Saint Joseph's Notice Suggests Closure Ahead

Officials at Saint Joseph's College, in Indiana (right), have been saying that suspending operations for the next operating year will allow the institution to develop a new financial and academic plan to continue the college. But a layoff notice that the college submitted as required to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development is more bleak, saying that there may not be a plan to keep the institution going, The Lafayette Journal & Courier reported. The form states that the suspension of operations "may ultimately result in the closure of the entire college." And while the form references hope that a report to be prepared during the year will offer a path forward, the form says: "While we hope that this action is temporary in nature, unless the report proves provides a viable option, this action is expected to be permanent in nature." Officials did not respond to requests for comment from the newspaper.


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Quinnipiac drops logo opposed by students for lack of capital letters in "university"

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University drops logo opposed by many students because it featured university without a capital U.

NYU Will Promote Speedier Graduation

New York University, long criticized for its expensive price tag, has launched a new effort called Accelerate to encourage more students to save money by shaving one semester off of their college costs. The program is based on the idea that tuition covers 18 credits a semester, but most students don't take 18 credits. NYU is adding more two-credit courses and outlining paths that students could take to graduation (chart below).

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Liberty Gets Waiver to Join Football Bowl Subdivision

Liberty University will join the Football Bowl Subdivision, college sports' most competitive level, after receiving a waiver from the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday. Liberty requested the waiver in January, seeking permission to enter the two-year FBS reclassification process without having an invitation to join an FBS conference.

In November, the private Christian university signaled its intention to join the FBS by hiring Ian McCaw, an athletic director who helped turn Baylor University into a football powerhouse. “Ian’s success really speaks for itself,” Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty's president, said at the time “You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure -- it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going. This is an exciting time for us.”

Four months earlier, McCaw had resigned from Baylor amid widespread allegations that his athletic department mishandled and covered up reports of sexual assaults and other misconduct committed by football players.

In April 2013, a female volleyball player at Baylor told her coach that she was gang-raped by five football players in 2012. The volleyball coach shared the names of the players with Briles, who, according to the filing, replied, “Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?” The female athlete’s mother later met with an assistant football coach, providing the same list of names. Nobody ever reported the alleged gang rape to any university officials outside the athletic department or to police. At the time, Baylor did not have a full-time Title IX coordinator.

McCaw, the university’s athletic director at the time, was notified of the 2012 gang rape, but allegedly -- and incorrectly -- told the volleyball coach that if his player did not press charges, then the athletic department could do nothing. In a 2013 text message conversation between McCaw and Briles, McCaw was informed about a player who had been arrested for assaulting and threatening to kill another student. A football staff member attempted to talk the victim out of pressing criminal charges, Briles texted, and local police agreed to keep the incident out of public view. “That would be great if they kept it quiet,” McCaw replied, according to the court filing.

“Mr. McCaw was faced with a complex situation wherein he desired to honor the wishes of the alleged victim, who was unwilling to speak to the police, according to her coach, and a request from her coach for guidance as to where he should go with information he had obtained in 2013 about this incident,” Tom Brandt, McCaw’s lawyer, said in a statement released Friday by Liberty. “Mr. McCaw responsibly directed the head coach to the Office of Judicial Affairs, which handles student conduct matters and was the appropriate venue to take such an allegation.”

When first asked in November why Liberty would hire McCaw after the scandal at Baylor, a Liberty spokesman said McCaw “is a godly man of excellent character.” The university declined to comment on the 2013 text message conversation.

“Today is truly historic for Liberty University," Falwell said in a statement Thursday. "This university aspired to compete at the highest levels of NCAA competition and began working toward that dream and vision from the day of its founding in 1971."

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A tongue-in-cheek look at institutions' efforts to differentiate themselves (essay)

To: The Provost, Old Oak College

Re: Current Status of the Committee to Make Us Special

First, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to chair this ad hoc committee. While I’m fairly certain my appointment was the result of my admittedly vociferous criticisms of just about every suggestion Old Oak’s senior administrators have made to improve our recruitment and retention of students, that doesn’t mean I didn’t take up the charge with the enthusiasm that such an opportunity truly deserves. The course release and travel stipend helped, too.

I’m sorry to say, though, that after nine months of weekly meetings and a great deal of research, the Committee to Make Us Special has come up mostly dry. This is not to say there were not ideas. In fact, at last count there were over 2,300 ideas shared by faculty, students, staff, alumni and anyone else who could find their way to our webpage.

We created four categories into which we sorted these ideas:

  1. We Like This but Could Never Afford It.
  2. We Like This, but It’s Been Done, Which Sort of Defeats the Purpose of Making Us Special.
  3. This Will Likely Undermine All That Our Founders Imagined for Us.
  4. Nice Idea but It Will Not Bring Us a Single Student.

