Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 29, 2014

Tom Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, was among several business leaders and policy experts to testify before the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Tuesday on the effects of the Affordable Care Act's so-called employer mandate. The law requires large employers to provide health insurance to employees working 30 or more hours per week, or face fines. Snyder said that the college already had reduced some adjuncts' hours and had to compensate by hiring others in anticipation of the law taking effect in January. Many other colleges and universities have done the same during the past 18 months, capping adjuncts' maximum course loads to ensure that aren't full-time, benefits-eligible employees under the law.

"Because of the unique role of the adjunct in the community college, the end result may be less access for the students and the inability of faculty to stay with one college,” Snyder said, noting that adjuncts' hours include not only contact time with students but also preparation time outside of class. The president said Ivy Tech supported the idea of expanding access to health care, but that it would cost the college system up to $12 million annually to provide all its employees working 30 hours or more weekly with health insurance.

Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy group, testified in November to the House Education and the Workforce Committee about how institutions' responses to the law were hurting adjuncts. She was not invited to Tuesday's hearing. 

Via email, she said: "The problem with colleges like Ivy Tech doing it is that they are not putting the mission of education first. The mission of higher education is not to figure out ways to cut costs by cutting faculty-associated costs; the mission of higher ed is to invest in the people who make education happen -- the teachers and the students."

January 29, 2014

Journalist, biographer, and Aspen Institute Chair and CEO Walter Isaacson will deliver the 43rd annual Jefferson Lecture, the National Institute for the Humanities announced Tuesday. The lecture is the federal government's top honor for scholarship in the humanities.

Isaacson has written a number of widely read biographies, including the 2011 international bestseller Steve Jobs. Previous books focused on Henry Kissinger, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin, among others. Before becoming chair of the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization, he was chairman and CEO of CNN and editor of Time magazine. Isaacson will give his lecture, "The Intersection of the Humanities and the Sciences," on Monday, May 12th, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

January 29, 2014

A new analysis released of California community colleges possibly adding four-year degree program concludes that the idea "merits serious review." The study by the system office for the state's community colleges notes many unmet higher education needs that the community colleges could provide. But the study also notes concerns about resources and adding to the missions of already stretched community colleges.

 

January 29, 2014

Larry James, a former Army psychologist and associate vice president for military affairs at Wright State University, won't be invited to campus to interview for a position at Northern Arizona University, a spokesman said late Tuesday. The announcement came after a week of protest from students and faculty over the fact that James was in the running to become the new dean of the College Social and behavioral sciences. Protesters raised concerns about his role as a process evaluator for interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War and at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Many of their concerns came from James's own book, Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib. In that book, and in various interviews, including one last year with Inside Higher Ed, James says he witnessed abusive behaviors by both prisoners and U.S. military personnel, but that he worked to make the situation better. James was assigned to the prison only after the initial revelations about the abuses at Abu Ghraib and his job was to assess and recommend procedures to prevent future abuses. But some critics said his association with the prison is enough to make his appointment to an academic post inappropriate, and others challenged his explanation and the findings of several independent investigations that James was not party to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. They point to a 2010 complaint filed with the Ohio State Board of Psychology by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School alleging that human rights violations continued after James arrived.

Protesters called for university to block James from coming to campus to interview. In an open letter to students and faculty posted on the university website this week, Laura Huenneke, provost, and Dan Kain, vice provost for academic personnel at Northern Arizona said: "Sadly, some individuals (including students) are seeking to prevent his interview and visit. Intimidating flyers are being posted anonymously, and messages have been flying around campus urging people to 'check out' the person via Google or other quick web searches. This behavior is inconsistent with the university’s commitment to civil discourse and fair evaluation of individuals. Indeed, our search process has consistently instructed committee members NOT to search the Internet to learn about candidates, both because of the inaccuracies promulgated on the web and because of the potential for discrimination. Our process is built around our deep respect for giving everyone a fair chance in the hiring process."

In response, Romand Coles, professor of community, culture and environment, posted his own letter, saying: "The concern for evidence-based investigation, accurate representation of what we know, and our best efforts at reasoned deliberation are values I too hold to be absolutely vital to the scholarly enterprise and democratic discourse. Yet based on these standards I come to a very different conclusion about the character of the conversation and work that has been conducted around this search thus far."

On Tuesday, a spokesman said via email: "Dr. James’ leadership skills and record of accomplishments in higher education made him a strong candidate for this position. In searching for a dean, NAU's goals include finding the right match between a candidate’s skills and the college’s needs. After extensive discussions on campus, Dr. James’ candidacy will not be pursued and he will not be visiting campus."

James also sparked student protests and raised faculty concerns last year during his candidacy for division executive director in the College of Education at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He did not get the job, but neither did the other finalist. The post went unfilled.

James did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Coles did not offer additional comment.

