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Early Retirements at Wheeling Jesuit

About one-tenth of the employees at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia have opted to take part in a voluntary early-retirement program as the Roman Catholic institution attempts to change its cost structure.

About 40 faculty and staff members opted to take part in the program, which takes effect at the end of the current academic year. Wheeling Jesuit has almost 400 employees. A quarter of them were eligible for the early retirement offer.

“Like many other small, private institutions, we must continually examine our ability to attract students and talent while maintaining a strong and sustainable operating model,” Kelly Klubert, Wheeling Jesuit’s executive director of alumni and communications, said in an email. “We are reviewing every opportunity to strengthen Wheeling Jesuit University’s future in the Jesuit tradition.”

Wheeling Jesuit has about 1,300 students, 945 of them undergraduates. The university is also making changes to its core curriculum and hiring for some new positions like director of career services and director of admissions. Klubert said it is investing in infrastructure at its 60-acre campus as well.

Officials did not provide a breakdown of the employees taking early retirement between faculty and staff members. Wheeling Jesuit had 77 full-time and 78 part-time instructional faculty members in 2016-17, according to its Common Data Set.

The early-retirement offer is the latest in a series of several significant changes at the university. Last summer Wheeling Jesuit partnered with the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in a move billed as expanding the university’s services and helping it financially. The partnership came after Wheeling Jesuit agreed in 2015 to pay $2.3 million to the federal government to settle claims it misspent research grants.

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Law Dean Settles With University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati College of Law Dean Jennifer S. Bard resigned from her leadership position Monday after striking a settlement agreement over the weekend that has the university reversing a decision to place her on administrative leave.

The settlement follows a tumultuous period of public turmoil at the university’s College of Law. Bard sued the university and its interim provost, Peter Landgren, in April. She filed her lawsuit about a month after Landgren placed Bard on administrative leave after she responded to media reports about faculty members attempting to have her removed. Bard said she was being targeted by a small but vocal group of faculty members as she attempted to cut a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

Under this weekend’s settlement, Bard is withdrawing claims that her constitutional rights were violated and her contract breached. The university is granting her two years of academic leave. She will also retain her tenured professor position in the College of Law, along with a secondary appointment in the UC College of Medicine. She will continue to earn her full dean’s salary, which The Cincinnati Business Courier has quoted at $300,000.

The settlement has the university vacating its decision to place Bard on administrative leave, according to her lawyers at the New York law firm Krantz & Berman LLP. They added that Bard resigned as College of Law dean because the university did not support her when a small number of faculty members resisted attempts she made to set up “responsible” fiscal policies.

“This settlement demonstrates that Landgren had no basis whatsoever to place Bard on administrative leave and his doing so was wholly unjustified and completely inappropriate,” Bard’s lead attorney, Marjorie Berman, said in a statement. “Dean Bard did what the university asked of her in a professional manner with the support of students, alumni, donors and many faculty and staff. We are pleased that the university annulled the leave so as to begin to undo the needless damage they caused to her reputation.”

A University of Cincinnati spokesman disputed those remarks. “We are pleased for all involved at this settlement and would like to move forward constructively,” Greg Vehr said in a statement. “Comments being made by Ms. Bard’s counsel should not be taken at face value, and we dispute their accuracy and truthfulness.”

Bard will be able to search for other jobs in academia during her academic leave, according to her lawyers. She was hired to be dean at the UC College of Law in 2015 under a five-year contract.

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Bryan Trustee Resigns Over President's Actions

A trustee has resigned from the board of Bryan College, a small Christian college in Dayton, Tenn., over his concerns with the president’s actions, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Wayne Cropp’s resignation is just the latest disturbance attributable to Stephen Livesay, the president of Bryan College.

Eight trustees resigned in 2014, around the time the faculty overwhelmingly voted no confidence in Livesay. The next year, the college changed its requirements so that it became extremely difficult to call a faculty meeting. In the years since, four vice presidents and many faculty members have also left the university.

Cropp is a graduate of Bryan and had served on the board for almost a decade. Several people told the Times Free Press that he was the only trustee who tried to hold Livesay accountable. Cropp resigned because he could not tolerate the administration’s lack of transparency and the president’s conflicts of interest, he said.

"I have come to conclude that I have not been effective, and cannot be effective in the future, in holding the leadership of Bryan College accountable to certain principles that I consider important for a not-for-profit institution and especially a Christian institution," Cropp wrote in his resignation letter.

In his letter, Cropp mentioned the transfer of land worth $6.9 million from the National Association of Christian Athletes to Bryan College.

Livesay was chairman of the NACA board and named so many Bryan trustees to serve on it that they soon made up a majority. When the board voted to transfer the land to Bryan last summer, Cropp voted against it and acknowledged Livesay’s conflict of interest. Because of the land transfer, Livesay was able to show a major asset boost in his performance review, which included an examination of the college’s financial state.

"But for the transfer of NACA property to Bryan College in June 2016, Bryan College would have finished the year with a deficit," Cropp wrote in his letter.

The university did not return a request for comment from Inside Higher Ed.

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College VP Sends Email on Possible Closure

A Holy Cross College administrator mistakenly sent an email to the entire student body last week that contained confidential information suggesting the college might close, The South Bend Tribune reported.

