U of Cincinnati Settles for $5.3M With Family of Man Killed by Police Officer

The University of Cincinnati has agreed to a $5.3 million settlement with the family of Samuel DuBose, who was shot and killed by a university police officer in July. The officer who shot DuBose has been charged with murder in a police shooting widely seen as unwarranted. The university will pay the family $4.85 million and will also provide an education free of tuition and fees for each of DuBose's 12 children. The university's president, Santa Ono, issued an apology, saying, “I want to again express on behalf of the University of Cincinnati community our deepest sadness and regrets at the heartbreaking loss of the life of Samuel DuBose. This agreement is also part of the healing process not only for the family but also for our university and Cincinnati communities."

Gay and lesbian presidents report more acceptance than ever in months after gay marriage legalization

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Gay and lesbian presidents report more acceptance than ever with the legalization of gay marriage.

New ID requirements for federal aid may discourage some low-income students

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New online identification system for federal financial aid sacrifices ease of use for security, critics say, hurting low-income students.

Pentagon Lifts Probation of U of Phoenix

The U.S. Department of Defense on Friday removed the University of Phoenix from probationary status, allowing the for-profit chain to again be eligible to participate in a tuition assistance program for active-duty members of the U.S. military.

The sanction, which the Pentagon handed down last October, was related to allegations of improper recruiting of service members. The Pentagon also cited investigations of the university by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and California's attorney general. As a result, Phoenix, which said at the time that it had fixed military-recruiting compliance issues, was barred from recruiting on military bases or enrolling students who received military tuition assistance.

"The department determined that the removal of probationary status was warranted based on the department's internal review, the university's response to the department's concerns as set forth in multiple potential noncompliance notifications including the department's letter dated Oct. 7, 2015, the active engagement and cooperation by representatives of the University of Phoenix, and other relevant materials," said a Defense Department official in a written statement.

Several Senate Republicans, including Arizona Senator John McCain, had complained about the sanction. McCain called the news last week a "victory for due process and basic fairness."

Nike, Ohio State Reach $252 Million Licensing Deal

A contract extending Nike's sponsorship deal with Ohio State University's athletics program is worth $252 million in cash and apparel over 15 years, apparently the richest in college sports, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper reviewed the contract between the apparel maker and the university; the deal apparently just tops the value of a similar arrangement, valued at $250 million, between Nike and the University of Texas at Austin.

That's not a coincidence, according to the Journal. It quoted Ohio State's athletics director, Gene Smith, as saying that the university waited to negotiate its deal until it saw the value of Nike contract renewals with Texas and the University of Michigan, so that it could have the most lucrative arrangement.

The deal will bring Ohio State $112 million in sports apparel and equipment and $103 million in cash over 15 years beginning in 2018-19, according to the Journal. Some of the funds will reportedly be used for scholarships for nonathletes.

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20 Private Colleges Opt Out of Texas Campus Carry Law

Trinity University in Texas on Thursday announced that it would opt out of the state's new campus carry law, becoming the 20th private college there to do so, according to The Texas Tribune. The law, which will take effect this year, allows guns into public college classrooms and dormitories, to the consternation of many academics in Texas and elsewhere. While the law obligates public institutions, it allows private nonprofit colleges to opt out, and many of them are choosing to do so.

"The safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is our highest priority," Danny Anderson, Trinity's president, said in the university's statement. "A weapons-free environment is the best learning environment for a residential campus like Trinity."

The Texas Tribune is keeping a running list of colleges opting out of the law.

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Ithaca College president, under steady fire, will retire, but not for 18 months

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Facing third of trifecta of no-confidence votes, Ithaca College's embattled Tom Rochon plans to retire -- but not for another 18 months.

NCAA establishes 'best practices' for mental health of college athletes

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National Collegiate Athletic Association releases new guidelines on dealing with the mental health of college athletes, an issue that remains a top concern for the association's chief medical officer.

Sluggish Recovery of State Funding for Public Colleges

State funding for public higher education has increased in the five years since the recession. However, those increases are not keeping pace with inflation. Just two states -- Utah and Massachusetts -- have had operating-fund support for public higher education that matched or surpassed the rate of inflation in each of those five years, according to a new report from the University of Alabama's Education Policy Center. Five states failed to hit the inflation rate a single time.

Tuition hikes have continued due to state disinvestment, found the report, which was based on a survey of state-level leaders of community colleges in 49 states. Tuition rates are expected to top this year's 2.1 percent inflation rate (from the Higher Education Price Index) for community college students in 25 states, regional university students in 28 states and flagship university students in 26 states, according to the report. State-based student aid also is not keeping up with inflation.

The report's coauthors are Stephen Katsinas, the center's director, Mark D'Amico, associate professor of education leadership at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Janice Friedel, associate professor of education at Iowa State University, and three researchers at the University of Alabama.

When should colleges revoke an honorary degree? (essay)

Revocation of an honorary degree has risen to the forefront again, occasioned by the recent arrest of Bill Cosby for sexual assault in Pennsylvania in a case for which the statute of limitations has not yet expired. In his lifetime, Cosby has received somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 honorary degrees, and three dozen higher education institutions have not, as of now, rescinded them.

It is high time these colleges and universities did so. If ever an easy case for degree revocation existed, this is it. Indeed, within the last few days, George Washington University rescinded the degree it awarded Cosby, reversing an earlier stand on this issue. That said, the fundamental issues go beyond Cosby and beg for us to answer a much broader question: Under what specific circumstances should an honorary degree be revoked?