January 28, 2014

Northeastern Illinois University has settled for an undisclosed amount with Loretta Capeheart, the tenured professor of justice studies who sued the institution for defamation after she said it accused her of “stalking” a student. Capeheart has claimed the university made that allegation in retaliation for her activism on campus, including protesting the Central Intelligence Agency. Previously, the university had tried to kill Capeheart’s suit by citing state anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) laws. But an appeals court sided against the university in September, saying that the institution did not refute any major aspect of Capeheart’s claim. The news of the settlement comes just weeks after the American Association of University Professors released a report accusing the institution of denying tenure to second professor in retaliation for his department’s involvement in a no-confidence vote in the president. Capeheart, whose legal battle began six years ago, said via email that the September ruling most helped her case, but the recent AAUP report also likely encouraged the university to settle, in that it “publicly exposed the university’s willingness to override basic faculty and citizens’ rights.”

She added: “It is incomprehensible to me that a university that is supposed to be the place for vigorous debate and discussion, the very basis of democracy, chose to engage in a legal battle intent on silencing faculty and others who work at the university.”

A university spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

January 28, 2014

Don Matthews, the professor of religious studies who was suspended from teaching at Naropa University after taking an indefinite vow of silence, has been reinstated, the Daily Camera reported. Matthews was suspended in December after refusing to speak in class, in protest of what he said was institutional racism at Naropa. Administrators said they had logged dozens of students complaints against Matthews, including that he told students they needed to seek mental health services and had threatened to sue others for defamation. The vow of silence in the classroom was a kind of last straw, they said, although President Charles Lief said the institution was devoted to working with Matthews to ensure he returned to teaching. Matthews denied those claims, and said he was unaware of student complaints against him prior to his suspension. Lief said he'd been offered multiple opportunities for professional development. Naropa, a Buddhist university, does not offer tenure to professors. Matthews said he had hired legal representation and had filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to see if the suspension had violated his civil rights. A board spokesman on Monday confirmed that his case was being investigated by a regional board, but had no further information.

January 28, 2014

Landing a job right out of law school is a challenge many recent graduates experience. Despite the gradual decline in the overall employment rate for those students, 92 percent in 2007, and 85 percent in 2012, law students in their final year still said they are satisfied with the overall law school experience, according to a new survey. Even though the overall satisfaction has remained consistent, 55 percent of law school students are still unsatisfied with their institutions’ career counseling and job search help. The Law School Survey of Student Engagement, the study, received responses from more than 26,000 students at 86 different law schools.

The decline in dissatisfaction seems to occur shortly after the first year and it’s not just with career advising, but all advising services like academic, personal and financial aid.

January 28, 2014

Internet2 will offer workshops and campus visits to assist small institutions seeking to upgrade their cybersecurity measures, the technology consortium announced on Monday. The effort will be funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Starting next month, Internet2 will host the first of three regional workshops this year on how investments in cybersecurity can benefit campus research, and over the next two years, the consortium will make consulting visits to up to 30 institutions. According to Internet2's grant application, the two-year effort will also produce a manual of best practices. Those findings will be made publicly available on Internet2's website to benefit institutions unable to participate.

January 28, 2014

A DeVry University graduate will be among First Lady Michelle Obama’s special guests at this evening’s State of the Union address, the White House announced Tuesday.

Sabrina Simone Jenkins of Charleston, S.C., a single mother who worked full-time while graduating from college, was selected to sit in the House gallery with Mrs. Obama. The First Lady’s guests are often mentioned in the president’s speech and are selected to highlight key themes of the address.

The White House said Jenkins’ story illustrated perseverance and a determination to improve oneself. 

“After servicing in the Air Force,” according to a White House press release, Jenkins “took classes at DeVry University while working full time, graduating with a 3.7 GPA at the age of 42 – all while caring for ailing family members and becoming seriously ill herself.” She then earned a masters degree in human resources.

Jenkins now owes nearly $90,000 in student loan debt, “something that will only worsen” as she pays for her teenaged daughter to attend college, according to the information provided by the White House.

The president's advisors have said this year's speech will focus on “opportunity, action and optimism” and will reflect the administration’s desire to move forward unilaterally with executive actions the face of a gridlocked, divided Congress.

But few other details have been released, leaving it unclear what, if anything, Obama will say about higher education tonight. In his most recent addresses to Congress, Obama has warned colleges about rising tuition and pushed accreditation as a lever to slow the growth of college costs.  

Another guest of the First Lady will be 23-year-old Cristian Avila, a “DREAMer” and immigration reform activist from Phoenix, Ariz. Avila was brought to the United States illegally as a child and received temporary relief from deportation through the administration’s deferred action program.  

January 28, 2014

Citing a "very difficult financial situation," National Hispanic University has stopped enrolling new students, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Laureate Education, a large for-profit chain, bought the San Jose-based university in 2010, announcing plans for it to grow to 8,000 students, many of them attending online. The university was struggling before the purchase, and has failed to right itself in the last few years. Its enrollment stands at just 600 students. And last year the U.S. Department of Education withdrew federal financial eligibility for the university's liberal arts programs, straining its finances.

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