administrators

‘Fear and Oppressiveness’ at Nashville State CC

A report commissioned by the Tennessee Board of Regents has found "a climate of fear and oppressiveness" at Nashville State Community College, The Tennessean reported, based on a leaked copy of the report. The report was based on interviews and surveys with faculty members at the college, who were critical of President George Van Allen. In an interview with the newspaper, Van Allen defended his record and blamed "a strong minority" of professors for the criticisms.

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Unexplained Ouster of President at Oakland CC

The board of Oakland Community College, in Michigan, has removed Timothy Meyer as chancellor but is declining to say why, The Detroit Free Press reported. Officials are also not responding to questions about the shift.

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Variation in Employers' Degree Requirements

Employer preferences for job applicants who hold a bachelor's degree when hiring for middle-skills jobs varies significantly across metropolitan areas, according to a new paper from the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Philadelphia. Employers in the Northeast were most likely to require a four-year degree, particularly compared to those in the South.

The study looked at the four most common "opportunity" occupations, which it defines as jobs that "pay at least the national annual median wage, adjusted for differences in local consumption prices, and that are generally considered accessible to a worker without a four-year college degree." Those occupations are computer user support specialist, registered nurse, first-line supervisor of retail sales and executive secretary.

"Our analysis finds that place still matters when it comes to employers’ expectations for the educational attainment of the ideal job candidate," the report found. "Even after controlling for the characteristics of the posted jobs, employers’ educational preferences are higher where recent college graduates are relatively more numerous, where wages are higher, in larger metro areas and in the Northeast. In these types of markets, a job seeker sometimes needs more education to get a foot in the door than does a candidate for a similar job elsewhere."

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New presidents or provosts: Delaware County Gavilan Laurier Oregon State Reinhardt Saskatchewan Stetson Tiffin Vassar

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  • L. Joy Gates Black, vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success at Tarrant County College District, in Texas, has been chosen as president of Delaware County Community College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Elizabeth Howe Bradley, the Brady-Johnson Professor of Grand Strategy at Yale University, in Connecticut, has been appointed president of Vassar College, in New York.

Tufts Grad Students Form Union

Tufts University graduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Thursday. Turnout was high, at 82 percent, and the tally was 129 in favor and 84 opposed, with eight challenged ballots. The university said in a statement it’s "disappointed in the outcome" and "concerned unionization will fundamentally change the relationship between graduate students and faculty." Yet it recognizes the union's right to exist and is committed to collective bargaining in the coming months, it said. Non-tenure-track instructors at Tufts, both full-time and part-time, already are represented by SEIU. Brandeis University graduate students voted to form a union with SEIU earlier this month, and that institution committed to beginning contract negotiations, as well -- unlike other campuses that have continued to bring legal challenges to new unions. A hunger strike at Yale University over delayed negotiations there is ongoing, for example.

Also on Thursday, a regional NLRB office said that graduate students at Boston College, a Roman Catholic institution, were free to hold a union election -- except those students studying theology and ministry and mission and ministry, respectively. Similar to recent NLRB decisions on proposed adjunct unions at religious institutions, the office said that most Boston College graduate students, save those studying theology, did not perform the kinds of specific religious functions that would exempt them from NLRB oversight. The proposed Boston College unit is organizing with United Auto Workers.

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Caltech Students Protest Known Harasser's Return

California Institute of Technology students are protesting the return of a professor of theoretical astrophysics, Christian Ott, following his suspension for harassing two female graduate students, BuzzFeed News reported. A 2015 campus investigation found that Ott violated Caltech’s sexual harassment policies by engaging in “discriminatory and harassing behavior.” He allegedly became infatuated with one of the students, whom he then fired, and repeatedly expressed his romantic feelings to the other. Ott was originally suspended for nine months, but his leave was later extended through August of this year, and no public explanation has been given for the change, according to BuzzFeed.

Ott was preliminarily allowed back on campus last week to observe a thesis presentation by a graduate student, reportedly at the student’s request. In response, several dozen students staged a sit-in demonstration in the astronomy department Tuesday, displaying a sign saying, “To support a safe working and living environment for all members of the Caltech community. We support you. You are not alone.” Undergraduates also sent a letter to the university's president, Thomas Rosenbaum, saying that to “continue delaying but not outright banning Ott’s return to campus puts all students at Caltech, but especially female graduate students, in a state of uncertainty and fear for the future.”

Ott did not respond to a request for comment. A university spokesperson said Caltech respects the right of all campus members to express their views and is “committed to keeping the community informed as this process moves forward.” Whether Ott returns to teaching has yet to be decided, she said. A committee will assess Ott’s “behavior and progress” during his suspension, Fiona Harrison, division chair for physics, math and astronomy, reportedly said in an email to faculty members this week.

