administrators

U of Oklahoma history professors object to joint course with History Channel

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Many historians try to make their work accessible to the public. But how accessible is too accessible, and at what cost? New course offered jointly by History Channel and U of Oklahoma has some on campus wondering.

Rhode Island approves new college to help adults finish degrees

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New college in Rhode Island will help the state's adults with incomplete degrees graduate. Organization's leaders have their eyes on national -- and possibly international -- expansion.

Wisconsin For-Profit Board to Survive

A budget committee of Wisconsin's Legislature last week voted down a proposal by the state's Republican governor, Scott Walker, to eliminate Wisconsin's oversight board of for-profit institutions, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. In February Walker proposed nixing the Educational Approval Board as part of his budget plan. Cutting the small state agency would "decrease the regulatory and fiscal burden" on for-profits, he said at the time.

After the Legislature committee voted down the proposal last week, David Dies, the board's director, said the recent attention has been beneficial. "Ironically I think this whole process has helped create visibility and awareness for the agency," he told the State Journal.

UNC Receives 'Notice of Allegations' From NCAA

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced Friday that it received a "notice of allegations" from the National Collegiate Athletic Association regarding an investigation into whether it violated NCAA bylaws during a decades-long academic fraud scandal. “We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA’s 90-day deadline," UNC said in a statement. "The university will publicly release the NCAA’s notice as soon as possible. The notice is lengthy and must be prepared for public dissemination to ensure we protect privacy rights as required by federal and state law."

The notice comes seven months after Kenneth Wainstein, a former official with the U.S. Department of Justice, released a detailed report about widespread and long-lasting academic fraud at the university. For 20 years, some employees at the UNC knowingly steered about 1,500 athletes toward no-show courses that never met and were not taught by any faculty members, and in which the only work required was a single research paper that received a high grade no matter the content, according to the report. This is the second attempt by the NCAA to investigate the allegations.

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Report Blasts 'Fantasy World' of Presidential Benefits

An Illinois Senate report will be released today blasting the "fantasy world of lavish perks" for presidents of public colleges and universities, The Chicago Tribune reported. The study criticizes funds given to presidents for cars, homes and clubs as well as large severance packages provided to a number of presidents. Some legislators are expected to introduce a bill that would, among other things, limit severance payments to one year's salary.

Higher education leaders (and not just in Illinois) tend to defend various benefits for presidents as needed to recruit top talent. But the report says that these benefits have hurt important values. "This has led to a culture of arrogance and a sense of entitlement reflected in many of these executive compensation plans, with an apparent disregard for middle-class families whose taxes and tuition dollars are funding these exorbitant salaries and excessive fringe benefits," the report says.

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New Study on Suicide Among College Athletes

The suicide rate among National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes is lower than that of college-aged members of the general and collegiate populations, a new study found. Male athletes and football players, the study concluded, had significantly higher rates of suicide than female athletes.

The authors of the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Sports Health, examined nine years of NCAA data on athlete deaths and found that suicide accounted for 35 of the 477 deaths the NCAA recorded between 2003 and 2012.

The annual rate of suicide for male athletes was 1.35 per 100,000, and for female athletes it was 0.37 per 100,000. Among black athletes, the annual rate was 1.22 per 100,000. Among white athletes, the rate was 0.87 per 100,000 students. The highest rate of suicide occurred in football, with a rate of 2.25 instances of suicide per 100,000 athletes.

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Democratic Bill on Pell for Prisoners

A group of six Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday introduced legislation that would reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated college students. Congress in 1994 banned the use of Pell Grants by prisoners in state and federal prisons. However, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce an limited waiver of the ban under the experimental sites program, sources have said. If that experiment is successful, it could help advocates make the case that Congress should drop the ban.

Representative Donna F. Edwards of Maryland led the group of Democrats in introducing the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act on Thursday. Several advocacy groups support it, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund.

Essay on decision to become a provost

Terri E. Givens describes her decision, six years after returning to a faculty job, to become a provost.

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U of Kentucky Will Overhaul Body Donation Program

The University of Kentucky has pledged to overhaul its body donation program, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Like most universities with medical schools, Kentucky uses donated bodies as teaching tools, and encourages such donations. The pledge for improvement followed a report in the Herald-Leader that some body remains were being left to sit for three to five years before burial. Currently 235 cremated remains have not been buried.

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Campuses need to be prepared to produce sexual assault surveys (essay)

“The first step in solving a problem is to name it and know the extent of it -- and a campus climate survey is the best way to do that.” -- The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

Campus climate surveys have become an important tool for universities in the battle against sexual assault on campus.

