Cornell Grad Students Form Unrecognized Union

Graduate student workers at Cornell University voted to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, they announced Thursday. The election took place outside National Labor Relations Board channels and the university has not recognized Cornell Graduate Students United. There’s a federal labor law precedent against graduate student worker unions at private colleges -- Cornell is private, although it operates some units of the State University of New York -- but the union says it would like to be recognized by the university anyway, outside of litigation. (New York University recognized its United Autoworkers-affiliated graduate student union, for example.) If that doesn't happen, the Cornell union says, it will explore various options to further student workers’ goals, which include increased stipends, workers’ compensation, six- and seventh-year funding, and more say in university affairs.

Joel M. Malina, a Cornell spokesperson, said in a statement that graduate student workers are not considered employees under federal labor law since “their relationship with the university is primarily educational. As a result, they do not have the right to union representation or to engage in collective bargaining. Cornell will follow the law.” If the law changes, he said, and graduate student workers still want a union, “such considerations are ultimately a matter for Cornell graduate assistants to decide through the appropriate process, which may include a legally sanctioned election should a sufficient number of graduate students request one.”

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Dean Performs Heimlich on Provost

Levi Esses, Newman University’s dean of students, on Tuesday noticed Provost Michael Austin coughing and, as soon became apparent, choking, The Wichita Eagle reported. Fortunately, Esses knows the Heimlich maneuver and was able to dislodge a piece of candy on which the provost was choking. Austin was, of course, appreciative. On Wednesday, he quipped that “provosts should not try to walk and chew at the same time.”

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Regents Met Iowa President Before Official Interview

Emails between newly selected University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld and Iowa's Board of Regents reveal that Harreld met with multiple board members in July, weeks before candidates were formally interviewed by the 21-member presidential search committee.

Bruce Rastetter, president of the Board of Regents, confirmed in a statement that Harreld met with four board members on July 30 in Ames, Iowa. Harreld sent his résumé -- which has since been critiqued by faculty members for inaccuracy -- to regents in advance of their meeting. He also visited Iowa's health system on July 8. That day he gave a lecture to hospital administrators and had lunch with Rastetter and three search committee members.

"I especially appreciated your candor and perspective on the challenges and opportunities at UI," Harreld wrote to one regent after their July 30 meeting. "As we discussed, institutions only go up or down. It's clear many critical elements are in place to enable UI's next leader to take the institution to the next level."

That regent, Mary Andringa, wrote back to Harreld and encouraged him to apply for the presidency: "Crisis necessitates change -- it may be the big challenge that can energize you in the next five years!"

The revelation of these meetings further fuels concern among some faculty and staff at Iowa that Harreld's eventual selection was a done deal even before he and three other candidates were announced as finalists earlier this month. Harreld was selected as Iowa's next president, effective November, despite widespread faculty, student and staff opposition.

In his statement, Rastetter defended board members' meetings with Harreld. "The purpose of these meetings, which were at Mr. Harreld’s request, was for him to become more informed about the expectations the board had for the next president of the University of Iowa," he said.

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Will a University Kill Its Prairie Dogs?

Nearly 140,000 people have signed an online petition opposing a “Buddhist-inspired” university’s pursuit of permission to exterminate a community of prairie dogs living on one of its campuses. The petition’s web page features a picture of an adult and juvenile prairie dog and a caption underneath that reads, “Mommy, I heard Naropa University is going to have all of us killed.”

Naropa University, a private, nonprofit college in Boulder, Colo., did indeed apply for “a lethal control permit,” per local news site Daily Camera. But university officials said they have no plans yet to exterminate the 100 or so prairie dogs and were rather hoping the application process would help them find a place to relocate the animals.

"We were legitimately hoping that this would spur the community to help us identify some slots and I would say that we are deeply disappointed that despite making all these great efforts, not one option came forward," said Bill Rigler, a Naropa spokesman.

The fact that a lethal solution is even on the table, though, riled the nonprofit preservation group WildLands Defense, which sponsored the petition.

"It is a Buddhist university and the fact that a Buddhist university would even apply for a lethal application for prairie dogs is totally against any Buddhist concepts," Deanna Meyer, Colorado director for WildLands Defense, told Daily Camera. "You don't do that. You don't kill animals. So that inspired a lot of people, like, 'Are you kidding me? A Buddhist university is going to kill the native populations there? Why?'"

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Iowa Faculty Group Censures Incoming President

The Faculty Assembly of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa on Wednesday voted to censure J. Bruce Harreld, the incoming president who was selected by the Iowa Board of Regents over the objections of faculty groups. While other faculty bodies have condemned the Board of Regents, this is the first faculty vote censuring Harreld. The vote was over discrepancies in his résumé that his supporters have dismissed as minor issues.