I appreciate the difficulty some individuals -- as distinguished from institutions -- may be having with dropping the proverbial hammer on Cosby. He was, for many, an icon -- a mentor and role model to celebrities and noncelebs alike. He broke new ground in terms of race relations, and he had remarkable talent as a comedian. Indeed, I suspect that many people believed he was the character he played on television in the '80s and '90s: the high-minded father Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

Yet however hard it is for us as individuals, institutions of higher learning have deeper and wider obligations to their students, faculty members, administrators and alumni. Institutional leaders need to speak up and out -- as the victims of Cosby have -- about his serial sexual assaults. And revocation of an honorary degree does just that: it signals that the awarding institution will not sanction this egregious behavior. As we enter 2016, now would be a good time to clean up old messes and send forth a message on and off campuses that serial sexual predators are not deserving of our highest institutional accolade.

Most institutions do not have established clear rules or guidelines about honorary degree rescission. The Cosby case creates an opportunity to provide institutional guidance for possible future and less clear-cut -- and thus thornier -- situations.

This subject is especially complex in today’s campus climate. Hot topics continue to proliferate on campuses, including concerns over campus sexual assaults and campus culture, the increase in student protests over racial and ethnic discrimination, claims of First Amendment violations when speakers who disagree with prevailing student norms are disinvited from or silenced on campus, and critiques of political correctness as a way of masking students who are privileged and coddled.

Given the problems with the Cosby situation, it seems wise indeed to craft a written solution for when an honorary degree can and should be revoked and the process that is required to make that happen wisely. That would fill an existing void and facilitate action in the rare case in which it is needed. Developing such a document or documents, however, is easier said than done. We must be cautious about setting criteria that are so broad that almost any honorary degree can be withdrawn in a changed or changing political environment. Yet, if we are too specific and target the criteria to fit Bill Cosby or a Cosby-like situation, we are not providing solutions for situations down the road. In some ways, the dilemmas here resemble the question of whether named buildings, murals and statutes of individuals who were honored in their time but were slave owners or robber barons or misogynists (among other things) should be eradicated.

The criteria also raise the issue of governance. Who should decide whether an honorary degree should be withdrawn and by what voting margin (simple majority or supermajority)? What role, if any, should the president or chancellor play in recommending or championing a degree rescission? What role can and should faculty members and current or graduated students play? Trustees or members of a governing board?

Then there are issues surrounding the timing of the deeds leading to a rescission decision. Are the causes related to events before or after the actual honorary degree was awarded? Does an honorary degree confer ongoing obligations for the recipient, or it is an award for past deeds and actions?

And what about the larger looming question: how to ensure that the criteria do not limit the selection of honorary degree recipients to only those with whose ideology or actions we agree -- philosophically, politically or morally.

Here are my recommendations, appreciating that a one-size-fits-all solution will not work and that campuses need to craft language that is consistent with their own institutional culture and governance protocols.

  • Within the honorary degree, as it is written and as it is ultimately read when conferred, the recipient should be awarded the degree with “all the appertaining rights, privileges of and obligations to” the awarding institution. By adding the word “obligations” to the award itself, colleges and universities are each signaling that with the degree come not only benefits but also ongoing duties. And those duties would include the recipient having acted and continuing to act in ways that are legally and morally consistent with the societal and campus norms. In many cases now, the word “obligations” is absent.
  • Consider this language: “The Board of Trustees, upon motion of a trustee, the faculty and/or staff senate or student body president [wording would be adjusted to reflect actual governance structure in place at a given institution and how the awarding process functions], shall revoke an honorary degree by a two-thirds vote of trustees if it is determined that the action(s) or inaction(s) of the honorary degree recipient are or were so egregious that they violate existing state and federal law and/or the rules and guidelines governing the behavior of students, faculty and staff at [the institution] as reflected in the campus handbook [or other applicable document] as now exists or may hereinafter exist.

It is my hope that these suggestions will spur campuses to add this or similar language to whatever documents govern their procedures for awarding and rescinding degrees. Perhaps what is needed is an entirely new section in any applicable institutional documents related to honorary degrees that reference both the language to be used within the degree itself and the criteria upon which a degree can be rescinded.

It is the expectation that recession of an honorary degree will be a rare and will occur only in circumstances that truly reflect that the recipient’s actions or inactions are so contrary to established legal and social norms that the degree is no longer merited and does a disservice to the integrity of this institution and its stakeholders. Honorary degree recipients will be notified in writing of the institution’s decision to revoke their previously awarded degree.

The best way to test out the language that I’ve suggested is to plug in the names of people to whom this might apply -- now or down the road. What about degrees awarded or to be awarded to former President Bill Clinton or former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton? Eliot Spitzer or Richard Nixon? Tom Brady or Pete Rose? David Irving or Arthur Butz? Cardinal Law, Bishop Eddie Long or Rabbi Barry Freundel?

We in higher education can and should ask which of these people merited or might merit in the future an honorary degree. To be sure, that is another topic, but it is a worthy line of inquiry. And we can rightfully ask whether such individuals violated the law and/or have been prosecuted civilly or criminally or reached an out-of-court settlement. We can consider whether we object to their beliefs or to their conduct in the past or on a go-forward basis (for those still living).

I get that we are on a slippery slope. I get that we may differ as to whether a particular individual’s conduct warrants the granting or revocation of an honorary degree. But each institution needs to set boundaries and know where it stands because the issue of degree rescission will not disappear over time. While the Bill Cosby case may be clear to many of us, the next one may be far less so. We should prepare now to deal as effectively as we can with what the future has in store.

Karen Gross is a former president of Southern Vermont College and former senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Education.


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