Harvard University's endowment -- the nation's largest -- was up 15.4 percent in fiscal 2014. Those gains raised the value of the endowment to $36.4 billion. The endowment has distributed $11.6 billion to the university in the last five years.
Stanford University is disputing a report in Pro Publica that it agreed that it would not use such Google funds for privacy research at its Center for Internet and Society. The report was based on a court filing in which Stanford said it was not using funds for that purpose. Ethics standards for donations to colleges and universities generally reject the idea that a university should pledge not to research certain topics. But Stanford officials said that they were simply stating the purpose of Google grants (and clarifying what they were not seeking to support with the company's funds). Stanford has clarified that it never imposed limits on what subjects its researchers could study and would not accept a grant under such terms.
The search committee for the next president of Florida State University on Monday rejected the advice of faculty and student leaders and included a state senator without experience leading a college or university among four finalists, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. The other three finalists all have held senior positions in higher education. Many faculty leaders fear that the state senator is effectively assured the job, although trustees denied this was the case. The board is expected to pick the next president today.
Steve Cicala, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago, says he has canceled the lecture he was scheduled to deliver to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Business next month. In a letter to Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise, Cicala calls Wise's stated reasons for pulling controversial scholar Steven Salaita's tenured job offer in the American Indian studies program weeks before the start of school -- namely that Salaita's anti-Israel remarks on Twitter were "uncivil" -- a "fig leaf" for other concerns. Cicala says he can't support the fact that Wise's decision may have been influenced by donors who emailed her about their concerns about Salaita before she made her decision to revoke his offer.
"I understand that you are in a difficult position," Cicala wrote. "It's quite easy for people like me to take potshots from the moral high ground without having to ensure sufficient funds to keep the lights on. I urge you to consider the long-term damage wrought by gutting the guarantee of inquiry free from outside interference. It far exceeds any short-term gain in donations from donors who don't understand the difference between a university and a political action committee."
Cicala sent his letter late last week, but has not heard back from Wise, he said. A spokeswoman for Illinois did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cicala said he hopes more economists will join the Illinois boycott movement stemming from the Salaita decision.
Adjuncts at the College of Saint Rose, in Albany, N.Y., have voted to form a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. The union has organized some 21,000 adjuncts across the U.S. as part of its Adjunct Action campaign. At Saint Rose, the vote was 175 to 61. Bradley Russell, an adjunct instructor of anthropology and member of the organizing committee, called the vote "historic," saying that Saint Rose had taken "a step to live up to its well-known commitment to social justice."
In a statement, Saint Rose officials said: "The issues surrounding the role of adjunct faculty in our nation’s colleges and universities is one that deserves national discussion and dialogue, and we thank our faculty for taking a role in propelling the conversation. Currently, approximately 70 percent of the undergraduate and graduate credits at Saint Rose are taught by full-time faculty and 30 percent are taught by adjunct faculty who bring a wealth of professional experience into the classroom. As the collective bargaining process gets underway, we will continue to work together to move Saint Rose forward and to provide excellence in teaching and mentoring to our students in and outside the classroom."
Recently there has been much debate about the proposed TEACH Act. As the landscape in higher education has evolved, and most educational opportunities now require use of electronic and information technology, institutions have been left without an effective structure for taking access for all into account. Currently, institutions have only lawsuits and enforcement actions to guide them; the point of the TEACH Act is to pave the way for consistent national guidance. The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) supports the proposed legislation and seeks to clarify a few points.
It is important to remember that the TEACH Act comes directly from a recommendation made in the Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Commission Report, and that the AIM Commission was authorized within the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 and had representation of AHEAD as well as additional representation from both two-year and four-year colleges, advocacy groups, service providers, and publishers.
In addition, it is helpful to take a close look at the TEACH Act language itself, and compare it to the arguments being raised in op-eds such as the recent “Good Intentions, Bad Legislation,” published by Inside Higher Ed. While there are several arguments that were raised within the opinion piece that warrant a closer look, one particular statement claimed: “Rather than simply providing helpful, voluntary guidelines, the TEACH Act would effectively require colleges to only use technologies that meet guidelines created by a federal agency, or risk being sued.”
