Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 24, 2017

Graduate assistants in eight of nine departments that held union elections at Yale University voted to unionize, they announced late Thursday, but the eligibility of some uncounted ballots in two of the eight 'yes' departments remains challenged. Yale is the third campus where graduate students have formed unions following a major decision by the National Labor Relations Board last year saying that teaching and research assistants on private campuses are entitled to collective bargaining.

In an unusual “micro-unit” strategy that Yale's administration opposed, teaching assistants in East Asian languages and literatures, English, geology and geophysics, history, art history, math, physics, political science and sociology all held separate elections within their programs. A majority of students approved the union bid in all departments except physics, based on counted ballots, but there are additional, uncounted votes in East Asian languages and political science. Whether those votes will count has yet to be decided by the NLRB. The new graduate employee union is affiliated with Unite Here.

Pro-union graduate students described the outcome as a victory but Lynn Cooley, dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement that the election results “demonstrate the extent of graduate student division on the question of unionization.” Even with the micro-unit strategy “that so many have criticized as being un-inclusive,” she said, “the union lost one of its own hand-picked departments, and failed to clearly win two others.” Yale is “closely examining” the outcome and will soon respond more fully, Cooley said.

February 24, 2017

A group of Democratic Senators is seeking a review by the Government Accountability Office of hunger on college campuses. 

In a letter to Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro, the four senators -- Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Patty Murray of Washington -- highlighted recent surveys finding struggles with food insecurity on college campuses. They also pointed to the growth of food banks on campuses as well as off-campus programs serving hungry students. 

"Sacrificing food for education can undermine a student's educational goals and create barriers on their path to obtaining a certificate, degree, or credential," the senators wrote.

They are asking for a GAO assessment of the extent of food insecurity on colleges and universities; barriers to addressing the problem; existing local, state, and federal programs; and examples of best practices already in place. 

Read the letter here. 

February 24, 2017

A professor at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, in Virginia, was attacked in his office Thursday by a woman with a box cutter, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The professor, who has not been named, is being treated in a hospital with injuries that are not life-threatening. The woman has been charged with malicious wounding and is being held without bail in a local jail. The article did not indicate if the woman had a link to the college.note: one local radio station calls her a former student in headline, but no detail to match that (at least as of now) -sj

February 24, 2017

Keeping up with the educational technology market can be exhausting, what with its acquisitions, mergers, startups coming and going, and established companies expanding into new spaces. To help higher education leaders make sense of the market, Eduventures, the consulting and research firm owned by the National Research Center for College & University Admissions, on Thursday launched the 2017 version of its Higher Education Technology Landscape Report. The report describes more than 500 ed tech vendors and categorizes them across 42 different market segments. Major findings for this year's edition include:

  • This year's report includes about 100 fewer vendor than last year's as a result of consolidation in the market or companies going out of business.
  • The segments of the ed-tech market seeing the most new vendors and increased competition include eportfolios, online program management and student retention, among others.
  • Meanwhile, segments such as courseware, learning analytics and learning management system providers and seeing the most consolidations.
February 24, 2017

After a slow drip of news about a higher education task force to be led by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. -- with Falwell himself the source -- Senate Democrats are demanding details from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

Falwell has said in interviews that the task force would re-evaluate "overreaching regulation" by the federal government in areas such as accreditation, student recruitment and loan discharge for defrauded students. The Senate Democrats who signed a letter to DeVos -- Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Patty Murray of Washington, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire -- said those regulations provide important protections for students. And they told DeVos that a task force without a diverse membership could tilt its recommendations toward the interests of colleges and universities that receive large taxpayer subsidies. 

Falwell's own financial interest in regulation of higher education also concerned the Democrats. Last year Liberty University took in $766 million in revenue from federal Title IV aid and was the third-largest recipient of federal student loans in the country, they wrote. 

The senators asked DeVos to provide by March 9 answers to a number of questions about the task force, including the mission and scope of the task force as well as the process for identifying prospective members. 

Falwell himself has said in recent comments that he has not had discussions with the Trump administration about the specific aims of the task force. 

February 24, 2017

Two national student affairs groups on Thursday issued statements criticizing the Trump administration for rescinding guidance from the Obama administration that said federal anti-bias laws cover gender identity. While individual colleges may continue to bar discrimination against transgender students, and may continue to permit transgender students to use bathrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity, the official view of the administration is that they don't have to do so.

Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, issued a statement that said the Trump administration's policy "moves our campuses in the wrong direction with respect to the goals of inclusivity and civility, potentially placing trans students in greater danger by forcing them to use facilities that do not match their gender identity."

Leaders of ACPA: College Student Educators International issued a statement that the association views the administration's action as having "a potentially harmful and regressive impact on the ability of trans peoples' ability to live fully, public lives and reaffirms its commitment to acting in solidarity with trans communities toward justice, equity and inclusion."

Both groups pledged to help their members help transgender students and colleagues.



February 24, 2017

Indiana University Press has announced that it is going to be selling selected ebooks (such as the one at right) on Muslim topics (one of the specialties of the press) for $1.99, a steep discount. A message explaining the sale states: "Nowadays, it seems, more than ever, we need to learn more about each other. That eye-opening and sometimes humbling journey outside ourselves—beyond our backgrounds, histories, beliefs, and languages -- often begins by picking up a newspaper or book. Reading raises awareness and brings understanding; understanding ushers in tolerance and respect."


February 24, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute: Joel Cohen, visiting scholar in the department of statistics at the University of Chicago, examines whether more tornados are occurring than ever before. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 23, 2017

Shirley Collado, who was named president of Ithaca College on Wednesday, will be the first college president whose higher education started through the Posse Foundation. The foundation sends groups of disadvantaged students to enroll together at various colleges. The idea is that as being part of a group of similar students (hence the posse name), the students will help one another succeed. Collado grew up in an immigrant Dominican family in Brooklyn, and was part of a posse that enrolled at Vanderbilt University in 1989. She is currently executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer at Rutgers University at Newark. In a statement released by the Posse Foundation, she said: “I am incredibly honored and humbled to become Ithaca College’s ninth president. When I think about this incredible opportunity, my academic career, and where I started, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of my Posse experience. Twenty-eight years ago, Posse took a chance on me, and from that one opportunity sprang so many others. My family and I are forever grateful.”

February 23, 2017

Career Education Corp. on Wednesday announced that it had settled a false claims lawsuit with private plaintiffs. The suit against the for-profit chain and its American InterContinental University was originally filed in 2008.

The federal government declined to intervene in the case. However, Career Education said it would pay the United States $10 million under the terms of the settlement. Under a separate settlement, the company said it would pay $22 million to the lawyers who represented the plaintiffs.

Career Education did not admit to any violations of law or liability under the settlements.

"[B]y eliminating the distraction caused by this lawsuit, the company’s management can provide more attention to the company’s core operations and its goal of enhancing retention and outcomes for its students," Career Education said in a corporate filing.  


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