Higher Education Quick Takes
The Law School Admission Council announced Monday that it has agreed to make changes on its website that will make it all accessible to blind users, and that these changes are part of a settlement of a lawsuit against the council by the National Federation of the Blind. While much of the law school group's website was already accessible through various screen-reading technologies, the portion used for law school applications was not accessible, leading to the suit.
Some University of Minnesota faculty members are criticizing the institution for a request that the faculty committee that reviews academic freedom issues consider the question of "factually incorrect" attacks by faculty members on one another. While the university has portrayed the question as legitimate, faculty critics -- as outlined in this op-ed in The Star Tribune -- see the question as one that will intimidate faculty members from raising tough questions, such as those in a recent request for more reviews of a clinical trial.
A rally is planned for today at Trinity College in Connecticut following the third racial incident this semester and growing frustration by many minority students, The Hartford Courant reported. In the most recent incident, a minority student reported the use of a slur by a white student who is reported to have thrown a beer at the minority student's car.
Black athletes are charging that Brigham Young University is tougher in enforcing its honor code on them than on other athletes or on other students, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Many of the athletes accuse the university of using a "bait and switch" approach to recruiting, telling them that Brigham Young is like any other college, and then enforcing an honor code that bars premarital sex, drinking and other activities that would be standard for most college students. The university says that it enforces the honor code without regard to race.
An analysis in Deadspin found that since 1993, at least 70 athletes have been suspended, dismissed or put on probation because of honor code violations. Just under 60 percent of those punished have been black men (a figure that may be low because the race of some of those punished could not be identified). The article in Deadspin, comparing the 60 percent figure to the total minority share of athletes at Brigham Young (23 percent) and of black people in the student body (0.6 percent), argues that "something is amiss."
A new law in Washington State has created WGU Washington, a new division of Western Governors University that will offer WGU's competency-based online programs in the state. The new university -- part of an expansion of WGU -- will not receive state funds, and officials believe it will help many students obtain degrees more speedily than they might otherwise. The new branch of WGU is similar to an arrangement started last year in Indiana. In Washington State, some faculty members have objected to the new approach.
The vast majority of colleges and universities line up outside speakers for commencement ceremonies, setting off annual debates over the selections. California State University at Monterey Bay will this year skip the outside speaker for the first time, The Monterey Herald reported. The decision isn't related to the devastating budget cuts facing the California State system, officials said, noting that the university has never paid an honorarium. "It's a decision to try a different approach and try to put the focus on the students and their accomplishments as much as possible," said a spokesman.
For several days last month, an earringed, mustachioed employee named Pete Weston did a range of jobs (with mixed success) at the University of California at Riverside. Only weeks later did campus employees find out that Weston had actually been Chancellor Timothy P. White, who on May 1 will become the first higher education leader to appear on CBS's "Undercover Boss," which puts corporate (and now campus) chief executive officers in disguise to see how their organizations work from the ground up. White said he learned much about the campus and was "moved and changed as a person" by participating in the hugely popular, if critically unacclaimed, show and seeing the "level of dedication of our students, staff and faculty."
The City of Boston has formally asked nonprofit organizations to pay up to 25 percent of the property tax bills they would face if they were not tax-exempt, The Boston Globe reported. Many nonprofits already make "payments in lieu of taxes" in recognition of the demands their students and faculty members place on city services, so some nonprofit leaders (including some of those in higher education) are not concerned by the formal request from the city. Others, however, see the potential for such demands to erode their nonprofit tax status.
The colleges and universities already making voluntary payments -- according to a Globe analysis -- would generally have a ways to go to meet the level demanded by the city. Harvard University currently pays $2.1 million to Boston, but the city wants $5.8 million. Boston University pays $5.1 million now, but the city wants $6.8 million. Northeastern University currently pays a little more than $30,000, but the city wants $4.3 million.