Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Subscribe to Inside Higher Ed | Quick Takes
Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 3:00am

A well-known sociologist is boycotting a scholarly meeting at Brigham Young University based on the institution’s policy regarding students who enroll as Mormons but change their beliefs while on campus. “My decision not to participate is an act of conscience based on BYU’s policy of expelling any Mormon student who leaves the faith or converts to another religion,” Mark Juergensmeyer, a professor of sociology and director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, wrote in a letter to organizers of the International Law and Religion Symposium now under way in Utah. “I have decided that it would be hypocritical of me to participate in a conference in which the issue of religious liberty is paramount when the institution sponsoring it fundamentally violates this principle in its policies towards Mormon students.”

Juergensmeyer said he was unaware of BYU’s policy regarding Mormon students until last weekend, when he was notified by a group called Free BYU, which opposes the university’s policy and has called on other scholars to boycott the conference. Juergensmeyer said that he’s been criticized by some for his decision, and has since released a follow-up statement to his letter saying that there may be “legal acceptance of such discrimination, but it is discrimination all the same, and I suspect that if a university in a Muslim country were to expel a student who wanted to become a Mormon, BYU administrators would regard this as a violation of religious freedom. And they would be right.”

Carri Jenkins, a BYU spokeswoman, said via email that prior to enrolling, all students agree to uphold the BYU honor code, and that “a student who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who formally rejects his or her beliefs can no longer be in good honor code standing.” Regarding Juergensmeyer’s decisions, Jenkins said that “institutional diversity is highly valued in American higher education and is protected by federal law. BYU is very open and clear about its mission as a religious institution. We also strive for academic excellence in an environment of intensive learning and rigor, where students and faculty on a daily basis are exploring, developing and creating ways to make our world a better place.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 3:00am

A wave of consolidation hit the library market on Tuesday as both ProQuest and Bibliotecha announced major acquisitions. ProQuest will acquire Ex Libris, which provides technology solutions for libraries, and Bibliotecha will take over 3M's library division.

ProQuest said in the announcement that it will use the acquisition to strengthen its existing products and to tackle issues such as "disparate workflows for print, electronic and digital resources, and navigation of complex and rapidly changing technology, content and user environments." Once the deal closes, the two companies plan to form a new unit called Ex Libris, a ProQuest Company. The companies will continue to support the products they offer today. According to American Libraries Magazine, the acquisition creates the largest vendor in the library technology market.

Roger C. Schonfeld, program director for libraries and scholarly communication at the research organization Ithaka S+R, said in a blog post that the acquisition further blurs the lines between content platforms and library system providers. "What this deal tells us perhaps most clearly of all is that ProQuest believes there is a future in the [integrated library system]," Schonfeld wrote. "It might not be illogical for a company with its eyes on the library systems market to imagine being able to leapfrog over serving print collections altogether and building a systems environment for an e-only future."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 4:20am

Severe flooding has led the University of South Carolina to call off classes for the rest of the week. Some student services are being provided, as are efforts to get bottled water to students and to provide them with food.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 3:00am

The independent part-time faculty union at Columbia College in Chicago voted no confidence in President Kwang-Ku Kim, Provost Stanley Wearden and the college’s Board of Trustees after a campaign lasting several months.

“The vote by our members illustrates the extremely low level of support Dr. Kim and Provost Wearden have among the adjunct faculty at Columbia,” Diana Vallera, president of Part-Time Faculty at Columbia College (P-fac), said in a statement. “This administration has only taken steps to erode the trust of the faculty.” The union says that the college unilaterally moved to eliminate its first-year seminar department in favor of larger, university-style classes, for example, and that it’s generally moving away from its traditional model of offering small classes taught by working professionals. The union, which voted to disaffiliate from the National Education Association earlier this year, also has accused the college of refusing to honor elements of the collective bargaining agreement it signed in 2013.

Not all faculty groups believe the vote of no confidence was the right move. James Nagle, an adjunct instructor of English at Columbia, and a member of Columbia Adjuncts United -- another part-time faculty association loyal to the NEA -- referred requests for comment to an editorial in the student newspaper, The Columbia Chronicle, which he said summed up his own thoughts about the vote.

“Increasing class sizes, top-down decision making and abrupt program eliminations are issues affecting the entire college community, but the vote of no confidence only reflects P-fac’s opinion of the administration,” reads the editorial. “If P-fac wants the Board of Trustees to acknowledge its grievances, it needs to show that the vote is a strategy to make constructive change, not a tactic to shame the administration. The vote can only be effective when the union proves its outlined concerns affect the greater college community and will eventually have ripple effects collegewide.”

