Purdue Backs Down on Changes in Policy on Time Off

Purdue University announced Monday that it was backing down on planned changes in the policies about paid time off. The university proposed a system that it said would be more straightforward than the current system, but employees counted the days and found that their possible paid time off would shrink. On Friday, hundreds packed a meeting to express frustrations over the plan. On Monday, the university sent a letter to employees saying that the planned changes would be put on a "pause." While changes haven't been determined, the letter said that in revised plans, "the number of allotted days will be increased."


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Grinnell Asks to Be Investigated by Office for Civil Rights

Grinnell College, a private liberal arts college in Iowa, has preemptively asked the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to investigate how it has handled cases of sexual assault. OCR is currently investigating more than 100 institutions for potential Title IX violations, but Grinnell is not on that list. “If Grinnell has fallen short at any point, I want to know about it now, continue to address the problems, and make things right for our students,” Raynard Kington, the college's president, said in a statement announcing the request. “This is not possible to ascertain in the court of public opinion, but it is possible with OCR’s review and guidance."

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Documentary on campus sexual assault drops claim that 35 colleges declined interviews

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The film originally claimed that the "presidents or chancellors of UNC, Harvard, Notre Dame, Florida State, Berkeley, Occidental and more than 35 other schools all declined to be interviewed." It's no longer making that claim.

Study Notes Demands on Institutional Research

Institutional research offices, at the campus and system levels, are facing increased pressure, but are not generally being provided with the resources they need, according to a new study by the National Association of System Heads. The report notes that IR offices were once viewed by many as assuring compliance with various regulations about submission of data. Increasingly, however, these offices are central to institutional and state efforts to track student completion, performance and other education-related metrics.

But the report expresses fears that these offices aren't receiving the full support (financial and otherwise) that they need. The field is "at best unevenly positioned to support change," the report says. Data that could be meaningful are in many cases not collected or not collected in ways that promote analysis, it adds. The overall ability of IR offices to look at data in ways appropriate to the needs of higher education is "nascent at best," the report says.


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UNC board kills 3 centers amid criticism that the action violates academic freedom

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Vote follows vocal protests and sets off more opposition. Head of poverty research center, one of the targets, announces that he has raised private money to continue work -- and dares board to try to stop him.

Study finds gains in college administrators' salaries

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Senior officials see salary gains, with those at public institutions having slightly larger raises.

Essay says life of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh should inspire college presidents to speak out

I grew up in the era of remarkable college presidents, individuals who were seen as public intellectuals. These leaders -- Derek Bok, Kingman Brewster Jr., A. Bart Giamatti, the Reverend Theodore Hesburgh -- spoke out on issues that extended far beyond their campuses. As they saw it, contributing to the larger public conversation on critical issues of their time was part and parcel of their role both as college/university presidents and in the years thereafter. Voices like this are disappearing, a point made all the more relevant and poignant with the passing of Father Hesburgh last week at age 97. Today’s educational leaders are vacating the bully lectern -- even on issues related to their own campuses.

With the increased craziness in current events, the void in presidential voice has become increasingly obvious. But the need for it could not be greater. Think: terrorism, young people turning to lives of violence here and abroad, Ebola, cheating in a professional sport, gridlock in government, lack of trust in police, and the beheadings of journalists and relief workers, to name but a few of the issues before us. Where are the voices of presidents of institutions of higher learning who can provide some moral grounding or an intellectual compass?

What accounts for the silence? It is obviously not one reason. One powerful argument is that speaking out on national and international issues is not the role of college and university leaders in the 21st century. The job, instead, is to run a campus as an effective business, keeping our myriad of constituencies (like shareholders) happy.  

Speaking out can alienate faculty or students or parents or trustees or community members. It can impair revenue generation. We need to mediate these differing perspectives, regularly smoothing feathers and finding balance among irreconcilable positions. For public institutions, we need to please politicians if we want institutional funding, if we want a workable board, if we want state grants for students. 

