Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 28, 2016

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville will not punish a professor of law and well-known conservative blogger for his controversial tweet about the recent Charlotte, N.C., protests. Melanie D. Wilson, dean of Tennessee’s law school, said last week that she was investigating Glenn Reynolds's suggestion that motorists “run down” protesters blocking traffic. In a statement Tuesday, Wilson said she'd wrapped up that investigation, via “an examination of the facts, policies in the university’s Faculty Handbook and the law.” Wilson also discussed the tweet with Reynolds, university leaders and Tennessee’s general counsel, and sought feedback from faculty members, staff students and alumni, she said, before determining that “no disciplinary action will be taken.”

While Reynolds's tweet was widely criticized as inciting violence, many free speech advocates argued that an investigation that could result in a sanction was unwarranted.

“The tweet was an exercise of [Reynolds’s] First Amendment rights,” Wilson said. “Nevertheless, the tweet offended many members of our community and beyond, and I understand the hurt and frustration they feel. … We will now move forward to rebuild our law school community and refocus on our primary purpose: educating future lawyers and leaders.” She added, “Only by coming together as a community in thoughtful and constructive dialogue can we ensure that [the law school] -- and the university overall -- is a supportive, collegial community of scholars and lifelong learners.”

Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at Tennessee and moderator of Instapundit, responded last week to a tweet from a local news station about protesters blocking traffic with the words “Run them down.” He issued a separate apology Tuesday to the law school. One “of my 580,000 tweets blew up,” Reynolds wrote. “I try to be careful and precise in my language. I didn’t do that this time, and I unfortunately made a lot of people in the law school community sad or angry, something I certainly didn’t mean to do, and feel bad about.”

Reynolds said he was “following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence, which seemed to be getting worse.” While the words “run them down” can “be taken as encouragement of drivers going out of their way to run down protesters,” he said, “I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed to many that I did. What I meant was that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. … My tweet should have said, ‘Keep driving,’ or ‘Don’t stop.’ I was upset, and it was a bad tweet.”

September 28, 2016

Chicago State University's enrollment has plunged amid budget cuts and turmoil, with the university serving a largely black student body on the South Side of Chicago reporting overall enrollment down 25 percent over the past year and just 86 freshmen entering this fall.

The 86 freshmen enrolled counts full-time and part-time students. Chicago State has 3,578 students taking classes this fall, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday. That's down from 7,362 in 2010. Of the students enrolled, 2,352 are undergraduates and 1,226 are graduate students.

Chicago State has suffered numerous difficulties in recent years, including an 11 percent graduation rate, the dismissal of President Thomas Calhoun Jr. this month after nine months on the job and funding difficulties brought on by the Illinois budget battle. Chicago State declared a financial emergency and laid off 40 percent of its employees this year while cutting academic programs and services.

September 28, 2016

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds on Tuesday defended the rights of three football players on the University of Nebraska at Lincoln team who dropped to their knees during the playing of the national anthem on Saturday. Bounds said that he "completely opposes" any limits on the athletes' right to protest, The Lincoln Journal-Star reported. The athletes joined in a growing national protest in which athletes do not stand for the national anthem as a protest over police shootings of unarmed black men. Since Saturday's game, a member of the university's Board of Regents has criticized the protest and suggested that those who joined should not be on the football team. Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has called the protest "disgraceful and disrespectful" but said that the players had the right to protest.

Michael Rose-Ivey (right), one of the football players, spoke about his decision, and Omaha.com published a transcript of his remarks, in which he responded to the backlash against the protest.

"As we looked at what's been going on in this country, the injustices that have been taking place primarily against people of color, we all realized that there is a systemic problem in America that needs to be addressed. We felt it was our duty to step up and join the chorus of athletes in the NFL, WNBA, college and high school using their platforms to highlight these issues," he said. "We did this understanding the implications of these actions, but what we didn't expect was the enormous amount of hateful, racially motivated comments we received from friends, peers, fans, members of the media and others about the method of protest. While you may disagree with the method, these reactions further underscore the need for this protest and give us just a small glimpse into the persistent problem of racism in this country and the divisive mentality of some Americans. To make it clear, I am not anti-police, I am not anti-military, nor am I anti-American. I love my country deeply and I appreciate the freedoms it professes to afford me."

