Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 7, 2017

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is set to hear oral arguments today in the Trump administration’s appeal of a temporary restraining order that forced it to halt enforcement of an executive order barring the entry of refugees and nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries.

An amicus brief filed Monday by attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia in support of keeping the restraining order in place devotes multiple pages to the damage they argue the order has caused to public higher education institutions, including the potential loss of "hundreds of millions of tuition dollars" through disruptions in international student admissions.

In addition, by “preventing and dissuading scholars from coming to our institutions -- including scholars who had already committed to filling positions,” the brief argues that the order has disrupted universities’ abilities to fill their staffing needs.

The brief also addresses disruptions in medical residency staffing, including disruptions to the annual program through which residents are matched with university hospital programs. The computerized match date, on which residents are matched based on the programs' rankings of them, is scheduled for March 17.

"Many programs regularly match medical residents from the seven affected countries, and, prior to the executive order, medical schools like the University of Massachusetts Medical School were already actively considering and had interviewed specific applicants from the affected countries," the brief states. "These programs must forgo ranking applicants from the affected countries or risk having insufficient medical residents to meet staffing needs."

February 7, 2017

Centre College has changed the name of McReynolds Hall to the building's street address, following a request by students who did research on James Clark McReynolds (right), a Supreme Court justice from 1914 to 1941 who is considered among the more bigoted justices of his era. McReynolds frequently left the bench if a female or black lawyer argued before the Supreme Court. He was also known as an anti-Semite, refusing to talk to Louis Brandeis for three years following Brandeis's appointment because Brandeis was Jewish. McReynolds also criticized President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for nominating Benjamin Cardozo, also Jewish, as Supreme Court justice, with McReynolds quoted as saying that the court didn't need "another one."

Aside from his bigotry, McReynolds was known for voting to throw out many of the laws President Roosevelt sought to get the country out of the Great Depression. He was also known for being generous to orphans. McReynolds, a Kentuckian, had no direct tie to Centre, but he left the college an unrestricted bequest of $59,000 (about $730,000 in today's dollars) when he died in 1946. At that time, the college's board voted to honor him with a building name. The building houses IT staffers and also serves as a residence hall.

The recommendation of students to change the name was reviewed by various committees, and the Centre board unanimously voted to change it to 762 West Main.

February 7, 2017

Washington University in St. Louis has lifted its suspension of the men's soccer team after an investigation determined that the team did not violate the university's sexual harassment policy when some members wrote "degrading and sexually explicit" online comments about the women's soccer team. The team was suspended in December after the 2015 comments came to light. Lori White, Washington's vice chancellor for student affairs, announced Monday that an investigation by the university's Office of Student Conduct found that the behavior was not as widespread as initially suspected, and that some members of the team "made genuine efforts to discourage this kind of behavior."

The men's team must still provide a written apology to the women's team and complete training on sexual harassment.

"The issues raised in the complaint are very serious, and it took courage for the women's team to come forward," White said in a statement. "There is a long history of comradery between the men's and women's soccer teams. Going forward, we will be working with both teams to help rebuild a relationship that is based on mutual respect."

February 7, 2017

Baylor University fired a strength coach, Brandon Washington, after he was arrested early Saturday in a prostitution sting, The Waco Tribune reported. Washington was arrested after he arrived at a hotel to meet a prostitute, authorities said. The arrest comes amid a continuing scandal over the way Baylor has handled sexual assault allegations against athletes.

February 7, 2017

Sweet Briar College named its next president Monday, picking a former University of Virginia dean to lead the all-women liberal arts institution as it attempts to recover from a near closure two years ago.

Meredith Woo will take over as president of Sweet Briar in rural Virginia after current president Phillip C. Stone retires in May. Woo was the dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia from 2008 to 2014. Afterward, she worked in London as the director of the higher education support program for the Open Society Foundations, which is tasked with supporting liberal arts colleges in the former Soviet Union and with supporting higher education for refugee populations in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Woo will face fund-raising, enrollment and curricular challenges at Sweet Briar after the college's previous leadership attempted to close the college in 2015. Alumnae successfully fought the move, but Sweet Briar has been heavily reliant on fund-raising since then and has posted mixed enrollment results. Stone has said that the college brought in 160 new students this fall but that it needs 200 new fall enrollments as it seeks to become sustainable into the future. The college's total enrollment is about 330.

In an interview Monday, Woo said she intends to improve Sweet Briar's liberal arts curriculum, raise money and build upon Sweet Briar's status as one of only two women's colleges in the country with an engineering program.

“We'll need to move forward to raise resources from foundations and supporters of women's education,” she said. “That will be predicated on having really great ideas.”

Woo is also a former dean of social sciences at the University of Michigan. She holds a Ph.D. in political science and a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University. She received her bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College in Maine. She is a native of Seoul in South Korea and speaks Korean and Japanese. She is also proficient in Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese.

February 7, 2017

A student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has abandoned plans to create a pro-white student group, the Associated Press reported. The shift in the student's plans followed widespread criticism of his idea to create the group, as well as reports about his past -- the student spent time in federal prison for his role in setting fires at two predominantly black churches.

February 7, 2017

The Teacher Education Task Force of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities has released a report outlining the problems facing teacher education programs and possible responses to them. Among the challenges facing programs, according to the report: low pay for teachers, teacher shortages, declining enrollment and federal and state policies requiring increased accountability.

February 7, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Elizabeth Bryda, professor in the department of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri, discusses probiotics and how they can help calm you down. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 6, 2017

A new study documents the role of immigrants in promoting inventions and economic growth in the United States. The study (abstract available here) was released today by the National Bureau of Economic Research and focused on the role of immigrants in the United States from 1880 to 1940, as well as the impact well after that. In the 10 states where the most patents were awarded per capita from 1880 to 1940, 20.6 percent of the population was made up of immigrants. In the states with the fewest patents awarded per capita, immigrants made up 1.7 percent of the population. Further, the technology fields in which immigrant investors were most active during this period had more patenting and citations than did other areas in the years 1940 though 2000.

One difference the study found between immigrant and nonimmigrant inventors: the immigrants earned less than did the American-born counterparts.

The study was by Ufuk Akcigit and John Grigsby, both of the University of Chicago, and Tom Nicholas of Harvard University.

February 6, 2017

David Adamini, secretary of the Republican Party in one Michigan county, is under fire for comments he posted to social media saying that the right response to last week's violent protest at the University of California, Berkeley (by an off-campus group, according to authorities), would be "another Kent State," referring to the 1970 shootings that killed four students there who were participating in an anti-war protest. The comments, at right, included the following: "Violent protesters who shut down free speech? Time for another Kent State perhaps. One bullet stops a lot of thuggery."

Amid calls for Adamini to resign, he removed the comments from social media, and tweeted the following:

Kent State issued the following statement: "May 4, 1970, was a watershed moment for the country and especially the Kent State University family. We lost four students that day while nine others were wounded and countless others were changed forever. This abhorrent post is in poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still pains the Kent State community today. We invite the person who wrote this statement to tour our campus and our May 4 Visitors Center, which opened four years ago, to gain perspective on what happened 47 years ago and apply its meaning to the future."

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