Students Occupy Duke Administration Building

Nine students on Friday occupied the portion of an administration building that houses the offices of the president and other senior administrators. The students (and supporters who have gathered outside the building) have demanded the dismissals of several Duke administrators, including Tallman Trask, Duke’s executive vice president, who a parking attendant has charged hit her with his car and used a racial slur before a 2014 football game. Trask has apologized for hitting the parking attendant, which he says was accident, but denied using a racial slur. Duke has said that the incident was investigated and that it can't comment on details of some of the accusations because the attendant is suing the university.

Many of the other demands relate to Duke's treatment of its employees, and a university statement said, "Duke University has well-established internal and legal processes for addressing concerns of any employee, regardless of their position. These are spelled out in the university’s human resources policies, and are covered by state and federal law."

Students who organized the protest have received wide attention on social media under the hashtag #DismantleDukePlantation.

On Sunday, Duke announced that the administration building would be closed today while negotiations with the students continue. In addition, the university announced that it will not punish the students. "In order to facilitate productive dialogue and move towards a peaceful resolution, the nine students will not be subject to student conduct sanctions and legal penalties for their actions," said a statement from the university.

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Wyoming Faculty Senate Rejects Professor of Practice Track

The University of Wyoming Faculty Senate voted down a controversial proposal for a new professor of practice faculty track last week, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The measure failed 28 to 18. Donal O’Toole, professor of veterinary science, reportedly said the faculty opposed a new faculty rank based on professional experience rather than academic expertise over concerns that potential donor and industry influence posed too great a threat to academic freedom. Some worried that as public funding for the university continued to decline, the university would become overreliant on faculty lines linked to outside funding. Others who supported the measure said those concerns were unfounded, and that the university already employs instructors from industry as visiting professors.

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Questions on Removal of Essex County College Leader

Some students and others are asking why the board of Essex County College, in New Jersey, suspended Gale Gibson, the president, and Rashidah Hasan, the college's general counsel and vice president for human resources, reported. There has been no public explanation for their suspensions, but there have been reports of a financial investigation. Students and supporters of Gibson have said they deserve an explanation of what is going on.

U of Maryland chocolate milk research investigation released

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U of Maryland finds numerous problems related to conflicts of interest in a controversial press release about a brand of chocolate milk and treatment of concussions.

University Associations Concerned Over Planned Fetal Tissue Research Subpoenas

The Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities have deep concerns about a congressional panel’s plan to subpoena universities for the names of faculty members, graduate students and other personnel involved in fetal tissue research. “Many scientists and physicians are deeply concerned for their safety and that of their patients, colleagues and students in light of inflammatory statements and reports surrounding fetal tissue donation,” the associations wrote in a letter Thursday to leaders of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. “We are troubled that this information is being sought without any rules or process in place to govern how the panel will use and protect personally identifiable and other sensitive information. … These requests appear to go beyond the panel’s stated scope of ‘relevant matters with respect to fetal tissue procurement.’”

The associations’ letter was prompted by recent revelations that the select panel intends to subpoena institutions for the names and identities of those involved in fetal tissue research, which is legal but controversial since some tissue is obtained through abortions. Some institutions responded to the panel’s initial request for information about fetal tissue research and procurement on their campuses by redacting faculty, staff and administrators’ names, citing security concerns. But the panel wants the information anyway, and is considering obtaining it by legal means. Some have said the process is more about intimidating scientists involved in this work than anything else, but members of the committee say they want to make sure the tissue was acquired legally.

Thursday's letter asks the panel to work in a "bipartisan fashion" to create rules about how personal information will be used, and how security will be promoted. "In the absence of such rules, we urge the panel not to compel the release of individually identifiable information," the associations wrote. "We urge you to allow academic institutions to continue their cooperative engagement with the panel, providing requested information about practices and the value of fetal tissue research without unnecessarily endangering the safety of those seeking to advance discovery and improve health."

