administrators

Former Professor Awarded $1M for Threats About Suit

A former professor of architecture at Catholic University won $1 million in damages this week after a jury found that the institution attempted to scare her out of suing it for discrimination, The Washington Post reported. After a four-week trial, a jury in D.C. Superior Court rejected Rauzia Ruhana Ally’s claim that she was fired because she is a Muslim Indian woman, but determined that administrators engaged in an email campaign to get her to drop a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Ally was fired in 2012, a year after taking on a job as director of a university project, according to the post. The university said she was insubordinate and failed to keep project costs down, but Ally alleged discrimination. Ally’s attorney during the trial presented emails from Randall W. Ott, dean of Catholic’s School of Architecture, accusing the former professor and her husband of stealing a desk-size model home and discussing a plan to press charges. Ally said she never removed the model, and charges were never brought, but Ott in an email to another administrator referred to the proposed charges as a “threat.”

Elise Italiano, university spokesperson, told the Post that in “both policy and practice, the university is committed to fair and equal treatment of every employee. We have respect for every employee and a rich compliance and ethics program.” She denied that Ott’s emails were malicious but said the university was reviewing standards about how managers communicate.

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Study: Students Know Little About Consumer Credit

Nearly 60 percent of California college students interviewed for a recent survey could not define the term "credit score." The survey, released Tuesday by student loan website LendEDU, included responses from 668 students at both two-year and four-year institutions. More than 40 percent of students said they did not believe that student loan debt was included in a credit report or score.

A separate study released earlier this year by the Council of Economic Education found that only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance.

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Missouri Board Rejects Melissa Click's Appeal

The University of Missouri Board of Curators announced Tuesday that it has rejected an appeal from Melissa Click, an assistant professor at the university's Columbia campus, of the board's February decision to fire her. Click was given the right to file an appeal, which she did. She was fired based on two incidents, both videotaped. In one, she blocked the access of a student journalist to campus protesters even though they were in an open area on a public campus. In the other, the board determined that she interfered with a police officer trying to maintain order amid a protest during a parade.

Pamela Henrickson, chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, said that “in the board’s view, her appeal brought no new relevant information to the curators.” The board’s full rejection of the appeal may be found here.

In her appeal, Click wrote in part, “In my participation and in my actions on both days I firmly believe I was exercising my protected rights as a United States citizen and a citizen of the state of Missouri. I steadfastly believe it would be a violation of my First Amendment rights and my rights to academic freedom to suggest that my interactions on either day provide grounds for the termination of my employment. Additionally, I believe that your decision to terminate my employment without due process in the form of a fair hearing by a faculty body violates my contract of employment with the University of Missouri.”

The American Association of University Professors has questioned the decision to fire Click, and many observers expect the case to end up in court.

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New effort to improve climate for LGBT physicists

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American Physical Society effort seeks to illuminate and improve the climate for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual physicists.

Why colleges use financial aid to attract wealthier students

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The number of Pell recipients a college enrolls doesn't tell the whole story, a report says. Institutional aid and how much low-income students end up paying also matters.

Expelled Basketball Player Will Sue Yale

The captain of Yale University's men's basketball team, who was expelled earlier this year for allegedly assaulting another student, will sue the university for making him "a whipping boy." The lawsuit was announced Monday in a statement by the player's lawyers.

Jack Montague, the former captain, was expelled in February after the university ruled against him in the sexual assault case. Earlier this month, his teammates wore his nickname and number on their shirts while warming up before a game. The show of support sparked anger and debate at Yale. Posters were found around campus urging the men's basketball team to "stop supporting a rapist." The team later apologized.

"Last week, the media widely reported on statements made by Yale students and posters put up on campus, which condemned Jack Montague directly as the named culprit and as a rapist, thus slandering him with this accusation," Montague's lawyers said in a statement. "He was never accused of rape and Yale took no steps to correct these actions. As a result, Mr. Montague has no choice but to correct the record."

This week, Yale will play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's men's basketball tournament for the first time since 1962.

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U.S. Senate Confirms John King as Education Secretary

The U.S. Senate has confirmed John B. King Jr. as the nation’s 10th secretary of education.

Lawmakers on Monday voted 49 to 40 to approve King’s nomination. The Senate education committee signed off last week.

