Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, April 3, 2015 - 4:16am

Authorities say 147 people were killed in an attack by a violent Somali group on a university in Kenya Thursday morning, The New York Times reported. That number is much higher than were the initial reports. Christian students were the target at a university that educates both Muslim and Christian students. An article in Times Higher Education explores how universities in strife-torn parts of the world can be seen as easy targets for terrorist groups.

 

Friday, April 3, 2015 - 3:00am

The state higher education board in Mississippi on Thursday announced that it had held but was ending talks with Dan Jones about the possibility of his staying on as chancellor of the University of Mississippi. A statement from the board said that it had made a "good faith" effort to keep Jones, but that he declined to proceed. As a result, the board plans to start a search for his replacement. Since the board announced last month that it was not renewing Jones's contract, many students, faculty and alumni have been protesting and calling for the board to keep Jones.

In a briefing, Jones said that he couldn't work effectively under the two-year contract that the board was willing to consider. "I feel strongly, as do most of my advisors, that serving two years as a lame duck would make it difficult to recruit and retain key leaders and continue our momentum in private giving. More importantly, it is clear from the board’s position that the board would not support my leadership during any extension," he said.

Friday, April 3, 2015 - 3:00am

Massive open online course provider edX on Thursday announced it had reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, ensuring that the platform will be made accessible to learners with disabilities.

The agreement includes provisions that kick in over the course of 18 months, and edX will be required to report on its progress roughly every 10 months during a 40-month period. The short-term changes, to be implemented within 30, 45 and 90 days, involve laying the groundwork for edX's website to become accessible to users with disabilities. By the 18-month mark, the edX platform will conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a common standard for accessibility on the web.

The National Association of the Deaf in February sued Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which co-founded edX, for not captioning all the video lectures they provide. While Thursday's settlement does not cover content, it does require edX to create a set of best practices that partner institutions can follow to make their content accessible to learners with disabilities.

Friday, April 3, 2015 - 3:00am

Jones International University, an online, for-profit institution based in Colorado, has announced plans to shut down. The university was the first online university to receive regional accreditation, which was controversial at the time, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Jones had seen steep enrollment declines in recent years, according to the Denver Business Journal. The university currently enrolls about 2,000 students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Glenn Jones, a cable television pioneer, founded the university in 1993. As part of its winding down, the university has signed a formal transfer agreement with Trident University International, another for-profit institution. In an announcement on the Jones website, the university said it "is committed to a smooth and orderly transition" for students.

Friday, April 3, 2015 - 3:00am

A Duke University student has admitted to placing a noose on a tree on campus -- an incident that alarmed many on the campus. The university, citing privacy laws, did not release much detail about the student or the motivations for the noose placement. But the university statement on the matter said that "the student is no longer on campus."

Friday, April 3, 2015 - 3:00am

Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, on Thursday signed legislation to amend the state's "religious freedom" law to say that it doesn't authorize discrimination. State leaders continued to insist that they didn't need to make the change because they said the original law wasn't about discrimination. (This runs counter to the statements made by business owners who sought the law, saying that they did not want to serve gay couples.) Many higher education groups -- some of which have meetings scheduled in the state -- have said that failure to change the law would make it hard for them to schedule future meetings in the state.

 

Friday, April 3, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Jo-Renee Formicola, a political scientist at Seton Hall University, discusses her research on church-state issues in the wake of the Roman Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 1:38am

The U.S. Department of Education plans to release on Friday the names of the nearly two dozen colleges it had redacted from the list of colleges it is watching more closely.

The department earlier this week released a list of 556 colleges and universities that were subject to restrictions on their student aid and extra scrutiny known as heightened cash monitoring. But officials declined to identify 23 of those institutions, 21 of which had been placed on the more stringent level of monitoring. Most of them were singled out for scrutiny after federal audits of their financial aid programs resulted in “severe findings.”

Because the department has ongoing investigations at those institutions, Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said Monday, “releasing those names would impede the progress of our investigation.”

Denise Horn, a department spokeswoman, said Thursday that the decision to now release all of the names came after “further legal review and in response to follow-up inquiries.” It also comes after The New York Times editorial board on Thursday criticized the department for withholding the information, calling it a "disservice to students."

The department also plans to release Friday an updated cash-monitoring list that is current through this week. The list released earlier this week was from March 1.

Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 4:18am

The University of Maryland at College Park has concluded that an offensive email in which a fraternity member told brothers to ignore the idea that women need to consent to sex, and in which he used a series of racist and sexist terms, is protected by the First Amendment. "This private email, while hateful and reprehensible, did not violate university policies and is protected by the First Amendment," said a statement issued by Wallace D. Loh, president of the university. That the author of the email can't be legally punished, Loh wrote, does not mean that the hurt it caused was not real. The email "caused anger and anguish, pain and fear, among many people. It subverts our core values of inclusivity, human dignity, safety and mutual respect. When any one of us is harmed by the hateful speech of another, all of us are harmed," Loh wrote.

The university previously announced that the author of the email and the university had "mutually agreed" that he would not be enrolled for the rest of the semester. Loh's statement included an apology from the student. "I regret sending that email more than I'll ever be able to put into words," he wrote. "I know there is no way to erase this incident or the agony it has caused, but I want you to know that I will strive to never use such language again. I have learned an important life lesson, realizing there is no room for hate or prejudice of any kind in our community. I am committed to becoming a better person, a person that appreciates differences."

Thursday, April 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Kean University announced and then withdrew an invitation to the hip-hop recording artist Common to deliver its commencement speech, NorthJersey.com reported. The university switched gears amid protests from police groups because of a 2000 recording by Common that depicts a woman convicted of killing a police officer as a victim. A Kean spokeswoman did not respond to email or voice mail requests for comment.

City Colleges of Chicago also recently announced Common as commencement speaker. A spokeswoman said that no reconsideration of the invitation is planned there.

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