Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 22, 2013

The U.S. Department of Education has rescheduled the second session of its negotiations over possible new regulations to ensure that vocational programs are preparing students for gainful employment, according to a letter a department official sent to participants. The rule making session was postponed during the government shutdown. It is now scheduled for Nov. 18-20. Negotiators are seeking to find consensus on rules for vocational programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions.

October 22, 2013

William Peace University, an 800-student liberal arts college in North Carolina, announced Monday it had closed a controversial land deal that has drawn criticism of the university by already suspicious alumnae, including major donors. It plans to spend nearly $21 million on a shopping center and other property across the street from its campus. Of that, $10.75 million is coming from the university's $33 million endowment -- a third of the endowment, though less than the two-thirds some had suggested would be used for the deal.

The rest of the funding comes from a $10 million bank loan that is structured to put only the new property and not any of the university's existing assets on the line in the event of a default, said Billie Redmond, CEO of Trademark Properties, which brokered the deal for William Peace. Redmond said the vast majority of the shopping center is leased and generates a steady flow of income. The university also can use parcels it purchased for expansion. 

The land deal is only the latest in a series of controversies that involve nearly every aspect of Peace’s operations – the once all-women’s college began admitting men, changed its name, asked faculty to sign agreements giving away their rights to take the university to court, downsized and is attempting to grow its enrollment, according to local news media accounts.

October 22, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Timothy Roth of Franklin and Marshall College explores the link between local climate and brain capacity within wide-ranging species. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 22, 2013

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, is traveling with Texas A&M University officials to Israel this week to announce plans to open a branch campus in Nazareth, considered the leading Arab city in Israel, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported. The campus, which will award Texas A&M degrees, will be called Texas A&M University at Nazareth - Peace Campus, and will aim to educate Christians, Jews and Muslims together. Israeli officials have been pushing to expand higher education opportunities for Arabs in Israel, and are backing the plan by pledging to seek an exemption to Israeli regulations that would normally prohibit the creation of a branch campus by a foreign institution. Texas A&M, which as a public institution cannot use state funds for the project, is planning to raise money for it.

 

October 22, 2013

In preparation for homecoming weekend, Amherst College sent resident counselors an advisory e-mail that included a warning to watch out for alumni. “Keep an eye out for unwanted sexual advances,” the e-mail said, according to Newsweek. “A lot of alums come back for Homecoming pretty jaded with the bar scene and blind dating of the real world and are eager to take advantage of what they now perceive to be an ‘easy’ hook-up scene back at Amherst. Also, many alums tend to be pretty drunk all weekend long.”

Critics said the message, which advises counselors to “alert your residents to this unfortunate combination,” tasks women with avoiding assault rather than addressing the potential assailants. Amherst has faced scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault cases after a student described her experience in the campus newspaper, and has begun making policy and procedural changes on campus.

Note: The above paragraph has been updated to reflect the fact that Amherst is not under federal investigation.

Amherst President Biddy Martin said in a statement that the email appeared to have "originated from a document that was several years old," and the author was likely a student from 2007. "It includes unwarranted and crass characterizations of our alumni," Martin said. "I want to apologize.... Given the seriousness with which we take sexual assault, our commitment to changing how we address it, and the comprehensive strategies we are putting in place, these failures of judgment are most disappointing. We will take appropriate measures to address them."

 

October 22, 2013

City College of the City University of New York has shut down the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Student and Community Center, a small physical space that was the center for student activism, and turned it into an annex for career services at the college, The New York Times reported. While the center is much loved by some activist groups, it has been criticized for years by others. It is named for two City College alumni who fled the United States for Cuba -- the former one of the organizers of a Puerto Rican independence group that claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing and the latter a member of the Black Liberation Army who was convicted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey trooper.

City College officials said that the closing was based on space needs, not politics. But students are organizing protects and calling the move an attempt to squelch student activism. A Facebook page created to defend the room and its programs calls the center "the only liberated space in CUNY."

October 22, 2013

The Grambling State University football players who boycotted their game Saturday said they are returning to practice and competition this week, but “have not forgotten the situation and how we’ve gotten here.” The athletes said in a statement obtained by USA Today that they made the decision after consulting with the former head coach Doug Williams, whose firing helped prompt the protest. The players were also revolting against dilapidated facilities, lack of team staff and resources, and excessive travel to games. Jim Bernhard, a Fortune 500 CEO in Baton Rouge, said he would "ensure" the university's football facilities are updated, the statement says. Administrators say they are trying to balance athletes’ concerns with a serious lack of funding at the historically black university. The Southwestern Athletic Conference may impose a fine on Grambling State over the forfeit.

October 22, 2013

The National Student Clearinghouse is the closest thing the United States has to a national student-level record system, which makes it an increasingly potent tool for policy makers and researchers hoping to understand how students move into and through higher education. But like all data sources, it has its limitations, and a paper published by the National Bureau for Economic Research aims to help those using the clearinghouse do so effectively.

The paper (abstract available here), written by scholars at the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, notes that the clearinghouse -- a nonprofit entity that had its start as a tool for tracking recipients of federal financial aid -- has transformed itself into a major source of studies produced by its own staff and a haven for researchers tapping into its data. But they point out as well that, like any data source, the clearinghouse has its flaws -- notably that there is substantial variation in how fully students are represented in certain sectors, states and population subgroups. "As research using NSC data becomes even more common, researchers need to be aware of the benefits and challenges of working with these data," the authors write.

October 21, 2013

The Common Application -- facing intense criticism over technical glitches that have made it impossible for many people to apply to college -- on Friday issued a new update on its problems, and an apology. The statement pledged to do better at both fixing the problems and updating people on the status of the situation. "All of us who work with and for The Common Application -- from the Board of Directors to the staff to our technology partners at Hobsons -- understand the significance of this moment, both for the college application process and for the reputation of the association itself. To those of you who have offered words of support and encouragement, we thank you," the statement says. "To those of you who have lost faith in our ability to adequately meet the needs of you and your students, we understand."

Several colleges have delayed early decision or other deadlines in light of the difficulties students have had filing with the Common Application.

 

 

October 21, 2013

The University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota, is facing fallout from a series of allegations about sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. The abuse is not alleged to have taken place at the university, but St. Thomas has been drawn into the scandal.

  • The Rev. Michael Keating, a professor of Catholic studies, is on leave following the filing of a lawsuit by a woman alleging that he abused her in the late 1990s when she was 13 to 15 years old. While Father Keating has not spoken about the allegations, his lawyer has denied the allegations. Minnesota Public Radio has reported that documents it obtained suggest that church leaders may have planned to communicate with the university about the allegations as early as 2006.
  • The Rev. Harry Flynn, a former archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis at a time that many victims say the church didn't do enough about abuse allegations, has resigned from the St. Thomas board.
  • The Rev. Kevin McDonough, former vicar general of the archdiocese, and who investigated allegations against Father Keating and others, has also resigned from the St. Thomas board, The Star Tribune reported.

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