King has been serving as acting education secretary since Arne Duncan stepped down at the end of December. After initially indicating that it was satisfied with keeping King on in an acting capacity, the White House reversed course last month and submitted his nomination to the Senate.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Republican who leads the Senate education committee, had urged the White House to select a permanent replacement for Duncan and supported King’s nomination.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democrat, supported King’s nomination in committee last week but had threatened to withhold her support on the final vote over what she said was the Education Department’s inadequate response to her questions regarding student loan servicing and debt relief for students at for-profit colleges. Warren voted in favor of King’s nomination on Monday.

Senators voting against King’s nomination mostly cited his policies on K-12 education. As New York’s education commissioner, King sparred with teachers’ unions and parents over standardized testing and implementation of Common Core standards, among other issues.

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Berkeley to Fire Assistant Coach for Sex Harassment

The University of California at Berkeley has moved to fire an assistant men's basketball coach after he "violated the university's sexual harassment policy." In a statement Monday, the university said that the assistant coach, Yann Hufnagel, "has been relieved of his duties pending the outcome of the termination process."

The news was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. Hufnagel did not respond to the Chronicle's requests for comment, but he later posted a tweet denying the allegations. "Right now the only focus should be on our basketball team," he tweeted. "My time to exonerate myself of a fruitless claim by a reporter will come."

The basketball team received a bid to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's men's basketball tournament this week.

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Tips for dealing with political candidates when they visit campuses (essay)

The college campus phase of the presidential race of 2016 has kicked off as scores of state primaries fill the nation’s calendar. Already you can hear in the background the alumni anger, charges of policy violations and a rush of disgruntled donors for the doors.

Candidates have visited college campuses for decades, but I don’t think we have seen anything like the vitriol, name-calling, physical shoving and fighting, and controversial candidate stances that now consume the news each day. And it’s not even the general election yet.

A few rallies occurred on campuses in the early part of this crowded campaign, with both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump appearing at the religious institution Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. But it was Trump’s visit with football and wrestling team members at the University of Iowa that officially stands as the starting line for such campus visits. As the world news media watched, the players gave the leading GOP candidate an Iowa-style football jersey with the number one printed on the back.

One University of Iowa alum quickly responded on social media: “I don’t even know how to react to this. I am disappointed and offended this bigot is associated with my alma mater. What’s the story, University of Iowa? How are you going to unring this embarrassing bell?”

The student newspaper jumped into the fray, raising the question of whether the institution violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules and citing a passage that states “student athletes are not allowed to appear in any advertisement that endorses a political candidate or party …” A day later, university officials disagreed with the paper and praised student athletes for getting involved in national politics “as individuals” (albeit in school clothes and in a university athletic facility).

With the election now in full gear, the candidates have begun a wild spring road trip crisscrossing the nation, often appearing on multiple college campuses in different states every day of the week. That road trip will continue right up until election day in November.

The appeal to candidates of visiting higher education institutions is pretty clear. Colleges and universities often have some of the largest venues available in many cities and may charge nothing or little to use them, and young people are traditionally politically active. Institutions are often eager to oblige, as they like the image of dozens, if not hundreds, of reporters rushing onto the campus and providing a nice publicity bump.

But while such events can be a brief boost in national publicity, you need to balance carefully many competing interests, or you will run the risk of generating bad news for your institution.

For example, if the Trump campaign plans to visit, are you ready to address the complaints of minority and international students, religious groups, women, and others who have been offended by his comments? If Senator Ted Cruz denies climate change while speaking from a university-branded lectern, how will your world-class climate scientists react?

What is going to be the institution’s response when Trump supporters shout at your students, “Go back to Africa!” like the situation at the University of Illinois at Chicago last Friday? Silence may not be the best PR plan.

Trump is saying he might pay legal fees for supporters who get in trouble with the law when physically attacking protestors at his rallies. Is your institution going to provide bail money for students who thought they were just exercising First Amendment rights when police arrest them at their own college or university?

This is the new reality of presidential candidate rallies.

Better to have tough conversations about such hypothetical -- yet certainly possible -- scenarios now rather than before the motorcade pulls through the elephant doors for your campus arena.

Tips for Surviving Campus Campaign Season

For two decades, I helped coordinate many candidate visits to Penn State. During the 2008 campaign alone, our university relations staff managed visits from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin and others. One day we shuffled between buildings across campus for meetings with advance team members from both the Obama campaign and the Clinton team, not telling either of them that the other candidate was also coming to campus the same week.

