Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 24, 2018

AnnCatherine Heigl defied expectations when she was accepted into George Mason University’s highly competitive LIFE program, a full-time college program for intellectually disabled students. The college sophomore with Down syndrome also made the university’s Division I cheerleading team, serving as a flier.

But when Heigl rushed to join one of the university’s eight sororities, she wasn’t invited to join any of them, IndyStar reported.

Her older sister Lillie Heigl wrote to the head of Greek life to express her concern.

"Accepting a woman with a disability isn't an act of charity," she wrote, "it brings diversity and promotes inclusion. AnnCatherine in an athlete, she is a friend, she works hard in the classroom, she is funny and she is accomplished. She is the first collegiate cheerleader in the nation with an intellectual disability. I firmly believe that if a typical student had gone through recruitment, as a D1 cheerleader, they would have gotten a bid; but AnnCatherine wasn't extended one because she's a woman with a disability."

The Panhellenic Council issued a statement in response emphasizing its commitment to diversity and explaining that the council couldn't control whom sororities accepted.

"Panhellenic Formal Recruitment is a mutual selection process, and as the overseeing council we manage the process and enforce policies that have been decided on and approved by our member organizations. However, we do not posses the ability to dictate our chapters' membership or the process of selecting new members," the statement read.

September 24, 2018

Ed Meek asked University of Mississippi officials to remove his name from the journalism school on Saturday after he received backlash for a racist Facebook post, the Clarion Ledger reported.

“This past week I made a post on Facebook that reflected poorly on myself, the school and our university. It was never my intention to cast the problems our community faces as a racial issue,” Meek wrote in a statement. “I do not believe that to be the case. I heartily apologize to all I have offended. I particularly apologize to those depicted in the photographs I posted. I was wrong to post them and regret that I did so.”

The post, which has since been taken down, included photos of two black female students and warned about falling real estate values. Meek also linked the photos to the university’s 3 percent decline in enrollment and emphasized the need for greater police presence on the Oxford town square.

Students and faculty expressed their concerns, and Jeff Vitter, university chancellor, called on Meek to apologize. After Meek’s request and statement Saturday, Vitter commended him for responding to the university’s concerns.

“While his request tonight to remove his name from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media was made selflessly to permit the university to move forward, it is nonetheless regrettable and poignant,” Vitter wrote in a statement. “A primary hallmark of leadership is the willingness to sacrifice personal gain for the betterment of the whole. We commend the Meek family for their heartfelt response to the concerns of the UM community.”

Removing Meek’s name will take some time. First, the Meek School faculty must approve its removal, then it must pass through the university undergraduate and graduate councils. From there, it must be approved by “a group consisting of all of the university’s deans, the Faculty Senate chair, faculty representatives, three vice chancellors, the Associated Student Body president and the Graduate Student Council president,” according to the Clarion Ledger. Finally, Vitter must ask the state College Board for permission to rename the building.

September 24, 2018

Yale University stripped a professor previously found to have harassed a junior colleague of his endowed chair, according to the The Washington Post. Yale said over the summer that it had transferred the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professorship to Michael Simons, a cardiologist who was in 2013 found to have harassed a postdoctoral researcher. That’s after the family of Robert W. Berliner, the late dean of the Yale School of Medicine, expressed concern that Simons still held the professorship named after Berliner that he’d held since 2008. Students and faculty members criticized Yale’s decision, saying it was inappropriate to bestow what seemed like a new honor on a known harasser.

The university said earlier this month that Simons’s new chair was not supposed to be new honor. But on Friday, it walked back its decision completely, according to The Post, with Robert J. Alpern, dean of medicine, saying in an all-campus email that it "has become clear that members of our community perceive the transfer of chairs as bestowing a new honor, and that this action is viewed as a statement about our values. I acknowledge the strength of the community’s perception, and I am extremely concerned about its impact on the community’s well-being.”

September 24, 2018

California State University, Long Beach, is retiring its controversial Prospector Pete mascot, which critics say represents the genocide of indigenous people during the Gold Rush.

The statue of Prospector Pete in the campus quad will be moved to the new alumni center next year, the institution said.

A committee devoted to studying relocating the issue recommended moving the statue.

“Inclusive excellence is a core value of the Long Beach State University community,” President Jane Close Conoley said in a statement. “I’m pleased to accept the recommendations of the committee and am grateful for the many hours that committee members spent listening to the many individuals who have a stake not only in the issue at hand, but also in the life and history of our campus.”

The institution’s Associated Students Inc. passed a resolution in March trying to relocate the statue -- which was erected in 1967 and is formally known as the Forty-Niner Man -- and asked that the university disassociate from Prospector Pete. The name is a reference to the original institution’s founding year, 1949, and athletics programs have been known as the '49ers. In recent years, the athletics department has moved away from that nickname in favor of “the Beach.”

September 24, 2018

Several professors at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice are under investigation for allegations of drug use and sale on campus, in addition to rape and attempting to coerce women into prostitution, The New York Times reported.

Four professors -- Anthony Marcus, Richard S. Curtis, Barry Spunt and Leonardo Dominguez -- have been placed on administrative leave. Their lawyers deny any wrongdoing, and three of them have issued statements. Most of the professors named in the two complaints have been longtime members of the college’s sociology and anthropology department and have conducted research on drug use and prostitution.

The college conducted an internal investigation prior to reporting the allegations to state authorities, which has caused some to question the authenticity of that investigation. In mid-August, campus security officers found drugs and drug paraphernalia but did not contact the police about it until this month.

In a statement to the Times, Richard Relkin, a college spokesman, defended the college’s procedure.