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, in its April 2014 report “Not Alone,” gave the higher education community a strong hint by writing: “We urge schools to show they’re serious about the problem by conducting the survey next year.”

The task force characterizes regular climate surveys as “a best-practice response to campus sexual assault” and recommends that schools use them to examine the prevalence and incidence of sexual assault on campus, and to assess students’ perceptions of a university’s response to sexual assault.

In the wake of the task force’s report, although climate surveys are not yet required by law, colleges would be ill advised to ignore the drumbeat of support for climate surveys by the federal government.

Here are five things you should know about campus climate surveys.

1. They Will Be Mandated. The task force’s suggestion that schools conduct climate surveys is one of several signals that surveys soon will be required as part of a Title IX/Clery Act compliance program.

Beginning with the University of Montana in 2013, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has made conducting climate surveys a standard requirement in resolution agreements it enters into with schools to resolve Title IX complaints. In addition, a bipartisan group of legislators recently reintroduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, S 590, HR 1310. This bill would require schools to administer “a standardized online survey of students regarding their experiences with sexual violence and harassment” every two years.

Thus, whether de jure or de facto, institutions can count on soon being required to conduct climate surveys.

2. Model Surveys Are Being Developed. The task force included a detailed campus climate survey tool kit with the “Not Alone” report, including sample questions, and selected Rutgers University to pilot the survey. Rutgers has been posting what its team has been learning here and plans to publish a revised survey suitable for widespread use.

The Association of American Universities, an organization of 60 U.S. research universities, is conducting its own survey with 28 members, which will be identical for each participating campus except for five questions that will address campus-specific issues.

Since each campus has a unique culture, it is important to keep in mind that the examples developed by other schools and groups are just that -- examples. Some institutions opted out of the AAU survey because they preferred to conduct a survey tailored to their particular cultures.

Another institution, the University of Alaska, made sure to include questions addressing online harassment in its March 2015 survey, due to its large online-learning community. Colleges with limited resources can begin with the task force’s sample survey (or another model) and adapt the questions to their unique settings to assure the most meaningful results possible.

3. Participation Is a Challenge. CASA would require schools to have an “adequate, random and representative sample size of students” complete the biannual campus surveys. This vague standard may be challenging; an informal review of the results of recent school surveys indicates that 19-25 percent of students participated. Obvious questions exist about whether the students who participate represent a true cross section or are motivated by personal experience with sexual misconduct.

Institutions will have to work creatively to promote the surveys to an often apathetic student body (some designs include incentives for participation, such as nominal gift cards and drawings for larger prizes).

4. How the Surveys Will Be Used Remains an Open Question. A poll of 620 college presidents conducted by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup in 2014 revealed discomfort with mandated surveys, which is likely grounded in several factors.

First, climate surveys are still works in progress (only 21 percent of the presidents indicated that their schools had constructed a survey within the previous two years), and their validity and reliability remain unproven.

Second, as expressed by the American Council on Education in comments on CASA last year, it is unclear for what purpose a climate survey would be used: “Is it intended as a consumer information tool, an institutional improvement tool, an enforcement mechanism or some combination of all three?” The answer to this question could have a substantial impact on how a survey is designed and on how schools and others react to its results.

Underscoring concerns about how results would be used, CASA would require surveys to include questions about how reports of sexual violence were handled, and results to be published by the individual institutions and the Department of Education.

The publication of survey results could have wide-ranging implications -- from reputational harm to enforcement activity. But one can legitimately question whether, for example, negative responses in an anonymous survey with limited participation would truly reflect a systemic problem or an isolated instance.

Other questions relate to the degree, if any, that OCR and courts would consider schools to be “on notice” of a problem reflected in survey results, and the validity of side-by-side comparisons of schools using different survey instruments.

Ideally, these questions will be addressed before surveys are mandated but, as written, CASA would require schools to complete a survey within one year of its enactment.

5. Climate Surveys May Uncover Blind Spots. Despite the potential pitfalls with mandated climate surveys, they can generate valuable data points for schools looking to learn about the success of their efforts to combat sexual violence.

For example, in late January, George Washington University released the results of a 2014 survey that revealed that 80 percent of the students responding did not know how to contact the Title IX coordinator or the university’s sexual assault response team.

The survey results may simply reflect a general challenge in communicating sexual violence resource information to students -- the information might not be important to students until it is needed.

Still, this eye-opening result gives GW valuable insight and will encourage it to communicate the information through additional or alternative means.

Consider these five issues as you plan for your own campus climate survey.

Scott A. Coffina is a partner in Drinker Biddle & Reath’s white collar criminal defense and corporate investigations practice group. Rachel M. Share is a litigation associate at Drinker Biddle & Reath.

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