Margaret Spellings (right), former U.S. secretary of education, on Friday outlined her agenda for leading the University of North Carolina system, of which she becomes president March 1. In a speech to a retreat of the board, she invoked the UNC system's history -- twice invoking Bill Friday, the late legendary system president. She praised the system overall but said it must focus on results, and results for all kinds of students. "Historically in our country, we have done a good job of educating elites, and we still do," she said. But that's not enough, and higher education needs to do more for all students, particularly minority and first-generation students, Spellings said.
Many academics have accused the board that hired her of micromanaging campuses. Spellings seemed to speak to that concern when she said of the campuses, "we must set clear expectations of institutional leaders and then get out of their way. We must show them the respect they deserve as managers of sophisticated enterprises."
The appointment of Spellings prompted criticism from some students and professors, who have said they fear her priorities will focus on "corporatization" or budget cuts and that she may not show sensitivity to all students. The News & Observer reported that Spellings choked back tears when she discussed this criticism. “I must say that after spending most of my career in service to the public, working on behalf of all students and with people of all points of view, I’ve been surprised at the intensity of the reaction,” she said, “but I look forward to meeting with, talking to and learning from those who have questions about my record and my intentions. When you get to know me, you’ll see that I am driven to provide education and opportunity for all.”
A legal challenge to an alleged no-hire agreement between Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has survived an important test. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles rejected the universities’ request to dismiss a lawsuit from an assistant professor of radiology at Duke who claimed that she’d been denied a job at North Carolina due to an alleged agreement that the two universities wouldn’t recruit from each others’ faculties.
The class-action suit brought by that professor, Danielle Seaman, alleges that the secret agreement was binding, with the intent to artificially suppress wages, and violates antitrust laws. The recent court decision includes a denial of state action immunity against antitrust liability, based on the defendants’ argument that they should be exempt from federal antitrust laws because a state university and health system is involved. Seaman’s attorney, Dean Harvey, said in a statement that the decision “confirmed that secret agreements in restraint of trade are not immune from the antitrust laws simply because a co-conspirator is a state employee.” A spokesperson for Duke declined comment, as did a spokesperson for North Carolina.
Submitted by Jake New on February 12, 2016 - 3:00am
Texas A&M University is investigating reports that students yelled racial slurs at a group of high school students during a campus tour this week.
About 60 juniors from a Dallas-area high school were visiting the university on Tuesday, when a white woman allegedly approached two black students and asked their opinions on her earrings, which were miniature replicas of the Confederate flag. Later, a group of students allegedly began shouting racist slurs at the students, TheDallas Morning News reported, and told the high school students to "Go back where you came from."
A campus tour guide and an official from the high school who were accompanying the students also witnessed and reported the incident.
"I am outraged and tremendously disappointed in the behavior displayed by a group of students on our College Station campus," Michael Young, the university's president, said in a statement. "I deeply regret the pain and hurt feelings this incident caused these young students. Be assured that we take such allegations very seriously."
Submitted by Jake New on February 12, 2016 - 3:00am
At least five other chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon also knew of the racist chant heard at the University of Oklahoma last year, an investigation by the national office found. The fraternity, however, said it could not confirm that SAE originated the chant, which featured lyrics promising that SAE would never accept black members.
"Sigma Alpha Epsilon polled every collegiate member over the course of several months," the fraternity said in a statement Thursday. "We learned there were five chapters that acknowledged hearing the chant in the past five years. However, none of those members who responded said they heard it more recently than 2012, except for the incident at the University of Oklahoma. We provided additional education to those particular chapters on diversity and inclusion to make sure their culture has not deviated from our values and mission."
The fraternity has a long history of its members exhibiting racist and discriminatory behavior. In July, SAE hired a director of diversity and inclusion to oversee new diversity initiatives following the controversy at the University of Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Members of the Oklahoma chapter were caught on video singing the chant -- a song that set racist slurs, lynching imagery and promises of discrimination to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" -- last March, prompting investigations by both the university and the fraternity. Those earlier inquiries determined that the Oklahoma chapter first learned the chant while on a leadership cruise organized by SAE.
“That is where it was learned, and they brought it back from that cruise,” David Boren, Oklahoma’s president, said at the time. “Does it mean that they were taught by some official of the national chapter? No, I don’t think so. But it does mean that it’s known by a lot of people from a lot of places.”
Graham Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, filed lawsuits in state court Wednesday against Penn State (for breach of contract) and Louis Freeh (for defamation), PennLive.com reported. The suits come out of Freeh's investigation on the university's behalf of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The suits claim Freeh misrepresented Spanier's actions as failing to take the child abuse seriously, when Spanier maintains he did not know at the time how Sandusky was abusing children. The suit against Penn State alleges that the university violated pledges in his departure agreement not to criticize him. Penn State and Freeh were not immediately reachable for comment.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a complaint against Adams State University administrators on behalf of Danny Ledonne, a former adjunct professor of mass communications and video production employee who was banned from campus after he repeatedly criticized the university on a personal website called WatchingAdams.org. Ledonne wrote about pay differences between faculty members and administrators and questioned the university's hiring practices, among other topics (he was turned down several times for a tenure-track job, according to the complaint). Adams State issued Ledonne a no-trespass order this fall. The complaint, filed in a federal court in Colorado, alleges violations of Ledonne’s free speech and due process rights, as well as false and defamatory claims by the university that his behavior was threatening.
Adams State said in a statement that the complaint is “based on a wholly false premise that we have been eager to completely refute, but have lacked the legal ability to do, until now.” Officials said that they look forward to “making the case that the university’s actions were based solely on evidence and the belief that Mr. Ledonne’s longstanding pattern of inappropriate actions and threatening statements required us to act in an abundance of caution to protect our students, faculty and staff. We will aggressively contest any accusation that our safety-based decisions were in any way related to constitutionally protected freedom of expression.”
Suffolk University has ended a controversial, long-term marketing contract with Regan Communications, whose chairman has ties to many trustees, The Boston Globe reported. Many on campus have viewed the contract as a conflict of interest because of reported trustee pressure to keep the contract and not consider other alternatives, as President Margaret McKenna has sought. The head of the company was involved with efforts to remove McKenna, who held on to her job last week, but who will leave prior to the start of the 2017-18 academic year.
George Regan, who runs Regan Communications, blasted McKenna in comments to the Globe. “President McKenna has chosen to blame me for her contentious relationship with the board, rather than acknowledging her own indefensible actions as the true reason for the board’s deep and valid concerns for her ability to lead the university,” he said. But many on campus are praising her for ending the relationship with the company.