Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 16, 2016

The women's basketball team at Thomas More College, a Division III institution in Kentucky, will be stripped of its national championship title because a star player lived with a former assistant coach while recovering from a knee injury. The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday announced that the college violated NCAA rules by allowing the athlete, Sydney Moss, to stay with the assistant coach, Jerry Allen, who was a volunteer with the program at the time, but also a longtime family friend.

"Sydney had a real tough upbringing," David Armstrong, the college's president, said during a media conference Tuesday. "She has had a tough upbringing and Jerry Allen and his family, also a biracial couple, were her friends since seventh grade. So when she injured her knee, she stayed with them."

Armstrong said the living arrangement was an unintentional mistake. In its infractions report, the NCAA acknowledged that Moss and Allen had long treated each other like family, but said that such a relationship does not exclude them from NCAA rules. The association said that the misunderstanding "stemmed from the college's failure to provide adequate rules education." Thomas More College must vacate all wins from the team's undefeated 2014-15 season in which Moss participated, agree to an outside audit of the college' athletics program, pay a $2,500 fine and remain on probation for two years, the NCAA stated.

Several staff members, including the head women's basketball coach, must also attend a regional rules seminar organized by the NCAA.

November 16, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Mitch Prinstein, professor and director of clinical psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores whether perception is reality. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 15, 2016

Some students at Brown University removed and trashed U.S. flags that were set up last week for a Veterans Day ceremony, The Washington Post reported. The incident has set off a debate at Brown about the flag and about appropriate and inappropriate ways of showing dissent from U.S. policy and the election last week of Donald Trump as president. In this case, the issue is not just the way the flag was treated, but the vandalism of a display of flags set up by the university. A statement from the university said, "We do not condone the activities that led to the flags being removed, and destruction of property is subject to disciplinary review."

November 15, 2016

Hundreds of University of Michigan students have signed a petition criticizing President Mark Schlissel for, in their view, going too far in criticizing Donald Trump, The Detroit Free Press reported. Specifically, the petition cited Schlissel's comments at a campus vigil the day after the election, when he said, "Ninety percent of you rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some sort of idealized version of a nonexistent yesterday." The petition says that the president was unfairly characterizing anyone who voted for Trump with voting for hate. Further, it says that the statements of the president and others made pro-Trump students feel their views were not respected.

A spokesman for the university sent the newspaper an email. "This was not anti-Trump rally," the email said. "It was organized by students to bring all students together following a divisive election campaign. The Central Student Government president invited President Schlissel to be one of several speakers. Most of those who spoke at the rally were encouraging all students to come together and support each other."

November 15, 2016

Some students and faculty members are asking President Teresa Sullivan to stop quoting Thomas Jefferson, CBS 19 News reported. An open letter to Sullivan said in part, "Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves. Other memorable Jefferson quotes include that blacks are 'inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind,' and 'as incapable as children of taking care of themselves.' … Though we realize that some members of our university community may be inspired by quotes from Jefferson, we also realize that many of us are deeply offended by attempts on behalf of our administration to guide our moral behavior through their use."

Sullivan responded by writing, "Quoting Jefferson [or any historical figure] does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time, such as slavery and the exclusion of women and people of color from the university."

November 15, 2016

Another professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been found guilty of sexually harassing a student in violation of institutional rules, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. A five-month investigation by Berkeley found that Nezar AlSayyad, a professor of architecture, planning and urban design, spent months becoming close to, or "grooming," a graduate student before placing his hand on her upper thigh and proposing that they travel together to Las Vegas. The Chronicle found two additional allegations of harassment against the professor. In an alleged incident that happened more than 20 years ago and was never investigated, a student complained that she felt taken advantage of after she and AlSayyad had sex; a third student accused him of sexual misconduct this spring, and an investigation is pending. He is reportedly barred from teaching next semester.

AlSayyad denied all allegations of misconduct in an interview and told the Chronicle that he'd fight any suspension from teaching. He said administrators are overreacting to his case for fear of being perceived as soft on sexual harassment. Berkeley was criticized last year for not firing a professor of astronomy found to have sexually harassed a series of graduate students over many years; he eventually resigned. Another assistant professor of South and Southeast Asian studies at Berkeley is currently suing several students for defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress” after they spoke publicly about a university investigation that determined he had violated Berkeley's policies against sexual harassment. That professor is on paid leave as a review of the case is pending. A former law school dean who stepped down after Berkeley found that he harassed his assistant is suing the university, saying that he was treated more harshly that white colleagues accused of harassment because he is of South Asian descent and not a U.S. citizen. The university has said it will fight the suit.

November 15, 2016

An assistant clinical professor of liberal studies at New York University who he said he was strongly encouraged by administrators to take leave after it was revealed he tweeting anonymously as “Deplorable NYU Prof” has been promoted. Michael Rectenwald, the professor, previously stated that he feared his tweets critical of the university and what he sees as overzealous campus inclusion efforts would negatively affect his bid for promotion. The university has repeatedly said that Rectenwald requested leave, and that social media activity in no way affected its actions.

Rectenwald is still on leave. A university spokesperson said Monday via email that he “received an expected promotion to the rank of clinical professor in accordance with our regular procedures; he and approximately 18 others were put up for this promotion at the same time and all were informed at the same time. … It is customary for such promotions to go forward even when a faculty member requests and chooses to take leave, as is the case here.” There are no tenured positions in liberal studies, according to the university, but the promotion comes with a raise.

November 15, 2016

Cornell University named Martha E. Pollack its next president Monday, tapping the University of Michigan provost to take over in April, about a year after former president Elizabeth Garrett died of cancer.

In addition to being Michigan’s provost, Pollack holds the title of executive vice president for academic affairs. She has been in her current position at Michigan since 2013 after previously holding titles including vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, dean of the School of Information, and associate chair for computer science and engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Pollack was selected for the presidency after Garrett died of colon cancer in March. Garrett, a former provost at the University of Southern California, began serving as president in September 2015.

Hunter R. Rawlings III has been Cornell’s interim president. He will continue to hold the position through April.

Cornell’s Board of Trustees elected Pollack as the next president Monday after a presidential search committee was started in April.

“I am delighted to welcome Martha Pollack as Cornell’s next president,” Board of Trustees Chairman Robert S. Harrison said in a statement. “She is the perfect person to take the helm of Cornell at this important moment in our history. She has successfully managed a comparably complex institution and is a bold thinker who will inspire our faculty and students in Ithaca and across all of our campuses; her academic background in computer science will serve us extremely well as we open the Cornell Tech Roosevelt Island campus next year; and her familiarity with the issues facing academic medicine will be invaluable as we continue to grow Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.”

November 15, 2016

More than half of incarcerated adults lack basic numeracy skills, according to new report from the federal government's National Center for Education Statistics, which also found that one-third lack basic literacy skills.

The study also found that less than half (49 percent) of prison inmates reported being employed full-time prior to their incarceration.

The U.S. Department of Education this year began an experimental program through which 12,000 inmates around the country will be able to receive federal Pell Grants while they pursue a college credential in prison. The department chose academic programs from 67 colleges and universities to participate in the experiment, which is dubbed Second Chance Pell.

November 15, 2016

Authorities are investigating the hanging of numerous black stockings stuffed with dirt outside Tillman Hall at Winthrop University, The Herald Online reported. Images of the items spread on social media (right). The hall is named for Benjamin Tillman, a South Carolina politician whose bigotry extended to participating in lynchings. A group called Association of Artists for Change contacted The Charlotte Observer to take responsibility for the display, which it said was “protest art” meant to inspire discussion of the building's name.

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