“Top priority will be given to the welfare of our campus community,” Harrison wrote. “We also believe in the potential for rehabilitation and the idea that individuals have the right to demonstrate positive, persistent change in behavior.”

The protests at Caltech are similar in nature to those staged against the return of an alleged serial harasser of graduate students to the University of California, Los Angeles, earlier this year. Gabriel Piterberg, professor of history, was allowed to return to teaching but faced protesters inside and outside his classes at the beginning of the semester (earlier protests sought in vain to keep him from returning at all). Piterberg denied the misconduct but agreed to take a one-quarter suspension as part of a settlement that halted a campus investigation into one student’s claims. The university also settled with Piterberg’s two accusers, who sued the university for responding insufficiently to their claims of harassment. Piterberg upon his return canceled several class sessions as a result of the protests, and the university eventually said that he’d continue to teach but that videotaped lectures would be available to students who chose not to attend class.

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Texas A&M Softens Tone Toward Professor

Michael K. Young, president of Texas A&M University, softened his public stance Tuesday toward a professor receiving death threats as a result of years-old, recently resurfaced comments about race. “For those of you who considered my comments disparaging to certain types of scholarly work or in any way impinging upon the centrality of academic freedom at this university, I regret any contributions that I may have made to misunderstandings in this case, including to those whose work is contextualized by understanding the historical perspectives of events that have often been ignored,” Young said in a statement.

Last week, Young affirmed his campus’s commitment to academic freedom while taking a harsh tone toward Tommy Curry, an associate professor of philosophy and a critical race theorist who was recently partially quoted by a conservative publication saying that “some whites might have to die.” Curry made the comment as part of a much longer podcast interview response to a question about the violent Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, and Curry has since said he was not advocating violence. Many called for his termination or resignation after The American Conservative published a blog post about Curry's remarks. Some also sent the professor, who is black, racist messages and physical threats.

Young in his original statement called Curry’s comments “disturbing” and standing “in stark contrast to Aggie core values -- most notably those of respect, excellence, leadership and integrity -- values that we hold true toward all of humanity.” The president has since faced backlash from some in Curry’s department, students and outside philosophers, for not explicitly expressing support for the professor.

Last week’s statement affirmed Texas A&M’s commitment to free speech even while implicitly criticizing Curry (who was not named directly), but Young’s updated message seems focuses more on academic freedom, saying that “Scholars have a responsibility to engage in deep dialogue and ask questions within their areas of expertise; however, through sound bites or social media headlines, profound issues can be oversimplified and distorted.”

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Data show small improvements in accessibility of course materials

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Data from 700,000 classes show digital course materials have gotten only slightly more accessible to students with disabilities over the last five years.

Closing the Skills Gap for Technical Jobs

The U.S. is not adequately developing and sustaining a skilled technical work force, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The report includes recommendations for colleges on how they can improve education and training for this segment of workers, who include medical laboratory technicians, computer support specialists and installation and repair technicians. Gaps are particularly evident in health care and manufacturing, according to the report.

Community colleges and other institutions that offer credentials in these areas will need incentives to create more flexible and integrated programs, the report said, and to offer supportive services.

"To raise awareness of the value of and demand for skilled technical workers, the report recommends that an alliance of stakeholders -- industry, trade, academic, and civic associations and labor unions, in cooperation with the U.S. departments of Labor and Education -- organize a nationwide public-private communication campaign," the academies said in a written statement. "This campaign should be customized to recognize local variations in skilled technical work force education, training and labor market requirements."

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House Version of Student Data Bill

A bipartisan group of influential U.S. senators released a bill Monday that would overturn the ban on a federal student-level data system that would allow for the tracking of employment and graduation rates. A bipartisan companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives followed Tuesday.

The House version, introduced by Representatives Paul Mitchell, a Michigan Republican, and Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, is dubbed the College Transparency Act of 2017. It closely mirrors the Senate version, with the bill's sponsors saying it would help students and families with "actionable and customizable" information on student outcomes, while also securely protecting students' privacy. Some of the opposition to dropping the 2008 ban, from both sides of the aisle, is based on privacy concerns. The largest private college group is against this push for a federal data system, but public higher education groups back it.

“It has long been a priority of mine to ensure students and families have the necessary tools to make informed decisions about their future,” Mitchell said in a written statement. “As soon as I assumed office, I began working on legislation to increase transparency to enable students to make decisions that will put them on the path to success. This bill will streamline and update current data practices to arm students with information to make the best choices, while reducing bureaucratic burdens on universities.”

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