University of Southern California creates new Center on Race and Equity

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The University of Southern California will bring the University of Pennsylvania's Shaun Harper to campus, as well as several of Penn's initiatives, with big plans for a nationwide campus climate survey.

Historians make predictions and recommendations and explore their role in the Trump era

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Scholars debate what his election means, whether efforts to band together as a discipline to oppose him were wrong and what the future may hold for their field.

Diversity Group Urges Senate to Reject Sessions

The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity on Saturday released a letter urging the U.S. Senate to reject President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general. The group includes many campus diversity and equal opportunity officers, and the letter highlighted a Sessions quote on affirmative action from 1997. At the time, he said, "I think it has, in fact, been a cause of irritation and perhaps has delayed the kind of movement to racial harmony we ought to be going forward [with] today. I think it makes people unhappy if they lost a contract or a right to go to a school or a privilege to attend a university simply because of their race." The diversity group's letter says that Sessions has continued to espouse such views, in particular when rejecting some of President Obama's judicial nominees. This view, the group says, distorts affirmative action in implying that colleges are accepting or rejecting candidates based on race alone.

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Georgia System Plans Two More Mergers

The University System of Georgia is continuing to merge institutions -- although these mergers typically involve maintaining multiple campuses. The system announced plans last week for two new pairs of institutions to be merged. Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University would be merged under the Georgia Southern name. Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Bainbridge State College would be merged under the Abraham Baldwin name. Details on the plans may be found here.

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Some at Suffolk Get Extra Pay -- and Must Repay It

Some employees at Suffolk University last week found an extra paycheck had been deposited in their bank accounts through direct deposit, The Boston Globe reported. But the university now says that was a mistake and that employees must repay the money. The problem was blamed on a switch in payroll systems.

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Texas Bill Would Regulate Public College Bathrooms

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick on Thursday introduced and said he would push legislation -- similar to a controversial North Carolina law -- that would bar public colleges and universities from letting transgender people use multiple-unit bathrooms other than those associated with their biological gender at birth. Patrick is a Republican and his position is a powerful one in Texas. Civil rights groups have vowed to fight the bill and have noted that the North Carolina law has led many organizations to move events outside the state. Further, they note that the law would violate the Obama administration's interpretations of federal law -- although those interpretations currently face court challenges and are likely to be withdrawn by the incoming Trump administration.

Many public colleges and universities nationally permit transgender students to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities.

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Kentucky Legislature Moves to Revamp Louisville Board

Kentucky's State Senate passed a bill Thursday to replace the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees and change the way its members are appointed, echoing an attempt made by Governor Matt Bevin last year that was blocked by a judge and prompted accreditation trouble for the institution.

The bill, which passed with Republican support on a mostly party-line vote, would allow Bevin to appoint a new, 10-member Board of Trustees drawn from a nominating commission's recommendations. Bevin's nominations would then need to be confirmed by the Senate.

The Senate's president, Robert Stivers, introduced the bill, saying it is intended to fix long-running issues at Louisville, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. He added that in the future he intends to introduce a bill requiring Senate confirmation for all state university board members. Democrats, however, said the Louisville measure was being rushed through after it was unexpectedly added to a bill related to dog ownership.

If Kentucky's House of Representatives approves the measure, Bevin could sign it into law right away because of an emergency clause.

The legislation comes after Bevin attempted to reconstitute Louisville's board in June through executive order, a move blocked months later by a judge who called it inconsistent with statutes governing higher education in Kentucky. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges then placed Louisville on probation in December, months after warning that the attempted board changes put the university at risk of falling out of compliance with several standards, including those governing external influence and due process for dismissing board members.

Bevin has appealed the judge's ruling against his executive action. The new legislation's backers said it would nullify the issue. Kentucky's attorney general, who took Bevin to court over the board reconstitution, argued the new bill could cause additional accreditation problems.

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UBC Apologizes for Rescinding Speaker's Invitation

Santa Ono, president of the University of British Columbia, this week released a statement apologizing to John Furlong (right) for the cancellation of a speech he was scheduled to give a scholarship fund-raising event. Furlong was CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and was widely praised for his work to make the event a success. But when word spread that he was going to speak at the UBC event, some First Nations groups (those representing indigenous Canadians) circulated an open letter criticizing the appearance. The letter cited allegations -- which Furlong has denied -- that he was abusive to First Nations children he taught at a school in 1969 and 1970.

Canadian authorities have said that they have investigated the allegations and that they did not result in charges. Many have criticized the university for effectively lending credibility to the allegations by withdrawing the invitation.

Ono's statement said that organizers of the fund-raising events erred in withdrawing the invitation for Furlong to speak.

"UBC made this decision in good faith, but without proper consideration of its potential impact on Mr. Furlong or his family. While this decision was made without my knowledge or that of the UBC Board of Governors, I deeply regret this error and have apologized to Mr. Furlong on behalf of UBC. We do so again here," said Ono. "While some take issue with Mr. Furlong, he also has a great number of supporters in the community, and there can be no question over his record of public service and his extraordinary contributions to amateur sport, to B.C. and to Canada. There is also no question that he deserved better in UBC’s handling of this matter. At root, the university’s decision making throughout this matter did not meet the standard I am eager to instill. While a modern university should neither court nor shy from controversy, our decision making should be the result of a robust deliberative process."

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Two For-Profits Must Pay Restitution to Students

A Minnesota judge this week ruled that Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business, two embattled for-profits, must pay restitution to more than 1,200 defrauded students, reported the Star-Tribune.

The state's attorney general, Lori Swanson, had sued the for-profits, alleging they had misrepresented job opportunities for graduates of their criminal justice programs. A court agreed last September, finding the two institutions had engaged in consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices.

Following that ruling, the U.S. Department of Education last month cut off the flow of federal financial aid to the two for-profits.

The institutions said in a statement that they are considering an appeal. In the meantime, they will continue to work with regulators while winding down academic programs.

"The court’s final order was limited to one program -- criminal justice -- which has not been offered for more than two years and which represented no more than 4 percent of the schools’ overall student population at any given time," the institutions said. "We are disappointed that the court’s findings, based on the testimony of only 16 students, have resulted in such significant harm to the education and degrees of tens of thousands of students and alumni."

Note: This article has been updated from a previous version to add a statement from the two institutions.

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Wisconsin-Madison Criticized for Men's Discussions

Republican legislators in Wisconsin last month threatened to cut funds from the University of Wisconsin at Madison for offering a course on race relations called The Problem of Whiteness. University officials have defended the course and denied allegations that the course denigrates white people.

Now the same legislators are criticizing a voluntary six-week program at Madison, in which men talk about masculinity, and saying that should be cut as well. “Our friends at UW Madison not happy enough with labeling 'whiteness' as a societal problem, now are attacking another societal ill … men and their masculinity,” said an email from State Senator Steve Nass to The Capital Times.

A press release from the university said that the program (similar to those at many other colleges) "operates on a transformative model of social justice allyship. First, facilitators ask students to consider how the students’ opinions about masculinity affect their own perceptions every day. Second, they consider how those opinions affect the people around them. Finally, the program examines how those perceptions affect the whole campus community."

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