UW Madison TAs Protest Working Conditions

Teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin at Madison are planning to protest next week over a proposed restructuring of their working conditions and compensation. The students say they were not consulted, but rather learned of the plans to cap their maximum workload at 20 hours from emails directed to faculty members and administrators. The Teaching Assistants’ Association alleges the changes constitute a violation of the university’s promise to uphold its labor contract even after 2011 legislation pushed by Governor Scott Walker challenging public employee unions.

“The proposal to restructure graduate student worker pay is a nonstarter,” association leaders said in a statement. “University administrators' calls for more ‘flexibility’ and a reliance on ‘market forces’ will actually translate into fewer positions and workplace protections for graduate employees. This means that graduate students are going to lose their jobs, along with their paychecks and health insurance.”

John Lucas, a university spokesman, said the student association is wrong in asserting that the changes -- which don’t take effect until 2017 -- will have any impact on their take-home pay or benefits. Rather, he said, the university’s plans relate almost exclusively to a change in the administrative process by which the graduate research assistant stipends are set. “The change will have no impact on the take-home pay or benefits” for research assistants, he said. Lucas said the proposed 20-hour cap applies to international students and is designed to comply with federal requirements.

U of Illinois settles with professor unhired for controversial comments on Twitter

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U of Illinois settles with professor unhired for his controversial remarks on Twitter. He'll get cash but not the job he wanted.

Lessons for administrators who are starting over (essay)

Administrators who are teachers and learners at heart need new environments to learn and grow, says Jim Hunt.

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$100 Million Gift to UCLA for School for Grades 6-12

David Geffen, the entertainment industry executive, is giving $100 million to the University of California at Los Angeles for the institution to create a school for grades 6-12. The effort is in part to create new options for education, with scholarships for low-income students. But a key motivating factor is to expand high-quality education options that would be available for the children of UCLA faculty members. Officials said the availability of affordable, high-quality education is a key factor in faculty recruitment efforts.

With this gift and others in the past, Geffen has donated a total of $400 million to UCLA.

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Missouri Police Apprehend Suspect in Yik Yak Threats

The University of Missouri at Columbia announced Wednesday that police officers apprehended the person they believe made threats Tuesday via Yik Yak. “The suspect is in MUPD custody and was not located on or near the MU campus at the time of the threat,” said the alert from the university. Reports of online threats to kill black people at the university circulated widely Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. While the university has increased security on campus, the institution is operating on a normal schedule. Tensions at the university, where many black students say that they have experienced racist acts and a hostile environment, have run high amid protests that led to the ousters of the campus chancellor and system president. The university is encouraging people not to spread rumors and to report any security concerns.

Authorities identified the suspect as Hunter Park, 19, a sophomore at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and he was charged with making a terroristic threat.

Also charged Wednesday with making a terroristic threat on Yik Yak to kill black people was Connor B. Stottlemyre, a freshman at Northwest Missouri State University, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Authorities said that this threat did not specifically mention the University of Missouri.

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Harvard Professors: 'Hunting Ground' Unfair to Student

The documentary The Hunting Ground provides “a seriously false picture both of the general sexual assault phenomenon at universities” and of a case involving Harvard University students, 19 Harvard law professors said in a statement Wednesday.

The film, released theatrically earlier this year, received critical acclaim and will air on CNN next week. It examines the issue of campus sexual assault, in particular at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where the documentary’s two primary subjects were students. Their story, in which they become activists who travel around the country to inspire other victims to speak out and use the gender discrimination law Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to hold colleges accountable, provides the film’s narrative arc.

Along the way, the documentary takes frequent detours to call out a number of other institutions, including Harvard, for mishandling or ignoring the issue. That section of the film focuses on an assault allegedly committed by a law student there named Brandon Winston.

On Wednesday, a week before the documentary is set to air on CNN, the Harvard professors released a lengthy statement criticizing the film's portrayal of the accused student's case.

“There was never any evidence that Mr. Winston used force, nor were there even any charges that he used force,” the faculty wrote. “No evidence whatsoever was introduced at trial that he was the one responsible for the inebriated state of the women who are portrayed in the film as his victims. Nor was any body vested with final decision-making authority persuaded that Mr. Winston was guilty of any sexual assault offense at all. Mr. Winston was finally vindicated by the law school and by the judicial proceedings, and allowed to continue his career at the law school and beyond. Propaganda should not be allowed to erase this just outcome.”

