Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 13, 2018

The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, which previously announced plans to cut 13 majors, on Monday said it will continue to evolve into “a new kind of regional university” and save about half the majors pegged for elimination. Under a plan proposed by Chancellor Bernie Patterson, academic departments would be reconfigured within new interdisciplinary schools housing degree programs focused on professional outcomes. Schools would include “existing groups of programs in areas such as natural resources, health and wellness, business, education and the performing arts, as well as new configurations such as design, human services and information science,” according to a university news release.

The plan includes two new entities in the University College, the Institute for the Wisconsin Idea and the Center for Critical Thinking. Faculty members from liberal arts disciplines would teach in the institute to “create a stronger, more focused and enriching liberal arts core curriculum to complement the university’s career-focused majors,” the university said. Majors still slated for elimination are French, German, geoscience, geography, history and two fine arts concentrations within art.

November 13, 2018

Christopher Newfield, professor of English and American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Michael Meranze, professor of history at the university’s Los Angeles campus, on Monday announced the formation of the Network of Concerned Academics against anti-intellectualism and other threats to higher education. “The effectiveness of this network depends on its ability to bring together and activate people who are committed to preserving the university as a space in which diversity of perspectives, academic expertise, and critical thought can flourish,” reads the announcement. More information is available here.

November 13, 2018

A white supremacist group set up robocalls to Drake University students, The Des Moines Register reported. The calls feature white supremacist statements. The university had condemned the calls, and is investigating them.

 

November 13, 2018

The Education Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs announced earlier this year that they would work together to notify student veterans of their eligibility for discharge of their federal student loan debt because of permanent disability.

The results of those efforts show that most eligible veterans have stopped making payments on their student loans, according to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request from veterans' organizations. The Education Department and VA determined that more than 42,000 veterans are eligible for the benefit. But of those veterans, well over half -- 25,023 borrowers -- had defaulted on their student loans as of mid-April.

Borrowers enter default on their student loans when they go more than 270 days without making a payment. That can have serious repercussions, including a hit to the borrower’s credit score, wage garnishment and the inability to access other federal student aid.

Six veterans' groups, including Student Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America, sent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a letter last week urging her to make loan forgiveness automatic for any veteran who qualifies. Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate education committee, has also repeatedly called for automatically discharging those loans.

The Republican tax law passed last year removed any federal tax liability for permanent disability discharge. But the Education Department argued in its response to the FOIA request that it was still concerned about state tax liabilities that would arise from automatic loan discharge. 

November 13, 2018

Much has been written about the explosion of racial tensions at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 2015 -- and whether officials there have learned from what happened. The American Council on Education weighs in today with a report on the turmoil and its aftermath, "Speaking Truth and Acting With Integrity." The report reviews the history of the tensions and offers suggestions for how college leaders can respond when facing fast-changing situations like the one that developed at Mizzou.

November 13, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Kelsey Lucca, postdoctoral researcher in psychology at the University of Washington, explores how we can learn what infants do and do not know. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 12, 2018

Charles Meyrick, an assistant professor of business and economics at Housatonic Community College, is reportedly on leave after giving a Nazi salute during a recent meeting of faculty members and administrators from the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. Some at the meeting said that Meyrick appeared agitated -- possibly about a plan to consolidate the system into a single college -- and held his salute for five or 10 minutes, according to the Hartford Courant. Meyrick reportedly put his hand down after campus police arrived.

A college system spokesperson told the Courant that Meyrick is on paid leave pending an investigation into the incident. “The reports of a faculty member’s outburst at a meeting last week, including the use of a Nazi salute, which required campus police to respond are appalling and unacceptable,” Mark Ojakian, system president, said in a statement Friday. Meyrick did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

November 12, 2018

Two men were shot, one of them fatally, after a homecoming event Friday night at Voorhees College, in South Carolina. A statement from the college said that the men were not affiliated with the college. The campus has been placed on lockdown.

This is the third shooting with fatalities involving higher education in eight days. Students were among those killed in a mass shooting in a bar in California, and a student and professor were killed in a yoga studio in Florida.

November 12, 2018

Jeffrey S. Vitter (right) will step down as chancellor of the University of Mississippi on Jan. 3, the state higher education board announced Friday. No reason was given, and Vitter has not commented, leading to much speculation about why he is leaving after only three years in office, and with relatively little time between the announcement and his departure. He succeeded Dan Jones, who was forced out by the state board. The departure of Jones prompted much outcry and student protests, but responses to Vitter's departure have been muted, although many have noted the impact of another transition.

November 12, 2018

Two students were arrested after a fight broke out at Lincoln University on Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A campus police officer was assaulted while trying to break up the fight, which occurred while students were waiting in line for a late-night dance. The officer used pepper spray to control the crowd and 15 students were sent to the hospital for treatment. All have been released.

The university has canceled all parties and "has pledged to bring students and administrators together to address concerns and develop procedures to prevent such incidents in the future," according to a statement in the Inquirer.

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