Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Delilah White, a visiting assistant professor of mass communications at Emory & Henry College, in Virginia, quit her job last week amid fallout from a campus protest, WCYB News reported. Minority students held a rally at the college last week. White supported the protest, and in a statement quoted by the news outlet, she said fallout from that support made it impossible for her to continue at the college. "After the demonstration on Wednesday, further isolation from colleagues and students ensued from the idea that I was behind the deeds not words movement, bringing me to a breaking point. I cannot function mentally nor physically in a manner that holistically benefits all of our students when I am immersed in an atmosphere of intimidation and prejudice from the majority of students and now, from a host of my colleagues," said the statement.

White could not be reached by Inside Higher Ed.

Via email, Dirk Moore, a spokesman for the college, said, "We did have a professor meet Friday with our president and vice president for academic affairs, asking to be released from her one-year contract. Although, according to a news report, she issued a statement about her reasons for wanting to be released from her contract, I'm not aware of what reasons she may have presented to the president and vice president during their meeting. I only know that they did not ask her to resign and that they accepted her request with sadness and regret."

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Dortmund Technical University, in Germany, has closed its prayer room after disputes over the actions of Muslim students in the room, the Associated Press reported. Some Muslim students required Muslim women in the room to wear veils and to be seated separately from men during services. Such practices violate university rules on gender equity.

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

The Association of Community College Trustees released two white papers today. One examines how leaders from the two-year sector can partner with local school districts to close the gap in college readiness. The other paper tracks how Latino students are faring at community colleges.

The association, along with the American Association of Community Colleges and Higher Education for Higher Standards, is urging community college leaders to partner with K-12 for more high school interventions, to identify college-readiness measures, to revise institutional placement practices, to provide reformed remediation opportunities for first-year students and to work with policy makers to push these practices statewide.

"One of the great strengths of the American education system -- as with the United States as a whole -- is its great diversity," said Noah Brown, president and chief executive officer of ACCT, in a news release. "At the same time, we have a responsibility to unify our public high school and community college systems to give students their best chances of success."

By eliminating the disconnect between K-12 and higher education, the organization believes the number of recent high school graduates who need at least one developmental course will decrease, while completion rates will improve. Currently, about 58 percent of recent high school graduates in community colleges took at least one developmental course.

The paper highlights colleges across the country that are already doing this, including Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee, Washington [State] Community and Technical College System and Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania.

The second white paper outlined challenges many Latino students face while attending community colleges. More than half are the first in their families to attend college, 41 percent receive Pell Grants and 62 percent work while enrolled full time. Latino students often enter college less prepared than their non-Hispanic white peers, and this gap has not changed in recent years.

As a result, more than half of Latino students who first begin at a community college drop out without earning a credential.

The paper describes five promising student success programs at colleges that enroll large numbers of Latino students, including ones at the City University of New York and at Lee College, which is located in Texas.

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Tierney Lorenz, a visiting research scientist at Indiana University, discusses her research into sex and the immune system. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 4:31pm

Suffolk University announced Friday afternoon that President Margaret McKenna will stay in office for now, but will leave no later than the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year. Board leaders have been pushing for her to leave, but students, faculty and alumni have rallied to keep her and pushed for the board chair to quit. The university also announced that Andrew Meyer, the board chair, will finish his current term in May and not seek re-election.

Further, the university announced that "the board has agreed to adopt new bylaws that reflect best practices in higher education by May 2016." While it is unclear how the bylaws will change, many have said that board members have attempted to micromanage and have not understood the proper dividing line between areas of board oversight and administrator oversight. Supporters of McKenna, who is Suffolk's fifth president in five years, say that she is the first president in a long time to seek out and listen to the views of students and faculty members.

While the board met to discuss the issue, students who support McKenna marched and stood outside as snow fell in Boston, posting photographs of their protest, such as the one above right, to social media.

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 3:00am

Stanford University announced Thursday that its next president will be Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a neuroscientist who is currently president of Rockefeller University. He will succeed John L. Hennessy, who announced in June 2015 that he would step down after 16 years as president. Previously, Tessier-Lavigne was a professor of biological sciences at Stanford and at the University of California at San Francisco. A biography may be found here.