Gregory Foster-Rice, an associate professor of the history of photography and president of the Faculty Senate, a body representing full-time faculty, said in a statement that the senate had never considered a vote of no confidence. “I would rather work at the table to which we have been invited and help change the college based on our expertise rather than dismiss this process or the administration,” he said. “We need to work together to build on our achievements and establish positive change at the college.”

The college has raised numerous concerns about the accuracy of P-fac’s public statements and the validity of the no confidence voting process. For example, the college says that the voting period was extended twice, over several months, and that the average class size went up just 6 percent this year over last. More generally, the college said in a statement that it values its part-time faculty, and that its new strategic plan -- developed last year in consultation with the faculty -- was a source of the controversy. “The plan sets forth key initiatives that support student success and academic excellence while continuing to strengthen the college’s prominence in arts and media education,” reads the statement. “To that end, hard choices must be made and, inevitably, there are those who will disagree.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 3:00am

The winners of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry are Tomas Lindahl of the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory, in Britain; Paul Modrich of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University; and Aziz Sancar of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They were honored “for mechanistic studies of DNA repair.” Details on the prize may be found here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Brianna Mount, assistant professor at Black Hills State University, talks about helping scientists learn more about these elusive particles. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 3:00am

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton on Monday criticized efforts to make college “free for everybody,” saying she doesn’t want to give away such benefits to children from wealthy families.

“I’m a little different than those who say ‘free for everybody,’” she said during a live appearance on NBC’s Today Show in New Hampshire. “I am not in favor of making college free for Donald Trump’s kids.”

Clinton did not invoke the name of Senator Bernie Sanders, her Democratic opponent who is leading in the polls in New Hampshire, but Sanders’s college affordability plan calls for tuition-free college for all students at public institutions regardless of their income.

Clinton’s plan, by contrast, would require some families to chip in their own money to pay for tuition at public universities, though she has not said how she would set that “affordable” contribution based on families’ income.

Her remarks Monday echo comments Clinton made last month in an interview with the editorial board of The Des Moines Register. She said in that interview that she was “not going to give free college to wealthy kids” and touted the component of her college plan that would require students to work at least 10 hours a week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 3:00am

Carly Fiorina, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, on Sunday noted the value of her bachelor's degree from Stanford University in medieval history and philosophy, ABC News reported. Republican politicians of late have not been saying very nice things about humanities degrees. But Fiorina said that her education would help her fight the Islamic State. “My degree in medieval history and philosophy has come in handy,” Fiorina said Sunday night, “because what ISIS wants to do is drive us back to the Middle Ages, literally.” She added that “every single one of the techniques that ISIS is using, the crucifixion, the beheadings, the burning alive, those were commonly used techniques in the Middle Ages.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 3:00am

The National Merit Scholarship Program has announced that it is phasing out its National Achievement Scholarship Program, which has provided aid to black students since 1964. The National Merit Scholarship Program has been widely criticized for picking semifinalists for its program based on PSAT scores, and black students, on average, do not score as highly as white or Asian students on that test. The program announced that the program for black students -- after meeting commitments to current scholars -- would be transferred to the UNCF. That organization will run a new program to provide assistance to high-achieving college graduates from underrepresented groups.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 3:00am

A new report from the Century Foundation questions the legitimacy of four former for-profit colleges' recent transformations to nonprofit status. Those institutions are "covert for-profits," according to the report, "where owners have managed to affix a nonprofit label to their colleges while engineering substantial ongoing personal financial benefits for themselves."

The report's author is Robert Shireman, a former U.S. Department of Education official who recently joined the foundation as a senior fellow. The report said several for-profits have sought to become nonprofits to avoid federal regulations, some of which Shireman worked to create. By using public information requests, Shireman wrote case studies about the conversions of Herzing University, Remington Colleges Inc., Everglades College and the Center for Excellence in Higher Education (CEHE).

All four of the institutions signed contracts committing them to pay their former owners hundreds of millions of dollars, the report found, while those former owners remain involved in the governance of the nonprofits. For example, Keiser University told the IRS that neither its founder, Arthur Keiser, nor his family members would receive any "nonincidental private benefit attributable" to the newly nonprofit Everglades College. Yet in 2011 Everglades paid more than $34 million to entities owned by Keiser's family members.

Despite what Shireman called the "egregious" examples of covert for-profits, the IRS and the Education Department have failed to crack down. The reason, he said, is a regulatory blind spot where each agency assumes the other is doing the monitoring.


Search for Jobs

Back to Top