit written tenure recommendations to the president within specific time frames,” Judge Rochelle S. Friedman wrote in her opinion. “While the president may ultimately disagree with those recommendations, he or she cannot make a decision without first considering them. … [The contract] expressly permits the president to ‘act independently’ on a tenure decision only ‘if the committee(s) fail [sic] to act within the time limits specified’” for submitting recommendations to the president. Friedman also rejected East Stroudsburg’s claim that limiting the president’s authority would violate public policy.
A university spokesperson said administrators were reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. William H. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said via email the decision’s major takeaway is that it “rested on the negotiated language concerning the tenure review procedures in the collective bargaining agreement. The excerpt of the at-issue contract provision, set forth in the court’s decision, supports the conclusion that a final decision to grant or deny tenure is to be based, in part, on a review of the positive recommendations.”
Submitted by Jake New on October 21, 2015 - 3:00am
The University of Alaska at Fairbanks "failed to follow [its] student discipline policies" in cases of campus sexual assault, the university's interim chancellor wrote in an open letter Tuesday.
"Like so many universities, our reported sexual assault statistics have been so low as to be implausible, especially when we know that sexual assault is so prevalent in Alaska," Mike Powers, the university's interim chancellor, wrote. "We investigated reports of rape, and often took informal action like removing the accused from dorms or campus. But, until recently, students were not being suspended or expelled for sexual assault, or for any major violation of our code of conduct. That is not acceptable and sends the wrong message to victims and perpetrators of this heinous violence."
The university became aware of its "inconsistent disciplinary practices" last year, Powers said. The university is one of more than 100 institutions currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights for possibly mishandling cases of campus sexual assault. "We, like so many other universities, lost our way and are finding our path forward," Powers wrote.
Submitted by Jake New on October 21, 2015 - 3:00am
The Pacific 12 Conference will now feature athletes as a subgroup in its voting governance structure, the Pac-12 Council, the conference announced Tuesday. The group, called the Student Athlete Leadership Team, includes two athletes from each of the 12 member institutions, with 12 students attending every council meeting. "The perspective from our student athletes and their contribution to our policies and processes is critical as we push forward a bold agenda to address issues and preserve the best of college athletics," Larry Scott, Pac-12 commissioner, said in a statement.
The Pac-12 is the first major college athletics conference to include athletes in its formal governing process. Last year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's five wealthiest conferences -- including the Pac-12 -- began allowing athletes to vote on legislation at the NCAA's annual meeting.