Higher Education Quick Takes
A member of the City Council for Washington on Tuesday proposed that the University of the District of Columbia offer a free community college and be renamed to honor Marion Barry, The Washington Post reported. The university currently has both community college and four-year students. Vincent B. Orange, the councilman, said he wanted Washington to move to embrace President Obama's ideas about students having access to free community college options.
The late Barry served as mayor and city council member in Washington and is beloved in some circles and derided in others. Orange said that Barry's drug conviction should not disqualify him from having a university named in his honor. “It can serve as an inspiration for some, it can also serve as a way for others to get up and overcome their adversities -- and for some, it can serve as a don’t do these types of things, stay on this track," Orange said.
A faculty panel has urged the board of the University of Illinois System to stop reviewing faculty appointments and to delegate that authority to senior campus administrators, The News-Gazette reported. The recommendation comes out of the controversy over Steven Salaita, whose hiring was blocked last year by senior administrators who did not believe that the board would approve him. Aside from the Salaita debate, faculty leaders said that the system did not work well in that new faculty members might be on campus teaching before the board officially approved their hire. Administrators have not endorsed the faculty recommendation, but have said that they too favor a streamlining of the process.
Rising costs and lower government aid have made it more difficult for lower-income students to earn a college degree, according to a new report from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) at the University of Pennsylvania. The study tracked data over 45 years. It found that students and families paid for one-third of the cost of the higher-education system in 1980. But that proportion grew to a little more than half in 2012.
The budget proposal from Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, would eliminate the regulatory board that oversees the state's 244 for-profit institutions, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. The Education Approval Board sought tighter regulation of the sector two years ago, but that plan died quickly. Walker wants to cut the board to "decrease the regulatory and fiscal burden" on for-profits, according to the newspaper.
Two for-profit institutions in Minnesota, Globe University and the Minnesota College of Business, have halted enrollment in a criminal justice program that is facing scrutiny and lawsuit by the state, The Star Tribune reported. Officials of the institution did not respond to requests for comment but have defended their programs in the past. State officials have said that students were recruited and led to borrow without knowing that the criminal justice program was not recognized as valid preparation for law enforcement jobs in the state.
Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today The STEM Pipeline, our latest compilation of articles. As with other such print-on-demand booklets, the compilation groups together pieces that explore different strategies used by faculty members and institutions -- and efforts to track their success. The booklet is free and you may download a copy here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m. Eastern about the themes of the booklet.
A highway in Atlanta was shut down for two hours Monday, as officials first investigated and then blew up a device that had been attached to a bridge. Authorities feared it could be a bomb. But as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted, it was an art project of a student at Georgia State University. Students in an art class had been told to place cameras in places that would yield interesting photographs. The university has since removed other cameras from public places. Police officials said that the student in the case would be charged with reckless conduct. The photo below, from the Atlanta police department, shows the normally crowded highway closed off during the investigation.
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has named Michael K. Young, president of the University of Washington, as the next president of the Texas A&M flagship at College Station. Previously Young was president of the University of Utah and law dean at George Washington University.
The National Labor Relations Board released a decision Tuesday affirming an earlier 2013 ruling saying that Grand Canyon University wrongly fired an employee for talking about her working conditions. The ruling pertains to a case involving three former employees working in for-profit Grand Canyon’s “grad team,” which pursued “leads” on potential students to enroll in the university’s graduate programs in Christian studies and criminal justice. All three frequently discussed with each other, coworkers and their managers concerns about the quality of leads referred to them, the limited degree programs in which they were permitted to enroll students and the difficulty of meeting enrollment quotas, according to the decision.
They were fired in part for those conversations, which violated a clause in the university’s Employee Counseling Statement prohibiting employees from discussing with each other the terms and conditions of their employment. But the NLRB found in 2013 that the three employees had engaged in “protected concerted activity,” and that the university violated labor law by threatening to fire them for and interrogating them about their speech. (Grand Canyon is not unionized.) The labor board said that the university had only wrongly fired one employee, Gloria Johnson, however, because there seemed to be other, legitimate reasons for firing the other two employees.
Questions about that decision’s legitimacy arose as Grand Canyon filed an appeal when political opponents of President Obama challenged the constitutionality of two of his appointments to the NLRB during a three-day Congressional recess. After the appointment question was settled, the board considered the decision de novo and affirmed it. The NLRB has ordered Grand Canyon to stop threatening to fire employees who discuss their terms and conditions of employment, and to reinstate and “make whole” Johnson, among other things. Johnson could not immediately be reached for comment. Bob Romantic, a university spokesman, said via email that the NLRB "looked at four complaints from 2010, of which three were dismissed. Concerning the fourth complaint [Johnson], we are confident from our internal investigation that we did the right thing for the university and our students regarding a compliance violation by one of our employees. We are reviewing the NLRB’s decision and will consider all appropriate actions, including an appeal.” William A. Herbert, executive director of National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said the case was significant in that it explored the “scope” of what can be raised in interrogations of employees by reinforcing the rule that employers cannot interrogate employees about protected, concerted activities.