Trustee Group Seeks to Define Board Member Duties

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges has published a 12-page statement outlining the fiduciary duty of college and university trustees.  

The statement, among other things, encourages boards not to act out of self interest, to create year-round recruitment programs to pool and vet governing board candidates, to create orientation programs for new members and to regularly assess how well board members are adhering to their fiduciary duties.

"Effective board members must be more than names on a masthead," reads the statement by AGB, which provides guidance to governing board members. "They must be fully engaged. They must attend meetings, read and evaluate the materials, ask questions and get answers, honor confidentiality, avoid conflicts of interest, demonstrate loyalty, understand and uphold mission, and ensure legal and ethical compliance. Those who cannot do so must step down and allow others to take their place."

The statement comes in the midst of a handful of states considering required training programs for university trustees.

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U of Oregon Settles Sexual Assault Lawsuit

The University of Oregon has settled a lawsuit with a student who said she was gang-raped by three male basketball players. Oregon will award the student $800,000 and free tuition at the university. It will also adopt a policy requiring transfer students to report their disciplinary history to the university.

The female student sued Oregon and its men's basketball coach last year over allegations that they recruited one of the players who allegedly assaulted her while knowing that he had previously been accused of sexual assault at Providence College. The suit also alleged that the university had scrubbed the three players' transcripts of any references to sexual misconduct, making it easier for them to transfer to play elsewhere after they were accused of misconduct at Oregon. The three students -- who were not charged -- were suspended for up to 10 years, but all have since transferred to play basketball at other colleges.

In addition, the student accused the university of violating her privacy by accessing her campus therapy records without her consent. As the lawsuit contended that the ordeal caused the student emotional distress, the university says it examined her mental health records to prepare for the litigation. The decision to review those records led to a national debate over privacy rights of campus sexual assault victims, though legal experts said the university did nothing illegal.

"I do not believe any of our coaches, administrators or other university personnel acted wrongfully, nor do I believe that any one of them failed to live up to the high moral standards that we value and that they embody in their work every day," Michael Schill, Oregon's president, said in a campuswide email on Tuesday. 

"I do believe that we can no longer afford to debate the incident and must instead move forward and implement a comprehensive set of policies to ensure that all of our students will feel secure in the knowledge that they will be free from sexual violence and feel confident should allegations of misconduct be brought forth they will be dealt with fairly, effectively and expeditiously."

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College leaders need vision, communication and implementation skills (essay)

Colleges -- especially those facing major financial difficulties -- need leaders who can craft a vision as well as carry it out, write Yoram and Edith Neumann.

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ABA Tightens Rules on Employment Reporting

The employment data of several law schools will start to look very different after two American Bar Association decisions Friday.

The ABA affirmed a decision from earlier this year that requires law schools, starting next year, to count school-funded positions and fellowships separately from other employment. Critics of this process claimed that schools with large fellowship programs had inaccurately inflated employment figures. 

Meanwhile, the ABA also defined "long term employment," another indicator of a school's employment success, as a position that lasts a year or longer and pays at least $40,000 a year. The change was hotly contested, as it will force many schools who offer fellowships with salaries under $40,000 to count those as short term employment.

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Wesleyan Suspends Its Only Remaining Fraternity

Wesleyan University has suspended its chapter of Psi Upsilon, the university announced Monday, shutting down the one remaining fraternity on campus.

In an email sent to students and faculty, Michael Roth, Wesleyan's president, stated that the chapter was under investigation by state and federal prosecutors for "illegal drug activity," including group purchases of narcotics. The house will be suspended for at least one year, though Roth said the punishment could last longer as the investigation continues. The property will be off limits to all Wesleyan students. 

"Police monitored and interrupted one of these transactions in May, and the police investigation into this activity is ongoing," Roth said in the email. "We will reconsider Psi U’s status after the relevant investigations conclude. The investigations may also result in other disciplinary consequences for those involved."

