Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 31, 2023

East Tennessee State University students who organized a drag show set for today are being asked by university officials to make sure all in attendance are 18 and over, TV news station WJHL reported.

The event, which was conceived as a protest statement against a new state law restricting drag shows, has been moved to a larger venue called the Millennium Centre that’s owned by the university but across the street from the main campus. Organizers previously planned for the event to take place at a student center auditorium.

“The event is being relocated to the Millennium Centre in order to accommodate the crowd and possible protests, to better manage the age verification requirement, and to implement increased safety precautions for those participating,” a university spokesman said in a statement.

A Tennessee law taking effect Saturday prohibits “adult cabaret entertainment” featuring “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators” from taking place on public property or where performances can be viewed by individuals who are not adults.

“Though this event is happening the day before, as a public institution, we have a responsibility to honor legislative intent,” a university spokesman said in an email to WJHL.

Noah Nordstrom, a student organizer, said he has “faith that our community, at the end of the day, is a loving community, and that we aren’t going to have violence and that we aren’t going to have so much animosity.”

Campus drag shows have been the subject of recent controversies elsewhere. A college president is being sued in Texas for canceling a planned drag show organized by students.

March 31, 2023

The number of Hispanic-serving institutions in the 2021–22 academic year exceeded the number that existed before the pandemic, according to new data on HSIs from Excelencia in Education, an organization dedicated to Latino student success.

The increase comes after the number of HSIs decreased for the first time in two decades last year, partly due to enrollment declines and college closures during the pandemic.

The data, released Thursday, counts 571 HSIs, up from 559 the year before, located in 28 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The majority can be found in Texas, California, Puerto Rico and New York. HSIs represent 19 percent of colleges but enroll 62 percent of Latino undergraduates nationwide.

Among HSIs, 70 percent are public universities. The majority, 60 percent, are four-year institutions. A little over 40 percent have graduate programs.

March 31, 2023

Lindenwood University in Missouri is expanding its reach with the acquisition of for-profit Dorsey College, a vocational school in Michigan, the St. Louis Business Journal reported Thursday.

Lindenwood Education System, the parent entity for Lindenwood University, is the official purchaser in the deal, and the two institutions will maintain separate accreditation. A university news release indicates that the purchase of Dorsey College is part of a larger plan “to build a network of schools with complementary educational programs that can provide life-long education leading to career advancement.” Lindenwood officials intend to convert Dorsey College into a nonprofit institution, which will require approval from the Department of Education.

“We believe the Lindenwood Education System is the beginning of a new network of schools that will attract students by providing them with a solution for lifelong learning that will enable them to achieve their personal and professional goals,” Linwood University president John Porter said.

Dorsey College has eight campus locations across Michigan, including a cosmetology school, according to its website. The college, founded in 1934, offers programs in fields such as health care, skilled trades, the culinary arts, emergency medical services and cosmetology.

Lindenwood officials did not provide the purchase price for the acquisition of Dorsey College.

March 31, 2023

The director of the state Division of Higher Education in Arkansas was unexpectedly let go on Tuesday, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Maria Markham led the state agency for six and a half years. She told the Democrat-Gazette that she received the news of her firing in a phone call with the governor’s office, and no reason was given for why she was out of the job.

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican, took over as governor in January and has championed major K-12 education changes that include boosting entry-level teacher pay and a prohibition on ideological “indoctrination.” As governor-elect, she announced her pick of Jacob Oliva, a Florida education official, to serve as the state’s education secretary and to help with “bold reforms.”

Markham, formerly a vice chancellor for academic affairs at an Arkansas community college, told the Democrat-Gazette she understood that a new governor might want to make her own appointments, but she said, “The timing was a surprise, [especially] in the middle of the legislative session.” The state’s previous governor, Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, appointed Markham as director of the agency.

“The Governor appreciates Dr. Markham’s service as Director of the Division of Higher Education and wishes her well in her future endeavors. We have no personnel announcements at this time,” a spokeswoman for the governor said in a statement.

March 31, 2023

Florida professors at public four-year universities will face posttenure review every five years, under rules adopted Wednesday by the Florida Board of Governors, Florida Phoenix reported.

Each university’s board will now come up with ways to measure faculty members’ “productivity” under the rule.

The change was opposed by American Association of University Professors, the American Psychological Association, the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association, among others.