Kelly Jordan, the vice president for student affairs at the Catholic liberal arts college in Indiana, sent an email chain with messages dating back to early April.

In it, Jordan wrote that he might “spend the better part of the coming school year closing down the college.”

The emails -- sent to an administrator at Culver Academies, a boarding school in Indiana -- also detailed some of the financial and administrative woes the college has experienced of late. Last month, the president left his post, and three out of five vice presidents resigned from the college soon after. In the emails, Jordan said the college president was fired by the board “quite unexpectedly.”

“I am not sure how all this is going to play out for the college (i.e., if it can even remain in operation),” Jordan wrote April 23. “All of this, of course, is strictly confidential, and I know that I can count on your discretion.”

The messages appeared to be sent to the more than 500 students enrolled at Holy Cross, and possibly some faculty and staff. After it went out Friday morning, the college tried to recall the email, but many students had already opened, saved and shared it.

The interim president, the Reverend David Tyson, sent an email to students, faculty and staff Friday afternoon addressing the incident. “You may have heard about, or received, an email this morning that included some alarming information about the future of the college,” Father Tyson said in the email. “Please understand that this was one person’s opinion and does not reflect the conversations that the Board of Trustees and administration are having about the future of the college …. Regardless of what rumors may be circulating, I am looking forward to classes beginning in August and working with the faculty and students to create a bright future for the college that fully reflects the Holy Cross mission.”

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Divestment Is Expensive, Fossil Fuel Group Says

A trade association representing independent U.S. oil and natural gas producers fired another shot Monday in a running campaign to push back against the effort to convince colleges and universities to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies.

Divestment brings significant portfolio costs and would force a 15.2 percent average reduction in endowment spending, according to the report, from the Independent Petroleum Association of America. The report is part of a program the IPAA started in 2015 to use data to argue that fossil fuel divestment is ineffective.

It says private universities could raise annual tuition by $1,043 to $3,265 to compensate for lost revenue from endowments, depending on their reliance on endowment spending. Public universities, which generally have smaller endowments and less reliance on endowment spending, could raise tuition by $123, to $385.

Supporters of divestment have in the past made the case that fossil fuel companies are overvalued and that clean energy can be more profitable than fossil fuels over the long run. A divestment task force at Barnard College recently concluded it could not predict the financial impact of divesting from fossil fuels.

The campaign coordinator at the climate group 350.org was unimpressed with the report when IPAA shared it on Twitter.

But the senior vice president for operations and public affairs at IPAA, Jeff Eshelman, said divestment would make college degrees more expensive.

“When it comes to the impacts of divestment, whether in the form of increased tuition or cuts to instruction time and faculty, students only stand to lose,” he said in a statement.

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Proposal highlights role of completion in free-college push

A proposal for a federal matching grant underlines the connection between per-student spending by institutions and degree attainment.

Trump Tax Proposal Unclear for Higher Ed

President Trump released a tax proposal Wednesday that would dramatically cut both individual and corporate tax rates.

The plan is silent on many of the tax issues important to colleges, universities and their donors, employees and students, said Matt Hamill, the senior vice president for advocacy and issue analysis at the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

"Where the plan does intersect with higher education, there is a potential for some reduction in the amount of private support of colleges and universities if this were adopted as proposed."

Terry Hartle, the senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said the proposal was "big, bold, expensive and vague."

"It's obvious they are anxious to put something forward so the public sees that major tax cuts are a big priority for the administration," he said.

Brian Flahaven, senior director of advocacy at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said that by doubling the standard deduction and lowering tax rates, the White House proposal would reduce the incentive for charitable giving. That's concerning in a higher ed funding environment where both states and the federal government could be cutting back support for colleges and universities, he said. While comprehensive tax reform would affect those institutions in a variety of ways, the implications for charitable contributions were the clearest in the spare outline released Wednesday.

"Anything that discourages charitable giving to institutions is a concern of ours," Flahaven said. "It's essentially another resource that goes to institutions to help provide student aid."

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Higher ed observers call James Manning a steady hand at Department of Education

James Manning, acting under secretary of education, receives praise from Republicans and Democrats with government experience for his knowledge of the Department of Education and aid programs.

West Virginia Loosens Public University Oversight

A newly signed West Virginia bill cuts the authority of the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission, a move backers say will give local campuses more decision-making flexibility and increase efficiency as potential budget cuts loom over public higher education in the state.

Governor Jim Justice signed the bill Tuesday, according to WAJR.com. It gives West Virginia University, Marshall University and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine more power over their hiring, firing and operations. It also could allow them to avoid some fees.

Presidents at the three universities supported the legislation, saying it aligns the state with others where large public universities gained greater autonomy as state funding fell for higher education.

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100 Companies Formed From U.S.-Funded Research

A report released Tuesday by the Science Coalition identifies 102 companies whose creation was fueled by competitive federal research grants from agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Those companies received about $265 million in public investment over multiple decades and employ 8,900 workers across the country, the report finds. An accompanying database includes profiles of each company.

"If Washington, D.C., is serious about creating good jobs, producing American goods and keeping the U.S. ahead of our international competitors, then, as this report shows, continued strong and steady funding for basic scientific research is a wise investment," said Glynda Becker, president of the Science Coalition.

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