administrators

Ex-Missouri President Lashes Out in Confidential Email

Two months after his ouster as president of the University of Missouri System amid protests over race, Timothy Wolfe has told his side of the story in a confidential email to a group of supporters, which was obtained by The Columbia Missourian.

In an email to a group called the Missouri 100, Wolfe accused the former chancellor of Missouri's Columbia campus, R. Bowen Loftin, of stirring up controversy to try to protect his own job, and criticized the football team’s decision to go on strike. He also urged supporters to "pick up the phone" or email members of the university's governing board to urge them to provide Wolfe with more compensation in his resignation agreement, so he can "continue to play a significant positive role in the future."

Loyola U Chicago Adjuncts Form Union

Part-time and full-time non-tenure-track faculty members teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University in Chicago voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, 142 to 82, they announced Wednesday. (Some 326 instructors were eligible to vote, for a turnout of about 69 percent.) In a statement, the university thanked instructors for their participation in the process and said it looked forward to “continuing the conversation and the negotiations with SEIU about these faculty in the coming year.”

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Encouraging students to report threats of violence (essay)

After each college shooting, we are left wondering, “How could have this tragedy been prevented?” Unfortunately, that is not an easy question to answer.

Each college shooting is distinct when it comes to the shooter’s motivation, the identities of victims and the readiness of the institution to respond to the attack. However, according to research by the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Education, someone often is aware that a person is planning an attack before it occurs yet does not effectively intervene. If all threats of violence were taken seriously and reported, preventing attacks on campuses would be much more possible.

As a salient example of this, Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif., recently averted a probable tragedy when someone reported to the police that a student was talking about shooting up the institution. In that case, police and mental-health professionals worked together to evaluate the student and found him to be a credible threat to campus safety, with both the means and the desire to cause harm. They subsequently detained him and placed him under psychiatric care.

The reality is that we always hear about the tragedies and hardly ever hear about the campus officer who de-escalates a dangerous situation, the psychologist who prevents a murder or suicide, or the student who reports a rancorous roommate to the dean of students because of safety concerns. How many people have heard about the averted shooting at Hartnell College compared to the tragedy that occurred several months ago at Umpqua Community College, where nine students were killed?

In the aftermath of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, colleges have improved their information-sharing procedures and put in place better violence-prevention safeguards. Campus police, mental-health professionals and student affairs officers now work together to mitigate threats of violence. Such professionals are trained to identify potentially violent students, and they employ research-based threat-assessment protocols.

They are better prepared than ever to protect college communities. But they still need something more. They need people who hear about a potential violent act to come forward and say something about it.

It takes courage to come forward and report a potentially violent student. However, not doing so literally can cost lives.

Common barriers that keep people from reporting threats of violence include:

  • not trusting authority figures
  • worrying about being perceived as a “snitch”
  • being afraid of being personally targeted by a perpetrator
  • worrying that the person being reported will get in serious trouble, and
  • expecting that college administrators will not take the threat seriously.

Research that I reported in the Journal of School Violence and Psychology of Violence discusses ways to reduce these barriers. What I found was that ensuring a healthy climate is the core of effective violence prevention on college campuses. Essentially, people’s willingness to report threats of violence increases when they feel connected to the campus community, have confidence in college administrators and trust campus police officers. If every person on the campus community feels engaged and connected, they will work to protect each other’s safety and well-being.

Colleges can do a lot to make students feel connected and engaged. Some obvious and relatively easy actions include hosting frequent social events that encourage student, faculty and staff members to mingle; supporting a diverse array of clubs and recreational opportunities; and openly celebrating diversity. Also, while colleges are good at sponsoring events that resonate with involved students, such as members of fraternities and sororities, they need to think creatively about how they can support and engage all students -- even and especially those not affiliated with a formal campus organization. Nobody should feel isolated or like a loner at college.

In addition, colleges can encourage people to report threats by having anonymous telephone tip lines and maintaining the confidentiality of those who call or write in. In this regard, as early as at freshman orientation, colleges should proffer the message that students should report a threatening peer and provide them with information on the tip line. Furthermore, colleges should also send the clear message that reporting a threat does not necessarily mean that the person being reported will get in trouble. They can emphasize that, instead, professionals who also have in mind the interests and rights of the person being reported, as well as the safety of the campus community, will evaluate him or her carefully and make thoughtful decisions.

The take-home message is that although it is not possible to prevent all college shootings, many of these tragedies can be prevented if people are willing to report potential and actual threats of violence. Working to create a campus culture of trust and accountability, one that promotes individual investment in the good of the community, will help. We’re all in this together.

Michael L. Sulkowski is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Education in the School Psychology Program. He also is the chair of the Early Career Workgroup of the National Association of School Psychologists.

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Nobel Laureate Won't Allow Guns in Class, Despite Law

One of the most famous professors at the University of Texas at Austin said this week that he plans to ban guns from his classroom, despite a new state law that will allow concealed weapons across campus, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The new law has already attracted lots of faculty opposition, but the pledge from Steven Weinberg, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics and the Jack S. Josey-Welch Foundation Chair in Science and Regental Professor at Austin, gives the cause new weight. That's in part because critics of the law have said it could make it harder for Texas institutions to recruit and retain top professors. “I will put it into my syllabus that the class is not open to students carrying guns,” Weinberg said at a Faculty Council meeting, drawing sustained applause. “I may wind up in court. I’m willing to accept that possibility.”

