Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 12, 2016

The University of Richmond has been facing intense criticism for an email that that defended the university's handling of a sexual assault complaint filed by a student. The email said many of the statements made in public by the woman who brought the complaint were "inaccurate" -- leading many on campus to say the university was branding the student a liar.

On Friday, Ronald A. Crutcher, the president of the university, sent an email to the campus, in which he said that the administrators who wrote the email "conveyed their sincere regret and apology that their email message earlier this week has caused pain. I echo that sentiment." But while he apologized for the pain, he didn't say that the statement was wrong. He did pledge the university's commitment to dealing with allegations of sexual assault and to protecting students. "We know that it is our job and responsibility to help students, to care for them and to contribute to the well-being of each individual and our community as a whole," Crutcher wrote.

At a Richmond football game on Saturday night, dozens of students held a protest over the university's response to sexual assaults, WRIC News reported. Further, another student has come forward to say that her complaint was not handled appropriately.

September 12, 2016

U.S. Navy SEALS led an unsuccessful raid last month to attempt to free two abducted American University of Afghanistan faculty members being held by the Taliban, The New York Times reported.

The two professors, one American and one Australian, were abducted at gunpoint from their vehicle near AUAF’s Kabul campus on Aug. 7. The Pentagon confirmed that a raid had been conducted to rescue two civilians but said in a statement, “The hostages were not at the location we suspected.” The Pentagon said that no Americans were killed in the raid but that “a number” of insurgents were.

The AUAF campus temporarily suspended operations after militants attacked the campus Aug. 24, killing more than a dozen people.

September 12, 2016

The University of California, San Francisco, last week came under fire for its decision to fire about 80 IT workers and replace them with services from the Indian IT company HCL Technologies, Computerworld reported. The $50 million, five-year contract with HCL is a cost-cutting measure, the university said, brought on by declining health care reimbursements and rising costs associated with the Affordable Care Act. Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, who represents California's San Jose-based 19th District, said the university is "misusing" the H-1B guest worker visa program. The program has attracted controversy particularly because of technology companies' reliance on the visas to bring foreign workers to the U.S., sometimes, critics say, at the expense of American workers.

September 12, 2016

Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University on Friday announced a merger agreement. The combined institution of 7,500 students will be the fifth largest in Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson's programs are in the health sciences while Philadelphia's are in design, textiles, business and related professional fields. The combined institution is conducting a branding strategy that will influence how the combined institution will be described and promoted.

September 12, 2016

The University of West Florida Faculty Senate on Friday voted, 12 to 5, to oppose the presidential bid of a state senator with no higher education background who helped design a controversial performance-based funding system.

The Faculty Senate “is resolved that statements made by candidate Don Gaetz in his initial interview, combined with his past political and professional positions and actions, are incompatible with the academic mission and educational initiatives” of the university, reads the faculty resolution. It urges the presidential search committee and Board of Trustees to choose among the remaining pool of “highly qualified finalists.”

Daniel Pace, a professor of finance and president of the university’s union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, called performance measures “so flawed,” Politico reported. “They show a fundamental lack of understanding of how a university functions and what the role of a university is, particularly for a regional comprehensive university like [West Florida]. There is no place for a regional comprehensive university under these performance metrics.”

All finalists beyond Gaetz, including Martha Saunders, the university's provost, have significant higher education experience. Gaetz told Politico, “Everyone has a right to express themselves, and I certainly respect the members of the faculty who organized this effort. It is their right to express themselves.” The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trustees are expected to name a new president on Thursday.

Florida State University in 2014 hired John Thrasher, a Republican state lawmaker with no higher education experience, as president, despite a similar plea by faculty members to their Board of Trustees not to do so.

September 12, 2016

Mike Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana and Donald Trump's running mate, on Friday called on the federal government to help veterans of the U.S. military who attended the now-closed ITT Tech, Politico reported. Pence wrote to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to ask for the restoration of GI Bill benefits for ITT students.

"Our veterans are being unfairly punished due to lack of flexibility in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which does not take into account such situations, such as this recent closure, that are of no fault to the students," he wrote. "We cannot allow this to stand."

