The Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the interests of religious students and faculty members, has sent letters to 40 public universities, and plans to soon contact another 120 about policies that the fund says are unconstitutional. The fund says that some of the colleges are violating the rights of students and faculty members by limiting student speech, by applying anti-bias rules to all student organizations, and by discriminating against religious student groups in allocating student fees. The fund has in the past been successful in some of its campaigns -- either through publicity or the courts. But the fund has also lost some court battles on these issues.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Butler University has agreed to resolve concerns about gender equity in athletics raised in a compliance review by the U.S. Department of Education. The university will either demonstrate that it is already meeting female athletic interests, or submit a plan to do so, under the agreement. The review found that Butler's student body is 59.6 percent female. In contrast, female athletes make up only 36.5 percent of Butler athletes, and women receive only 53.4 percent of athletic scholarships. The agreement with the Education Department "does not require or encourage the elimination of any university athletic teams and that it is seeking action from the university that does not involve the elimination of athletic opportunities. The agreement also states that nothing in the agreement requires Butler to cut the amounts of athletic scholarships it offers to either sex, and that any such cuts are discouraged," according to a department statement. (Note: The headline on this article has been changed to clarify that the review was not prompted by a complaint.)
Opposition leaders report that Syrian security forces raided dormitories at the Aleppo University Wednesday, killing four students, injuring others and arresting at least 50, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors filed charges Wednesday against 13 people allegedly involved in the hazing death of the Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Eleven of the as-yet unnamed defendants face felony hazing charges, and prosecutors could file up to 20 more misdemeanor charges stemming from incidents involving different victims who were not seriously injured. Champion died after other students on the university’s famed marching band, long plagued by a culture of hazing, “punched, kicked and suffocated” him on a bus during a trip. Seven FAMU students have been charged in unrelated hazing incidents since Champion’s death. The state attorney said that in Champion’s case, he pursued only hazing charges because with the number of people involved, the burden of proof for homicide charges would have been difficult to meet. Even so, the Sentinel reported, the case could be difficult to prosecute because so many people were allegedly involved -- more than 20. Meanwhile, the university's own effort to address the hazing problem has run into obstacles, the Sentinel reported.
The California Faculty Association said Wednesday that its members had voted overwhelmingly to authorize two-day strikes at the 23 campuses of the California State University System if disputes with administrators over salaries and other issues are not resolved. Leaders of the CFA said that 95 percent of those who voted from April 21 to 27 endorsed the rolling strikes. The strikes, if they were to happen, would probably occur in the fall. The association represents about 24,000 faculty members, librarians, coaches and counselors in the Cal State system.
Contract negotiations have been under way for the last two years, and on Wednesday the association’s leaders called the process difficult and disappointing. The two sides are scheduled to resume negotiations this week. When talks ended without an agreement in April, Gail Brooks, CSU Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, said she was disappointed, but added that “CSU remains committed to the negotiation process as the best way to resolve the issues that remain on the table.” Brooks said at the time that the CFA’s proposal, if implemented, would cost CSU about $244 million over the next two years.
Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee announced Wednesday that he would veto a bill designed to require Vanderbilt University to abandon its anti-bias policies with regard to student religious groups, The Tennessean reported. Vanderbilt requires groups seeking recognition to have "all comers" policies, meaning that all students at the university are welcome to join and participate. Some religious groups say this endangers their ability to stay true to their beliefs, and sympathetic legislators passed the bill to require Vanderbilt to abandon its policy. Haslam said he would veto the bill, but not because he agrees with the university. "Although I disagree with Vanderbilt’s policy, as someone who strongly believes in limited government, I think it is inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution," he said.
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin has introduced five bachelor's degrees in science fields for which the price tag for students will total $10,000 for a four-year degree, The Midland Reporter-Telegram reported. The degrees fulfill a challenge by Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, to create $10,000 programs. Students in other programs at Permian Basin are charged about $25,000 for a four-year degree.
Brown University agreed Tuesday to pay the City of Providence $31.5 million over 11 years, according to The Wall Street Journal, ending a contentious standoff in which city officials threatened to revoke the university’s tax-exempt status if the institution would not help the city fill its budget deficit. Brown, along with four other colleges in the city, had an agreement in place since 2003 to pay the city $50 million over 20 years, but city officials hoped to rework the agreement as the city’s financial problems became clear.