Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 3:00am

Alumni from Hampden-Sydney College, a men’s college in Virginia, are trying to save Sweet Briar, the nearby women’s college that announced last week it plans to close.

As the Hampden-Sydney alumni put it, “Any gentleman who has graced the grounds of Hampden-Sydney will remember a Sweet Briar lady by his side.” The Hampden-Sydney alums’ effort has about 850 likes on Facebook and a goal of raising $100,000 to help Save Sweet Briar, a campaign by alumnae.

Sweet Briar’s closure could affect life at Hampden-Sydney, said William Ballance, a 2011 graduate of Hampden-Sydney who is involved in the campaign.

“Sweet Briar is an integral part to the Hampden-Sydney experience and saving Sweet Briar is essential to maintaining the quality of life and the status quo for Hampden-Sydney students current and future,” Ballance said in an e-mail. “There are far-reaching externalities from the closing of Sweet Briar.”

The men’s college put out a statement last week saying much the same: "Since Sweet Briar's opening in 1901, generations of Hampden-Sydney students, faculty and staff have formed personal and professional relationships with their counterparts at the women's liberal arts college.”

Also this week, a state senator whose grandmother attended Sweet Briar said he wrote a letter to the Virginia attorney general asking what will happen to the $84 million or so in the college’s endowment. The process for divvying up donated money is actually outlined in state law, but the attorney general plays a key role in that process and is part of talks that could determine where a chunk of that money ends up.

While Sweet Briar and Hampden-Sydney alumni may be upset about the plans to close Sweet Briar, others have praised its proactive closure, which Sweet Briar leaders say will prevent an unseemly death spiral.

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 3:00am

The president of American Baptist College is defending an invitation to a lesbian bishop to speak at the college, USA Today reported. Bishop Yvette Flunder of the United Church of Christ will speak this month on her work advocating for people with H.I.V. and AIDS.

The National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors issued a statement denouncing the invitation. "For a Baptist college president to invite a lesbian bishop legally married to a woman to be a guest speaker and worship leader on a Baptist college campus is irresponsible, scandalous, non-biblical and certainly displeasing to God," said the statement.

But the college's president, Forrest Harris, said that demands that the college revoke the invitation "fly in the face of everything that A.B.C. stands for as an institution of higher education rooted in the cause of social justice and equality for all."

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 4:16am

Zaytuna College has become the first accredited Muslim college in the United States, after the college commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges granted its approval, The Los Angeles Times reported. Zaytuna is based in Berkeley, Calif.

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Radu Sporea, an engineer at the University of Surrey, will discuss how to improve our photography skills through a scientific profile of aperture. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of Oklahoma has expelled two students for leading a bus full of Sigma Alpha Epsilon members in singing a racist song that was recorded on video. But First Amendment experts on Tuesday said that such a punishment is unconstitutional. "I have emphasized that there is zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma," David Boren, Oklahoma's president, said in a statement. In a letter to the expelled students, Boren said that they were expelled because of their "role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others."

Writing for The Washington Post, Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that "there is no First Amendment exception for racist speech, or exclusionary speech, or -- as [in] the cases I mentioned above -- for speech by university students that 'has created a hostile educational environment for others.'" While SAE's national headquarters, as a private organization, is allowed to punish individual members based on its own rules, Oklahoma University, as a public institution, must view the song as protected speech, Volokh wrote.

In a statement Tuesday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said that "the expression recorded in the video, standing alone, is insufficient to create a hostile educational environment." FIRE also expressed concern that the students were seemingly expelled without a hearing. In his letter to the expelled students, Boren said administrators made the decision after identifying the students in the video, and that if they disagreed with the punishment they had until Friday to contact the university's Equal Opportunity Office. "This cannot be justified unless the students present an immediate physical danger to themselves or others were they to remain on campus," FIRE stated.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 3:00am

Apple will invest $50 million in a multiyear agreement with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Center for Women and Information Technology in an effort to address the technology industry's workforce diversity gap. The TMCF will receive $40 million of the pot, which will go toward student and faculty initiatives, including creating a database of talented students at historically black colleges and universities, internship opportunities and development programs. The NCWIT, meanwhile, will spend $10 million over the next four years to support its internship and scholarship programs.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 4:17am

For the first time in almost 40 years and just the second time in history, the University of Alabama's Student Government Association has a black president, AL.com reported. With his election, Elliot Spillers, a junior business management major who is enrolled in the university's honors college, becomes the first African-American to lead the student government since 1976. The development comes about 18 months after the university faced significant criticism over the segregation of its sororities.

Spillers's electoral triumph was noteworthy for another reason, too, the Alabama publication reported: he was elected without the support of "The Machine," which the university's student newspaper has described as a secret coalition of Greek organizations that are thought to control student institutions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 3:00am

Borrowers of federal student loans have a "fundamentally different" relationship to their debt than other financial obligations, according to a new report by the New America think tank.

The report, written by Jason Delisle and Alexander Holt, is based on an analysis of several focus groups of student loan borrowers across the country.

It finds, among other things, that well-intentioned features of the federal loan program -- like making it easier for borrowers to delay payments -- sometimes work not as a fail-safe for borrowers who absolutely cannot pay but as a procrastination tool. Borrowers then end up with larger loan balances to pay.

Some borrowers also reported feeling that the "money wasn't real" when their college distributed federal loans to them, especially when the loans came in the form of refund checks. 

"The solution," Delisle and Holt write, "is not to admonish borrowers for laziness or irresponsibility, but to reexamine what makes federal student loans different, and what processes and incentives can be put in place to correct for those differences."

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of California at Irvine's student government, which was scheduled to have a meeting today to discuss the ongoing controversy there over the U.S. flag, did not take place as scheduled due to a threat of violence. While the threat was not specific, Irvine officials are taking it seriously and with backing from the student government called off the meeting.

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 3:00am

It's time for our monthly Cartoon Caption Contest.

Get creative and suggest a caption for this month's new cartoon.

Vote on your favorite from among the three captions chosen by our panel of judges for last month's cartoon.

And congratulations to Brendan Powers, an actor and former university artistic director, whose caption for January's cartoon -- "Our library takes overdue fees quite seriously." -- was chosen by our readers from among three finalists. He will receive an Amazon gift certificate and a copy of the cartoon signed by Matthew Henry Hall.

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