September 28, 2016

Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo on Tuesday announced a goal of saving the state's college students $5 million a year by replacing commercial textbooks with open educational resources. Brown University, Bryant University, the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, the New England Institute of Technology and the University of Rhode Island are among the institutions that have signed up for the Rhode Island Open Textbook Initiative, which will train faculty members, librarians and students on how to use open educational resources. The Open Textbook Network, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition and the Right to Research Coalition are supporting the initiative.

September 28, 2016

Two Georgia publications on Tuesday reported that the Board of Regents plans to pick or is highly likely to pick that state's attorney general, Sam Olens, as the next president of Kennesaw State University. State officials aren't commenting on the reports, which follow weeks of rumors that the job would go to Olens. As those reports have grown, so has the concern of faculty leaders, who have been pointing out the lack of a national search and Olens’s lack of higher education job experience.

September 28, 2016

Three Ohio community colleges are seeing early improvements in enrollment, retention and completion rates after creating their own versions of the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs developed by the City University of New York, according to a report from MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization.

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College and Lorain County Community College created ASAP programs on their own campuses and have early results showing increases in enrollment and credit accumulation during the first semester and persistence in the second semester.

For instance, the Ohio students in the first-semester group earned 1.4 more credits, on average, than the control group. In the second semester, the impact on credits attempted grew to 2.3 credits, which was a 28 percent increase over the control group level of 8.2 credits.

The results are comparable to early findings from CUNY's ASAP, which later nearly doubled the three-year graduation rate for New York community college students who started with developmental needs.

The Ohio colleges were able to develop the programs after receiving funding from a group of higher education organizations including the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

September 28, 2016

More parents are saving money for college, according to the latest installment of a national survey conducted by Sallie Mae, the student lender. They're also saving more money and are more confident about their ability to pay for college, the survey found. For example, 55 percent of parents say they are confident they can meet the future price of their children's college education, up from 42 percent last year. Parents on average have saved $6,000 more for college, with an average of $16,380, compared to $10,040 last year.

Millennial parents (defined as age 35 or younger) are more committed to saving for college. The survey found that more millennial parents are saving more for college than their Generation X and baby boomer peers. They also are more likely to say that parents should be solely responsible for paying for college (38 percent of the survey's respondents) compared to 26 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of baby boomers.

September 28, 2016

NAFSA: Association of International Educators on Monday announced as its new executive director and CEO Esther Brimmer, a foreign policy expert and academic.

Brimmer, who formerly worked at the U.S. Department of State, is currently a professor of practice of international affairs at George Washington University, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a senior adviser at the consulting firm McLarty Associates. She will assume her new leadership role at NAFSA on Jan. 1, succeeding Marlene M. Johnson, who is retiring after 18 years at NAFSA’s helm.

September 28, 2016

A federal appeals court this week overruled another court's ruling that would have allowed a merger between the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System, a private hospital operator. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Pennsylvania's attorney general have opposed the merger, citing monopolistic concerns. A district court had denied the FTC and the AG's office's request for a preliminary injunction to block the merger, saying the legal challenge failed to properly define the relative geographic market the merged hospitals would serve. The appeals court, however, reversed that decision, saying an injunction would be in the public interest.

September 28, 2016

Enterprise software provider Workday on Tuesday launched its full cloud-based student information system, Workday Student, after about three years of development. The company, known for its finance and human resources software, in 2013 announced that it would enter the student information system market, and has since then rolled out components such as curriculum management and enrollment on an annual basis.

Speaking to Inside Higher Ed, Liz Dietz, Workday's vice president of student strategy and product management, said the company is "betting on the unified platform." While other newcomers in the enterprise resource planning software market say colleges will want to "unbundle" their software, picking components from a variety of vendors, Dietz said Workday's customers are telling the company they don't want to spend the time making sure software from different providers can connect to one another. Following the rollout of the full system to Workday's customers, the company plans to focus on multimedia and student success features, Dietz said.

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