Judge Orders Release of Donor Emails in Salaita Case

A judge on Friday ordered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to release emails regarding the revoked tenure appointment of Steven Salaita. The American Indian studies scholar found himself without a job last year after Chancellor Phyllis Wise objected to the tone of his Twitter comments about Israel. Salaita has maintained that donors illegally influenced Wise’s decision, based on the previous release of some emails between Wise and unnamed donors. Salaita wants the full, unredacted email record regarding his nonappointment, but the university has maintained that such a request is unduly burdensome.

Robin Kaler, university spokesperson, said that the institution maintains the request is too large, and that it will “do its best” over the coming weeks to produce the some 9,600 documents regarding Salaita’s case. Kaler said the university tried to negotiate his request to a more manageable size, with little success. Maria LaHood, Salaita’s lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the university was trying to avoid transparency, but that the court agreed releasing the emails was in the public interest. “We look forward to seeing what the university was so eager to hide,” she said. Salaita has another ongoing lawsuit against university leaders and the John Doe donors for breach of contract and tortious interference, among other claims.

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How Star Athletes Evade Legal Consequences

Leading universities regularly intervene when men's basketball or football players are suspected of or charged with breaking laws, an investigation by ESPN has found. The investigation involved examining the athletes of 10 universities to see the percentage of them who were eventually charged with crimes. The network found that athletes are much less likely than similarly aged men in the localities where the universities are located to end up with any charges at all. The most fortunate athletes, in terms of being identified as suspects but never facing charges, were those of Florida State University and the University of Florida.

In exploring these patterns, the network wrote about how the athletics departments contact lawyers on behalf of athletes, and how the assertive defenses of skilled local lawyers discourage local authorities from taking action against athletes.

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Budget Deal Averts Severe Cuts in Louisiana

The Louisiana Legislature on Thursday approved a budget deal that is expected to avert severe cuts to the state's higher education system. The deal is based on a series of legislative maneuvers to raise revenue while allowing Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, to say he stuck to his pledge not to raise taxes. The New York Times reported that many legislators -- Republican and Democratic alike -- used phrases like "money laundering" and "stupid" to describe the deal. But they said they were voting for it because Governor Jindal had threatened to veto all other approaches, and lawmakers did not want to see the deep cuts to higher education.

Nearly Half of Senior Tenured Professors Want to Delay Retirement

Some 65 percent of tenured senior faculty members plan to put off retirement for various reasons, according to a new study from the TIAA-CREF Institute. But the reasons behind that figure might not be what you think. Just 16 percent of respondents said they’d like to retire by the “normal” retirement age of 67 but expected to work longer for financial reasons. A much bigger proportion of respondents -- 49 percent -- said they’d want to work past age 67 by choice.

Those findings are similar to what was observed in a similar 2013 TIAA-CREF study on faculty retirement: that faculty members were putting off retirement, but not just for financial reasons in a still-bumpy economy. Some of those choices are based on “unconfirmed assumptions,” according to the report -- either that faculty members won’t have enough money to retire or that they won’t find viable work alternatives. Female faculty members are more likely than their male colleagues to expect to retire by normal retirement age. Paul J. Yakoboski, a senior economist who co-authored the report, said universities should talk to faculty members about both the financial and psychosocial aspects of retirement so that they can make informed choices. The full report is available here.

Stanford President Will Step Down

John L. Hennessy announced Thursday that he will step down as president of Stanford University next summer. He has been president since 2000 and served as a faculty member and administrator at Stanford before that. While president, he launched and completed a $6.2 billion fund-raising campaign, pushed university-industry relationships, and saw Stanford assume a major role in the development of massive open online courses. Stanford's announcement, with more details on his tenure, may be found here.

In March, at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education, Hennessy discussed his vision for the future of higher education and the digital role in that future.

A 2012 article in The New Yorker explored the close ties between Stanford and Silicon Valley under Hennessy's leadership.

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Accrediting Body Places UNC on Probation

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will not lose accreditation over the academic fraud that occurred there, but it will face one year of probation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges announced Thursday. In October, the university released a detailed report about widespread and long-lasting academic fraud at the university. For 20 years, some employees at the university 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.

In January, UNC submitted a 200-page report to the accrediting body detailing the steps it has taken since the scandal came to light. The university will have to submit a similar update after the probationary period.

"The commission’s decision is the next step -- an expected consequence -- in Carolina’s tireless efforts to ensure integrity in everything we do and that the past irregularities are not allowed to recur," Carol Folt, UNC's chancellor, said in a statement.

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AAUP session discusses off-list reference checks

Smart Title: 

Should faculty members be concerned if administrators check references who were not supplied by job candidates?

President and five trustees quit amid bitter unrest at Cooper Union

Smart Title: 

The president and five trustees resign, saying their vision for the embattled college is substantially different than that of the rest of the board.

