Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 3:00am

Grand Canyon University has received a letter from the Arizona branch of the American Civil Liberties Union about the for-profit institution's policy regarding employee benefits and same-sex spouses, according to a column in The Arizona Republic.

The university is a Christian-based institution. The letter from the ACLU Arizona legal director states, "On behalf of Grand Canyon University employees who have contacted our office about their denial of health insurance and other employee benefits based solely on their marriage to a person of the same sex … the denial of benefits to LGBT employees in same-sex marriages is in violation of federal law and severely harms those employees and their families."

The university is examining its policies.

"We are also proud of our record with regards to the diversity of both our student body and our employee base. To this point, like many employers, we have not provided marital benefits to same-sex partners. In light of recent Supreme Court and [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] rulings, we are currently evaluating those policies as part of our plan," said Bob Romantic, executive director of GCU's communications office, in an email.

GCU has been exploring a change in its status to a nonprofit institution. Last year, the university's chief executive officer incorporated a nonprofit organization, dubbed Gazelle University. And last month, documents were filed with the Internal Revenue Service to allow Gazelle to acquire GCU's real estate, which would allow the university to make that transition.

Some nonprofit Christian colleges fear they may lose their tax-exempt status by refusing to extend benefits to employees in same-sex relationships, although many others do not expect such a challenge.

Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 3:00am

University of Iowa faculty members appear to be quite skeptical of Bruce Harreld, a businessman who made it to the finalist round of the school's presidential search. An American Association of University Professors survey released Wednesday found that just 3 percent of surveyed faculty found him qualified to be Iowa's next president.

At least 90 percent of surveyed faculty members believe the other finalists -- including Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College; Michael Bernstein, provost of Tulane University; and Joseph Steinmetz, provost at Ohio State University -- are equipped to be Iowa's president.

Harreld, a former IBM executive, visited campus on Tuesday. Iowa's Board of Regents is expected to make a final decision in the search on Thursday.

Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 3:00am

Federal agencies are planning next week to propose new rules for research involving human subjects. Several research organizations said that they were studying the planned notice. Existing rules have been criticized by some for not sufficiently protecting human subjects, while many scientists say that the process of complying has become too complex. Further, many social scientists have pushed for change, arguing that the current system is designed for medical research and needlessly delays important social science work.

Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 3:00am

Sally Stroup will step down as executive vice president for government relations and legal counsel for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), which is the for-profit industry's primary trade group. A spokesman for APSCU confirmed the group was "working on an appropriate transition" for the position.

Stroup is a veteran of higher education policy, having served in the U.S. Department of Education during the George W. Bush administration. She also spent 14 years on Capitol Hill, including an influential stint for the U.S. House of Representatives' Education and Workforce Committee in the 1990s. Between those chapters in her career, she worked for the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix.

APSCU is facing many of the same challenges as the sector it represents. Most of the publicly held chains have left the association during the last year. The group last month announced a restructuring, including a name change and return to focusing on its career-school roots.

Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 3:00am

"Mischiefs of Faction," the political science blog founded by faculty members at Denver and George Mason Universities, is joining Vox, a website that focuses on explaining items in the news. The acquisition is the latest example of news organizations turning to academe to expand their coverage. In 2013, another popular political science blog, "The Monkey Cage," joined The Washington Post.

Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Phillip Sponenberg, a professor of pathology at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, will tell us all about Navajo Churro sheep. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

On the campaign trail Hillary Clinton has been critical of for-profit colleges and has called for tougher regulation of the sector.

During her first year as secretary of state, however, Clinton pushed for the inclusion of a large for-profit education company at a higher education policy dinner hosted at the U.S. Department of State.

Clinton wrote in an email to a top aide that she wanted to add Laureate Education to the guest list for the event. Describing Laureate as “the fastest growing college network in the world,” Clinton said the company was “started by Doug Becker who Bill likes a lot.”

"It's a for-profit model that should be represented," she added in the August 2009 email. A senior vice president at Laureate was added to the guest list, a separate email shows. ***Why not start with the for-profit model quote? It's the strongest one, so I'd let readers get their quick - PF

Former President Bill Clinton several months later became an honorary chancellor for Laureate International Universities, a role for which he was paid $16.5 million between 2010 and 2014. Clinton stepped down from the position earlier this year.

Other attendees at the closed-door event, according to a list emailed to Hillary Clinton, included the leaders of Yale University, Cornell University, New York University, the University of California at Davis, Bryn Mawr College, Berea College and Houston Community College.

The two emails were released by the State Department last month as part of its court-ordered rolling production of messages from the personal email account Clinton used while secretary of state.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Indiana Wesleyan University has revoked the Ed.D. of Dexter Suggs, who resigned as superintendent of the Little Rock School District in April amid allegations that portions of his doctorate were plagiarized, Arkansas Online reported. An Indiana Wesleyan official confirmed that the doctorate was revoked, a move that could be costly for Suggs. Under terms of his exit agreement with the school district, payments would stop if his doctorate were subsequently "revoked, rescinded or otherwise nullified." Suggs could not be reached for comment but earlier had denied any impropriety about his doctorate.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Swarthmore College announced Tuesday that it is keeping its requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores, but that the writing portions on both exams will not be required. "We value writing, and it is of critical importance in being a successful college student,” said a statement from Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions. “But the essay sections of both exams have now been made optional by the testing agencies and we believe there are other ways to determine success in college. These new requirements will better serve our holistic review of new student applications.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 4:29am

Oklahoma Wesleyan University has become the second Christian college to quit the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities because two of that group's members have changed their policies to allow for the hiring of gay faculty members who are married or who are celibate. A statement from Oklahoma Wesleyan's president, Everett Piper, said: “Oklahoma Wesleyan has determined it is not in the university’s best interest to continue to affiliate with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. CCCU’s ambivalence in deciding the status of two member institutions that have advised CCCU they will permit same-sex couples to be employed as faculty members indicates to us that it is time for our university to move in a different direction. We believe in missional clarity and view the defense of the biblical definition of marriage as an issue of critical importance to Christian colleges. The CCCU’s reluctance to make a swift decision sends a message of confusion rather than conviction.”

Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College in July announced policies that would permit the hiring of some gay faculty members, and that decision has upset many other members of the CCCU. Union University, in Tennessee, last month announced it was leaving the CCCU as a result of its failure to kick out Eastern Mennonite and Goshen.

The Christian college group has said that it is consulting with all of its members about what to do. That process is scheduled to conclude on Sept. 21.

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