Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 3:00am

Follett Corp. on Monday announced it has bought media distributor Baker & Taylor, a massive acquisition that fortifies Follett's dominant position as a provider of books and other materials to libraries, schools and more. The acquisition, the terms of which were not disclosed, adds another billion dollars to Follett's existing $2.6 billion sales revenues, the company said in a press release. Baker & Taylor will continue to operate out of its Charlotte, N.C., offices, according to the announcement (Follett is based in Westchester, Ill.).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Edinburgh is putting in place new policies requiring all staff to report their locations to their managers “when officially at work, but not in their normal place of work” for a half day or longer, Times Higher Education reported.

The university said it has opted to apply the new reporting requirements -- which are a condition of work visas for employees from outside the European Union -- to all staff, regardless of their nationality, as a matter of fairness. But some have accused Edinburgh of overreach. “Rather than using the oppressive requirements to which the Home Office subjects a handful of valued colleagues to justify comprehensive micromanagement, we should use our position and power to challenge this xenophobia and treat everybody with greater trust,” one unidentified academic told Times Higher.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 3:00am

The American Bar Association rescinded an offer it made to publish a book on human rights lawyers in China out of fear of upsetting the Chinese government, according to a leaked email from an ABA employee obtained by Foreign Policy. The ABA, however, maintains that the employee's email misrepresents the association's reasons for not publishing the book.

The ABA's publishing arm commissioned the book, Darkness Before Dawn, in December 2014. In January 2015 an unnamed ABA employee sent an email to the book's author, Teng Biao, withdrawing the offer: “Apparently, there is concern that we run the risk of upsetting the Chinese government by publishing your book,” the employee wrote, “and because we have ABA commissions working in China there is fear that we would put them and their work at risk.”

In the email the employee offered to help Teng find another publisher and wrote that “this has the potential to be an amazing book.”

ABA officials did not question the authenticity of the employee's email but said in a statement to Foreign Policy that “the decision not to proceed with publication of the book Darkness Before Dawn was made for purely economic reasons, based on market research and sales forecasting conducted by the association’s publishing group.”

“Unfortunately, the reasons resulting in the decision were miscommunicated to Mr. Teng,” the statement from Robert T. Rupp, an ABA executive, said.

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 3:00am

A large beach ball (at right) has set off a debate over free speech at the University of Delaware. The university's chapter of Young Americans for Liberty brought the ball to a campus quad and encouraged people to write whatever they wanted on the beach ball, declaring it to be a "free speech ball." The students were seeking to focus attention on free speech and to promote a screening of the documentary Can We Take a Joke? which is about how objections to some forms of humor may limit comedy on college campuses and elsewhere. One student wrote the word "penis" and drew a penis on the beach ball. Then, according to a letter the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent to the university, a campus police officer came by and said that the word and drawing might violate antiharassment rules at the university. The police officer, whom the student group promptly filmed (below) then outlined a series of other scenarios in which students' writings on the ball could violate university rules.

The letter from FIRE says that the policies, as explained by the police officer, are inconsistent with the First Amendment protections that cover students at a public university. A spokesman for the university said that it has received the letter and is planning to respond.

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 3:00am

Conference realignments and mammoth television deals have been portrayed as ways for universities to pay for major athletic programs. But an analysis released by USA Today Sunday afternoon shows that revenue gains are outpaced by increased spending. During 2015, total revenue for the 50 public universities in the Power Five conferences increased by $304 million. But the analysis found that spending increased by $332 million.

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 3:30am

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti last week said the city would help finance a newly announced program to offer one year of free community college to graduates of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The announcement, which Garcetti made Thursday during his 2016 State of the City address, includes a $1.5 million fund-raising commitment from the city, the Los Angeles Times reported. The program's initial cost will be $3 million, and the K-12 district will pick up the other half of that amount. (Closing the price gap in California is fairly affordable, given the two-year system's low tuition prices.)

"Los Angeles will become the largest city in the nation to commit ourselves to a new goal: every hardworking student who graduates from LAUSD will receive one free year of community college," Garcetti said in the written version of his speech.

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 3:00am

Wright Career College, a small, Kansas City-based career college chain, closed its five campuses last week and filed for bankruptcy. The college said in a written statement it had sought to bring in an outside group to gradually phase out the campuses, but that effort failed. Wright emailed its students about the closure on Thursday night, The Kansas City Star reported.

The chain included campuses in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. It enrolls about 1,400 students, according to federal data.

“We are saddened by these events,” said John Mucci, Wright's president. “From our beginning in 1921 until our closure, we have always operated with the focus of putting the interests of our students first. It is unfortunate our students cannot complete their programs at Wright Career College. I would like to thank our employees for their tireless dedication and commitment in helping our students achieve their educational and career goals.”

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 4:18am

A slate of candidates for the Harvard Board of Overseers has attracted considerable attention with its campaign to make the university free for undergraduates and its allegations that the current admissions system discriminates against Asian-American applicants. Now the organizer of the slate of candidates -- Ron Unz -- is facing scrutiny for his funding of authors and researchers whose work is viewed by many as bigoted, The Boston Globe reported. For example, Unz gave money to support an author who promotes a theory that a "gay germ" causes homosexuality, and to another author who wrote of how economic populism and "white party" issues could win a candidate the presidency. Unz said he doesn't necessarily agree with the views of the authors he supports, but that he wants to promote "alternative media."

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 3:00am

Ecuador is not a top study abroad destination for American students, but the earthquake this weekend had a number of American colleges and universities reaching out to contact their students who are in that country. So far, the news is good and Boston University, Michigan State University and the University of Oregon were able to announce that all students were safe.

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 3:00am

Southwest Airlines removed a student at the University of California at Berkeley from a plane that was about to fly from Los Angles to Oakland after he was heard speaking on his phone in Arabic, The New York Times reported. The student was talking to his uncle, and another passenger became alarmed. Southwest declined to comment on the specifics of the incident but said that it does not condone discrimination.


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