administrators

Essay on why all academics should oppose ouster of U. of Texas president

Like our fellow Americans, we planned to spend the July 4 holiday weekend with our families and friends. Instead, on the late afternoon of Independence Day, we found our email inboxes near to bursting with reports that the president of the University of Texas at Austin, Bill Powers, had received an ultimatum -- resign, or be fired this week -- from the chancellor of the University of Texas System, Francisco Cigarroa. The timing of this alarming news regarding our president, and the short timeline, seem very odd. Chancellor Cigarroa had announced earlier this year that he will be stepping down to return to his prior career in academic medicine. In addition, many faculty feel it cannot be a coincidence that this announcement came during a national holiday in the summer session when the population of the university community is at its lowest.

While relationships are often strained among UT Austin, its parent organization UT System, and the Board of Regents that provides oversight of multiple campuses and health science centers across the state, we were completely blindsided by this "July 4 Coup." We first learned about events through the media, and we are still waiting to learn the basis for the chancellor's decision. In this age of ever-increasing rules and mandates from the Board of Regents to improve transparency and accountability, we call upon Chancellor Cigarroa to explain his actions, to allow the faculty and other stakeholders at UT-Austin to have a voice, and to listen to what we have to say.

Certainly, any decision to terminate Bill Powers's presidency is independent of his exceptional competence as a leader and visionary in higher education. President Powers has demonstrated an irrefutable ability to successfully lead a university of over 50,000 students and faculty members in good times and bad. Indeed, as chair of the Association of American Universities, he is a "president among presidents" in higher education.

As the 2013, 2014, and 2015 chairs elected to lead UT Austin's Faculty Council, we have worked closely with Bill Powers since he took the helm in 2006. From Hillary Hart, current chair: "In my years on the UT-Austin Faculty Council, and 27 years as a faculty member at the university, I have never seen a president so devoted to students and faculty and so open to innovative ways to deliver high-quality higher education. It seems extremely shortsighted to eject Bill Powers before he can finish the initiatives he has championed in partnership with the very UT System that is now threatening his presidency: programs to increase the four-year graduation rate, to empower faculty to develop innovative courses -- efforts that embody UT Austin's motto of ‘what starts here changes the world.’ ”

These are volatile times for higher education in Texas, and the country needs to pay close attention to events as they unfold. A similar, albeit not identical, situation happened at the University of Virginia in June 2012, when President Teresa Sullivan was forced to resign by that university’s Board of Visitors. Events at Virginia turned into a public relations nightmare, with several prominent faculty members talking about leaving, a loss of donations from alumni (until Sullivan was reinstated), and scorn from the entire country. Interestingly and importantly, it was ultimately the backlash from the faculty that seems to have made the greatest difference in U.Va.'s reappointing Sullivan as president. Among the similarities between the U.Va. and the UT situation, it is interesting that faculty at U.Va. learned of Sullivan's forced resignation on a hot summer Sunday.

Like our counterparts at U.Va., UT Austin faculty members, while famed for independent-minded behavior, are fiercely protective and proud of our university and the president who leads us. Although we have not been heard -- yet -- our voices will be loud, unambiguous, and unanimous in moving forward.

The forced resignation or firing of President Powers, if it happens, will irreparably damage UT Austin's reputation across the state and country, and around the world. His firing would destabilize an exceptionally productive and internationally respected institute of higher learning and research, resulting in a loss of productivity and ultimately, a decline in the quality of education for our students. We cannot believe this is a desirable outcome to leaders at UT System.

A case in point is the new Dell Medical School under development on the Austin campus. The university is in the critical early stages of establishing roots in the medical community, hiring a top-notch faculty, and attracting the country's best students. This will prove exceedingly difficult to achieve in an environment that may, to external appearances, appear hostile. We believe that Chancellor Cigarroa, a talented transplantation surgeon, will understand the consequences of a missed opportunity to build a highly innovative new medical school at the UT System's flagship university.

The July 4 Coup seems to us unmerited, unjustified, and unacceptable.

Author/s: 
Andrea C. Gore, Hillary Hart and William Beckner

Andrea C. Gore, who will be chair of the UT Faculty Council in 2015-16, is Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Hillary Hart, chair of the council during 2013-14, is distinguished senior lecturer in civil, architectural and environmental engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

William Beckner, the 2014-15 chair of the council, is the Paul V. Montgomery Memorial Centennial Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

Supreme Court orders government not to require Wheaton College to fill out form on health insurance coverage

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Supreme Court says Wheaton of Illinois need not fill out form that was part of Obama administration's compromise on health coverage at faith-based institutions.