“The way that many of our faculty are looking at it is that this is intentionally designed from the ground up to allow bad actors to cull faculty from departments with whom they personally disagree or who have politics that are inconvenient to the institution,” Andrew Gothard, president of United Faculty of Florida, told the Phoenix. “Or, as we’ve seen with the narrative that’s been coming out of Tallahassee, who have politics that disagree with those of the governor,” he added.

March 31, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: David Drake, professor and extension wildlife specialist in the department of forest and wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, explores human and coyote coexistence in urban areas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 30, 2023

Could a Republican politician soon be taking the helm of another Florida university?

Florida representative Randy Fine said recently that Republican governor Ron DeSantis has pitched him on the presidential post at Florida Atlantic University, Florida Today reported. Fine, who has served in the Florida House of Representatives since 2016, said that DeSantis has approached him about taking the position, but he has not yet formally applied for the role.

Fine’s term is set to end next year, but he has already filed to run for a State Senate seat.

If hired, Fine would be the third former Republican politician tapped to lead a Florida university in recent months. Former U.S. senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse was hired as president of the University of Florida in November and formally stepped into the job in February. Richard Corcoran, a former Republican Speaker of the House in Florida’s Legislature who also served as the state’s education commissioner and as a member of the Florida Board of Governors, was hired as interim president of the New College of Florida in February, following a restructuring of NCF’s board, with DeSantis appointing conservative trustees who pushed out the prior president.

Similarly, former Republican state lawmaker and DeSantis ally Ray Rodrigues was hired from a pool of only eight candidates as chancellor of the State University System of Florida in September.

FAU is currently led by an interim president, with a presidential search ongoing. Fine’s interest in the job is unclear given that he told Florida Today that he is currently “focused on the Legislature.”

March 30, 2023

Germanna Community College president Janet Gullickson has been charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving and was arrested in the incident earlier this month, according to reporting from The Culpeper-Star Exponent. Gullickson is scheduled to appear in court in April.

The newspaper reported that Gullickson was arrested and charged after she was pulled over on March 16 for driving 76 miles per hour on a stretch of road where the speed limit was 55 miles per hour.

Germanna Community College officials declined to address the incident, telling The Culpeper Star-Exponent that it was a “pending legal matter” that it would be inappropriate to comment on.

Gullickson has led the community college in Virginia since 2017.

March 30, 2023

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has issued a show cause order to the King’s College in New York City, which has faced recent financial issues and possible closure.

The accreditor issued the show cause order Wednesday, noting that there was “insufficient evidence that the institution is in compliance” with MSCHE standards on “planning, resources, and institutional improvement.” The show cause order is due April 18 and must demonstrate that the King’s College “has achieved and can sustain ongoing compliance with commission’s standards, requirements, policies and procedures, and federal compliance requirements.”

MSCHE previously required the college to submit a teach-out plan.

The King’s College, a private Christian university on Wall Street, announced earlier this year that it needed $2.6 million to meet its “immediate needs.” The college has attributed its financial struggles to issues related to the coronavirus pandemic and economic challenges. However, the King’s College has also experienced the loss of major donors in recent years, who previously plugged a persistent budget deficit and launched an ambitious online expansion plan that was soon aborted.

The fate of the college remains unclear after the end of the current academic year.

March 30, 2023

The United States and about 70 other countries issued a joint statement Wednesday supporting academic freedom.

“Academic freedom is key to human rights education but also essential for technical and scientific progress and for the development of the creative industries and the arts,” says the statement, issued at the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. “It is intrinsically linked to the effective enjoyment of other rights and freedoms, such as participation in public affairs, freedom of opinion and expression and the right to education, demonstrating the indivisibility of all human rights.

“Without freedom to teach and research, and without freedom to disseminate and debate the results of research, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will be compromised,” the statement says. “Without academic freedom, there is no safeguard against the manipulation of information or against the distortion of history.”

“Regrettably, attacks on academic freedom are on the rise,” the statement says. “These include: repression, intimidation and harassment of researchers and teachers in connection with their research and public statements; dissolution of research institutions and the establishment of restrictive legal or financial frameworks.”

“We hereby call for enhanced international cooperation towards strengthening the protection and promotion of academic freedom in the spirit of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,” the statement says. “We further call on the United Nations human rights system to redouble efforts in addressing this issue, in conjunction with relevant multilateral and regional institutions.”

Scholars at Risk, which says it’s an international network of institutions and people protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom, praised the statement.

“As the signatories acknowledged, attacks against academic freedom are on the rise around the world, imperiling social, political and scientific progress, political participation, and numerous related rights and freedoms,” said Rob Quinn, Scholars at Risk’s executive director, in a news release.


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