The National Labor Relations Board released a decision Tuesday affirming an earlier 2013 ruling saying that Grand Canyon University wrongly fired an employee for talking about her working conditions. The ruling pertains to a case involving three former employees working in for-profit Grand Canyon’s “grad team,” which pursued “leads” on potential students to enroll in the university’s graduate programs in Christian studies and criminal justice. All three frequently discussed with each other, coworkers and their managers concerns about the quality of leads referred to them, the limited degree programs in which they were permitted to enroll students and the difficulty of meeting enrollment quotas, according to the decision.
They were fired in part for those conversations, which violated a clause in the university’s Employee Counseling Statement prohibiting employees from discussing with each other the terms and conditions of their employment. But the NLRB found in 2013 that the three employees had engaged in “protected concerted activity,” and that the university violated labor law by threatening to fire them for and interrogating them about their speech. (Grand Canyon is not unionized.) The labor board said that the university had only wrongly fired one employee, Gloria Johnson, however, because there seemed to be other, legitimate reasons for firing the other two employees.
Questions about that decision’s legitimacy arose as Grand Canyon filed an appeal when political opponents of President Obama challenged the constitutionality of two of his appointments to the NLRB during a three-day Congressional recess. After the appointment question was settled, the board considered the decision de novo and affirmed it. The NLRB has ordered Grand Canyon to stop threatening to fire employees who discuss their terms and conditions of employment, and to reinstate and “make whole” Johnson, among other things. Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment. Bob Romantic, a university spokesman, said via email that the NLRB "looked at four complaints from 2010, of which three were dismissed. Concerning the fourth complaint [Johnson], we are confident from our internal investigation that we did the right thing for the university and our students regarding a compliance violation by one of our employees. We are reviewing the NLRB’s decision and will consider all appropriate actions, including an appeal.” William A. Herbert, executive director of National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said the case was significant in that it explored the “scope” of what can be raised in interrogations of employees by reinforcing the rule that employers cannot interrogate employees about protected, concerted activities.
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has named Michael K. Young, president of the University of Washington, as the next president of the Texas A&M flagship at College Station. Previously Young was president of the University of Utah and law dean at George Washington University.
Submitted by Paul Fain on February 4, 2015 - 3:00am
Rising costs and lower government aid have made it more difficult for lower-income students to earn a college degree, according to a new report from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) at the University of Pennsylvania. The study tracked data over 45 years. It found that students and families paid for one-third of the cost of the higher-education system in 1980. But that proportion grew to a little more than half in 2012.
A faculty panel has urged the board of the University of Illinois System to stop reviewing faculty appointments and to delegate that authority to senior campus administrators, The News-Gazette reported. The recommendation comes out of the controversy over Steven Salaita, whose hiring was blocked last year by senior administrators who did not believe that the board would approve him. Aside from the Salaita debate, faculty leaders said that the system did not work well in that new faculty members might be on campus teaching before the board officially approved their hire. Administrators have not endorsed the faculty recommendation, but have said that they too favor a streamlining of the process.
The board of Boston University announced Monday that it has rejected a proposal from a campus group that the university sell investments in companies that produce guns for civilians. The board also released policies on when the university should sell investments for non-financial reasons. Those policies place a particular emphasis on the dangers of the appearance of the university as a whole taking a political position.
"A fundamental goal of Boston University is to create an environment in which an academic community can productively consider, discuss, and debate a variety of viewpoints on social and political issues and that encourages freedom of inquiry. Such conditions allow scholars to pursue knowledge according to standards of evidence and logic without the encumbrance of an institutional position that may dampen discussion of alternative views," the statement said. "When the university, as an entity, adopts a single viewpoint or takes action relating to divestment, it risks undermining that goal. Therefore, non-investment or divestment actions based on social or political principles should be very rare and occur in only the clearest of circumstances.... Such circumstances exist only when (i) the degree of social harm caused by the actions of the firms in the asset class is clearly unacceptable; and (ii) any potential negative consequences of the decision (including the risk of censorship of competing views within the university or the risk that the wisdom of the decision will fail to withstand the test of time) are clearly outweighed by the importance of taking the divestment action in order to lessen or mitigate the social harm."
A Jewish fraternity at the University of California at Davis was defaced with swastikas this weekend, The Los Angeles Times reported. Fraternity members said that they believed their house was a target because they had spoken out in defense of Israel when the student government at Davis recently called on the University of California Board of Regents to sell stocks in companies "that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories." But student groups pushing for divestment from Israel said it was unfair to blame their movement, and they too condemned the act of putting up the swastikas.
Yale University will begin providing a sixth year of funding for Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences who need it to finish their studies. Yale is the first university to make such a guarantee. Lynn Cooley, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement that the new arrangement “will enable students to pursue their doctoral research and gain valuable teaching experience without shortchanging either goal.” (Note: This sentence has been updated from an earlier version, which misquoted Cooley as saying "changing" instead of "shortchanging.") Yale says the stipend will take the form of a guaranteed teaching position -- an experience it says makes students more competitive on the job market -- or other assignments tailored to students’ career goals.
Cooley also said many Yale graduate programs in the humanities and social sciences typically take six years, despite the fact that the current funding package covers only five years. She said she and her colleagues still “strongly encourage students to try to finish in five years, but we know from long experience that some programs take slightly longer, so we are delighted to be able to help students in this way.” The minimum annual stipend for Ph.D. students this at Yale this year is $28,400. Most students will be eligible for sixth-year funding, which starts in the fall.
Audit finds U. of Missouri at Kansas City gave false information to Princeton Review to inflate rankings of business school -- and reveals e-mails in which officials say they faced donor pressure on ratings.