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 3:00am

Officials at Marinello Schools of Beauty announced Thursday that they are shutting down campus operations. This decision follows the U.S. Department of Education's announcement Monday that the institution lost the ability to participate in the federal student aid program.

“Despite Marinello Schools of Beauty's long history of compliance with regulatory requirements, the Department of Education has delayed funding to our students for over two months without specifying allegations of wrongdoing or even allowing us to respond. Repeated attempts to get the most basic information from the Department of Education about their potential concerns were rebuffed. We repeatedly informed the department that its actions could lead to the closure of the schools and it refused to provide any information about its concerns. This complete lack of due process has caused Marinello irreparable harm,” said Joe Hixson, a spokesman for the institution, in an email.

The department's investigation into Marinello alleged that the for-profit knowingly requested federal aid for students based on fabricated high school diplomas, while also “underawarding financial aid to students and charging students for excessive overtime.” The department gave Marinello until Feb. 16 to dispute the findings of their investigation, but also notified Marinello that its participation in federal aid programs would end Feb. 29.

“Without providing Marinello any time to refute or defend these untrue accusations, the department chose to cut off funding to our students at 23 schools, none of which has ever been found to have any curriculum or instructional deficiencies by our nationally recognized accreditors or the states in which they operate. We intend to appeal this decision and believe we have done nothing wrong and will defend ourselves vigorously. We object strongly to the lack of due process the department has afforded, which in turn has put our operations at risk. If the department is convinced of its position then it should have provided us with due process to contest its findings,” Hixson said.

In a news release from the for-profit, Marinello officials said they would work on transfer options for the approximately 4,300 students affected by the closure. Marinello campuses in California, Nevada and Utah will close today, while campuses in Kansas and Connecticut will close Friday.

A letter to students about their options was also posted to the institution's website.

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 4:20am

Chicago State University on Thursday declared that it was in a state of financial exigency due to the state failing to adopt a budget and provide funds, The Chicago Tribune reported. All public colleges and universities in the state have been voicing concerns about the impact of the state's inaction, but Chicago State has been warning that it may run out of money by next month. A state of financial exigency, under guidelines of the American Association of University Professors, means that a college's financial condition is so dire as to justify speedier elimination of faculty jobs, including tenured faculty jobs.

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Education this week introduced several new requirements for accreditors, adding to the slightly beefed-up new rules it announced in November. The department has pushed more aggressive reforms to the accreditation process, including a request for the U.S. Congress to drop its ban on imposing specific standards on accreditors. But those ideas are unlikely to come to fruition during the Obama administration's final year.

This week the department said it would require accreditors to provide more information to the feds -- and to the public, when possible -- about sanctions the agencies slap on colleges, including the reason for those sanctions. The department also will require accreditors to separate their reporting of punitive actions against colleges from the other information they submit to the federal government, such as when colleges receive renewal of their accreditation status.

"Agencies need to do more than certify that institutions make quality offerings available; they must gauge the extent to which the institutions actually help more students achieve their goals," Ted Mitchell, the Under Secretary of Education, wrote in a blog post. "And because of our belief in the importance of equal opportunity to learn and achieve, that means strong outcomes for all students, not just some."

Other new requirements announced this week generally revolve around more coordination and basic communication. For example, accreditors will meet more regularly with the department and share information about "schools of concern."

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 3:00am

Earlham College canceled class Thursday in order to hold a series of meetings with students, faculty and staff about a list of diversity concerns distributed by a group of students earlier this week.

Students at the Quaker college marched across campus on Monday and presented the "list of requirements concerning students of color" to the college's president, David Dawson. "The administration at Earlham College has been made aware that a group of students have concerns about issues related to diversity on campus," Brian Zimmerman, the college's director of media relations, said in a statement.

The students' requirements for the college include that Earlham create a multicultural center that provides counseling and is staffed by people of color, that it more easily allow for exemptions from "expensive and mandatory housing and meal plans," and that it offer diversity training for all students, faculty and staff. Among other requirements, the students also demanded that at least 30 percent of the college's faculty, staff and administrators and 20 percent of the Board of Trustees be people of color by 2020.

"As it currently stands, this campus is unsuitable for students of color to thrive," the students wrote. "Earlham is failing to sustain the diversity that this college promises and, because of this, we cannot in good faith endorse Earlham as a place suitable for students who value diversity, fairness and equity."

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