Essay criticizes pieces 'The New York Times' is publishing on higher education

The editorial pages of The New York Times seem to have become the destination of choice for people who want to say uninformed things about American higher education. Let me rephrase that slightly: They have become the destination of choice for people who want to say uninformed things that are designed to get readers angry at American higher education, which I presume is why The Times keeps them coming. In today’s America, anger sells.

Though this receptivity to misleading opinion pieces has been around at The Times for a while, it seems in recent months to be building to some sort of crescendo. On April 4 of this year, the paper published “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much” by Paul Campos. According to Campos, the “real reason” boils down to generous government subsidies and bloated administrations. These are longstanding talking points that are unsubstantiated by any evidence. Believe it or not, there are people who actually study this stuff, and there is evidence compiled by economists and others that explains the rise in college costs. None of that is in Campos’s opinion piece, and none of it confirms his conclusions. (I would recommend Why Does College Cost So Much? by Robert Archibald and David Feldman to those who want a thoughtful answer to the question.)

On May 20 the paper published “Platinum Pay in Ivory Towers” by Frank Bruni. I am a fan of Bruni’s work, but he seems to have lost some of his usual good judgment when it comes to the subject of colleges and universities. This particular piece expressed ire at the $8.5 million payout by Yale University to its recently retired president, Richard Levin.

It is fair to find such a sum outrageous. It is less fair to move to Bruni’s conclusion that “the lofty pay of college presidents is part of higher education’s increasingly corporate bent, of the blurred lines between the campus and the marketplace.” Using the example of how a university with many billions of dollars chooses to spend several million as the basis of generalizations about American higher education is like using Warren Buffett as an example of the typical American investor. The latest data from the College and University Association for Human Resources show that the median salary for research university presidents is about $450,000, with most other sectors not coming close to that, and community college presidents having a median salary of $188,000. By comparison, a 2012 study showed the average salary of a partner in a large American law firm to be $681,000. There are far more law partners than college presidents in America.

The nadir of this trend was reached on June 6, with the publication of “Why I Defaulted on My Student Loans,” by the journalist Lee Siegel. Siegel is the author of four books and a contributor to publications including Harper’s, The New Republic and The New Yorker. I assume he makes a living. He is proud of having defaulted on his loans, which he took out, he says, in order to attend “a small private liberal arts college.” If his online biography is correct, Siegel went on to receive three degrees from Columbia University.

It is hard to know how properly to describe Siegel’s piece. One might begin with self-centered, condescending and poorly reasoned. He accepts no responsibility for having chosen a private college over a less expensive public option in the first place; he finds offensive the notion that he might have had to take a job that he found less than true to his “particular usefulness to society” -- which was to write smart things -- in order to pay off his debts. He finds the entire notion of repaying a debt for the receipt of a benefit a “social arrangement that is legal, but not moral.” He encourages others to follow his sterling example.

All this would be easy to dismiss as a colossal display of arrogance and irresponsibility were it not for the imprimatur of respectability bestowed by The Times. I understand the fact that the views expressed on an opinion page do not reflect those of the paper or its editors. But I also believe that those editors have a responsibility to act as, well, editors, and to publish pieces that meet a certain standard of thoughtfulness and stand at least within spitting distance of the facts. It saddens me that the newspaper that is ostensibly the gold standard of American journalism seems to be taking its lead from angry blogs.

I’m thinking of submitting an opinion piece to The Times entitled “College Causes Cancer.” I don’t have any facts to support the claim, but apparently that doesn’t matter, and the title is catchy as hell.

Brian Rosenberg is president of Macalester College.

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Redefining the Faculty Paradigm

Most people agree that faculty performance evaluations should be based on more than student feedback, grants and publication counts. But what does a more complete evaluation process look like? And how would a more progressive department function? The New American Colleges and Universities’ answer is Redefining the Paradigm: Faculty Models to Support Student Learning. The new monograph is based on new faculty evaluation models at NAC&U member institutions, and pushes other colleges and universities to rethink traditional department structures and processes to better support student learning. The monograph promotes the development of “holistic departments” that reject the arguably outdated scholarship-teaching-service faculty evaluation model in favor of processes that are more fluid and responsive to the changing faculty role and departmentwide needs. It also promotes active learning, in which professors are not “sages on the stage” but rather guides in research and other experiential learning.

The Teagle Foundation supported the project. Judith Shapiro, Teagle Foundation president and former president of Barnard College, recently wrote about the benefits of a redefined faculty paradigm here. Representatives from the Sage Colleges and Valparaiso University talked about their involvement with the project at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “One of the big issues here is to relook at teaching, scholarship and service and the collapsing boundaries between the three,” David Salomon, co-editor of the monograph and a professor of English and director of undergraduate research at the Sage Colleges, said at the time. “In a holistic department, someone might pick up more service, and we want to make sure we account for that in the evaluation, as well.”

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