Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 27, 2016

Black students at Florida Gulf Coast University are planning a protest today over the university's failure to respond with a campuswide notification when a threatening slur was found on a classroom whiteboard, The News-Press reported. A statement with a slur suggested that black people should be killed and it was accompanied by a stick figure showing a figure hanging from a tree. Students say the university should have notified them, because many students said they found out about the incident through news reports.

As students were preparing for the protest, President Wilson Bradshaw did send out an all-campus email. "We read about these kinds of things happening on campuses and in other public places across the country, but it is personally distressing to see it here, a place that cares so deeply about and intentionally works so diligently to foster a community that supports each other in our diversity and inclusion," he wrote. Students said that this comment, as they were preparing a protest, did not ease their concerns that they were not notified when the university discovered what was written on the whiteboard.

October 27, 2016

New details have emerged about the strike-ending tentative agreement reached between the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the faculty union for 14 state university campuses, and the State System of Higher Education, PennLive reported. The three-year deal includes raises each year, among other changes. Current professors will get a step increase retroactive to last spring, at 2.5 percent or more for senior faculty (or cash payment for those at the top step of the pay scale), and 5 percent for junior faculty, according to PennLive. All faculty members also get a general pay increase of 2.75 percent retroactive to the beginning of this semester. Next year, the pay increase would be 2 percent. Current base salary for full-time faculty is $46,609 to $112,239. Part-timers get a minimum of $5,838 per three-credit course.

Full-time faculty members will see their health care contributions increase to 18 percent of the premium from 15 percent if they participate in the Healthy U wellness program. Contributions for nonparticipants in the wellness plan are 28 percent of the premium, up from 25 percent. Drug and office visit co-payments will increase, but health care benefits for faculty retirees not yet eligible for Medicare will be preserved. Full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members must also now be notified by May 31 if they’ll be renewed the following year, and adjuncts won’t see their workload increased by 25 percent or their pay cut by 20 percent.

October 27, 2016

WASHINGTON -- For the past eight years, community colleges have had an advocate in the White House through Jill Biden.

Biden, along with her husband, Vice President Joe Biden, hosted a number of community college leaders Wednesday at their residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory as a way to thank the sector for pushing free community college initiatives in their states and communities.

"I know a lot of you in your communities, through philanthropy and through major corporate sponsorship, are providing free community college," said Joe Biden. "But that's not enough. Twelve years of education in the 21st century is not enough and so we are absolutely committed. I'm telling you it's going to happen, particularly if my team wins this election."

America's College Promise, the tuition-free community college plan that President Obama unveiled more than a year ago, has languished in the U.S. Congress.

"Communities and states are not waiting for Congress," said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. "Support from Congress or the federal government, whether it comes in the form of dollars or thought leadership, is important and good, but bringing communities together around this is how it anchors itself, not just for a year or day, but for a generation and more."

Despite what changes may occur with a new administration, the tuition-free community college idea is rooted in states and communities, Mitchell said.

Although critics of a federal tuition-free community college program often question how to fund the initiative, the vice president put forward one idea that would tackle the problem.

The step-up in basis tax loophole, which allows people who have sold an inherited asset to avoid paying capital gains tax, costs the U.S. Treasury $17 billion a year, the vice president said, adding that it affects less than 1 percent of Americans.

"If we eliminate that one single loophole, we could pay for every single solitary person to go to community college free for two years and we could reduce the deficit by another $11 billion," he said.

Even after the White House changes hands next year to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, Jill Biden said she'll continue to push for tuition-free community college.

"This is our moment," she said. "We don't know what we're going to have two months from now or four months from now, but we have to go forward with free community college."

October 27, 2016

Anna Stubblefield, former chair of philosophy at Rutgers University at Newark, must pay $4 million to the family of a disabled man she was found guilty of sexually assaulting, a New Jersey judge decided this week, according to NJ.com. Stubblefield is already serving 12 years in prison following a related criminal trial. Stubblefield alleges that she and the man in question, known as D.J. in court records, were in a consensual relationship. But the man’s brother and mother say he suffers from severe cerebral palsy, has the intellectual capacity of an 18-month-old and was incapable of giving consent. Stubblefield began working with the man around 2008 via a disputed method called facilitated communication; eventually they traveled together to out-of-town conferences and published an academic paper in 2011. Stubblefield informed the family that year that the relationship had become romantic, and D.J.'s family members eventually took legal action against her.

October 27, 2016

After months of criticism, protests and an internal study, Brigham Young University announced Wednesday that it will provide amnesty to sexual assault victims who disclose honor code violations. Previously students who reported being sexually assaulted could be -- and, according to many students, were -- investigated for violating the college's chastity requirement. The Mormon institution also announced that it will create a full-time Title IX coordinator position, hire a victims' advocate to work on campus, and ensure that the Title IX office and honor code office are no longer housed in the same physical space.

October 27, 2016

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, long known for producing research that leads to start-up companies, is expanding its role to promote innovative companies. The university on Wednesday announced creation of "the Engine," in which MIT and others will contribute millions of dollars to support start-up businesses while also offering affordable workspaces near campus and access to expensive equipment that some start-up companies might otherwise lack.

October 27, 2016

The majority of American students who study in Canada, particularly those at the undergraduate level, do so primarily because of the relatively lower tuition fees of Canadian universities, according to a new report from Universities Canada based on eight focus groups of Americans studying over the northern border.

The report, titled “Heading North: The Experience of American Students at Canadian Universities” and funded with a grant from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, notes that students are also motivated by the opportunity to experience another culture while remaining close to home.

At the graduate level, students typically are drawn by specific programs, fields of research or faculty members. The report identifies a lack of funding opportunities as the primary obstacle to Americans wanting to pursue graduate degrees in Canada.

American students in the focus groups used positive terms to characterize their experiences at Canadian universities, including in relation to the quality of academic programs and campus life. They expressed mixed opinions on the ease of Canada's immigration and visa processes.

October 27, 2016

The scores of an unspecified “subset” of Egyptian students who sat for the October SAT have been canceled “based on evidence that a test preparation organization illegally obtained and shared the test content before the administration,” said the College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the SAT.

“We've done our best to limit the number of students whose scores were canceled,” Jaslee Carayol, a spokeswoman for the College Board, said via email. “Without the cooperation of the test-prep organization, we were unable to determine which students had access to the test materials, so we had to cancel the scores of all students who may have seen them. Therefore, score cancellation alone should not reflect on the integrity of any individual student. Any scores that institutions do receive from applicants in Egypt are valid and accurate.”

Carayol declined to say how many students' scores were canceled, saying that the College Board “cannot share further details because making certain details public could compromise our prevention and detection processes.”

October 27, 2016

The former head women's basketball coach at San Jose State University violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules when he allowed a transfer athlete to practice when she was still serving her year in residence and when he conducted impermissible team activities during the off-season, the NCAA announced Wednesday. The NCAA also said the "coach acted unethically when he falsely claimed to be unaware of violations in his program."

The former coach, Tim La Kose, resigned from the university in 2013. The NCAA placed the team on probation for one year and fined the university $5,000. La Kose was given a one-year show-cause order.

October 27, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Matthew C. Moen, professor of political science at the University of South Dakota, delves into a few ideas to improve political discourse. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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