In reality, voluntary guidelines are precisely what the legislation would authorize the Access Board (the federal agency referenced in the op-ed) to establish. While it is conceivable that a federal agency could choose to adopt those guidelines at some point in the future, this legislation itself is simply outlining a means for guidelines to be established. Guidelines would not require institutions to adopt or not adopt any given technology; they would, however, serve as navigational structures that institutions could use to chart their course.
The bigger point, though, is that colleges and universities are already required to honor the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended in 2008 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as well as any relevant state or local statutes. This responsibility is already established, but as court case after compliance review after investigation has proved, institutions are struggling to meet the existing obligations. This legislation does not add new responsibilities or any additional burden, undue or otherwise, to educational institutions, but could, by establishing a common baseline for due diligence, help alleviate some of the existing burden.
In addition, having recognized guidelines allows the commercial publishers, software developers, and others who produce for the educational market to create products that will assist their customers in meeting their current obligations under the law. The TEACH Act would not change the existing requirements surrounding the adoption of technology, but it would provide guidance for both the producers and consumers of educational products.
Under both the ADA and Section 504, colleges and universities are required to provide equally effective access to students with disabilities. Currently, campuses struggle to meet this obligation when it comes to technology. We know that the individual accommodation process is not an effective way to ensure equal access in regard to information- and communication technology-related barriers. This legislation expressly allows the individual accommodation process to be utilized where appropriate, and would offer institutions a more effective framework within which to operate to better ensure efficient, proactive accessibility rather than second-class service to some of their students.
Currently, most institutions can only “accommodate” inaccessible technology with patches, workarounds, and other local ad hoc approaches that not only result in unequal and less effective access, but also are unsustainable.
The point of the TEACH Act, we believe, is to end after-the-fact decision-making processes in how to accommodate technology. The point is not to force certain choices upon the institutions but to ensure that the needs of individuals with disabilities are seriously considered and taken into account at the right point in the acquisition process.
The American people long ago concluded that “separate but equal” was inappropriate treatment of a portion of the population in our country; why do we think it is acceptable now? We support consistency in practices with technology across all college and university campuses to ensure all students with disabilities are afforded the same opportunities as other students. Continuing to operate without national guidelines would not ensure equal access.
Bea Awoniyi is president of the Association on Higher Education and Disability and assistant vice president for student affairs at Santa Fe College. Stephan J. Smith is executive director of AHEAD.
University of Delaware officials confirmed that Eric Tranby, an assistant professor of sociology, is on leave and is expected to resign following allegations of sexual harassment, The News Journal reported. About 300 people rallied Friday at Delaware, criticizing the university for not being more open about why Transby has been placed on leave. The rally followed an article in The Review, the student newspaper, that said that Tranby was investigated over a student's allegation that he had offered her an A in return for sexual favors. Domenico Grasso, the provost at Delaware, sent an email to the campus in which he said the article in the student newspaper included "errors of fact," but he did not specify them. He said that he couldn't discuss specifics of the case, but that "this matter was handled promptly and appropriately, with sensitivity and clear communication with the student and her advocate, and in accordance with all University policies and the requirements of federal law." Both Grasso's email and a response from the Review may be found here.
In an email to Inside Higher Ed, Tranby said: "Last spring, there was a claim of quid pro quo sexual harassment made against me. I strongly deny any allegations that I asked for sexual favors in exchange for a grade, nor did I threaten the complainant in any way. The university takes all claims very seriously, as they should, and they promptly and appropriately investigated the claim. There were no findings of quid pro quo harassment, I was not disciplined, and I remain on faculty. I was upset by the allegations and ensuing rumors, and chose to take a leave of absence while I sought new employment."
The University of Michigan had planned to have a drone deliver the game ball to a football game Saturday, but the Federal Aviation Administration banned the operation, The Detroit News reported. The FAA noted that federal regulations restrict access to airspace over football stadiums seating 30,000 or more fans. The university complied, and called off its plans.