Sudden Departure for Cheyney President

Cheyney University on Thursday announced that Michelle R. Howard-Vital was retiring as president, and that an acting president will start on Monday. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the announcement followed discussions between Howard-Vital and Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, although system officials did not confirm that. Cheyney, a historically black college, has struggled with deficits and stagnant enrollment. In recent years, enrollment has been around 1,200, down from 3,000 in the 1970s.

Thunderbird May Become Part of Arizona State

The Thunderbird School of Global Management has signed a letter of intent to become a part of Arizona State University, the university announced Thursday. Thunderbird is a freestanding, well-respected private business school, but it has struggled financially in recent years and has been looking to become part of a larger institution. In April, amid criticism from some alumni and objections from its accreditor, Thunderbird and the for-profit higher education company Laureate announced that they were ending talks about an affiliation. Some of the criticism of the proposed deal focused on Laureate's for-profit status.

Thunderbird would remain an independent unit of Arizona State (which has a business school) under the plan being discussed. Current Thunderbird students would be able to finish their current degree programs. The Arizona State statement said changes would also take place at Thunderbird. "As part of the work underway under the letter of intent, Thunderbird and ASU will work to restructure the form that the faculty and staff operations would take as a unit of ASU. Personnel reductions are likely to result, with the goal of making the new Thunderbird school self-sustaining within ASU so that no current or new state appropriations or existing tuition will be required. The nature and scale of the reductions are still being studied," the statement said. When the merger is complete, tuition rates (in-state and out of state) would be set by Arizona Board of Regents rules.

Will Counts, executive director of the Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association, which led opposition to the Laureate plan, issued this statement: "The Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association was surprised at the recent announcement and that the alumni had to first find out about the merger through the media rather than from our alma mater. We have a great deal of respect for ASU, their recent success and wish to remain optimistic. Before we comment on the merits of the ASU-Thunderbird integration we are going to have to see more details about the structure of this transaction. Based on the articles presented thus far, it is even more important to have an independent alumni association going forward."

Charleston Basketball Coach Accused of Bullying

An investigation of Doug Wojcik, the men's basketball coach at the College of Charleston, found that he engaged in bullying behavior, berating players with obscenities and physical threats, The Post and Courier reported. The college has said it is studying the report amid calls for Wojcik's dismissal.

The coach gave this statement to the newspaper: "I'm sincerely remorseful and apologize to those I've hurt. I've already started making amends and working on correcting my actions. The college and I are grateful these concerns were brought to our attention, and every effort will be made to improve relations between myself and members of the men's basketball program."

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Essay calls for end to charging online students same as in-person students

Several hundred incoming Georgia Tech students made history this spring as the first cohort in the institution’s online master’s program in computer science.  While today it is hardly noteworthy that a prestigious university like Georgia Tech is offering a graduate degree online, the university’s decision to price it more than 80 percent less than the on-campus option is truly groundbreaking. At $6,600, the online program is one-sixth the cost of the on-campus one, a fact that higher education leaders should be examining closely.

Georgia Tech’s decision is indeed significant, given that more than 60 percent of large public U.S. universities typically charge online students a campus-equivalent tuition rate, while 36 percent command a premium, according to a 2013 report from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Learning House. Not only is Georgia Tech challenging the status quo in online tuition pricing, but it is also shedding new light on the true cost of serving online students.

These days, two out of three students attending on-campus programs receive some form of generous subsidy or discount, while their online counterparts, generally ineligible for such assistance, foot the full sticker price even though they do not benefit from all the amenities of the revered campus life, do not take up parking spaces, inflict wear and tear on facilities, or take up as much instructor time. Instead of embracing these online learners who produce considerable incremental revenue for institutions, colleges and universities are penalizing them, which has troubling implications not only for students’ bank accounts, but also for universities’ own vaunted views of fairness. By introducing e-tuition, which is appropriately lower than the on-campus price tag, universities could easily capitalize on the scale, brand extension, and new revenue synonymous with online learning while maintaining far more equitable pricing for online students.

In his book Generation on a Tightrope, Woodrow Wilson Foundation head Arthur Levine writes that most nontraditional, online students shop around before choosing a university at which to enroll.  He says they look for low tuitions and fees, but more importantly, they want to be treated fairly and pay a fee commensurate with the benefits they obtain from an institution. However, this is not what is typically happening. For example, students in the Villanova University’s online MBA program will pay nearly 25 percent more for their education than their on-campus counterparts, $1,240 per credit hour versus $1,000 for residential students. While the differential may be less profound at other institutions, the fact that such a disparity exists is confounding and unfair.

