Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 7, 2017

The University of California System on Monday announced a proposal to limit undergraduate enrollment from out of state, systemwide, to 20 percent, The Los Angeles Times reported. The proposal would allow the three campuses already over 20 percent -- at Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego -- to keep their out-of-state levels. The remaining campuses would be allowed to grow to 20 percent but not exceed it -- but only if the proposed systemwide cap is not hit. The university system has significantly increased out-of-state enrollment in the last decade, to 16.5 percent across the system, citing state appropriations cuts that have increased the need for other sources of revenue, such as the higher tuition rates paid by non-Californians.

The Times reported that faculty leaders oppose the university plan and fear that such limits could result in the system losing both top students and revenue that it needs.

The UC Board of Regents will take up the proposal next week.

March 7, 2017

A National Labor Relations Board office rejected Columbia University’s objections to a recent graduate employee union election Monday, recommending that United Auto Workers be certified as the students' collective bargaining representative. Columbia has challenged its graduate employees’ right to form a union at all, but also lodged specific complaints with the NLRB about the December election. Those included that UAW employees were too close to one of the polling sites on election day. The local NLRB office decided, however, that the mere presence of union agents within the vicinity of an election, absent evidence of coercion or other objectionable conduct, does not warrant throwing out the results.

The local office also found uncompelling Columbia’s claim that the election was invalid since voters did not have to show identification, in part because the university only presented evidence that four ballots may have been affected. Votes supported unionization by a much bigger margin, with 1,602 in favor and 623 against. Columbia has until later this month to file exceptions to the decision. The Columbia graduate student union, which includes teaching and research assistants, on Twitter called the decision an affirmation of its “historic election.” Graduate students at private institutions have long faced legal challenges in seeking collective bargaining, but a major national NLRB decision last year in favor of Columbia graduate students who hoped to organize paved the way for such unions.

March 7, 2017

Lake Michigan College recently disclosed that the two-year institution purchased more than $200,000 in promotional items from one of its board trustees' businesses, according to The Herald Palladium.

The disclosure came from an attorney representing the college's former president, who is engaged in a lawsuit with the college over her firing.

The college says the trustee, Mary Jo Tomasini, who also served as the board's chairwoman, disclosed her role with the company that sells items like beer glasses, jewelry, pens and golf towels to the institution when she became a trustee.

March 7, 2017

Hundreds of students and faculty members participated in teach-ins and attended talks at Princeton University Monday as part of a day of action to address political challenges currently facing the U.S. and the world. A number of panels were critical of policies of the Trump administration, but organizers said the event was open to those of all political persuasions and ideologies. They encouraged other campuses to follow their lead in taking time to engage in action-oriented discussions about the current political climate.

“The goal of the day is to reaffirm the responsibilities of a community devoted to scholarship, the use of knowledge for the common good, and the ideals of diversity, democracy and justice,” said Sébastien Philippe, a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering and president of Princeton Citizen Scientists.

Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, who delivered a talk on U.S. immigration policy and the proposed border wall, said that he wanted to participate because “illegal migration has been net zero or negative for nine years now. Border apprehensions are at their lowest point since 1971. Building a wall at this point makes no sense at all. It is simply a symbolic affront to our southern neighbors and a bone to the Republican base.”

John Cramer, university spokesperson, said via email that Princeton didn’t sponsor the day of action but “applauds the effort by students and faculty to study, discuss and learn about important national public policy issues and what those issues mean for the Princeton community and the principles of equality, diversity, freedom and justice.”

March 7, 2017

United Student Aid Funds, often called USA Funds, this week announced a name change, to Strada Education Network. The nonprofit former guaranty agency began a restructuring in 2013, which shifted its focus to supporting college completion and success after college.

“We are proud of our work of promoting financial access to higher education during the past half century,” William Hansen, Strada Education president and CEO, said in a written statement. “But the challenges facing higher education, as well as the evolving needs of our nation’s work force and economy, compel us to direct our attention to helping more students succeed in postsecondary education and graduate with the skills and competencies they need to smoothly transition to their careers and lives following graduation.”

March 7, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute: Jeffrey Hall, associate professor in the department of communication studies at the University of Kansas, wonders whether the humor couples create together is better than just appreciating humor over all. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 6, 2017

The president of the University of Texas at San Antonio resigned Friday for his “inappropriate” behavior around women at the institution.

In a statement, President Ricardo Romo (right) apologized for his actions and announced his early retirement from the UT System.

“I have been made aware that the manner in which I embraced women made them uncomfortable and was inappropriate,” Romo said in the statement. “I understand and respect Chancellor [William] McRaven’s concerns about my behavior, and I deeply apologize for any conduct that offended anyone.”

Romo announced last fall that he intended to retire about a year later, in August 2017, but his departure from the UT System will now happen immediately.

“This will eliminate the possibility of any distraction or disruption of the great work going on at UTSA,” he wrote.

March 6, 2017

President Trump's budget proposal will seek to eliminate the Sea Grant Program, which supports coastal research at 33 universities, The Washington Post reported. Eliminating the program would be part of a 17 percent cut for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is a major supporter of environmental research.

March 6, 2017

A federal program that allows residents of the District of Columbia to receive grants to enroll at public colleges elsewhere denies funds to students -- even if they are citizens -- if their parents are not citizens, The Washington Post reported. The Post profiled one student, a citizen whose mother is not, who is being denied funds. The mother resides legally in the United State. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a federal lawsuit  last week to challenge the system, arguing that all citizens should be eligible. Several states have similar rules for their aid programs.



March 6, 2017

Santa Clara University, reversing a decision of the student government, has recognized Turning Point USA as an official student organization, Bay Area News Group reported. The student government had rejected the campus group, which is affiliated with a national group opposed by many in academe for, among other things, promoting a "watch list" for professors whose politics offend Turning Point. But in announcing the decision to approve the group, Jeanne Rosenberger, vice provost of student life, said it would not be appropriate to judge the student group by all actions of the national organization. Provost Dennis Jacobs sent a letter to faculty members in which he said he understands why many on campus oppose Turning Point, but added, "I believe that Santa Clara University would be less of a university if we became intellectually intolerant and systematically excluded persons who fundamentally disagreed with the majority.”


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