Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 16, 2018

Some U.S. universities are waiving their application fees for Saudi Arabian students in Canada who have been ordered by the Saudi government to leave. The Saudi government ordered its students in Canada to transfer to institutions in other countries after it took offense to statements from Canada’s foreign affairs minister criticizing the kingdom’s arrest of human rights activists.

Saudi students were told last week to leave Canada by the end of the summer. In 2017, there were 7,640 Saudi students studying in Canada, accounting for 2 percent of Canada's international student population.

Louisiana Tech University is waving application fees for Saudi Arabian students who are affected and has extended its application deadline. It also held a Facebook Live event about transfer options for Saudi students last week. “To us this is not a political thing; this is simply seeing students who are in a situation where they need to find a solution and find one quickly, and we’re trying to help them,” said Jay Ligon, Louisiana Tech's director of international student and scholars services.

Valparaiso University, in Indiana, is also waiving application fees for affected Saudi undergraduate applicants from Canada. Portland State University is waiving application fees and offering expedited admissions decisions for Saudi students transferring from colleges in Canada.

August 16, 2018

The New Media Consortium’s delayed 2018 Horizon Report on higher education technology trends was published today by Educause.

Educause stepped in to continue the work of the Horizon project after the NMC unexpectedly declared bankruptcy and ceased operations at the end of 2017.

Like previous Horizon reports, the 2018 edition identifies key trends, challenges and developments in ed tech that are likely to impact teaching and learning in the next five years. The report includes examples of institutions that are already leading the way.

Trends discussed in the report include the redesign of learning spaces and the growing role of open educational resources. Challenges include improving digital literacy among students and removing barriers for students who might not be able to afford certain technologies, or who experience accessibility issues when using them. Important developments outlined in the report include the rise of maker spaces, adaptive learning technologies and robotics.


August 16, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Washington College Week, Rachel Durso, assistant professor of sociology at Washington College, describes using data points to bring help to domestic violence victims in isolated areas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 15, 2018

An evangelical Christian university in Canada announced Tuesday that students will no longer be required to abide by a “community covenant” barring same-sex relationships or any other form of sexual activity "that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."

The decision by Trinity Western University’s Board of Governors comes about two months after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the denial of accreditation to Trinity Western’s proposed law school due to concerns about the covenant and discrimination against LGBTQ students. The court found that in denying Trinity Western’s proposed law school accreditation, the Law Society of Upper Canada “was entitled to conclude that equal access to the legal profession, diversity within the bar, and preventing harm to LGBTQ law students were all within the scope of its duty to uphold the public interest.”

In a statement Tuesday, Trinity Western president Bob Kuhn said the decision to make the covenant nonmandatory for students was taken with the view that it would "successfully position us to better fulfil the TWU mission." The full text of the motion approved by Trinity Western's board reads as follows:

“In furtherance of our desire to maintain TWU as a thriving community of Christian believers that is inclusive of all students wishing to learn from a Christian viewpoint and underlying philosophy, the community covenant will no longer be mandatory as of the 2018-19 academic year with respect to admission of students to, or continuation of students at, the university."

A Trinity Western spokeswoman confirmed that the covenant will remain mandatory for faculty, staff and administrators.

August 15, 2018

A coalition of historians has issued a letter calling on the Trump administration to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman (at right) on the $20 bill. And the American Historical Association has endorsed the effort as well. "As the primary organization representing historians in the United States, and the largest professional organization of historians in the world, we take history itself seriously -- especially the deep influence of everyday portrayals of the nation’s past. Tubman’s heroic efforts on behalf of enslaved people seeking freedom, and on behalf of the nation’s military forces during the Civil War make her an appropriate symbol of freedom and the courageous patriotism required to end a system that former President George W. Bush has referred to as 'America’s original sin,'" says the AHA letter.

The Treasury Department pledged to replace Jackson -- seen by historians and many others as a racist president whose policies denied the rights of many -- with Tubman, the noted abolitionist. But the Treasury has in the Trump administration declined to say that it would make the switch. During the 2016 campaign, Trump questioned why Jackson (below) should lose his spot on the $20 bill.

August 15, 2018

A University of Maryland at College Park football strength and conditioning coach, and one of the athletics staffers accused of perpetuating an abusive culture in the program, has resigned. 

The move comes two months after a freshman football player died following his collapse during sprint workouts.

Athletics Director Damon Evans announced Tuesday at a news conference that the university had “parted ways” with Rick Court, who had been named in an ESPN report detailing a “toxic” culture in Maryland football. Court will receive a six-figure settlement from Maryland. Yahoo, citing a source close to the settlement, reported that he would be paid $315,000.

Court posted a statement to Twitter: "The football student-athletes' mental and physical health remain my number one priority," he wrote. "Thus I am stepping down to allow the team to heal and move forward."

Head Coach DJ Durkin and other staffers were placed on leave after the ESPN story appeared Friday.

Current and former players and staffers alleged that Court, Durkin and others were verbally abusive and intimidating -- players reported having small weights thrown at them, and one player said he was made to eat until he vomited.

At the news conference, Maryland president Wallace Loh said the institution learned about these allegations from the media. The ESPN story came after the death in June of 19-year-old Terps offensive lineman Jordan McNair, reportedly from heatstroke after a workout in May.