The resolution states: "Whereas the University of Iowa holds all members of the campus community to the highest ethical standards; whereas it is our academic duty to teach and model the highest ethical standards to our students; whereas professional ethics and responsibility in any field require accurate and honest self-presentation on a résumé; whereas incoming President Harreld’s résumé inaccurately claimed the position of managing principal of a company, Executing Strategy, LLC Avon, Colorado, that does not exist; whereas Incoming President Harreld’s résumé fails to cite co-authors for nine of 12 items listed as his publications (as prohibited in University of Iowa Operations Manual Section II.27.10.e Violation 1); the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Assembly censures incoming President Harreld for his failure of professional ethics."

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Does College President Need a Private Locker Room?

Robert Breuder, president of the College of DuPage, is already on leave and could lose his job over criticism of his spending decisions. Now The Chicago Tribune has uncovered a relatively small spending decision compared to others, but one that critics say symbolizes what was wrong about his leadership. After DuPage, a community college outside Chicago, spent $24 million to upgrade a fitness facility, Breuder had a family changing room converted to a private locker room available only to him and to two other senior administrators. Documents obtained by the Tribune show that this was a priority item for Breuder, who declined to comment. A sign outside the locked room says "Authorized Personnel Only."

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Carnegie Corporation Honors 4 Presidents

The Carnegie Corporation of New York today is announcing four college and university presidents who are winners of this year's Academic Leadership Award, which provides $500,000 to each winner's institution to carry out their academic initiatives. The prize is unusual in that it honors presidential leadership with a substantial cash award. The winners for 2015 are:

  • Ronald J. Daniels of Johns Hopkins University
  • Patricia A. McGuire of Trinity Washington University
  • Diana Natalicio of the University of Texas at El Paso
  • C. L. Max Nikias of the University of Southern California
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U of Wisconsin Official Takes Temporary Federal Post

Deb Bushway, the interim associate dean at the University of Wisconsin-Extension, has joined the U.S. Department of Education as an adviser to Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the department said Wednesday. Bushway will focus on innovation in higher education during her post, which is temporary.

The role appears similar to one recently vacated by Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University. LeBlanc spent three months as an unpaid adviser to Mitchell. His focus included two experimental sites projects -- on competency-based education and on partnerships between traditional institutions and noncollege providers, including boot camps, online course providers and corporate training entities. The experiments waive some requirements for participation in federal aid programs. The department this week said it will release further guidance for the competency-based education one, and the feds plan to announce the alternative provider project soon.

Bushway is an expert on competency-based education. Prior to arriving at Wisconsin, where she has worked on a direct-assessment competency-based education program that does not rely on the credit-hour standard, Bushway worked as chief academic officer and vice president of academic innovation at Capella University. She helped develop the direct-assessment degree tracks at Capella, a for-profit chain. Bushway also previously worked at Minnesota's Metropolitan State University.

"Having an experienced, respected practitioner voice at the table when policy is being made is enormously helpful," LeBlanc said in a written statement. "Deb can bring institutional realities to bear in ways that help the department and those it regulates."

The department in the past has tapped officials who work at colleges as temporary advisers. In 2012 Karen Gross, who was then president of Southern Vermont College, served in a similar role at the department. Even so, some critics said LeBlanc's appointment raised at least the appearance of a conflict of interest, because Southern New Hampshire was among the first institutions to start a competency-based program.

Divinity School Cancels Talk by Palestinian Activist

Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School rescinded a speaking invitation to a Palestinian rights activist after he received death threats and a Jewish organization raised concerns over his past statements, according to The Democrat and Chronicle.

The Reverend Graylan Hagler, a senior minister of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, said he didn’t ask for the additional security that Colgate Rochester insisted it would need, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester said its officials did not specifically ask that the event be canceled.

Still, “after certain concerning facts came to light,” Colgate Rochester President Marvin McMickle said in a statement, the college is “no longer prepared to allow this lecture to take place.”

Among the items brought to the college’s attention: this video of Hagler speaking at a rally and a call, attributed to Hagler, to “dismantle the state of Israel.” (More collected here by the organization Roc4Israel before Colgate Rochester's decision.)

Apparent Nooses at U of Delaware Weren't Nooses

This item has been updated.

The discovery of what looked like three nooses on a tree at the University of Delaware Tuesday evening upset many, but it turned out that they weren't nooses.

Nancy M. Targett, acting president, issued a statement after the discovery of the apparent nooses that said in part: “Such cowardly and reprehensible acts are clearly designed to intimidate and frighten, and they are unacceptable on our campus. I assure you we will work diligently to get to the bottom of this situation, identify the person or persons responsible, and hold them accountable for their actions.” She also scheduled a campus gathering for today in response.

But she then sent a second message to campus this morning in which she said that the apparent nooses were “the remnants of paper lanterns” from a previous event. The campus gathering will go on as scheduled today because, she wrote, “the sensitivity of our campus to this potential issue clearly indicates a need for continuing dialogue within our community.”


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