2 Fraternities Refuse to Sign New Pact With U.Va.

Two fraternities at the University of Virginia have refused to sign a new agreement with the institution that was drafted amid the debate over a Rolling Stone article, since discredited, about an alleged gang rape in a fraternity, The Daily Progress of Charlottesville reported. The fraternities say that the new agreement is worse (not just for them but for students generally) than the one that has been in place. It is unclear what will happen if the university continues to insist that the Greek houses sign the agreement and these two refuse to do so.


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Questioning Data on Drinking-Related Student Deaths

Many journalists regularly quote a statistic that 1,800 students a year die from alcohol-related causes. The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" column looked into the statistic and raised a number of questions. The figure comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the CDC reports indicate that three-fourths of these deaths are from car accidents in which alcohol may have been a factor. And the estimates on car accidents are in some ways questionable, as the column details. Many other deaths come from fires, falls and drowning -- tragic of course, but not the image many people think they are getting from the statistic (people who drink so much that they die from the alcohol). About 113 people a year between the ages of 15 and 24 die from binge drinking directly, the CDC reports. If about one-third of them are college students, which would reflect national data, that means about 35 college students a year.


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Opposed by Governor, Community College Leader Quits

John Fitzsimmons is resigning as president of the Maine Community College System, saying that the governor's opposition to his continuing in the role makes it impossible to do so, The Portland Press Herald reported. Board members have backed Fitzsimmons and said he was doing an excellent job. But Fitzsimmons noted that Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, has not been proposing increases in funding for the system as he has grown unhappy with its leader. "I would prefer to stay and help the system. I also know that if the governor is going to punish the system because of me, that’s wrong," Fitzsimmons said. “And while his decision may be wrong, my decision to stay and hurt the system would also be wrong.”

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AFT Think Tank Hosts Panel Discussion on Adjuncts

WASHINGTON -- Several advocates for adjunct faculty members spoke Wednesday during a panel called “The Emergence of the ‘Precariat:' What Does the Loss of Stable, Well-Compensated Employment Mean for Education?” at the Albert Shanker Institute here. The education think tank is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, compared the contingent faculty dynamic to an “iceberg,” in which only the less than one-third of faculty members who are tenure-line are visible to parents and others who still believe in an antiquated professor "myth." If the majority teaching force is vastly under-supported and under-recognized, she asked, “Is higher education the Titanic?” Barbara Ehrenreich, co-editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, said the adjunct faculty trend challenged another myth – that of the university as a meritocracy – and said she believed now is a “turning point” in awareness inside and outside academe about poor adjunct faculty working conditions.

Jennie Shanker, an adjunct faculty instructor of art at Temple University, spoke first-hand about the financial, professional and personal hardships of working as an adjunct faculty member, and also spoke about the initial successes of the AFT-affiliated metro-wide organizing campaign in the Philadelphia area. Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis and interim director of American studies at New York University, linked the adjunct discussion to concerns about student debt, which he said is turning education – what was once a “vital public good” – into the “cruelest of debt traps.” 


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Pacific Lutheran Adjuncts Withdraw Union Petition

Adjuncts instructors at Pacific Lutheran University who wanted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union have pulled their petition from the National Labor Relations Board. Effectively, the current election is over and the one-third of ballots that were challenged by the university – including votes that were submitted late in October due to the federal government shutdown – will not be counted. In a statement issued late Wednesday, organizers said that adjunct faculty members “could actually get to a new election faster and with less legal expense if faculty proceed to a second vote with those currently teaching” at the university. It’s unclear how, if at all, the decision will impact the NLRB’s recent decision in favor of the adjunct union, over claims from the university that any adjunct union would violate several long-standing legal precedents precluding faculty unions at private and religious institutions. A university spokeswoman said via email: "We appreciate the support of our faculty for [the university's] unique system of shared governance and we look forward to working collaboratively with our faculty to continue the work of addressing the concerns of our contingent members."

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urges colleges to look more closely at bank deals

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Feds eye new guidance for colleges that want to enter into agreements with financial institutions to offer banking products on campus.

New Medical School in New Jersey

Seton Hall University and the Hackensack University Health Network on Wednesday announced a plan to create a new school of medicine. The four-year school will be located on the campus of a former biomedical facility in Nutley and Clifton, New Jersey. The private university and the New Jersey-based health company said the school would be combined with Seton Hall's existing nursing and allied health programs. Hackensack's hospitals also will serve as Seton Hall's primary clinical teaching sites.

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Maine Governor Seeks to Oust Community College President

Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, is trying to oust the president of the state's community college system, but the system board is resisting the move, The Portland Press Herald reported. Governor LePage says that President John Fitzsimmons hasn't shown sufficient support for efforts to improve the system of transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions or the Bridge Year Program, under which high school students earn community college credits. Fitzsimmons said that the system is working on the transfer issue and that the Bridge Year Program isn't fully financially supported by the state, and so forces the system to shift money from other students and programs.

Chris McCormick, a board member who is president and CEO of LL Bean, said: “It’s fair to say that the governor’s statements and request for John Fitzsimmons to step down are appalling and grossly misinformed. John has done a very good job. This is a very efficiently run and administratively light organization.”

Body-Slammed Arizona State Professor Sues for $2M

Ersula Ore, the assistant professor of English at Arizona State University who was body-slammed by campus police during a jaywalking-related arrest last year, filed a $2 million claim against the university, The Arizona Republic reported. The newspaper recently obtained, via an open records request, a notice of claim filed by Ore in November alleging that Stewart Ferrin, the officer who arrested her, used excessive force and violated her due process rights. Ore says she suffered financial, emotional and psychological damages, including post-traumatic stress, as a result of the incident, and that she continues to feel she is “not safe” in the presence of police. The university notified Ferrin this month that it intends to fire him, and he is appealing the decision. Ore’s lawyer, Daniel Ortega, said the claim will stand regardless of the outcome of Ferrin’s case. A spokesman for the university said its officials are reviewing the claim.

Court Revives First Amendment Suit on Facebook Post

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit revived a lengthy First Amendment lawsuit against Valdosta State University on Monday, reversing a lower court's 2010 dismissal of the case. Hayden Barnes sued Valdosta State in 2008 after he was expelled for protesting the university's plan to build two parking garages with $30 million in student fees. The university said at the time that it considered a collage of images Barnes posted to his Facebook page, as well as a misinterpreted video contest slogan calling on students to "shoot it," to be a direct threat to the safety of Ronald Zaccari, the university's president. The collage featured photographs of a parking garage, Zaccari, and a bulldozer, as well as the words "No Blood for Oil."

Barnes was told that in order to return as a student, a non-university psychiatrist would have to certify that he was not a threat to himself or anyone else, and that he would receive "on-going therapy." After he appealed, with endorsements from a psychiatrist and a professor, the Georgia Board of Regents did not reverse the expulsion. Following the announcement of the lawsuit in 2008, the board changed its mind and reinstated Barnes. In 2013, Zaccari, who had since retired, was found personally liable for the student's expulsion and was required to pay Barnes $50,000 in damages.

“Once again, a federal appeals court has stepped in to ensure that college administrators can’t get away with trampling students’ well-established rights,” said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has advised Barnes on the case since 2007. “How much longer, and how many more lawsuits, will it take to get our nation’s colleges and universities out of the doomed business of unconstitutional censorship?”

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