Athletic staffers “misdiagnosed” McNair’s symptoms and did not treat him for heat-related illness at the time, officials said at the press conference. Staffers did not take McNair’s temperature or give him a cold-compress bath.

An attorney representing McNair's family has said Durkin should be fired “immediately” for his role in overseeing the workout. Baltimore attorney William H. Murphy Jr., who also represented the family of Freddie Gray, on Sunday said Durkin and his coaching staff showed “complete indifference” to McNair's struggles to complete sprints at the May 29 practice, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Loh said the university takes “legal and moral” responsibility for the mistakes made by athletics training staffers. He said university officials met with McNair’s family to apologize and committed to never putting another athlete at risk. He also announced a new, four-person independent commission charged with investigating the football program.

“You can motivate people, push them to the limit, without engaging in bullying behavior,” Loh said.

Maryland's season begins Sept. 1.

August 15, 2018

Central Washington University fired a professor of political science who is also a Republican state lawmaker following an investigation into allegations of misconduct, The Seattle Times reported. The university said in a statement that its investigation wouldn’t be made public until later in the month, but that Matt Manweller, a state representative, was no longer an employee. Manweller has called the university’s investigation politically motivated. He told the Times that he intended to file a lawsuit against Central Washington, saying, “Over nine months ago the university communicated to me that they were going to terminate my employment regardless of what the investigation revealed.”

The university has not provided details about the investigation but said in a statement that Manweller was afforded all due process rights assured by his union contract. Central Washington has previously looked into two other allegations of sexual harassment against Manweller, finding evidence that he violated its sexual harassment policy, and he was the subject of a separate complaint made to the Washington Legislature last year, the Times reported.

Manweller said in a video he released earlier this month about the university's investigation that “there is nothing in this report to apologize for.” The “things that are true are not inappropriate. And the things that are inappropriate are not true,” he added.

In its statement, the university said it “deeply regrets that Manweller has chosen to make public statements minimizing, trivializing, even ridiculing, the female students who have come forward with legitimate concerns.”

August 15, 2018

The University of New Haven will stop offering degree-granting academic programs at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts after the academic year closes in May 2019, it announced Tuesday, ending a partnership after five years.

The two institutions reached an affiliation agreement in 2014. Lyme kept its own Board of Trustees and ownership of its campus under the deal, while New Haven took ownership of academic degree programs. At the time, the university touted adding Lyme’s bachelor of fine arts program. Meanwhile, Lyme was said to be gaining access to more liberal arts courses and art programs after facing challenges with finances, enrollment and accreditation.

But Lyme continued to struggle with enrollment in the years since, only counting 139 students as of the fall of 2017. In contrast, New Haven’s main campus about 40 miles away in West Haven enrolled almost 6,800. The university counts 122 Lyme students as of today.

New Haven leaders thought an infusion of resources plus Lyme’s reputation would build “a foundation for enduring success,” said Steven H. Kaplan, president of the university, in a statement.

“Candidly, with the benefit of hindsight, that decision was made more with our hearts than our heads,” he said. “We worried more about supporting important educational needs and not enough about the market demand for a very small, rural art college. Continuing to do so would simply be irresponsible.”

The university will move a bachelor of fine arts in illustration program from Lyme to its flagship West Haven campus. Options are being considered for students in other Lyme programs. They could include switching to other majors offered at West Haven or continuing their education through an articulation agreement with the University of Hartford.

Lyme’s board now plans to consider turning the campus back into a non-degree-granting art academy.

August 15, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Washington College Week, Bill Schindler, associate professor of anthropology at the college, discusses why today’s dietary culture is out of whack with our bodies’ needs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 14, 2018

New York University suspended Avital Ronell, a professor of German and comparative literature, for the coming year after finding that she sexually harassed a graduate student, Nimrod Reitman, The New York Times reported. Ronell’s behavior was “sufficiently pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of Reitman’s learning environment,” the university determined in its investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination. Reitman reportedly said Ronell harassed him for three years, including via emails in which she referred to him as “my most adored one,” “Sweet cuddly Baby,” “cock-er spaniel” and “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod.” Reitman, now a visiting fellow at Harvard University, also said Ronell kissed and touched him, pulled him into her bed during a trip to Paris, called and texted him constantly, and refused to work with him if he did not comply. Like many graduate students who have alleged harassment, Reitman said he felt he had to put up with behavior that bothered him because of the power differential between him and his adviser.

Harassment is not gender-specific, but the case has captured significant attention because Ronell is female, unlike most other professors accused of harassment of late, and a noted feminist. The Times also reported that Reitman is gay and Ronell is a lesbian. A group of Ronell’s peers signed onto an open letter to NYU earlier this year, asking it to consider Ronell’s scholarly record in its investigation. Ronell denied harassing Reitman, telling the Times, “Our communications -- which Reitman now claims constituted sexual harassment -- were between two adults, a gay man and a queer woman, who share an Israeli heritage, as well as a penchant for florid and campy communications arising from our common academic backgrounds and sensibilities.” The communications were “repeatedly invited, responded to and encouraged by him over a period of three years,” she said. Reitman filed his complaint against Ronell two years after earning his Ph.D., initially alleging harassment, assault, stalking and retaliation. NYU found evidence of harassment but cleared Ronell of the other policy violations. Reitman’s attorney, Donald Kravet, said he’s drafted a lawsuit against NYU and Ronell and that he and Reitman are weighing their options.


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