Adding to all this is the impact of social media; it has transformed the consequences of our speaking out; our words get truncated into short sound bites; our positions take on a life of their own, with little opportunity to clarify or rectify or inform. And even when needed corrections are made, they are hardly noticed.

I get it. It is easier and safer to be silent. The job of a college/university president is hard enough without speaking up and out. We know that even when we speak out on issues related to our institutions, which some presidents are doing, we risk being subjected to considerable criticism (often nasty and mean-spirited) and even termination. And the heat is rising: legislation was just introduced in Kansas that seeks to bar professors (and one assumes presidents) from using the titles they hold at public institutions in any op-eds they write -- quite the silencing device.

Yet, as educational leaders turn inward, we are simultaneously teaching our students the value of multiple perspectives, the importance of rigorous but civil debate, the interrelationship of the disciplines that cannot and should not be cabined into silos in real life. We are encouraging them to deal with new people and new ideas, and encouraging experimentation and innovation and risk taking. We want our students to engage actively in the local community, literally feeling and understanding the value of serving others. We want them to see their obligations to the larger world -- voting, sorting through vast quantities of data in search for truth, among other things. With a degree, we preach, comes responsibility. We argue that problem solving and critical thinking are what we teach across the disciplines, educating the thoughtful leaders of tomorrow. We pay homage to Jefferson’s notion that our democracy depends on an educated populace.

But it’s ironic. As presidents and in our lives thereafter, we are being disingenuous. We are doing one thing and teaching another. We are not acting as role models for our students -- from the top down. What we ask of our students should be the minimum of that which we ask of ourselves. We challenge our students to become their best selves. This means that as presidents and leaders, we have to speak up and out on the critical issues of our day. We may not have some unique lock on wisdom, but we certainly do not have less insight than others who voice their views. 

That’s why, when I was a sitting president, I spoke out on Ray Rice’s behavior and how it was handled by the National Football League. I spoke out on the government shutdown. I spoke out on women's leadership issues after the book Lean In was published.

When I was a college president, I had a piece of art by Rachel Kerwin outside my door. Amid a swirl of black and gray and white, the word “SPEAK” appears dead center in capital letters. I always said this was to remind students, faculty and staff to share openly what was on their minds when they came into my office, something that is rarely easy. It also served another purpose: reminding me to speak out, no matter how hard or risky that is. It still does.

Karen Gross is the former president of Southern Vermont College.

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Rachel Kerwin
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Bentley U. Adjuncts Approve Union Bid in Second Round

Adjunct faculty members at Bentley University in Massachusetts voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union following an earlier, narrow vote against unionization, they announced Thursday. Adjuncts approved the bid by a 2-to-1 margin; their new bargaining unit of 220 adjuncts joins four other SEIU part-time-faculty unions in the Boston area: those at Boston, Lesley, Northeastern and Tufts universities. (Note: This sentence has been updated from an earlier version to include Boston University.) Organizers at Bentley attributed their about-face since the last Bentley union vote in 2013 in part to seeing adjuncts on other campuses form unions and, in the case of Tufts, gain wins in their contract. Bentley released a statement about the vote saying that while it “consistently stated its belief that having a union is not in the best interest of the faculty or the university, the university will, of course, bargain in good faith over the terms and conditions of employment for unit members."

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New presidents or provosts: Creighton La Verne Miami Missouri SBVC Stellenbosch Waikato

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  • Phyllis Callahan, dean of the College of Arts and Science at Miami University, in Ohio, has been named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs there.

A President Unafraid of a Snow Shovel

An Eastern Kentucky University student, responding to quite a bit of snow in the area last week, sent President Michael Benson this message on Twitter:

Much to the student's surprise, the president sent a message to ask his address. And then Benson stopped by, with a shovel. At Eastern Kentucky, the president does what it takes to get students to class.

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