Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, January 29, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Kathrin Rothermich, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University, examines her research into whether or not you're hearing the whole story. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Missouri Board of Curators announced late Wednesday that it was suspending Melissa Click, who teaches communications at the university's flagship campus in Columbia. Click was recently charged with misdemeanor assault in relation to her videotaped blocking of a student journalist during last fall's campus protests. She has apologized for the action, but many Republican legislators have called for her dismissal. Faculty members, while not defending her actions during the protests, have said she should not be fired.

The statement from the university board said: "The Board of Curators directs the general counsel, or outside counsel selected by general counsel, to immediately conduct an investigation and collaborate with the city attorney and promptly report back to the board so it may determine whether additional discipline is appropriate."

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Iowa found itself answering questions Wednesday about a Tuesday rally on campus for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Several members of the football and wrestling teams appeared with Trump, endorsed him and gave him an Iowa football jersey with his name on it (photo at right, Getty Images). Twelve football players and seven wrestlers led the crowd in cheers for Trump, who announced that they had endorsed him. The Des Moines Register reported that Iowa on Wednesday issued a statement saying that the athletes had not broken National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.

"University of Iowa student-athletes are encouraged to participate in the political process as individuals," said a statement from Gary Barta, athletics director. "However, like any endorsement by a student or faculty member, their participation should not be considered representative of the entire team or university. In recent months, candidates from both parties representing a spectrum of ideals have visited Iowa City. We will continue to support this approach without influencing particular political choice or agendas."

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

Nearly one quarter of college athletes participating in a study reported "clinically relevant" levels of depressive symptoms, according to a new article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Female athletes were about two times more likely to experience the symptoms than their male peers.

Researchers at Drexel University and Kean University surveyed 465 athletes at an anonymous Division I institution over three years and assessed the data using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Nearly 30 percent of female athletes showed symptoms of depression, compared to 18 percent of male athletes. Female track and field athletes had the highest prevalence of symptoms.

"This study shows that the rates of depression among athletes are probably comparable to rates in the general college population," said Eugene Hong, the study's principal investigator and an associate dean at Drexel University College of Medicine. "And it highlights the need for increased mental health screening for athletes as part of standard sports medicine care."

Earlier this month, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Sports Science Institute released new guidelines instructing colleges on how to best address mental health concerns of athletes. Increased mental health screenings were among the suggestions.

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

Two months after his ouster as president of the University of Missouri System amid protests over race, Timothy Wolfe has told his side of the story in a confidential email to a group of supporters, which was obtained by The Columbia Missourian.

In an email to a group called the Missouri 100, Wolfe accused the former chancellor of Missouri's Columbia campus, R. Bowen Loftin, of stirring up controversy to try to protect his own job, and criticized the football team’s decision to go on strike. He also urged supporters to "pick up the phone" or email members of the university's governing board to urge them to provide Wolfe with more compensation in his resignation agreement, so he can "continue to play a significant positive role in the future."

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

Newly released documents show tensions between the University of British Columbia's Board of Governors and former President Arvind Gupta. Gupta resigned suddenly last August just one year into a five-year term.

The independent news outlet UBC Insiders first reported on the documents, unredacted versions of which were included, seemingly by accident, as attachments to an otherwise heavily redacted records release made by the university earlier this week.

In one of the documents, a letter following up on a meeting that occurred May 18, John Montalbano, the former board chair, describes Gupta's first year as president as "an unsettled one. Relationships with key stakeholder groups, notably your senior executive, the faculty deans and the Board of Governors, are not at functional levels to allow you to move forward in a confident manner -- unusual even for an organization undergoing strategic shifts in vision and key personnel."

The letter continues: "The Executive Committee of the Board has identified key aspects of your leadership style and management skills which require a 'course correction' in order for you to lead the university effectively." Among the issues identified in that letter was a lack of trust between Gupta and other senior leaders.

"You are rarely seen to solicit or seek advice from those best positioned to support you," Montalbano wrote to Gupta. "You are deemed too quick to engage in debate in a confrontational or dismissive manner, which is demoralizing to a group of executives in fear of their employment security. Members of the Board of Governors have also experienced similar interactions in and out of formal settings."

In a June 8 letter, Gupta affirms the importance of creating "an atmosphere of professional trust among decision makers and stakeholders" and stated his objective of making UBC among the top 10 public universities in the world.

"Moving UBC into the top 10 will take time, focus and energy," Gupta wrote. "This includes honest dialogue with attentive listening to a wide variety of UBC stakeholders, of which the board, senate, executive and other senior leadership are clearly an essential part. Also important are staff, students, faculty, alumni and donors. I have had regular meetings with student leadership groups, as well as with staff in various fora including, most recently, a staff lunch," Gupta wrote.

"As you know, I have also been meeting with faculty (and will continue to do so) in every department across the two campuses, a first for a recent UBC president. With over 70 percent of departments and units visited to date, I’ve been encouraged by the enthusiastic support I have received from many faculty for a dedicated refocusing of resources on the core academic mission of the university: research, teaching and learning."

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics now counts among its members a former National Football League commissioner and a former U.S. secretary of education. The commission on Wednesday announced three new appointments: Paul Tagliabue, who was commissioner of the NFL for nearly two decades; Arne Duncan, who recently stepped down as U.S. secretary of education; and Anna Spangler Nelson, a member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors who is also chair of Spangler Companies, a private investment firm.

"The Knight Commission understands very well both the economics of higher education and the escalating costs of intercollegiate athletics," Tagliabue said in a statement. "I look forward to participating in its work that can help shape new policies re-emphasizing the educational opportunities and priorities for student-athletes."

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

UPDATE: Duke University partially lifted its ban on sorority activities Wednesday, hours after the suspension began following the hospitalization of a student for an "alcohol-related issue." The decision to ease the ban came after a meeting between chapter leaders and Duke administrators Wednesday evening. 

"All agreed that what happened last night was unacceptable and that steps must be taken to prevent any similar recurrence," Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, said in a statement. "Sorority chapters may host events including study breaks, sisterhood events, chapter meetings and philanthropy/community service activities. Further sanctions are expected to be lifted in the near future."


EARLIER: Duke University suspended all sorority activity Wednesday after a new member of a university chapter was hospitalized in critical condition for "an alcohol-related issue." In a statement Wednesday, Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, said the student is expected to recover and that the suspension -- which he said was due to "concerns about activities that have taken place during the most recent rush and bid periods" -- will last "until further notice."

"The university's student affairs staff is meeting with all 10 chapter presidents and the Panhellenic Executive Board to review Duke's expectations for all sororities and their members, and each chapter will be asked to review its activities to ensure compliance with policies on social events, rush and alcohol use," Moneta said. "The health, well-being and safety of our students is the highest priority, and we look forward to working with the sorority leaders toward that end."

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

John Urschel, guard for the Baltimore Ravens, will spend the off-season earning his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the football player announced this week.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Urschel will focus on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning. Urschel earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in math while playing football at Pennsylvania State University.

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 3:00am

The businessman and newspaper publisher Mortimer Zuckerman has pledged more than $100 million over 20 years to fund science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related research at four Israeli universities, The Jewish Week reported. The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program is two pronged: a postdoctoral scholars program is intended to attract researchers from the U.S. and other Western countries, while a faculty scholars program is planned to bring back Israeli academics living abroad.

“We are pleased and grateful to have Mort Zuckerman as a partner in advancing two top national priorities in Israel -- reversing brain drain and deepening the Israeli-American friendship,” Joseph Klafter, the president of Tel Aviv University, one of the four participating institutions, said in a statement.


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