Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 19, 2019

The University of Akron will offer to buy out 47 percent of its faculty, according to Cleveland.com. The deal is 100 percent of 2019-20 base bay, paid out in two installments, with a separation date of May 2020. Only full-time, permanent professors not teaching in what Akron calls “strategic investment areas” are eligible -- some 340. Akron is currently trying to trim $15 million from its budget, due in part to decreased enrollment. Professors will have until the end of May to decide on the offer. The university said last week that it would put on hold plans to potentially reorganize colleges and programs, but that reorganization talks would resume if faculty, staff and administrators didn’t make progress toward certain goals. Those include removing barriers to working across academic programs.

March 19, 2019

While many are shaming the parents caught up in the college admissions scandal, it may be the case that plenty of parents would have done the same thing (even if few would have the resources to do so). YouGov conducted a poll and found that parents of children up to age 18 were more likely than members of the general public to say they would commit the kinds of acts that led to 50 indictments. Just over one-third (34 percent) of parents said they would pay to have someone else take a standardized test on behalf of a child (compared to 20 percent of the general public). And 25 percent would pay a coach or admissions official to gain admissions for a child, compared to 16 percent of the public.

March 19, 2019

Azusa Pacific University, an evangelical Christian institution that last fall notably removed its ban on same-sex relationships only to reverse course a few weeks later, has once again flip-flopped to allow gay relationships on the California campus.

At the direction of the university’s Board of Trustees, the institution will update its student handbook, striking language in it that barred LGBTQ relationships, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

“APU is an open-enrollment institution, which does not require students to be Christian to attend, and the handbook conveys our commitment to treating everyone with Christ-like care and civility,” Mark Stanton said in a statement to the newspaper. “Our values are unchanged and the APU community remains unequivocally biblical in our Christian evangelical identity.”

After news media reported in late September that Azusa Pacific had removed the ban, pundits harshly criticized the move. This led to the trustees releasing a public statement saying they had never voted on the ban and so it would be reinstated.

Advocates had again called for the ban to be lifted and for administrators and trustees to clarify the university’s position on same-sex relationships.

March 19, 2019

While a lawsuit against Harvard University has renewed the national debate on affirmative action, a similar discussion is going on in New York City over a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to end the system of using an entrance exam to determine who is admitted to elite high schools that provide a pathway to top colleges. The mayor has pointed to a lack of diversity, and in particular to a lack of black students, admitted under the system. New admissions decisions announced Monday appear to be adding to the debate. The New York Times reported that seven of the 895 slots offered for Stuyvesant High School went to black people. That's down from 10 last year and 13 the year before. At Bronx High School of Science, 12 of the 803 offers went to black students, down from 25 a year ago. Asian Americans received 66 percent of the offers at Stuyvesant and 58 percent at Bronx Science.

March 19, 2019

Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh resigned from the University of Maryland Medical System’s Board of Directors after admitting that she had an 11-book deal with the system to write children's books about health.

The network spent $500,000 to buy 100,000 copies of her self-published Healthy Holly children’s books in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018, city and medical system officials told The Baltimore Sun.

A review by the Sun last week found that Pugh is one of nine members of the hospital network’s Board of Directors -- nearly one in three -- who have business deals with the system, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each. The goods and services they provide range from consulting to pest control to civil engineering, the Sun found. The system's 11 hospitals bring in more than $2 billion annually.

Pugh on Thursday amended financial disclosure forms with the state ethics commission for seven years, disclosing that her company, Healthy Holly LLC, sold books to the medical system since 2011. She has been a member of the board since 2001.

In an interview with the Sun, Pugh said board members do not vote on their own contract awards, and that her compensation met with legal requirements for “full disclosure.”

In addition to Pugh, former state senator Francis X. Kelly, who owns an insurance company, reported in 2017 that his company generated more than $1.6 million in revenue from system contracts. In 2018, Kelly & Associates Insurance Group made $2.8 million in revenue from such deals.

Another board member, August J. Chiasera, an executive at M&T Bank, reported on his 2017 form that the bank's deals with the medical system -- eight in all -- generated more than $3 million in revenue and fees. In 2018, the bank received $4.4 million from the system.

UMMS was created in 1984 when the state-owned University Hospital became a private, nonprofit organization. It continues to receive taxpayer money, the Sun reported, including $50 million for expansion of the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The state senate’s finance committee on Thursday is scheduled to hear testimony on legislation that would make it illegal for board members to profit from contracts with the hospitals they govern.

March 19, 2019

A federal appeals court will not toss out a lawsuit by two Kansas State University students who alleged that administrators refused to investigate their rapes and other reports of sexual assault in off-campus fraternity houses.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit agreed with the decision of a federal district court not to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the two female students.

The two women gathered enough evidence to potentially support a claim that Kansas State was “deliberately indifferent” after they reported their rapes to the university, the appeals court ruled. They alleged that the university violated the federal gender antidiscrimination law, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, by not properly investigating their rapes, which in turn caused them to be vulnerable to further harassment and lose educational opportunities.

Though the appeals court agreed with the lower court to not dismiss the case outright, the ruling does not affect the ultimate outcome of the lawsuit.

Kansas State provided a statement to Inside Higher Ed:

The court’s narrow legal ruling did not determine the facts of the case or that the university committed any error. K-State cares about its students and always provides a wealth of support. The university offered numerous resources and support to these plaintiffs -- who both went on to graduate from K-State.

The university is committed to complying with antidiscrimination laws. K-State respectfully disagrees with the court’s decision on the discrete legal issue and believes it is contrary to other court decisions. K-State is reviewing its options for next steps in the cases.

March 19, 2019

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is exploring how to more openly share its publications, data, software and educational materials with the public.

MIT’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Open Access, which began work 18 months ago, published a series of recommendations for the institution to strengthen its open-access policies on March 18. These include broadening the existing MIT Faculty Open Access Policy to cover student publications.

The task force also recommended that MIT ratify a set of open science principles, create an open-access fund for monographs and work with department heads to encourage open practices across all disciplines.

Members of the campus can provide feedback on the recommendations until April 17.

March 19, 2019

Santa Clara County may require Stanford University to nearly quadruple its planned number of employee housing units to secure permission for a campus expansion, The Almanac reported. Stanford wants to build up to 2.3 million square feet of new academic space, 2,600 student beds and 550 units of housing for faculty and staff members. But the county’s proposal, which is still subject to approval by its Board of Supervisors, would require Stanford to build at least an additional 1,622 units of employee housing. A majority of the employee units would have to be built on campus. According to one analysis, Stanford’s expansion plan would bring an estimated 9,610 new people to the campus.

E. J. Miranda, university spokesperson, said via email that Stanford is studying the county’s draft conditions of approval. But building “that level of housing would create more environmental and community impacts than the university’s proposal,” he said. Many colleges in and around the San Francisco Bay face challenges with respect to both student and employee housing that is affordable.

March 19, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, part of USC Dornsife Week, Megan Carroll, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Southern California, looks at what she calls “incidental activism.” Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 18, 2019

Federal investigators say Frank Segui of New York planned to travel to Michigan to kill a professor for whom he once worked as a research assistant, according to the Associated Press. Segui was arrested last month before boarding a bus to Detroit, allegedly to buy an ax and murder the unnamed professor, whom he blamed for his inability to find a job. He appeared in federal court last week on charges of stalking and sending threatening communications. Segui is accused of telling the professor via email that he does “not deserve life.”

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