Some ideas were category crossovers. For example, the lazy river in the shape of our initials was both a category 1 and category 2. It was also its own category: Ideas That Cannot Actually Be Implemented. We realized our particular moniker’s initials would create a very lazy river, one without the necessary water outflow. On the upside, it might have looked intriguing in a satellite photo -- something, perhaps, as Professor Whelan from the religion department pointed out, similar to a concrete crop circle, or, as Professor Martin from biology pointed out, a wastewater treatment plant (definitely not special).

One suggested category, Ideas Richard Russo Would Likely Satirize, ended up being too large a single category and so we deconstructed it into the above four (a process we acknowledge would undoubtedly be something Russo Would Likely Satirize -- one of our many meta moments).

We considered 22 possible new majors. We began with some of what we’ve come to realize are the usual suspects in such an undertaking. Nursing. Physical therapy. International business. Social justice. Video game design. Recognizing that we are behind the curve on them (a number of our peers and aspirants have already announced these particular programs), we began to think more creatively, combining the best features of some into interdisciplinary majors. Thus, global physical therapy, taught mostly online and focusing on injuries commonly sustained by those on mission trips to developing nations, was popular with the committee.

We did review a number of suggestions for new athletic programs that we might want to add -- water polo, fencing, water fencing (that’s still an emerging sport), trapeze. I must say I was astonished to discover how rapidly the circus arts in general are growing, and the irony of adding those to our campus was not, I assure you, lost on anyone. Twelve different sports with the terms “extreme” or “ninja” in the name were quickly set aside. In the end, the cost of facilities and equipment and the very hefty increase to our liability insurance premium made almost all of them unlikely. I say “almost all” because I’m happy to inform you that our bocce club will become a varsity sport next year. Professor Rubino and the rest of the Italian studies department are thrilled, as you might imagine. This idea may, however, belong in category 4.

Our Subcommittee on Enrollment Strategies (we thought about calling it “Extreme Enrollment Strategies,” but again, set that aside) examined some possibilities as well. One that you had suggested, bringing in our largest first-year class ever, was carefully vetted by our Sub-Subcommittee on Making at Least the Incoming Class Feel Special. Their determination was that this was a shortsighted approach. Our discount and acceptance rates would skyrocket, thus lowering our ranking in U.S. News & World Report, which would, in turn, make future recruitment efforts more difficult. Also, our housing staff would resign en masse. (I realize you think they’re all easily replaceable with cheaper, younger new professionals, but we saw what happened the last time we tried such a thing, and I don’t think the students without housing assignments for three weeks who lived in [yes -- admittedly very nice] tents will ever truly trust their alma mater again. Experience is worth something, is it not?)

In addition, four of our peer institutions announced last year the arrival of their largest first-year classes ever, and apparently at least three will do so again this year. Our demographics consultant made it clear this is not a bottomless well we’re peering down, so to speak. Although we could double our enrollment by attracting and admitting students who cannot pay anything, will need remedial assistance in every subject and don’t actually want to come to Old Oak, it seems this might not solve our long-term need for steady enrollment and revenue growth. In fact, after much number crunching, we believe it would ultimately sink us permanently. I realize that limiting enrollment growth will be a source of great disappointment to our president, who we know loves to announce such things at board meetings, but perhaps you could remind him that his retirement is within sight and his deferred compensation is within reach. That often seems to calm him.

Of course, I recall that one of your charges to our committee was to “investigate the role of the liberal arts for the future of Old Oak, indeed, for all of higher education.” Tall order, that. We did, however, do our best, creating yet another group: the Subcommittee to Read Everything That’s Been Written About the Liberal Arts in the Past Three Years.

Contrary to what you might have heard, those committee members did still find time to teach their classes and tend to their administrative duties, though not particularly well. Their work resulted in a book-length report (yes, they acknowledge the irony of adding to the pile of reports, books, films and tweets on this topic), which then led us to put the issue to a vote of the full committee. The results are instructive:

  • Votes in favor of recommitting to the liberal arts nature of Old Oak: 12
  • Votes in favor of abandoning the liberal arts completely: 12

Honestly, I have not witnessed such a deeply felt deadlock since the great hyena vs. dingo mascot controversy of ’97. As you know, the scars from that battle remain. Literally, in some unfortunate cases.

The alumni office representatives on our committee did take seriously your suggestion that we engage our alums in this process. We learned the following about our alums:

  • They would be willing to help us recruit, if they were not feeling so overwhelmed by their monthly loan payments.
  • They would be willing to provide internship sites for current students, if they were not feeling so overwhelmed by their monthly loan payments.
  • They would be willing to come to campus for career-related events, if they were not feeling so overwhelmed by their monthly loan payments.

It’s worth noting that the one alumni-generated idea the committee felt was worth moving forward for review was the suggestion that we devote a portion of our endowment to alumni debt relief. That would indeed Make Us Special. It would also, our budget director determined, Make Us Broke.

