Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 4:16am

Legislation in Kansas would eliminate a tenure system for community college faculty members that grants them the right to due process prior to dismissal, once they have taught four years, The Kansas City Star reported. Similar rights were eliminated last year for elementary and secondary school teachers. At a hearing on the bill Tuesday, faculty members criticized the legislation. “Due process gives us the freedom to speak up with a dissenting voice, without fear of retaliation,” said Melanie Harvey, who teaches chemistry at Johnson County Community College.

Groups representing administrators and trustees spoke in favor of the bill. Greg Goode, representing the Kansas Association of Technical Colleges, said the due process system takes too long and makes it too difficult to dismiss a faculty member "gone bad." He said that "it's heartbreaking to hear students complain,” about such professors.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Six women filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging that the University of Tennessee at Knoxville has created a campus culture that enables sexual assault and protects athletes accused of violence. The lawsuit focuses primarily on assaults allegedly committed by five Tennessee football and basketball players against the six female students, but cited more than dozen other incidents involving other athletes and students, as well. The lawsuit claims that the university created a hostile environment for female students by showing "deliberate indifference" and by directing accused athletes to high-profile lawyers.

The women are seeking damages including reimbursement for their tuition and for emotional suffering. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction to force the state of Tennessee to stop using an administrative process for adjudicating campus sexual assaults that allows accused students to be represented by an attorney.

"Like the many other college campuses facing the challenges of sexual assault, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has devoted significant time and energy to provide a safe environment for our students, to educate and raise awareness about sexual assault, and to encourage students to come forward and report sexual assault," the university said in a statement to the Tennessean. "When the university receives a report of sexual assault, we offer care and support to the person who came forward and work to investigate and resolve the matter in a timely, thorough and equitable manner."

Last year, the Tennessean obtained a memo written in 2013 by a former vice chancellor at the university who said he was concerned that the athletic department had "undue influence" over how athletes accused of misconduct are investigated and punished.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Adding to the list of recent, high-profile sex assault allegations in the sciences, a new article in Science details a controversial case in anthropology. Brian Richmond, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, allegedly assaulted an unnamed museum research assistant at a conference in Italy in 2014, and the case went public at last year’s meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in St. Louis. The account triggered additional allegations of misconduct, and Richmond is now working off-site as the museum investigates the accusations against him. Richmond denied the assistant's allegations to Science, calling the encounter consensual.

The assistant says that after a night of drinking, she woke up in Richmond’s hotel room with him on top of her, kissing her and groping under her skirt. She says she could not have possibly given consent; he says he stopped as soon as she asked him to. The first of several museum investigations found that Richmond had violated a policy against relationships between supervisors and subordinates. The museum says it gave Richmond a “zero tolerance” warning, but he says he’s been asked to resign.

One of Richmond’s former mentors at George Washington University also launched an informal investigation into his colleague’s past, which yielded additional allegations of unwanted sexual advances from other women. As a result, Richmond resigned from the Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya, which is affiliated with George Washington. (The colleague, Bernard Wood, a professor of human origins at George Washington, says Richmond was told he was no longer welcome at Koobi Fora.) Richmond told Science that while other relationships in question have been consensual, “I regret that I was not sensitive to how my academic position could impact the dynamics of consensual relationships.”

In December, the Natural History Museum sent a memo to all staff saying that it had asked an outside firm to review its sexual harassment policies and roll out training. Science’s story recalls a widely cited 2014 survey of anthropologists suggesting widespread sexual misconduct at field sites, as well as a number of sexual misconduct cases in fields including astronomy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 4:28am

Suffolk University has ended a controversial, long-term marketing contract with Regan Communications, whose chairman has ties to many trustees, The Boston Globe reported. Many on campus have viewed the contract as a conflict of interest because of reported trustee pressure to keep the contract and not consider other alternatives, as President Margaret McKenna has sought. The head of the company was involved with efforts to remove McKenna, who held on to her job last week, but who will leave prior to the start of the 2017-18 academic year.

George Regan, who runs Regan Communications, blasted McKenna in comments to the Globe. “President McKenna has chosen to blame me for her contentious relationship with the board, rather than acknowledging her own indefensible actions as the true reason for the board’s deep and valid concerns for her ability to lead the university,” he said. But many on campus are praising her for ending the relationship with the company.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Course material provider Flat World Knowledge is replacing its CEO effective immediately, saying the company "needs leadership deeply rooted in higher education and end-market distribution." In an email to shareholders on Tuesday, the company said it had accepted CEO Christopher Etesse's resignation and appointed Jade Roth, senior vice president of strategy and content, to the position. The company said the leadership change will help it "capitalize on the huge market opportunities for [competency-based education] and beyond." Roth came to Flat World Knowledge from Barnes & Noble's college bookstore division as recently as November.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Pierre McDonagh, professor of marketing at the University of Bath, delves into the steps to get electric vehicles in more driveways. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 4:21am

Baylor University is facing new criticism -- much of it from its own students and alumni -- over a statement by President Ken Starr expressing concern for victims of sexual violence, The Dallas Morning News reported. Many noted that the president released the statement on Super Bowl Sunday, a time when many wouldn't notice. Many say Baylor continues to avoid tough issues related to sexual assault, especially when allegations involve a star athlete. Many are speaking out using the Twitter hashtag #baylorscandal. Others held a vigil on campus Monday night (see photo at right).

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 4:08am

Eastern Illinois University on Monday announced the layoffs of 198 civil service employees, the Associated Press reported. The move is the latest in efforts by public colleges and universities to deal with the failure of the state to adopt a budget and provide funds. Others who work at Eastern Illinois will face one furlough day a week. If the university starts to receive state funds by March 12, the layoffs will be rescinded.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 3:00am

Raymond Burse, president of Kentucky State University, warned in a letter to students, faculty members and alumni that budget cuts being proposed by Governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, could force the historically black college to close, Kentucky.com reported. The governor wants a 4.5 percent cut in the current fiscal year, followed by a 9 percent cut over the following two years. With enrollment falling, the university can't absorb such reductions, Burse said.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 3:00am

Black students enroll disproportionately in majors that are not the most lucrative, according to a report being released today by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. While African-Americans comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only 7 percent of STEM majors. And while they make up 10 percent of health-related majors, their largest numbers are in the lowest-earning major: health and medical administrative services. A 2011 book -- Opting Out -- found similar trends among black students at elite colleges.


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