Boulder Revamps Ph.D. Study in Languages, Literature

The University of Colorado at Boulder is revamping doctoral studies in  languages and literature, it announced Tuesday. The change -- in an effort to recruit top talent -- entails restructuring support for six Ph.D. programs into a new Consortium of Doctoral Studies in Literature and Cultures. Programs involved are those in French/Italian, Spanish/Portuguese, German, classics, English and Japanese/Chinese. Accepted consortium students will be guaranteed five years of funding, with the first and fifth years including cost-of-living stipends and zero teaching obligations. Middle years carry a reduced teaching load and a summer stipend.

“With a fifth year dedicated to writing their dissertations, less teaching in the intervening years and support during the summers, students will be able to complete their degrees and enter the job market much earlier than they are able to do now,” Helmut Muller-Sievers, director of Boulder’s Center for Humanities and the Arts, said in a statement. Students also will be encouraged to choose mentors from outside their departments, emphasizing a more cross-disciplinary approach, according to information from the university.

Proponents of the consortium also stressed its inclusion of English, classics and Asian literatures. “Often, universities try to streamline their literature offerings into a generic program in modern European languages, or such,” said Muller-Sievers. “Having Chinese and Japanese in the mix gives students an understanding of non-European traditions and cultures. Also, the inclusion of classics -- of ancient Greek, Latin and classical archaeology -- deepens our students’ understanding of our literary heritage, as well as of the materiality of texts and artifacts. The presence of English gives students access to faculty who are working on today’s most hotly debated topics.”

The Modern Language Association suggested in a 2014 report that humanities graduate programs do what they can to cut time to degree to five years. Stanford University already has moved forward with the idea.

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San Jacinto Drops 4 Teams

San Jacinto College, a community college in Texas, announced Monday that it is dropping four intercollegiate athletic teams: men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and men’s soccer. The college will keep its baseball and softball teams.

College officials cited the expenses associated with the eliminated teams, which involve about 150 students. Annual spending is about $2.6 million, and athletics facilities currently require about $25 million in renovations.

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Ex-Dean at UVA Awarded $3M in Defamation Case

A federal jury on Monday said that Rolling Stone and one of its writers must pay a former University of Virginia associate dean $3 million for defamation, The New York Times reported. The ruling came in a suit was brought by Nicole Eramo, an administrator who was in charge of handling sexual violence cases in the period covered by a now discredited article about an alleged gang rape at Virginia. On Friday, the jury found that Eramo had been defamed, but a subsequent hearing and deliberations led to Monday's award.

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Dubious Claim in WSJ Editorial About Laureate

In an opinion piece alleging that Laureate Education may have been spared from the Obama administration's crackdown on for-profit higher education because of its ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, The Wall Street Journal's editorial board noted that information about Laureate's Walden University is missing in the relatively new federal College Scorecard.

"Laureate is also a rare major for-profit college in the U.S. that has been spared from President Obama’s war on the industry," the article said. "Laureate may have an impeccable compliance record and provide a world-class education. But it’s hard to know since the Obama administration’s College Scorecard doesn’t include a graduation rate for Laureate’s largest U.S. college, the online Walden University, which makes up the majority of its U.S. enrollment."

Walden's graduation rate is not included in the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) because of a mundane reason: the federal database's graduation rate tracks only first-time, full-time undergraduates, and Walden lacks enough students who fit that profile to generate a meaningful rate. The Journal editorial itself mentions Walden's first-time, full-time issue, citing a department spokesperson.

The university is heavily tilted toward graduate students, who comprise more than 80 percent of Walden's overall enrollment. And roughly 85 percent of the university's undergraduates are at least 25 years old, meaning many likely are not first-time college students. That's partially because Walden's undergraduate academic programs until recently were focused on degree completion for returning college students.

The Education Department's College Navigator, the companion to the College Scorecard, explains Walden's lack of a federal graduation rate. "Data reported in the IPEDS Graduation Rate survey is based on a cohort of first-time, full-time undergraduates," a footnote in the entry says. "Undergraduate students enrolled at Walden University do not typically fall into this group."

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Embattled AFI Conservatory Dean Will Step Down

Jan Schuette will depart as dean of the American Film Institute Conservatory at the end of the academic year, the institution announced Monday. Schuette has led the institution since 2014 but butted heads with faculty members, who voted 35 to eight earlier this year to express no confidence in him and request that he resign. Faculty concerns included those over shared governance, due process, academic freedom and instruction. Schuette said he plans to continue working in academia, as well as resume his professional career as a filmmaker and producer.