As we conclude the work of our committee, recognizing that we have not succeeded at our appointed task, we feel a deep sense of melancholy, which I suspect you share. I’ve looked for harbingers of better times ahead, but as I suspect many of my counterparts on other campuses are also realizing, there are few. They are there, though, if one squints a bit and ignores demographics, economics and Malcolm Gladwell.

Perhaps you’ve seen the recent excellent movie The Martian? An astronaut named Watney is on a Mars mission, gets injured in a storm, is presumed dead and is left behind by his crew mates. Of course, he’s not dead. (That version of the movie would probably not have gotten green-lighted, although given our cultural fascination with zombies, who really knows?) Watney, fortunately, is a botanist, and so manages to stay alive for months, eating potatoes that he has miraculously grown in Mars soil fertilized by the human waste left behind by the crew. He is also good with a wrench and duct tape. Upon learning that Watney is alive, his crew mates ignore orders from NASA and turn around to get him. (Trust me -- this is all explained in appropriate scientific detail in the movie.) They are successful, bringing Watney back to Earth, where he fulfills his lifelong dream of becoming a professor (a plot twist less believable than the rescue, if you ask me).

I share this brief synopsis in order to end this memo on as positive a note as I can muster (and since there are 47 separate supporting documents attached, I don’t want to take up more of your time). As I ponder the work of our diligent committee, I can’t help but think of Watney, alone and frightened, yet determined to survive against ridiculous odds. What kept him alive till he was rescued was a clear-eyed view of just how dire his circumstances truly were, an ingenious use of shit and, ultimately, the hope of rescue by an intrepid band of space-traveling crew mates. If there is such a band out there, perhaps they will come our way. We are running low on potatoes.

Lee Burdette Williams is a writer and educator living in Burlington, Vt.

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Bob Jones U to Become Nonprofit Again

Bob Jones University lost its nonprofit tax exemption after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in 1976 found that the conservative religious college was practicing racial discrimination with its ban on interracial dating. That decision sparked a long court battle, which ended when the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 upheld the IRS's decision.

The university in 2000 dropped its dating ban and later apologized for practicing racial discrimination.

Now Bob Jones is set to become a nonprofit institution once again, the Greenville News reported. The complex financial reorganization includes the for-profit merging with the operation of a nonprofit elementary school that shares roots with the university.

The transition is scheduled to be completed by next month. Bob Jones is also seeking regional accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

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  • Bucknell University: Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and author of In Defense of a Liberal Education.
  • Elizabethtown College: Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Oregon Promise Influencing Students' Decisions

Oregon's free community college scholarship, which began last year, is encouraging more students to consider going to college and to feel more confident about being able to afford it, according the results of a survey conducted by Education Northwest, a nonprofit research group.

The group surveyed 1,442 young Oregon high school graduates last summer and fall. A majority of respondents who were familiar with the new scholarship program, which is called Oregon Promise, said it helped them see that college could be affordable and that hearing about the program made them think more about going to college.

In addition, nearly a third of respondents who are first-generation college students and Promise recipients said they would not have gone to college without the scholarship.

“Survey responses and stories shared from students demonstrate that individuals feel Oregon Promise has made an impact on their lives by reducing the financial burden of college and making college a possibility,” Michelle Hodara, the study’s lead researcher, said in a written statement. “While this is a first look at how students and educators perceive the program, future research can help identify the broader impact of Oregon Promise on program recipients’ college completion rates and labor market outcomes.”

The scholarship program has been threatened by criticism from leaders of Oregon's public four-year institutions, who said they would prefer more targeted use of state grant aid. Their arguments have been bolstered by a recent report, which found that students from higher-income backgrounds are disproportionately benefiting from the scholarship. Oregon Promise also has money challenges, as its annual cost is expected to more than double from an initial $10 million allocation.

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Lawyer for Florida State Is Arrested and Resigns

Dayton Cramer (right), deputy general counsel at Florida State University, was arrested Tuesday and charged with soliciting a minor for sex, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. A Florida State spokesman said Cramer then resigned just before he would have been fired. Cramer's lawyer said he denies the allegations against him. Authorities said Cramer responded to a Craigslist ad that was part of a sting and he was arrested after showing up to meet someone he believed would be a 13-year-old girl.

John Thrasher, president of Florida State, released a statement saying that "these allegations against our former deputy general counsel are shocking and appalling …. The university immediately placed him on administrative leave. Later in the day, when we received the criminal complaint, we initiated steps toward terminating his employment. However, he resigned before being terminated. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement."

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U of Hawaii Suspends Search for Manoa Chancellor

University of Hawaii President David Lassner announced Wednesday that he plans to suspend the search for a chancellor of the Manoa campus, The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported. The search was down to three finalists. Lassner said he reached out to one of the finalists (whom he did not name) to discuss the job and that person withdrew, and he decided not to proceed. Lassner will serve as interim chancellor while continuing as system president.

The finalists were: Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; Lauren Robel, executive vice president and provost at Indiana University at Bloomington; and John Valery White, acting chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education.

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