Spellings Appears Poised to Lead U of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors is set to hold an emergency meeting today with one candidate for president of the 16-campus system -- former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings -- and the board's plan has roiled lawmakers and others who say it would run afoul of legislation designed to ensure an inclusive search, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

The newspaper's report, which was based on three unnamed sources, would represent yet another stunning development in what has been a tumultuous several years at the university. A dramatic change in the state's political landscape since 2010 (with the legislative and executive branches in Republican hands for the first time since Reconstruction), along with self-inflicted wounds like a deeply damaging athletic academic scandal at the flagship Chapel Hill campus, brought about last winter's ouster of UNC President Tom Ross without any explanation.

The months since then have been characterized by significant uncertainty over the direction that the university's board seemed to have in mind and agitation over the style and secrecy of the chair, John Fennebresque.

The legislature passed a bill -- which remains unsigned by Governor Pat McCrory -- that would require that three candidates be brought before the full board for consideration. Word that the board would hold an emergency meeting to discuss one candidate prompted a bipartisan group of legislators to write to board members Thursday, warning that the board's actions appeared to "circumvent the overwhelming will" of North Carolinians, as reflected by the passed (though unsigned) measure, the newspaper reported.

At least two board members, citing the legislators' letter, late Thursday called for Fennebresque's resignation.

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Louisiana State University player to auction jersey, despite NCAA rules

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Critics say NCAA decision to allow football player to auction off his jersey for charity points to arbitrary nature of the association's stance on players making money from their own "name and likeness."

Community College Groups Seek Higher K-12 Standards

The American Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Community College Trustees today announced that they will partner with the group Higher Ed for Higher Standards to commit to a push for more challenging academic standards in K-12. The two primary trade groups for the two-year college sector said in a joint statement that their goal is to better help prepare students for success in college and careers.

"ACCT and AACC have long advocated greater alignment between K-12 school standards and first-year credit-bearing course requirements for community colleges. Community colleges have a vested interest in raising standards so that students who come through community college doors will be able to get started immediately on college-level course work," they said. "Although community colleges have time-tested expertise in filling the need for remediating students and preparing them for college, providing remediation to 50 percent or more of entering students is a tremendous strain on resources that can be applied to teaching students at the college level, not to mention delaying students’ progress through higher education and ultimately toward finding gainful employment."

The groups said they applaud states that have raised academic standards, saying that push "holds tremendous potential for increasing the number of students who arrive in our colleges and businesses prepared for success."

Author of 'Higher Education and Employability' discusses the book's themes

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A new book argues that colleges of all kinds need to help their students better prepare for the world of work. A Q&A with the book's author, Peter Stokes.

Berkeley Criticized for Response to Harassment

When news of the Geoff Marcy sexual harassment case at the University of California at Berkeley broke last week, a number of astronomers across academe asked why the university hadn’t been tougher on him. An investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 determined that Marcy, a professor of astronomy, had violated Berkeley’s sexual harassment policy over a decade, and that he’d allegedly groped, kissed and inappropriately touched a number of students, critics said, so why had the university only given him a firm warning not to repeat the behavior? Now the majority of astronomers at Berkeley are joining those critics. In an open letter to the Berkeley administration, 23 members of the department -- all but a few -- including the chair, asked the university to “reevaluate” its response to Marcy.

“We believe that Geoff Marcy cannot perform the functions of a faculty member,” the letter says. The professors also appear to address some claims that Marcy’s behavior was a kind of open secret among his colleagues. “We regret the harm caused by our faculty, and reject any suggestion that our sympathies should be with the perpetrators of sexual harassment,” they wrote, adding that Berkeley policies led to a lack of communication with the department about the case. “We are committed to developing and maintaining a supportive, open climate in which all members of the department can thrive, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or religious faith.”

Marcy did not respond to a request for comment. A Berkeley spokeswoman referred questions to an earlier statement outlining Berkeley’s response to Marcy’s case. "Professor Marcy and the vice provost [for the faculty] entered into an agreement that states he will abide by clear expectations concerning his future interactions with students," reads that statement. "Were he to fail to meet those expectations, the terms of the agreement provide that he would be immediately subject to sanctions that could include suspension or dismissal; such sanctions would be imposed summarily by the vice provost." The university said it took the matter very seriously, and that its consequences for Marcy amounted to "strong action."

The New York Times reported that Berkeley placed Marcy on probation over the summer, but eventually opted to put him on a tight leash instead of pursuing dismissal proceedings -- the outcome of which would be "uncertain." Marcy reportedly has waived his due process rights, should he be found in violation of the university's sexual harassment policy in the future.

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Apple Loses Patent Case to U of Wisconsin

A federal jury in Wisconsin on Tuesday found that Apple infringed on a patent held by the University of Wisconsin at Madison in creating the chips in many iPhones and iPads, Reuters reported. The damages stage of the trial is just starting but could involve an award of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Is Consensus Possible on the Faculty Role?

Research from the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success at the University of Southern California suggests that better support for non-tenure-track faculty members leads to better student outcomes. The project also has urged a more thoughtful, less-haphazard approach to filling the growing non-tenure-track faculty ranks. But reform has remained largely at a “standstill,” argues a new report from Delphi. Why? Because various groups, from tenured faculty members to administrators to governing board to adjuncts, lack a “shared vision for the future of the faculty.”

