Ithaka S+R, OCLC Research to examine how universities, libraries are changing

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Ithaka S+R and OCLC Research launch project to examine how universities and their libraries are changing.

All 7 Members of Gordon Faculty Senate Quit

All seven members of the Faculty Senate at Gordon College resigned from the body last week. The Faculty Senate at Gordon not only provides advice but also acts as the panel that reviews tenure bids before making recommendations to the provost and president. In the last year, the pattern of the Faculty Senate recommendations being followed ended, according to the professors who resigned. Many also interpreted comments by Michael Lindsey, president at Gordon, as indicating that the administration did not need to abide by a faculty/administration handbook -- a view with which professors disagree.

The college released this statement about the resignations: "Gordon’s president and provost were quite surprised to learn just a few hours before a regular monthly faculty meeting on Wednesday that the seven members of the senate had decided to resign from their elected roles as faculty representatives in the promotion and tenure review process. We were disappointed the senate rejected a request for further conversation before their decision became final …. We continue to believe that a highly effective senate facilitates the flourishing of Gordon’s faculty and very much want to work together in collaborative and valuable forms of shared governance, especially when perspectives differ on the process and outcomes."

The dispute comes as one faculty member has filed a complaint with a Massachusetts equal-employment commission charging that she was denied a promotion because she has criticized the college's policies against employing those in gay or lesbian relationships.

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Harvard student group promotes free expression through controversial speakers

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A new group of Harvard undergraduates seeks to highlight First Amendment rights by inviting the most controversial speakers possible to address the campus.

Kean Settles Age Discrimination Lawsuit for $375K

Kean University has settled an age discrimination lawsuit filed by one of its former administrators, reported. The New Jersey institution did not admit any wrongdoing in the suit but agreed to fork out $375,000 in the settlement.

William DeGarcia filed the age discrimination lawsuit after Kean overlooked him for a promotion in January 2013 and instead offered the position to a less experienced woman under the age of 40. In the suit, DeGarcia, who was 55 at the time, said the university was looking for “new blood.”

DeGarcia had held multiple positions at the university, including three years as interim director of the Exceptional Educational Opportunities and Educational Opportunity Fund Program. His contributions as director were noticed by Governor Chris Christie and Senator Robert Menendez.

Kean settled the suit in December for $375,000, with $260,000 to be paid directly to DeGarcia.

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Earlier Complaints on Professor Accused of Harassment

Before a 2014 University of California, Berkeley, alumna filed a lawsuit against a distinguished philosophy professor there last month, the institution had fielded sexual misconduct complaints about the 84-year-old professor from at least three other women, BuzzFeed News found.

Berkeley officials in the philosophy department were also aware that John R. Searle, the professor, had made inappropriate comments in some of his classes.

Joanna Ong, who served as Searle’s research assistant, is accusing the professor of firing her from that position after she rejected his sexual advances. BuzzFeed obtained documents from the university that show Searle was accused of sexual harassment on multiple previous occasions.

In 2014, a student said the professor declined to offer her a position as his research assistant because she was married. The year before that, an international exchange student said he tried to kiss her. And in 2004, a student said Searle tried to play with her feet under the table at a dinner for prospective students.

Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination is reviewing Ong’s complaint, as it said it did with the three previous complaints. Searle has denied all such claims.

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Emails Show Chancellor Wanted Reporter Fired

A top administrator at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga pushed for a university-funded radio reporter to be fired -- not suspended -- after lawmakers expressed discontent with the way she handled herself reporting on a story about them, new emails obtained by The Chattanooga Times Free Press revealed.

Steve Angle, chancellor at UTC, wrote in an email last month that “the potential repercussions for the state representative and UTC are huge. We could easily lose all funding we are providing to WUTC.”

Jacqui Helbert sat in on a meeting with state legislators and high school students, wearing bulky recording equipment, including headphones and a microphone, and a badge that identified her as a WUTC reporter. WUTC is funded by UTC.

Still, Helbert never explicitly declared herself a journalist to the lawmakers, and when her story -- which has since been removed -- about the meeting came out, several of the state representatives complained that she disguised her identity and listened in on a private meeting.

