Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 4, 2013

A California Superior Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit from California Competes, a nonprofit group that had challenged the shared governance structure of California's community college system. The group, which is led by Robert Shireman, a former official at the U.S. Department of Education, sued over the legal status of state regulations that allegedly grant veto powers to local academic senates. The judge last week denied that motion. (Note: This article has been corrected from a previous version to fix an incorrect reference to the judge's ruling. The judge issued no written explanation for his decision.)

November 4, 2013

College trustees should be informed and engaged with administrators as they work to combat sexual misconduct issues on campus, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges said in an advisory statement. “Colleges and universities are defending against lawsuits, federal investigations, and negative publicity arising from their response to sexual violence on campus,” AGB wrote. “As they do with other issues related to campus culture, governing boards have a duty to become and remain informed about sexual misconduct on campus, and to satisfy themselves that administrators are addressing the issue in a way that protects their institutions against potential adverse financial and reputational consequences.” Specifically, board members should ensure their institution is meeting federal obligations such as identifying a Title IX coordinator, has policies that ensure fair treatment for all parties in a complaint, and is properly training its “various constituencies” on reporting and responding to alleged sexual assault.

November 4, 2013

The University System of Georgia, which has already had four consolidations of eight colleges and universities in the past several years, is now planning to combine Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University into an institution that will keep the Kennesaw State name. The two universities are about 15 minutes apart and have a combined enrollment this fall of 31,000. The plan was announced Friday, and is already drawing opposition

Rumors of such a merger had been floating for years, said Professor Meighan Dillon, head of the Faculty Senate at Southern Polytechnic, though she found out the mercer was actually happening shortly before a press release announcement went out around lunchtime on Friday.

“This opportunity creates a new dynamic for us to raise educational attainment levels and enhance our ability to contribute to regional economic development,” Kennesaw State President Dan Papp, who will also serve as president of the merged university, said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the many talented individuals at both institutions in the coming months as we create a new institution.”

The university system's announcement also featured a quote from Lisa Rossbacher, the president at Southern Polytechnic. But she told The Marietta Daily Journal that she was not consulted and found out about the plan only a day before it was announced.

More than 1,800 people who are supporters or students at Southern Polytechnic signed an online petition opposing the merger. "We are dismayed by the closed-door, deceitful process through which the decision was made, and feel strongly that the cultures, identities, and missions of the two universities are incompatible," says the petition.

November 4, 2013

The CBS Los Angeles affiliate revealed last week that Carlos Vazquez -- who works as a parking officer at the University of California at Irvine and as a public safety officer at Golden West College -- posts photos of Hitler and degrading remarks about black people on websites. The photos of Hitler suggest admiration. For example, Vazquez created a photo with his children and Hitler and wrote as a caption: "Proud father moment when my daughter met the great fuhrer."

Another photo shows a hamburger with a swastika drawn in mustard and the caption, "I will have the Nazi burger easy on the Jew sauce." A spokeswoman for Irvine said she was offended by the web postings but that they were irrelevant to Vazquez's duties at the university. "As ill as it may make us to look at some of these things, we do have freedom of speech in this country," she said. But Jon Arnold, a public safety officer with Golden West College, said that "this officer is going to be put on administrative leave immediately." Vazquez declined to comment.

 

 

November 4, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex digs up the evolutionary origin of a strange phobia. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

November 4, 2013

Some students are objecting to Northern Michigan University's plan to pick a new slogan to replace "Northern, Naturally," The Mining Journal reported. Officials say that, after 20 years, it's time for a new slogan. The interim president, David Haynes, recently said that "Fearless Minds" was a top contender. But students have organized a petition against that. Devin Manges, who started the petition, said that the phrase should reflect the university's connection to the environment, as the current slogan does, and also questioned the validity of "Fearless Minds," saying that "our minds are probably not considerably more fearless than others."

 

November 4, 2013

Many aspiring faculty members complain that search committees ask for lots of information they will never use (or even look at), with vague explanations of what to send. Rebecca Schuman, an adjunct at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and a blogger who writes frequently about job issues in academe, has proposed an unusual way to take a stand about such requests. On her blog, she has announced a contest in which she will pay $100 each to the first two people who send a photo of their butt to a search committee (mixed in with the other materials -- to raise the question of whether anyone would find it). Schuman is requiring that contestants provide her with proof, and that they apply for a job in their discipline for which they have the basic requirements. She also has offered to up the payout to $200 for applications to Ivy League search committees.

Via email, Schuman said that several people have indicated that they will send tush-shots to search committees, but so far no one has provided proof.

November 1, 2013

Johnson C. Smith University announced 21 non-faculty layoffs Thursday (as well as the freezing of 30 unfilled positions) in response to a significant enrollment decline this fall, The Charlotte Observer reported. A year ago, fall enrollment at the university set a record at 1,801, but this fall it ended up at 1,387. A key factor in the decline, officials said, was tighter rules on loan eligibility that resulted in some students or families being denied loans that they received in the past -- an issue that has been a source of frustration at many historically black colleges this year.

 

November 1, 2013

Twenty-nine of the 64 State University of New York campuses will modify their sexual assault policies and procedures to align with each other and with federal law, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights announced Thursday. The resolution agreement concludes a three-year compliance review, one of OCR’s “proactive” efforts undertaken not because of an individual complaint but because of a combined set of factors, among them SUNY's size. The agreement does not apply to SUNY’s community college campuses, each of which has its own governing board and financial structure. Still, it is OCR’s most impactful agreement to date in terms of reach: 219,000 students and 70,000 employees will be subject to the new policies. (Note: This item has been corrected from an earlier version to clarify that this was a voluntary agreement reached between SUNY and OCR.)

As part of the investigation, OCR reviewed 159 cases of alleged sexual harassment at four SUNY campuses. Officials found that in some instances complainants did not receive “prompt or adequate investigations,” did not receive notice of the outcome of their complaints, or were not provided equal opportunities to attend pre-hearing conferences or present evidence and witnesses at their hearing.

The agreement requires the campuses to make several adjustments to comply with Title IX, including: designating a Title IX coordinator at each campus; setting up procedures for 24-hour reporting; providing sexual harassment training for all staff; conducting annual climate reviews; and ensuring all students and staff know their rights and options under Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination. Those steps are more or less consistent with changes colleges entering resolution agreements have been ordered to make since OCR issued its April 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter.

November 1, 2013

"Full Moon on the Quad" is a tradition at Stanford University in which students kiss one another at midnight on the first full moon of the fall semester. The New York Times reported on how Stanford officials try to make sure people are kissed only when they want to be (the use of slogans like "Consent Is Sexy") and that the event doesn't result in the mass spread of germs (students with colds are discouraged from participating, and students are encouraged to use mouthwash, but not to brush or floss beforehand).

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