Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of the Incarnate Word fired longtime President Louis J. Agnese Jr. Monday, ending the three-decade tenure of the president days after it was revealed that he'd been accused of making offensive remarks about African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Mormons and a student with low test scores.

“The board voted unanimously today to remove Dr. Agnese from the office of president, permanently, effective immediately,” university board President Charles Lutz said, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The board made its decision in a closed-door afternoon meeting. The decision was unanimous.

Earlier in August Agnese, 65, had been placed on a 90-day medical leave due to what a board announcement called “sporadic uncharacteristic behavior and comments" causing “considerable concern for his well-being.” Agnese initially threatened a lawsuit but later backed off of those comments. The board's comments at the time did not point to a specific incident, prompting broader discussion about length of tenure and health among university presidents.

Agnese, known as a colorful and even blunt character, oversaw the Roman Catholic university in San Antonio since 1985, steering it through significant growth from 1,300 students in 1985 to nearly 11,000 in 2015.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

The fall semester has just started but Eric Mendenhall, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, already has schooled the Twitterverse on how to shut down slurs. Mendenhall said a student who had just followed him on Twitter posted that "My genetics teachers is a faggot." Believing the comment to be about him, the professor had this to say: 

The short exchange quickly gained attention and has since been retweeted nearly more than 19,000 times. Others tweeted Mendenhall messages of support. 


Mendenhall declined additional comment, and asked that the student's name not be shared. The student also declined comment via Twitter, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, "on the advice of counsil [sic]." His account is now private.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

An Easter Week tradition sees popes and others washing the feet of powerful people, as a sign of quality and service to all. Will Jones, the new president of Bethany College, an Evangelical Lutheran college in Kansas, is embracing that tradition. During the opening convocation last week, he washed the feet of a student. And he urged all attendees, at the end of the convocation, to go to two campus fountains to wash the feet of others. “Let’s tell the wider world that Bethany College dares to be servant leaders,” Jones said.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

The California Department of Consumer Affairs' Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education issued an emergency decision last week demanding ITT Educational Services stop accepting new students at its 15 California locations. 

The decision comes after the U.S. Department of Education banned the company from enrolling new students who receive federal funding. 

Since then, ITT Technical Institute posted a new landing page on its website that states, "We are not enrolling new students." The website also details that credits earned by current students are "unlikely to transfer." 

The company also owns Daniel Webster College in New Hampshire, however, that for-profit institution was excluded from the department's ban.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

A women’s college in Pennsylvania will send its sophomore class on an 8-day trip to Brazil at no extra cost to students.

Cedar Crest College said that in spring 2018 all interested sophomores in good academic, financial and judicial standing will travel to Rio de Janeiro. The college will pay for all travel, lodging and meal costs.

According to a press release, students will enroll in a sophomore experience class focused on cultural competency in the fall term prior to the trip. During the trip students will be divided into groups based on their fields of study, with academic and service-learning experiences to be led by Cedar Crest faculty and staff members.

Cedar Crest is not the only college to offer a classwide overseas trip. Centenary College of Louisiana has since 2014 offered a summer program in Paris for all incoming freshmen, included in the cost of tuition. This year's freshman class traveled to Paris from Aug. 4 to Aug. 13.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

The Rochester Institute of Technology on Monday said the upcoming release of the video game Hack, Slash & Backstab will make RIT the first university in the country to publish on the Xbox One console. The game, which launches Wednesday, was developed by 15 students taking a studio course in the institute's School of Interactive Games and Media. Priced at $4.99, Hack, Slash & Backstab will also launch on PC, Mac and Linux.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign has added Rob Goad, a policy adviser to Indiana Republican Rep. Luke Messer, to craft school choice policies for the campaign. Goad may also play a role in shaping on higher ed proposals for the campaign, according to a report by Education Week. 

Goad's background has been in K-12 education policy. But Messer, the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, in the past has suggested the federal student aid plays a role in driving up the costs of college -- a notion disputed by higher ed policy experts.

Trump's campaign has offered little in the way of concrete proposals on either K-12 education or higher ed policy. Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway promised earlier this month that the last week of August would be focused on education at the campaign. But few details have emerged so far.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

Kaplan Test Prep is announcing today that it will offer free online PSAT instruction, starting in October. Kaplan will offer eight one-hour sessions live, with recordings available for those who can't participate live. Kaplan's announcement noted that, for many students, the PSAT is "the first meaningful step on their path to college."

The move comes at a time that more testing services are offering free test prep. The College Board has been boasting about the free test prep it is offering for the SAT through the Khan Academy. (And the College Board notes that this program is open to those preparing for the PSAT as well.) In April, ACT and Kaplan Test Prep announced a collaboration to provide free online instruction, taught by teachers, for low-income students. That service will be available to all, but those who are not low income will have to pay a fee, estimated to be under $200.

Asked if the latest announcement was part of competition in the free test prep space, Lee Weiss, Kaplan Test Prep vice president of college admissions programs, said via email: "Not at all. Kaplan has been developing our live online instruction capabilities for years. We know that good live teaching makes a meaningful difference in student performance, and we’ve recognized that quality live instruction is not available at scale. As technology has evolved, we saw an opportunity to use technology and our respective expertise to create something that didn’t yet exist."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

​A physicist imprisoned in Iran for five years has been released on parole and will be allowed to leave the country, Nature reported.

Omid Kokabee was a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin when he was arrested in 2011 during a trip to his native Iran.  Kokabee, who was convicted of espionage-related charges, has stated that he was persecuted for his unwillingness to participate in Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He was granted temporary medical leave from prison this spring after having a kidney removed due to cancer. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute: Peter Weiss, research associate at the University of California Santa Cruz, explains why fog, and not rain, collects mercury from the atmosphere and what that could mean for coastal environments. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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