Helbert disagreed, saying, “It was glaringly obvious who I was,” but the university proceeded to fire her for the incident.

“I do not see an offense that is much worse,” Angle wrote in an email. “I feel we are gambling with the future of WUTC.”

Helbert has filed a lawsuit against UTC asking that she be reinstated to her position with WUTC and reimbursed up to $1 million in damages.

Since her termination, several donors have expressed fury at the university’s handling of the situation, threatening to withdraw future financial contributions, according to the Times Free Press.

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Transgender Employees Sue Wisconsin System

The University of Wisconsin System is being sued by two of its transgender employees because the system and the state insurance board will no longer cover gender reassignment surgeries, The Associated Press reported.

Both employees identify as female and work at the Madison campus, one as an anthropology graduate student and the other as a cancer researcher. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit last week on their behalf.

Because both employees are on the university’s health insurance plan and that plan no longer covers medical procedures surrounding gender dysphoria -- the condition in which someone feels they were born into the body of the wrong sex -- they are accusing the university and insurance board of discrimination by sex and gender.

“Too many transgender people continue to face discrimination in all facets of life, including health care access, and so I felt compelled to stand up and try to do something about it,” one of the plaintiffs, Alina Boyden, said in a news release.

Last summer, the state’s insurance board added benefits for gender dysphoria that could account for up to $150,000, but in December, before the benefits went into effect, the board voted to exclude the benefits.

Both plaintiffs have been advised by their primary care physicians to seek gender reassignment surgery. Without coverage under their university insurance plans, they would either have to opt out of the procedures or pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.

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Lack of Comma May Derail Georgia Gun Bill

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal may be poised to sign new legislation to permit guns on college campuses this week, but the absence of a comma in a provision excluding some campus locations from legal firearms may have legal implications, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Deal vetoed the campus carry bill last year after lawmakers chose not to honor his request that the measure make exceptions for certain areas of campus. However, the House and Senate recently compromised and approved a bill that would permit guns on campus but bar them in child care facilities, certain faculty and administrative offices, and spaces used to hold disciplinary discussions.

Although the new version of the gun measure is more in line with what Deal requested about a year ago, a Democratic aide identified a grammatical error that may stand in the way of the governor’s signature.

One of the exemptions is written to say that the bill does “not apply to faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.”

The aide, Stefan Turkheimer, wrote on that the absence of a comma after the word “offices” could change the application of the legislation. The bill is meant to exclude “faculty, staff or administrative offices” as well as “rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted,” but as Turkheimer said, “without that comma, it’s just two clauses both modifying ‘offices or rooms.’”

He goes on: “This reading becomes even more persuasive when you consider that both of these area exceptions, if they were meant to be separate, could, and perhaps should, have been put into different clauses. … So unless faculty offices are also rooms where 'disciplinary hearings are conducted,' they would not be exempted. Let’s just ignore whether these rooms are off-limits only when they are being used for disciplinary hearings or whether they are off-limits from carrying at all times because sometimes they host disciplinary meetings (makes less sense, but that’s what the bill says).”

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Senators Want Pell Eligibility for Dual Enrollment

A bipartisan proposal in the U.S. Senate would open up Pell Grants to low-income students who earn college credits while still enrolled in high school.

The bill introduced last week by Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, and Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, would allow Pell Grant funding for transferable college credits, including general-education requirements, that students complete in an early-college program offered by an accredited institution. The proposed legislation comes as Republicans increasingly have voiced support for dual-enrollment and early-college programs.

“While wages have been largely flat over the past 10 years, the average cost of college tuition and fees at national universities has more than doubled,” Portman said in a written statement. “A lot of families are feeling squeezed, and for kids from low-income households, college can feel out of reach. Our legislation would let them get a head start on college, make it more affordable for them and help them get on track to live out their dreams.”

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Lack of IRS data tool may harm FAFSA application rates and already is hurting students

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Researchers say removal of an IRS tool for financial aid applicants may have slowed FAFSA submissions, while college aid groups warn that affected students could already be losing out on aid.


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