“The safety of the John Jay community is of utmost importance to us,” the statement read. “Throughout this ongoing investigation, we have been working under the direction of law enforcement, to ensure the appropriate authorities are aware of the situation and may take any action they deem appropriate.”

Claudia Cojocaru, a former student and current adjunct professor at John Jay, and Naomi Haber, a recent graduate, filed complaints against the professors in May. They both criticized the college's investigation.

“They were incredibly rude and victim-degrading,” Cojocaru told the Times. “They made us perform like circus animals, distorted the facts, and distorted what we talked about. They tried to brush the whole thing under the rug, so to speak. They retraumatized us by making us relive all sorts of traumatic experiences.”

Their complaints included a rape allegation by another student against one professor who was not placed on leave.

September 24, 2018

Ohio State University professors in the University Senate released a statement Friday condemning domestic and sexual violence, a reference to the recent scandal involving the university's head football coach, Urban Meyer.

Meyer was suspended for three games for his mishandling of domestic violence accusations against a now-fired assistant coach, Zach Smith. Meyer was criticized after he failed to address issues of abuse at a press conference announcing his punishment and for not mentioning Zach Smith’s accuser by name -- his ex-wife, Courtney Smith.

Meyer later apologized directly to Courtney Smith in a statement.

Faculty on the senate said in their statement that “domestic abuse, sexual violence, harassment and discrimination are antithetical to what we as educators and as a university seek to achieve.”

The rest of the statement is as follows:

Because silence on these issues speaks volumes, we loudly state we will not tolerate domestic abuse, sexual violence, harassment and discrimination within our university community. As a community, we are responsible to and for each other.

To our students we say: Your safety, self-esteem and personal growth are of primary importance to us. We want you to know you can trust us, your instructors and mentors, to give you the utmost, unbiased, respectful attention and guide you as best we can.

To our colleagues on the faculty and staff we say: We hold each other to the highest academic, scientific and ethical standards.

To Buckeye Nation and our external stakeholders we say: We are a community that holds the wellbeing of our students and colleagues in the highest regard. We will not stand by and let any member of our community be mistreated or abused.

To ourselves we ask: Are we continually engaging each other to ensure we hold ourselves accountable to the values we profess? Do our fellow senate members, including representatives of faculty, students, administrators and staff, support the content and communication of all relevant policies and principles? Can we engage society in a continuous conversation about diversity, inclusion, rejecting violence and rejecting abuse of power? Can we nurture every student? Can we strengthen a community culture of safety, dignity and respect for all? We answer YES to all, as ethical behavior, community integrity and academic excellence are interwoven in the fabric of The Ohio State University.

September 24, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of St. John's University Week, Liz Chase, assistant professor in the department of curriculum and instruction, looks at teacher candidates and their rigorous clinical practice programs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


September 21, 2018

The recently ousted editor of The New York Review of Books is blaming university presses for his lost job. Ian Buruma left the position this week amid a furor over an article he published by a Canadian broadcaster who has been accused of sexually assaulting women. The article was immediately questioned by many who said it downplayed the accusations against the broadcaster in ways that undercut the movement to prevent sexual assault. In an interview with the Dutch publication Vrij Nederland, Buruma defended his decision to publish the article and blamed university presses for his demise. He said that the publisher "made clear to me that university publishers, whose advertisements make publication of The New York Review of Books partly possible, were threatening a boycott. They are afraid of the reactions on the campuses, where this is an inflammatory topic. Because of this, I feel forced to resign -- in fact it is a capitulation to social media and university presses."

But Peter Berkery, executive director of the Association of University Presses, told The Washington Post he knew of no boycott campaign. “I know that the NYRB was concerned that some of their advertisers might ultimately choose to make a statement through their advertising dollars, but I’m unaware of any organized effort to coordinate a boycott,” he said.

September 21, 2018

Cornell University on Thursday announced that Brian Wansink, John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing, resigned and has been removed from all teaching and research duties until that resignation takes effect at the end of the academic year. Wansink, who is accused of academic misconduct, will spend the rest of his time at Cornell cooperating with a review of his prior research, Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff said in a statement. This week, JAMA Network announced that it had retracted six articles that included Wansink as an author. Notices in two network publications said that JAMA had posted expressions of the concern about the validity of Wansink’s research in May and asked Cornell to conduct an independent evaluation. Cornell said in a response to JAMA that it did not have access to the original data and was unable to verify the studies’ validity.

Kotlikoff said in his statement that Cornell had been reviewing allegations of misconduct against Wansink for more than a year, and that a faculty committee found he had misreported research data, used problematic statistical techniques, failed to properly document and preserve research results, and engaged in “inappropriate authorship.” The findings were reviewed and upheld by the dean of the faculty, he said. Cornell "remains committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and we are reviewing our research policies to ensure we can meet this commitment.”

Wansink came under scrutiny after he published a 2016 blog post praising an unpaid researcher in his lab who “never said ‘no’” to mining data on behavior at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for significant results, even when initial research questions failed to produce such results. Wansink, who saw a group of other papers retracted and corrected prior to JAMA’s most recent announcement, according to Retraction Watch, has previously defended his approach and his work. “I stand by and am immensely proud of the work done here at the lab,” he told BuzzFeed News earlier this year. “The Food and Brand Lab [at Cornell] does not use ‘low-quality data’, nor does it seek to publish ‘subpar studies.’”

September 21, 2018

Harvard University has completed a record-setting fund-raising campaign, raising $9.62 billion over five years. The campaign was launched in 2013 with a goal of $6.5 billion. The campaign raised $1.3 billion for financial aid.

Check on the status of other fund-raising campaigns in Inside Higher Ed's fund-raising database.


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