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A compilation of key articles on higher education and the 2016 election

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Key articles about the candidates’ positions and how the campaign has played out on campus -- plus a selection of commentary.

Vassar Faculty Approves Plan to Cut Teaching Load

The Vassar College faculty has approved a plan to shrink the teaching load to four classes per year, from five, while adding a new student supervisory requirement. The plan, referred to as 2-2-1, also includes cutting the number of units students need to graduate. The vote was 135 in favor and 40 opposed, with one abstention. Though it passed by a relatively wide margin, with faculty proponents emphasizing a renewed commitment to one-on-one interaction with students, the plan has been controversial and remains so, to some. “My fear that Vassar's bad example could start a trend” among selective colleges, Donald Foster, Jean Webster Professor of Dramatic Literature, said via email.

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Students urge colleges to define 'rape culture' in their sexual assault policies

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Should colleges include the term and talk about the concept in sexual misconduct policies? Few, if any, actually do so.

NYU Challenges 'Deplorable' Professor's Claims

New York University is further challenging a professor’s contention that he was encouraged to take time off after a diversity committee criticized his comments on an anonymous Twitter account and in a student newspaper. The university on Friday released a set of emails between the professor and his dean that suggest the professor requested leave and denied an opportunity to return to campus immediately.

Both Michael Rectenwald (right), a clinical assistant professor of liberal studies, and the university have said the paid leave was voluntary, but Rectenwald has said publicly that he was strongly encouraged to temporarily leave campus after it was revealed that he was Deplorable NYU Prof, the alias behind the Twitter account @antipcnyuprof. The account is critical of safe spaces, trigger warnings and NYU’s administration, among other topics.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post published late last week, for example, Rectenwald wrote, “I’ve become a campus pariah to some (and a hero, perhaps, to a few) in my nontenured NYU faculty job, thanks to the humorless, social justice warrior-brand of campus culture run amok and a misunderstanding about a Twitter account. Enmeshed in a conspiracy -- thinly disguised as sympathy -- of my colleagues’ design, I feel I’ve lost my academic freedom and I potentially stand to lose my appointment.”

The emails between Rectenwald and his dean, Fred Schwarzbach, paint a somewhat different picture. Early last week, for example, Schwarzbach wrote, “Contrary to what you have been saying publicly, we don't give leaves based on faculty members’ posts on social media. … If you no longer wish to take leave, please indicate so in writing to me immediately and we will make all the necessary arrangements to allow you to resume your classes and other duties immediately.” Rectenwald responded that he’d “tried to represents the facts of my leave truthfully, while also merely attempting to respond to the committee on diversity, which took such a potshot at me and with such a lack of collegiality. And I wanted to make my position on the whole trigger warning, safe space and bias reporting culture clear.”

Rectenwald declined immediate comment.

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Jury Finds 'Rolling Stone' Defamed UVA Dean

A federal jury found on Friday that Rolling Stone and one of its writers defamed a former University of Virginia associate dean in a 2014 article that shocked many with its details of gang rape in a fraternity -- and that the magazine retracted after numerous questions were raised about its accuracy.

The suit was brought by Nicole Eramo, an administrator who was in charge of handling sexual violence cases in the period covered by the article. She argued in court not only that the article was factually wrong, but that it was based on assumptions that administrators like her were not necessarily helpful to women like "Jackie," as the magazine called the woman whose story the article told. Eramo sued for $7.5 million, but additional hearings will take place before damages are set.

The Washington Post, whose reporting exposed many of the inaccuracies in the Rolling Stone article, highlights the following evidence presented in the trial: notes prepared before the article was reported described how college officials can be "indifferent" to victims of rape. This evidence was important to show malice, which was necessary for the verdict. Pointing out errors alone would not have met the legal standard.

When the article was first published, it led to considerable soul searching at UVA, where many believed it exposed problems with sexual violence and with sexist treatment of women, especially by members of the fraternity system. The article received national attention at a time when many colleges were being criticized for ignoring sexual assaults.

As the article and the claims of Jackie were discredited, many advocates for women who have been assaulted on campus said that they feared this untrue story would cast doubt on the real instances of sexual violence faced by many women on campus.

As the story unraveled, Rolling Stone asked the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism to investigate what went wrong. The report produced by Columbia may be found here.

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