Based on these and many other election-year experiences, here are some lessons I have learned.

  • Treat all candidates the same. Don’t pick and choose which ones you will allow on campus.
  • Put a policy in place. Designate an administrator who will be in charge of hosting such events. At many colleges, it will be the university relations or communications vice president.
  • Establish ground rules about who pays for what. First and foremost, student tuition should never be used to pay for a candidate’s political rally. In addition, you should make sure campaign teams do not run up huge bills and then skip town without paying for anything. That can be a real danger when a campaign goes belly-up before it has paid for the rent of an auditorium or athletic center, campus catering, sound and lighting systems, security, and a lot more. Bills can easily top $20,000 for a quick candidate visit.
  • Always put the best interests of your institution ahead of those of the candidate. When candidates and their supporters leave town a few minutes after the event, campus officials will need to explain what they did and why they did it. Nobody from the campaign is going to stick up for any bad, embarrassing or illegal decisions that were made.
  • Don’t forget it’s your campus. The arena, auditorium, field house or campus quad belongs to your university. Always defer to Secret Service needs, but never let campaign staff members push you around. They are two different entities. Nor should you kowtow to the governor or U.S. senator who’s arrived to show support for the candidate -- or to the big donor whom the building is named after.
  • Remind people at the institution that you are in charge. After you meet with campaign officials and outline how you will help them have a successful event, they will typically begin to work around you every moment they can. The campaign staff will dodge you and go directly to your athletics department -- probably a specific coach or team -- as well as the marching band, cheerleaders, dance team and, of course, the school mascot. You should tell your campus colleagues now and remind them regularly through the rest of the campaign season that you and your office manage such events. The band should not march with Marco Rubio to the podium, and the football team should not make Bernie Sanders an honorary quarterback for the spring intersquad scrimmage.
  • Consider the needs of campus constituencies first. If a campaign worker demands you keep 5,000 students and faculty standing out in the rain for two hours because Bill Clinton is late, ignore him or her if the Secret Service has no security concerns. Open the doors and invite everyone inside.
  • Make sure your university police officers don’t get pushed into playing the heavies. Sometimes, a candidate perceives students, visitors or others to be disruptive simply because they don’t agree with him or her. Every campus police officer in the room needs to understand exactly under what circumstances they are permitted to put their hands on a protestor and lead, or drag, them out of the building in front of dozens of video cameras.
  • Set aside a clear space for demonstrators. Protest is a rich part of the American democratic process. Your campus police and the Secret Service will need to provide a space reasonably close to the event for protesters to gather, hold signs, chant and do interviews with the news media. The university should welcome that group but make sure they and anyone they are hell-bent on insulting remain safely apart.
  • Plan for media coverage. During the campus rally, keep in mind that thousands of people stand ready at a moment’s notice to point their smartphone camera at you, your students, your mascot and your police and help your institution become the next viral sensation on worldwide social media. If that’s not a role you want to star in, plan now. There have been scores of rallies across the country by close to two dozen Democratic and Republican candidates over the past half year. Review news and social media comments to see what students, donors and faculty have most complained about at other institutions. If one of those candidates schedules a visit to your campus, make sure that staff, police and administrators review those complaints in advance and agree how to address similar situations at your institution.
  • Monitor social media in advance. By following messages on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms you can get a pretty good sense of how your students and the public feel about an upcoming event. You can see what their plans are, the location and the number of likely participants
  • Always be prepared for surprises. After several days working smoothly with the advance team for Sarah Palin, we thought everything was proceeding as it should. But then the day of the visit, her campaign staff informed me the university president was not invited to welcome the candidate to Penn State as he normally did with such dignitaries. “The reason?” I asked. “Because he is a known liberal.”

This is a harsh presidential election. The candidates and a lot of the public are angry. Candidates regularly shout at one another, launch personal attacks that are thin on accurate information and take strong stances against Muslims, gays and Mexican immigrants. Challenges aside, however, a visit by a presidential candidate can be a great opportunity for your students, faculty members and staff members to watch democracy in action. Make sure you make the moment work for your institution.

Bill Mahon is senior lecturer in Penn State’s College of Communications, where he previously served as vice president for university relations.

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New presidents or provosts: Baker Brock Drake CSULB National ODU St. Mary's Whitman

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  • Augustine (Austin) O. Agho, dean of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has been selected as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Old Dominion University, in Virginia.

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