Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 21, 2014

The black student who authorities say was the victim of months of racial harassment by his suitemates at San Jose State University has filed a $5 million claim against the institution, The San Jose Mercury News reported. The claim says that a resident adviser was aware of the situation and didn't intervene as needed. This contrasts with the university's commissioned investigation, which found that there was no knowledge of the harassment by those who could have stopped it.

A statement from the university said that San Jose State officials believe the claim was filed with the wrong state agency for such matters, and that the university does not comment on such claims.

March 21, 2014

A leader of the Parti Québécois, which is the governing party in Quebec but has just started a tough re-election campaign, has proposed that college and university students be barred from wearing burkas, Maclean's reported. Bernard Drainville, the official who proposed the idea, is also behind the proposed "values charter" that would bar public employees (including those in higher education) from wearing any religious attire. In proposing the burka ban, he said he was concerned that students in burkas attend classes at a number of universities in the province.

 

March 21, 2014

After a few male students accused of sexual assault sued their institutions under Title IX, alleging that they were discriminated against on the basis of gender in campus disciplinary hearings, experts suggested they faced an uphill battle in proving that to be the case.

But one of the more closely watched cases, that of the Xavier University basketball player Dezmine Wells, has survived the institution’s motion to dismiss. A federal district court said Wells’s allegations under Title IX were adequate to allow the case to proceed to the discovery phase, the Title IX Blog reports. The complaint recounts Xavier officials rushing to judgment, failing to train staff who heard Wells’s case, and denying Wells legal counsel and witnesses. Wells was expelled from Xavier and now plays basketball at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Meanwhile, more students are filing similar lawsuits under the very same law that women turn to for protection from assault.

March 21, 2014

The U.S. Department of Treasury on Thursday issued a general license allowing accredited U.S. universities to enter into academic exchange agreements with Iranian universities and permitting the export of some educational services, including university entrance examinations. The guidance also permits American universities and their contractors to enroll Iranian students in certain online undergraduate-level courses, including massive open online courses, or MOOCs. In January, Inside Higher Ed reported that the U.S. government had blocked access to the MOOC provider Coursera for individuals in Iran and other economically sanctioned nations.  

March 21, 2014

A dean's list student at Hannibal-LaGrange University who withdrew due to illness in October says he was blocked from returning because he is gay, the Associated Press reported. During the time he was away from the university, he came out on Facebook, and he said that university officials explained their refusal to re-enroll him by pointing him to a morals clause at the Baptist institution that describes homosexuality as a "misuse of God's gift." The student noted that others who violate rules related to sex are permitted to stay enrolled. He said he was told that, to return, he would have to renounce homosexuality. The university declined to comment.

 

March 20, 2014

The University of California on Wednesday released a "climate" report in which it analyzed survey results from students and employees across the university system. The results suggested that most people at the university feel comfortable, but that a significant minority do not. Twenty-four percent of respondents (breakdowns were not provided for different groups) reported that they "had personally experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct" at a university campus. And 9 percent said "that this conduct interfered with their ability to work or learn." Three percent reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual conduct at the university.

Among students, 69 percent of undergraduates and 78 percent of graduate students were satisfied with their academic experience. And 75 percent of undergraduates, 85 percent of graduate students, and 67 percent of postdocs said that they "felt valued by faculty in the classroom."

 

March 20, 2014

Philip Castille quit his job as president of the University of Houston at Victoria on Tuesday, after three years in office, The Texas Tribune reported. The Faculty Senate voted no confidence in Castille on Friday. In addition, many at the campus feared a plan by the main campus of the Houston system to start using a branch campus that has been a major source of revenue for the Victoria campus.

 

March 20, 2014

Facebook is the most used social media platform by school, college and university advancement officials, according to the latest version of an annual survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, mStoner and Huron Education. Of respondents, 95 percent reported using Facebook, followed by Twitter (82 percent), LinkedIn (76 percent) and YouTube (68 percent). Those social media tools were popular last year as well. Instagram saw a major increase in use, from 27 to 43 percent of those responding to the survey.

 

March 20, 2014

California's community colleges and campuses in the California State University System both have made progress in encouraging the use of a two-year degree aimed at transfer, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California. About half the state's community colleges now offer 10 or more versions of the transfer degree, the report found. And Cal State campuses have made "significant progress" in increasing the number of transfer degrees they accept in similar majors.

Challenges remain, however. The report said capacity constraints at Cal State may limit the degrees' promise. It also found that the lack of participation by the University of California means that the transfer degrees are not as much of a "statewide" pathway as intended by the ambitious legislation that led to their creation.

More work also needs to be done at two-year colleges, according to the report. Awareness among community colleges students about the degrees remains limited.

Last year California passed a bill to nudge community colleges and Cal State campuses to comply with the legislation's timeframe, which required all of the new transfer degree tracks to be completed this year.

March 20, 2014

Northampton Community College, in Pennsylvania, is among the institutions that called off spring break due to all the snow days that interfered with course sessions. So students this week, which would have been spring break, organized a staycation, and came to the college dressed for the beach, even if they were still going to class.

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