Powers Survives at UT-Austin; Debate on Interim at Texas A&M

The University of Texas Board of Regents -- after long hours behind closed doors Thursday to discuss the performance of Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin -- decided to keep him on, The Dallas Morning News reported. Powers is popular with students and faculty members, but he has clashed with board members who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the UT system, said after the meeting that relations between Powers and the board have become "strained," but that Powers was working to improve them.

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of business and civic leaders who have backed Powers, issued this statement late Thursday: “Bill Powers is an outstanding higher education leader for Texas and for the country. That his job was ever in question is a sad indictment of the current state of affairs in Texas, in which the undue influence of the governor’s office trumps common sense and good governance. It is our hope that moving forward all of the Board of Regents will support President Powers and focus on strengthening the entire system for the benefit of all Texans, without some of the board members disrupting the flagship."

Meanwhile, the Board of Regents at Texas A&M University is facing its own controversy. The board is scheduled to vote Saturday on an interim president for the flagship campus. Chancellor John Sharp has reportedly nominated Mark Hussey, the system's vice chancellor and A&M's dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Science, for the position, and Hussey has faculty support, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported. But Governor Perry is reportedly pressing regents (all of whom he has appointed) to instead pick Guy Diedrich, the system's vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, and a friend of Perry's.


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Grad Union Announces Victory at NYU

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee at New York University late Wednesday announced that eligible graduate teaching assistants had voted overwhelmingly this week to form a union. GSOC, part of the United Auto Workers, reached a deal with NYU last month in which an election could go forward and the university would halt legal efforts to block an election, and would recognize the results of the vote. The move will make NYU the only private university with unionized teaching assistants. A pro-union outcome had been widely expected. The election was supervised by the American Arbitration Association.

NYU released a statement this morning saying: "We were glad to come to a joint agreement with the UAW on going forward with a prompt election and maintaining neutrality during the voting.  We congratulate the graduate students and the UAW on the vote.  The university will now enter what we expect to be productive negotiations with the union."


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Protests Over Protest Rules at Cooper Union, CUNY

Activists are questioning proposed new rules on protests at Cooper Union and the City University of New York, The New York Times reported. In both cases, the institutions have in the past faced long-term protests. University officials say that the proposed rules allow for the orderly functioning of campuses, without diminishing the ability of students and others to express critical views. Critics say that the rules go too far.


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Southern Accreditor Clears Virginia, Fisk, Florida A&M

The college commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools took several institutions off of probationary or warning status at its meeting this week, including the University of Virginia, Fisk and Florida A&M Universities, and Greensboro College. UVa had faced scrutiny from the accreditor because of an effort by a cadre of trustees in summer 2012 to dump President Teresa A. Sullivan. SACS' president, Belle Wheelan, said the university had presented evidence that it had changed its governance policies to ensure that a small minority of the board could not bring about change in leadership. "The board has right to fire president -- in fact, it has the responsibility to do so in some cases. But it is the board that has that right, not a minority of the board -- that was the issue with them," Wheelan said.

Fisk, which has faced significant financial problems that most visibly led it to sell its high-profile art collection, came off probation because the SACS commission was persuaded that its new president had raised sufficient money and had it "heading in the right direction," Wheelan said. Florida A&M, which has undergone enormous turmoil and turnover in the face of a fatal hazing scandal, was taken off probation even though most of its top officials are serving on an interim basis, Wheelan said. Greensboro has resolved many of its financial troubles, the agency determined.

SACS placed or continued another set of institutions on warning status at the meeting, including several because of financial issues (Newberry College, Allen University, Midcontinent University), Norfolk State University (financial and governance issues), Hampden-Sydney College (failure to have sufficient representation of full-time faculty), and Erskine College. (Note: This article has been updated from an earlier version.)

Texas Regents Set Discussion of Bill Powers

The University of Texas Board of Regents has scheduled a closed-door discussion Thursday of the employment status of Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin, The Texas Tribune reported. What the discussion means is unclear. Regents with close ties to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, have been pushing for the ouster of Powers, but he has strong support among many students, alumni and faculty members.


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3 Arrested for Trying to Obtain and Sell Exams

Florida International University announced Monday night that university police "have arrested three individuals, including two current students," on charges that "range from dealing in stolen property to theft and burglary." The charges relate to an effort "to gain unauthorized access to exams and sell them to students." An investigation "has revealed that one class in the current semester is impacted with a limited number of students involved," the university said. Florida International's statement said that because the investigation is ongoing, few details can be released at this time. The statement said that "FIU will pursue all avenues to ensure that everyone who is involved is held accountable."


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Most colleges adjust to moving away from Native American mascots

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Since the NCAA prohibited "hostile and abusive" mascots in 2006, many colleges have moved away from Native American mascots and nicknames. Despite tensions at a few campuses, most institutions have adjusted and moved on.


Dean's List Student Killed by Officer at Incarnate Word

Robert Cameron Redus, a dean's list senior at the University of the Incarnate Word, was shot and killed by a police officer at the university early Friday morning, The San Antonio Express-News reported. The officer is on a paid leave, pending an investigation. Authorities said that the officer pulled Redus over, off campus, for erratic driving, that they fought and that Redus was shot in the struggle. Friends of Redus said that they couldn't believe he would have done something to make a police officer feel the need to use force.

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Carnegie Honors 4 College Presidents

The Carnegie Corporation of New York today announced four college and university presidents as recipients of its 2013 Academic Leadership Award -- an award that comes with $500,000 for each president to use to advance academic initiatives. The winners and some of the accomplishments cited by Carnegie:

  • Richard H. Brodhead of Duke University was praised for creating "Duke Engage to provide full funding so that each year some 400 students can undertake immersive civic engagement activities for a minimum of eight weeks in partner communities in the United States and around the world."
  • Michael M. Crow of Arizona State University was cited for enrolling a fall 2013 freshman class in which 39 percent of students are from minority groups, a 165 percent increase in minority representation in the entering freshman class since 2002.
  • John L. Hennessy of Stanford University was lauded for numerous efforts to involve the university in the reform of elementary and secondary education.
  • Beverly Daniel Tatum of Spelman College was honored for promoting science and mathematics programs such that nearly a third of Spelman students earn degrees in those fields, challenging what Tatum calls “the low expectations for women and minorities in science.”
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Illinois-Chicago Faculty Votes to Authorize Strike

Faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago voted overwhelmingly last week to authorize a possible strike, following 17 months of contract negotiations with the institution. Joe Persky, professor of economics and president of the University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty, a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, said in a statement that he hoped to resolve contract negotiations without a strike. Mediation sessions have been scheduled through January.

But if the union decides a strike is necessary, 10 days' notice will be given, as required by law. About 80 percent of voters, both on and off the tenure track, showed up for the election, and 95 percent approved of a possible strike, according to the union. The faculty association says it's pushing for more equitable compensation for non-tenure-track professors and shared governance, among other issues.

In an email to faculty members sent Friday, Lon Kaufman, the provost, said he and other administrators would remain in "immediate contact" with the bargaining team to try to reach a resolution, but said that in the event of a strike, "the university does have an obligation to our students and other constituents to continue normal operations. It should also be emphasized that no faculty member is required to strike or stop work, even if urged by the union. Every faculty member has the right to continue work." He continued: "Frankly, both sides need to focus on resolving the contracts. Please be certain that the UIC administration has heard the proposals by the union and will respond with sincere and meaningful proposals as we move through the mediation phase."

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