Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, July 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Kerry Dean Carso, associate professor of art history at the State University of New York at New Paltz, examines this art form and what makes the mysterious exciting. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 3:00am

Three professors at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday sued the university and the state and asked a federal judge to issue an injunction to block a campus carry law from taking effect Aug. 1, The Texas Tribune reported. The state has vowed to move ahead with the law. The suit charges that the law violates faculty members' First and Second Amendment rights. By making professors fear that their discussions of controversial topics could incite violence, the law limits their First Amendment free expression rights, the suit says.

And the suit says the Second Amendment -- normally cited by gun rights supporters -- is also at issue. "The Second Amendment is not a one-way street," the suit says. "It starts with the proposition that a 'well-regulated militia' is necessary to the security of a free state. The Supreme Court has explained that 'well-regulated' means 'imposition of proper discipline and training.'" The suit goes on to say, "If the state is to force them to admit guns into their classrooms, then the officials responsible for the compulsory policy must establish that there is a substantial reason for the policy and that their regulation of the concealed carrying of handguns on college campuses is 'well-regulated.' Current facts indicate that they cannot do so."

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 3:00am

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday released a draft funding bill that would block implementation of federal gainful employment rules and would not back the U.S. Senate's attempt to restore year-round Pell Grant eligibility. The bill also includes $33.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health, which is $1.25 billion above this fiscal year's funding level.

The Obama administration's attempt to regulate vocational programs at colleges based on their graduates' labor-market standards went into effect last year. They apply to for-profit institutions and nondegree programs at community colleges and other nonprofit institutions. The draft House bill would prevent any of the proposed $162 billion for labor, health and human services from being used to "implement, administer or enforce" the final regulations.

Likewise, the bill does not include funding for year-round Pell, which would allow students to use the grants during summer sessions. Congress and the White House backed the elimination of that eligibility in 2011. The House proposal also would cut $1.3 billion from the Pell program, which has a roughly $7.8 billion surplus.

Consumer and higher education groups criticized the House bill, saying it would harm lower-income students. Some, however, also praised the proposed funding increase for biomedical research at the NIH.

"In addition to raiding Pell Grant funds, the draft House bill attempts again to block implementation of the commonsense gainful employment regulation designed to protect both students and taxpayers from career education programs that overcharge and underdeliver," said the Institute for College Access and Success, in a written statement.

The bill will be considered by a House subcommittee today. 

On Wednesday 120 House Democrats sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee in which they opposed cuts to the Pell program.

"Rescissions, cancelations or funding level cuts will worsen the funding outlook for Pell Grants and make it harder to strengthen the program through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which Congress is expected to tackle in the coming months and years," they wrote. "Any current surplus balance reflects Congress’ intent and commitment to make college more affordable for millions of students through updating the Pell Grant program."

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 4:12am

Since Florida took away the ability of community colleges to require remedial education, enrollment in entry college-level courses has gone up and the enrollment in remedial courses has dropped, according to a new report from Florida State University researchers. That's roughly what legislators wanted to happen. But the report also found that the passing rates of the college-level gateway courses dropped. Trends were similar for various demographic groups except that black students experienced a larger decline in the odds of passing entry-level English.

“The findings as a whole from our early analyses suggest that it is still important to advise students who are severely academically underprepared to take developmental courses instead of taking gateway courses without any developmental education support,” said a statement from Toby Park, an assistant professor in the Florida State College of Education.

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 4:23am

The University of California announced Wednesday that admissions offers across system campuses to California residents are up 15 percent from a year ago. The news follows intense pressure from Governor Jerry Brown and legislators to admit more Californians. Notably, the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses -- which have become particularly difficult to get into -- each saw much larger gains this year in Californians admitted than in those from out of state. University officials also noted gains in admissions offers to minority students.

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 3:00am

Several history and anthropology students at Queen’s University Belfast refused to shake the hand of the university president at their graduation ceremony to protest his comment that “society doesn’t need a 21-year-old who is a sixth-century historian,” The Irish News reported.

The controversial comment from the president and vice chancellor, Patrick Johnston, appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in May. A longer version of the quote reads: “Society doesn't need a 21-year-old who is a sixth-century historian. It needs a 21-year-old who really understands how to analyze things, understands the tenets of leadership and contributing to society, who is a thinker and someone who has the potential to help society drive forward. I don't talk about producing graduates, I talk about producing citizens that have the potential for leadership in society.”

Johnston subsequently clarified his comments in a written statement in which he apologized for “any misunderstanding.”

“In the interview I wanted to stress that a university education is more than the study of any one subject and that the aim is to produce graduates who have the potential to become leaders within our society. History graduates at Queen’s are thinkers who have the capacity to help drive society forward,” he said.

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 3:00am

David Ikenberry was recently reappointed as dean of the business school at the University of Colorado at Boulder. But The Daily Camera reported that he was reappointed despite complaints in an anonymous faculty survey about how he treated women. Some professors said that they would leave the university if Ikenberry won another term as dean.

"Dean Ikenberry has behaved in a manner that is, in my opinion, unethical, and in some instances clearly discriminatory," wrote one survey respondent. "He has shown repeatedly that he does not fully value the capacity of women at Leeds [the business school]; in some cases he denigrates women. Although he presents himself as an advocate of diversity, he appears incapable of responding positively when challenged with different views, especially when challenged by women."

Ikenberry told the newspaper he didn't "quite know how to react" to the comments. "I'm not able to really respond to the anonymous nature of some of those comments," he said. "We work hard to create a positive and inclusive work environment for everyone and to the extent that there are those who disagree or have concerns, it's something that I, too, share in concern." He added that "we've made quite a bit of change and it's been agreeable to some and disagreeable to others."

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 3:00am

James Ammons, who was named the next provost of Delaware State University in May, has decided not to take the job, The News Journal reported. No reason was given, and Ammons did not respond to the newspaper's request for comment. Ammons resigned as president of Florida A&M University in 2012 amid a scandal over the hazing death of a student and questions about the finances of the institution.

Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Janice Chism, professor of biology and anthropology at Winthrop University, describes looking for meaning in saki monkey calls to observe this bashful breed. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - 3:00am

Kansas State University must investigate accusations of sexual assault at off-campus fraternity houses, the federal government stated in documents filed Friday in support of two students who are suing the university.

In their federal lawsuits, two female students said they were raped at two fraternity houses in 2014 and 2015 and that the university violated Title IX -- the gender discrimination law that instructs colleges how to handle accusations of sexual assault -- when officials did not investigate the claims. The university argued in court that the lawsuits should be dismissed because it is not responsible for reports of rape at off-campus locations.

But the U.S. Department of Education stated in a 2011 Dear Colleague letter that Title IX does require colleges and universities to investigate such cases, specifically citing university-recognized off-campus fraternity houses.

“The continuing effects of a student-on-student rape, including the constant fear of exposure to one’s assailant, can render a student’s educational environment hostile,” the government filings said, according to The New York Times. “Thus, a school must respond to allegations of sexual assault in fraternity activities to determine if a hostile environment exists there or in any other education program or activity.”

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