Although a rapidly increasing number of universities see online programs as a means of expanding their footprint and a way to capitalize on the principles of scale — adding more students without adding more on-the-ground resources to serve them — the pricing dilemma has not been fairly addressed. 

Some universities, including several in Texas that Academic Partnerships represents, have found another way. Early adopters of online degree programs, Texas public universities have enrolled thousands of students at prices far lower than comparable on-campus options, substantially increasing their market share within two years and retaining that lead six years later.  One such institution now boasts the nation’s largest online public nursing program, while another is home to one of the largest online education programs in all of American public higher education.

Several of these universities have seen their online enrollments increase the total student body by more than 30 percent, with the new revenue generated by online programs allowing some of them to offer faculty raises as other campuses in their systems have tightened budgets.

Though there is some cost associated with launching online degree programs, it pales in comparison to the benefits they can bring as students from all over the world converge through the cloud. Program enrollment of a few hundred can scale by five- or tenfold at a very low incremental cost to the university, while, at the same time, on-campus enrollment increases due to universitywide brand-building driven by intense online marketing effort associated with a successful online rollout.

While higher education is struggling with leaner budgets, the growing wave of digital students creates a meaningful financial opportunity for institutions, especially when online programs are priced at fair e-tuition rates that drive scale. Online learning allows institutions to expand into new markets, extend their brand and prestige beyond regional borders, while at the same time allowing them to tap into legions of new students, building their global alumni base and seeding future fund-raising efforts.

The benefits of online learning are many, and so too are the beneficiaries. E-tuition is both a boon to students and a potential windfall for higher education.

Randy Best is the chairman and CEO of Academic Partnerships (AP). AP strongly encourages its partner universities to offer e-tuition rates to students enrolled in online degree programs.

 

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Arizona State Officer Placed on Leave

Arizona State University announced Wednesday that it has placed Stewart Ferrin, the officer involved in stopping an African-American female professor who was jaywalking and then body-slamming her into the ground, on paid administrative leave. The university said that a "preliminary review" has found no evidence of racial profiling or excessive force -- both of which have been charged by Ersula Ore, the professor, and her supporters.

The Maricopa County Chapter of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization, announced Wednesday that it has received 11 complaints against Arizona State police officers since the start of 2014, The Arizona Republic reported. An Arizona State spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about that number.

 

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U. of Utah Rewrites Gender-Specific Parts of Fight Song

Facing criticism that parts of its fight song lyrics are sexist, the University of Utah on Wednesday announced changes that will remove the implication that the perspective is a male one. The line “our coeds are the fairest” will be replaced with “our students are the finest” and the line “no other gang of college men” will now be “no rival band of college fans." A further complication is that the song has been called "A Utah Man." From now on it will be called "A Utah Man/Fan." The university, mindful that loyal alumni sometimes object to changes in tradition, created a webpage noting that the song has already changed many times in its history. And David Pershing, president of the university, issued a statement in which he said that the new lyrics were a suggestion, not mandatory. “When printed officially by the university, this 2014 version of the fight song will be used, but historical renditions of the song will always be acceptable," Pershing said. "We encourage you to sing – loudly and with pride – whichever version resonates with you.”

 

U.S. Adds 12 Institutions to Title IX Investigation List

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has added a dozen more colleges and universities to its growing list of institutions being investigated for their handling of sexual assault cases.

The additions bring the total number of colleges included on the list to 67.

In early May, the department took the unprecedented step of publicly naming 55 institutions that investigators are probing to see whether their approach to sexual assault and harassment complies with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which requires gender equity in education, including proper handling of sexual assault complaints.

“We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights,” Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant education secretary for civil rights, said in a written statement at the time. “We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue.”

The 12 colleges most recently added to the list are the University of Alaska, Berklee College of Music, Cisco Junior College, Colorado State University, the University of Delaware, Elmira College, James Madison University, Morgan State University, , Missouri University of Science and Technology, the University of Richmond, and Washburn University.

While the list does not contain specific details about the cases, all of the most recent additions are cases opened on or after May 5.

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Ex-President of Illinois State Convicted of Disorderly Conduct

Timothy Flanagan, the former president of Illinois State University, was convicted Monday of disorderly conduct and sentenced to probation, the Associated Press reported. The conviction comes from a confrontation between Flanagan and a grounds-keeper at the presidential home. Flanagan quit the university presidency, after only seven months on the job, amid an investigation into the incident. While Flanagan denied that he did anything illegal, he gave reporters Monday a statement in which he said "I regret raising my voice during this encounter and my choice of words was ill advised."

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