At the meeting, the council voted to approve five resolutions about the new campus carry law, including one calling for classrooms to be gun-free. Under the law -- set to take effect at public universities this summer and community colleges in 2017 -- people may now take concealed weapons into campus buildings (an earlier law permitted guns on campus but not explicitly inside classrooms or other indoor spaces). Campus presidents are permitted to establish guidelines related to specific safety concerns, but they can’t prohibit weapons outright. Gregory L. Fenves, Austin’s president, is expected to announce his guidelines next month.

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Judge Approves Reworked NCAA Concussion Settlement

A federal judge on Tuesday approved a reworked settlement between the National Collegiate Athletic Association and thousands of former athletes who suffered head injuries playing college sports. The agreement remains largely unchanged from the original class action settlement announced in 2014, including requiring the NCAA to establish a $70 million fund for testing brain trauma in college athletes. The new deal, however, also requires that all NCAA institutions adopt stronger concussion management and return-to-play guidelines.

The NCAA does not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement. Earlier this month, the association's five wealthiest Division I leagues -- the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conferences -- adopted a new policy that granted "unchallengeable authority" to team physicians and athletic trainers in return-to-play decisions involving injured athletes.

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Ball State President Quits Suddenly

Paul Ferguson resigned Monday as president of Ball State University, without an explanation and after less than two years in office. The Star Press reported that faculty leaders and others were surprised by the sudden exit and didn't know why he was leaving. While not saying that there was a connection to Ferguson's departure, the newspaper noted that the Indiana secretary of state's office is investigating -- including a criminal probe -- the university's loss of $13.1 million in investments to fraud.

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New Passing Score for the GED

The GED Testing Service today announced that it will lower the passing score for the GED, a test that serves as the equivalent of a high-school degree. At the same time the service, which Pearson and the American Council on Education own jointly, said it was adding two new, optional levels above the passing score (and the previous passing level) that will allow students to signify college readiness or to earn ACE recommendations for college credits.

The testing service said it decided to "recalibrate" the GED's scoring after comparing the educational success of GED program graduates and high school graduates. The GED two years ago unveiled a new computer-based test. It also has faced new competition.

“The scoring enhancements are based on an extensive analysis of test takers’ performance data from the past 18 months, conversations with state policy makers and elected officials, and external validation with experts,” said GED Testing Service President Randy Trask in a written statement. “This is part of our ongoing commitment to make data-based decisions and continually improve the efficacy of the GED program.”

Florida State Settles With Student in Sexual Assault Case

Florida State University has settled with the former student who said she was raped by the university's star quarterback in 2012. The university on Monday announced that it agreed to pay the student, Erica Kinsman, and her lawyers $950,000, as well as to commit to a five-year plan for sexual assault awareness, prevention and training programs.

“I will always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” Kinsman said in a statement. “I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students.”

Kinsman accused the former FSU football player, Jameis Winston, of raping her in December 2012, but the university did not begin a disciplinary process for Winston until nearly two years after the alleged assault. Articles by The New York Times and Fox Sports, citing documents obtained under open-records requests, accused Florida State and local law enforcement of taking steps to “hide, and then hinder” the criminal investigation into the allegations against Winston. (Kinsman made her identity as Winston's accuser public in the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground.)

The university remains under investigation by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights for possibly violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by mishandling Kinsman's case. FSU did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, and John Thrasher, the university's president, said the “overriding reason” for entering into the agreement was to avoid costly litigation expenses.

“We have an obligation to our students, their parents and Florida taxpayers to deal with this case, as we do all litigation, in a financially responsible manner,” Thrasher said in a statement. “With all the economic demands we face, at some point it doesn’t make sense to continue even though we are convinced we would have prevailed.”

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Blizzard Strands Two Teams on Buses

The Duquesne University basketball team was forced to spend Friday night and much of Saturday on a bus 80 miles outside Pittsburgh in heavy traffic that was also stranded by the snow, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The Duquesne team was returning from Virginia, where it defeated George Mason University on Friday, in a game that was moved up a day because of the blizzard. The team has been live tweeting its ordeal, and the university has also been posting photographs to Facebook, such as the image at right of team members trying to push their bus. (Update: The team is home, after 30 hours and 24 minutes on the bus.)

Meanwhile, the Temple University women's gymnastics team (photo below) is facing a similar struggle to get back to campus, ABC 6 News reported. The team is also using Twitter to keep people informed. (Update: As of Sunday afternoon, the team is no longer stuck and is headed home.)

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Professors Vote No Confidence at Loyola New Orleans

The University Senate at Loyola University New Orleans voted 38-10 to pass a measure of no confidence in the president, the Reverend Kevin Wildes, The New Orleans Advocate reported. Professors say cuts Father Wildes has announced are in large part due to poor decisions he made when the university faced earlier financial and enrollment problems. The board has expressed confidence in the president, and board leaders spoke to the University Senate before the vote.

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