With “The Professoriate Reconsidered: A Study of New Faculty Models,” Delphi offers a rough outline of that collective vision, via the results of a survey of some 1,550 faculty members, administrators, accreditors and state-level policy makers. The respondents, about 1,200 of whom were faculty members, weighed in on ideas and priorities such as ideal faculty pathways; contracts; unbundling of faculty roles; promotion, development and evaluation; and flexibility. Delphi found a surprising level of agreement in responses across categories, suggesting there is common ground on which to move forward on reforming the faculty role. “Our findings dispel the pervasive myth that there is a tremendous and impassable gulf between groups’ views about the faculty,” the paper says.

A major theme that emerged was the need to maintain and restore professionalism to the faculty role, such as protecting academic freedom, offering professional development, including faculty members of all kinds in shared governance and working toward equitable pay. Responses from unionized participants did not differ significantly from those of nonunionized respondents. Participants did express practical concerns that about the feasibility of proposals such as creativity contracts, customizing faculty roles, creating more flexible roles and creating consortial hiring agreements.

“The areas of agreement identified in this study can serve as starting points for discussion, providing points of consensus to help move the greater dialogue about the future of the faculty from mere exchange of ideas to the creation of a reality,” Delphi argues.

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Headlines About Gallup Survey on College Worth Are Misleading (essay)

It’s no secret that higher education in America is in a tight spot.

The cost and worth of college is a hot topic -- from dinner parties to political debates. The majority opinion is that college graduates are significantly dissatisfied with what they are receiving for the price of the “product” they receive.

Gallup released its most recent poll data of college and university alumni through its “Gallup-Purdue Index 2015 Report,” which is based on interviews with more than 30,000 graduates. This year, the survey included new questions concerning the “worth” of college. It’s time to step beyond anecdotal evidence and get our hands dirty with some data.

For those of us who fastidiously follow the headlines of Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education, we initially found that all of our hand-wringing over how the public views higher education might be justified.

Inside Higher Ed led with: “Not Worth It?”

The Chronicle ran: “Just Half of Graduates Strongly Agree Their College Education Was Worth the Cost.” (Note: The article title was changed. The piece was originally entitled, “Just Half of Graduates Say Their College Education Was Worth the Cost.”)

And on Sept. 30, Jeffrey Selingo, former editor of The Chronicle, wrote a piece for The Washington Post entitled, “Is College Worth the Cost? Many Recent Graduates Don’t Think So.”

Yikes. The sky is falling, right?

Well, not really. Each of these headlines seems to insinuate that college grads are disgruntled by the cost of their education. However, if we read beyond the headlines, and take even a quick look at the numbers, we find that the sky isn’t falling.

In fact, maybe things are actually better than we imagined.

Gallup’s chart shows alumni responses to the statement: “My education from [university name] was worth the cost.” Respondents answered on a scale from one (strongly disagree) to five (strongly agree). While the headlines suggest that alumni are dissatisfied, I find myself reading these numbers differently.

Even if we assume that an answer of three (3) is indicative of “neutral,” we still find that 77 percent of recent alumni either agree or strongly agree with the statement that their college or university education was worth the cost.

I read the data this way: most grads believe that their education was worth the cost. That is good news. Even better news is that only 10 percent disagree or strongly disagree. Some additional good news is that, even though the recent graduates who participated in the survey were less likely to think their education was worth the cost, as they get farther and farther away from commencement -- as they are promoted out of entry-level positions -- their satisfaction regarding the cost of education will probably get better (as the Gallup report indicates).

The Gallup report includes significant data -- including factors that lead to student thriving.

But here is my real point: headlines matter.

In our current context bent on scrutinizing higher education, as we look ahead to report cards, and as we struggle to make a case for the import of this sector of society that has been educating citizens in America for nearly four centuries, let’s at least lead with more accurate headlines -- even if crisis sells.

Here’s what the headlines could have been:

“Is College Worth the Cost? Only 10 Percent of Grads Don’t Think So.”

Same numbers.

Entirely different story.

Keith R. Martel is director of the Master of Arts in Higher Education at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Penn. He is the co-author of the newly released Storied Leadership, a faith-based, narrative approach to leadership.

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Football Player Charged With Trying to Kill Teammate

A football player at Albright College, in Pennsylvania, has been charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and attempted homicide in what witnesses describe as his stabbing a teammate multiple times with a corkscrew, The Reading Eagle reported. The player who has been accused has been suspended from the team, while the football player who was stabbed remains hospitalized.

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U of Southern California Fires Head Football Coach

The University of Southern California fired its head football coach, Steve Sarkisian, on Monday after he appeared to be intoxicated at a recent game and during team meetings. In August, the head coach apologized for similar behavior at a team function that he said was the result of being under the influence of alcohol and painkillers. A player told ESPN that Sarkisian "showed up lit to meetings" on Sunday, and the university asked the coach to take a leave of absence later that day.

"After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately," Pat Haden, USC athletic director, said in a statement Monday. "Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well-being."

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