In September, Wesleyan ordered its fraternities to become coeducational. At the time, the university only had two fraternities on campus. Delta Kappa Epsilon was suspended five months later, the university said, for failing to "take any meaningful steps or make any reasonable commitments toward residential coeducation." In February, the fraternity sued Wesleyan for "discrimination, misrepresentation and deceptive practices." The lawsuit is still pending, but a motion to allow members to move back into the house this year was recently denied. An unofficial off-campus fraternity called Beta Theta Pi was also made off limits to students last year. 

Psi Upsilon agreed to become coeducational, but the house will now be closed before any female students move in. "This turn of events is deeply disappointing for so many of us," Roth said. "It is certainly a blow to alumni and students who care for Psi U, and that includes the new women members who had planned to live there this fall."

Wesleyan has recently attempted to rein in drug use among its students after use of the party drug Molly led to a string of hospitalizations last year. Ten Wesleyan students and two campus visitors were hospitalized in one weekend in February. Many of those who required medical attention used the drug while at a party in the residence of Eclectic Society, a coeducational student organization. Eclectic Society remains on campus, though four students were suspended for selling what police described as a "bad batch" of Molly. 

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Two American U. professors say they didn't get tenure due to their age

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Getting tenure is never guaranteed. But two American U. professors say they don't know what -- other than their age -- could have counted against them in their recent tenure denials.

Appeals Court Issues Stay to Delay Athlete Payments

The effects of last year's ruling in the lawsuit filed by Ed O'Bannon against the National Collegiate Athletic Association's over name and likeness payments were set to begin Saturday. In August, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the NCAA violated antitrust law by not allowing athletes to be paid for the use of their names and likeness. The ruling would have allowed, though not required, colleges to pay players about $5,000 each year beginning on August 1.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the NCAA a last minute stay of that injunction, preserving the status quo while the association appeals the original ruling. The NCAA has argued that allowing athletes to be paid any amount of money outside of scholarship funds would cause "irreparable harm" to its amateurism model. The court did not say when it would release its opinion on the appeal. 

"We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit today granted the NCAA’s motion for stay," Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer, said in a statement. "As a result, the NCAA will not be implementing any changes to its rules in response to the district court’s injunction at this time. We continue to await the Ninth Circuit’s final ruling.”

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Privacy 'loophole' remains open after outrage over U of Oregon's handling of therapy records

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Months after U of Oregon's actions exposed the ability of colleges to seek mental health records of alleged rape victims, the outrage hasn't led to action to prevent others from doing the same thing.

Whittier Adjuncts Tout Gains in First Union Contract

Adjuncts at Whittier College gained some significant improvements to their working conditions in their first union contract, they announced late last week. They’ll see an increase in pay from $1,150 per credit hour to $1,550 by fall 2016, plus a $300 course cancellation fee within 21 days of the start of classes and pro-rated pay for any classes actually taught. A professional development fund also has been established. 
The Service Employees International Union-affiliated adjuncts also gained more job security, such as 1-year appointments starting with the second year of service (up from semester-to-semester appointments). The contract includes additional protections for reappointment and evaluation and a “just cause” standard for discipline and dismissal. 
Whittier adjuncts make up the third SEIU-related part-time faculty union to achieve a contract since SEIU began its Adjunct Action campaign, a major push to organize adjuncts across metro areas. Adjuncts at Tufts and Lesley universities saw similar gains in their first contracts. Dozens of other new unions are negotiating their first contracts.
Whittier President Sharon Herzberger said in an emailed statement that the college and SEIU "have been hard at work for about a year to reach a fair and mutually beneficial agreement. We look forward to continuing our constructive relationship with the union and our talented group of adjunct professors as we prepare to welcome our students in early September." (Note: This story has been updated from an earlier version to include Herzberger's comments.)
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UConn Reports Data Breach by Chinese Hackers

The University of Connecticut on Friday reported a "criminal cyberintrusion" of its engineering college, and that hackers from China appear responsible. The university said it did not have evidence of data removal. But the university said that it is adopting new security measures as well as informing individuals and sponsors of research that could have been accessed. After Pennsylvania State University reported similar attacks, apparently from China in the case of the university's engineering college, experts warned that other universities would likely see such hacking incidents.



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