Diane Rosenfeld, a Harvard law lecturer who did not sign Wednesday's statement, said she disagrees with her colleagues and agrees with documentary's findings. Rosenfeld was involved in Winston's disciplinary proceedings.

“I fully support the Hunting Ground film, which is all about ending the silencing of survivors,” she said. “I am bound by the principles of confidentiality under which the hearing was conducted, so I cannot say anything about the substance of the case. I can however say that the signatories of the press release represent only a minority of the [Harvard Law School] faculty.”

This is not the first time the filmmakers have had to defend The Hunting Ground against critics. Earlier this year, they posted a detailed fact page on the film's website after Slate published an article questioning some of the documentary's claims. The Harvard professors referenced that article in their statement Wednesday.

In an email, the filmmakers, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, noted that, in 2011, the Harvard Law Administrative Board found Winston responsible of engaging in sexual misconduct with the alleged victim while she was unconscious. But Harvard law professors overturned that ruling during the student's appeal. In December, the U.S. Department of Education determined that the appeal process in the case violated Title IX.

“The real injustice at the heart of this issue is that these Harvard Law professors have been completely absent regarding the hundreds, or even thousands, of assaults that have been happening on their campus for decades that have not been investigated or appropriately adjudicated,” the filmmakers wrote. “Where are the letters penned by these esteemed educators on behalf of the students who would truly benefit from their voices of support?”

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Upstart Auditor for Boot Camp Experiment

A recently announced experiment by the U.S. Department of Education will allow a handful of nontraditional providers -- including boot camps and online course providers -- to team up with accredited colleges on academic offerings that will be eligible for federal financial aid. Applicants for the program are required to bring in an outside "quality-assurance entity," which will serve as an alternative form of accreditation.

Entangled Solutions, a higher education consulting firm, said this week that it is seeking to be one of those quality-assurance entities. The company released a white paper describing its philosophy on measuring quality in higher education. Those principles include a focus on outcomes -- including assessments of student learning.

"We intend to focus measurement on the value that each program claims it is providing students and match that with what students are in fact 'buying.' If, for example, a program claims to provide a career benefit, we will measure that benefit relative to the program’s cost, assess how the program’s benefit compares to alternative options, and report on what students say they wanted and received from the program," the paper said.

The new entity's quality-review standards -- and the findings from those reviews -- will be open and publicly available. Entangled Solutions is working with a few college partners to apply to participate in the federal experiment.

Paul Freedman, a principal consultant for the company, said the ultimate goal will be for the new form of accreditor to become an independent, nonprofit entity. The result would be a quality-review process and a set of standards without an owner.

"It would be better to have more of an open marketplace," Freedman said. "That's what we ultimately would like to happen."

College Police Officer Shoots and Kills Suspect, Student at Another College

A police officer at Spartanburg Methodist College on Monday night shot and killed a student at Limestone College, another South Carolina institution, when the officer said the student tried to run him over, The Greenville News reported. Police and witnesses say the officer was responding to reports of car break-ins in a dormitory parking lot. Authorities say when the officer tried to stop two suspects, the Limestone student got in a car and started driving toward the police officer as if to run him over, and the officer fired when the suspect refused to stop.

The officer was a white man and the student was a black man -- and South Carolina, like many other states, has been debating whether police officers are too quick to shoot when suspects are black males. Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said the shooting had “zero to do with color.” He said, “This has everything to do with an officer’s life being put in jeopardy and him defending himself lawfully.”

Spartanburg Methodist recently purchased body cameras for police officers, but they have yet to start using them.

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U of Missouri football boycott demonstrates economic power of athletes

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The University of Missouri football team threatened to strike if the university's president didn't resign. The success of the boycott shows the economic influence athletes can wield.

Texas Tech finds dean inappropriately put in place process to change grades of some students

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Texas Tech dean quits after university panel finds he inappropriately set up system that raised several students' grades -- in violation of university procedures and behind back of professor who assigned the grades.


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