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George Mason U Renames Law School After Scalia

George Mason University on Thursday announced that it had renamed its law school the Antonin Scalia School of Law. The law school also received $20 million from an anonymous donor and $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation, a high-profile funder of conservative causes.

Those gifts, the combined amount being the largest ever received by George Mason, will be used to create three new scholarships for law students, the university said. One of the scholarships also will be named for Scalia, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court associate justice who died in February. Scalia was a longtime resident of Northern Virginia, where George Mason is located.

The law school is well known for its conservative scholarship and for attracting many conservative students.

Another Beltway law school, at Georgetown University, in February issued a statement mourning Scalia's death. Some professors objected to the law school's move, saying such "unmitigated praise" should not have been attributed to the entire law school community. 

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Former Stanford Swimmer Convicted of Sexual Assault

A former Stanford University student and all-star swimmer was found guilty Thursday of sexually assaulting a woman on Stanford's campus. The former swimmer, Brock Turner, was accused of assaulting a woman last year, the San Jose Mercury News reported, after she attended a party on campus with her sister. Two men biking to that same party came across Turner assaulting the unconscious woman, and the pair held the swimmer down until police arrived.

Turner said he and the victim, who was not a Stanford student, left the party together and that the sex was consensual, though they were both heavily intoxicated. The woman did not wake up until more than three hours after the assault. Stanford -- which, like many institutions in recent years, has faced criticism for mishandling cases of sexual assault -- expelled Turner last year.

"Today a jury of Santa Clara County residents gave a verdict which I hope will clearly reverberate throughout colleges, in high schools, anywhere where there may be any doubt about the distinction between consent and sexual assault," Jeff Rosen, district attorney, said in a statement. "No means no, drunk means no, passed out means no and sex without consent means criminal assault."

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Academic group moves meeting, just weeks away, outside North Carolina

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Academic Preservation Trust, weeks away from a meeting in North Carolina, opts to move event to Maryland, refusing to meet in state that has just passed an antigay, antitransgender law.

New Public U Collaboration on Student Completion

Seven public urban universities have banded together to form a new collaboration aimed at helping more low-income, underrepresented students earn degrees. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities are leading the creation of the new group, which is dubbed Collaborating for Change.

“Collaborating for Change isn’t just about outlining steps public urban universities can take to improve student success, it’s about helping them actually implement those changes so we can begin to see the progress and improvement that is needed,” APLU President Peter McPherson said in a written statement.

The work will include strategies designed to admit, retain, educate and graduate at-risk students, the groups said, while reducing costs and re-examining campus business models.

The new collaboration in some ways resembles the University Innovation Alliance, a completion-oriented joint project that 11 research universities began in 2014. The alliance earlier this month announced gains in completion rates of low-income students. Georgia State University is participating in both groups.

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Group Wants Ohio Dominican President to Quit

Angry with how Ohio Dominican University has handled declining enrollment and mounting debt, a group of students and alumni are demanding that the president, Peter Cimbolic, be replaced. The university is $40 million in debt, the group wrote in a letter to the Board of Trustees. Between 2007 and 2013, enrollment declined by 40 percent. When Forbes graded private colleges’ financial health, Ohio Dominican was one of five to receive an F.

“He has had six years to fix things, but the situation gets worse on campus every day,” Eric Rauschenbach, a member of the Alumni Council, said in an email.

In a message to the board, Cimbolic said that those problems came before his time. His presidency began in 2010 -- and between 2010 and 2013, enrollment declined only 14 percent. The $40 million in debt, he wrote, was there when he arrived. “They haven’t mentioned our graduate enrollment, which is on the rise,” said university spokesman Tom Brockman. “It’s not like we are 100 percent dependent on undergraduate enrollment.” Across Ohio, he added, many similar universities are seeing undergraduate enrollment declines.

In an email to students and staff, Cimbolic said that the group’s claims were “inaccurate or intentionally misleading.” The Board of Trustees rejected the group’s request to remove Cimbolic, saying that they stand behind the president.


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