Also last week, Pence criticized the White House's stance on for-profits. "ITT Tech's situation is due in part to the Obama administration's overregulation, which is sadly killing jobs nationwide," his spokeswoman told the Indianapolis Star.

September 12, 2016

The collapse of ITT Tech has many students scrambling for programs and many colleges reaching out to these students. Chegg has created a directory of such colleges, with information about what they are offering ITT students. The database is searchable by state or by proximity to an ITT campus.

September 12, 2016

Charleston Southern University suspended 32 of its football players after they violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules by spending financial aid intended for textbooks on other items. Sixteen players have already served the one-game suspension, while another 14 sat out Saturday's game against Florida State University. The suspensions for the remaining two players have not yet occurred.

Several of the players protested their suspensions on social media this week, saying the money was spent on other important items -- such as writing utensils, electronics and clothing -- at the campus bookstore, and that they were unaware of any rules being broken. The players said campus bookstore employees suggested they spend the leftover money there "because it disappears if we don't."

In a Facebook post Thursday, Colton Korn, a wide receiver on the team, criticized the timing of the suspensions ahead of what was already going to be a tough game against Florida State. Korn said he believed the punishments were unfair given that other colleges, including some in Charleston Southern's conference, now offer full cost-of-attendance scholarships to athletes, which would include such items as clothing and school supplies. (Florida State won the game, 52 to 8.)

"It pains me to see my brothers from Florida having to call family and friends saying they won't be able to play this weekend, much less the fact that the school told them the day before travel that they will be sitting at home instead, giving barely any time to let family try to get out of financial obligations," Korn said. "As for me, a guy who has been blessed to start 36 games, attend as many other athletic events and school events as time would allow, do countless hours of community service wearing CSU clothes, I'm bewildered at the lack of respect that the university is showing us athletes and student body as a whole. I want to wish my brothers luck who are going into a hostile environment shorthanded."

Colleges that do not offer full cost-of-attendance scholarships can still provide a stipend for purchasing textbooks. NCAA rules do not limit how much money programs can give athletes to spend on textbooks, but the money must be "equal to the actual cost of the books purchased." In a statement Friday, the university said it is working with the NCAA, the Big South Conference and "an outside consultant" to review any additional rule violations. The university first announced it was looking into possible violations last week, saying that volleyball, cross-country and soccer players may also have spent financial aid improperly.

“Obviously it's not the situation you want to go in with a No. 3 or 4 team in the country,” Jamey Chadwell, the football team's head coach, told a local news station Friday. Florida State paid Charleston Southern $475,000 for the game.

September 12, 2016

Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, on Friday proposed requiring universities to establish a new primary or secondary school or sponsor an existing, “underperforming” school as a condition for charging higher fees. A Times Higher Education article notes that it’s unclear what the government means by “higher fees,” but a press release from the prime minister’s office appears to suggest that the requirement would apply to any university that charges fees above a basic tuition threshold currently set at 6,000 pounds, or about $7,960.

“Under the new arrangements, universities would be expected to use their educational expertise to do more to raise standards in schools. This will create a talent pipeline, through which pupils from all backgrounds will have a greater opportunity to get the grades and skills they need to go on to university, and help universities in their efforts to widen participation of lower-income students,” the press release from May’s office said. The release notes that “[a] number” of universities have already established schools or partnered with existing ones.

“Universities already work closely with schools and colleges to raise aspirations and attainment,” Julia Goodfellow, the president of Universities UK and vice chancellor of the University of Kent, said in a statement responding to the government’s plans. “This ranges from outreach programs and summer schools to curriculum improvement, working with teachers, and providing information on progression to higher education.”

Goodfellow said that about half of all English universities sponsor a school. “How this is done will vary enormously and depend on the university and on different local circumstances,” she said. “It is important that any new proposals allow universities the flexibility to consider the evidence and target funding in a way that works best for the school and students to help raise attainment.”

September 12, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Scott Campbell, associate professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan, discusses solitude and its benefits in a more connected world. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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