Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 3, 2016

Two students at North Carolina A&T University were shot and killed Sunday morning at an off-campus party. The Greensboro News & Record reported the local police said the two students who were killed -- Alisia Dieudonné, 19, and Ahmad Campbell, 21 -- were innocent bystanders when a fight broke out.

Harold S. Martin Sr., chancellor of the university, sent a message to students Sunday in which he expressed condolences to the friends and family members of the slain students. "Both Alisia and Ahmad were actively involved in campus life and vitally important members of the Aggie family," he wrote. He added that "this incident is extremely disturbing. Violence on or near our campus is unacceptable."

The university held a campus forum on safety issues Sunday afternoon, where officials urged students to stop attending off-campus house parties. "I plead with each and every one of you not to go to these house parties," said Mark Williams, the university's dean of students, according to a report in the News & Record. "I know there are party promoters that pay students to host these house parties. I don't know that that happened in this situation, but do not host these parties."

October 3, 2016

In an academic year that has already seen numerous racist incidents, three more institutions are dealing with blackface images posted to social media by students.

Albright College's president, Lex O. McMillan III, posted this statement to Facebook: "The two students most directly involved in the creation and distribution of the video that was widely shared on social media have been suspended pending further investigation and adjudication through the college’s community standards process. They have been advised to leave campus immediately and remain available for communications with college officials. As we continue to investigate the matter, we have learned that multiple students of multiple races were involved. We will continue to review the facts of the matter so that the most appropriate sanctions for those who took part can be determined."

The Reading Eagle reported that the video in question features a female student putting on blackface makeup, calling herself "Carlisha," making "disparaging remarks" about the Black Lives Matter movement and placing padding in her pants to suggest a large behind.

Prairie View A&M University, a historically black institution, is also investigating a blackface incident. In this case, a female soccer player covered her face with black tape and posted the image to social media with the caption, "When you just tryna fit in at your HBCU." The athlete's father told KTRK News that his daughter did not mean to cause offense. "She's not racist. We're not racist. We're Mexican," he said. "It's a bad thing and it's been blown way out of proportion. She's not like that."

Columbia College, in South Carolina, is investigating social media images that appear to show three students in blackface, The State reported. The college has announced that the students involved will not be allowed on campus until an investigation is completed.

October 3, 2016

Seattle University is challenging the recently announced results of an election in favor of a part-time faculty union. “The issue is a jurisdictional one,” Father Stephen V. Sundborg, president, said in a statement Friday. “It involves a higher principle: the constitutionally protected right of Seattle University, as a faith-based institution, to carry out our core Jesuit Catholic educational mission free from government intrusion by the [National Labor Relations Board]. It is a right that we believe is important to the university and our Jesuit Catholic character to uphold.”

The union election took place in 2014, but ballots were impounded as the university challenged the rights of its adjuncts to bargain collectively. It argued that its Roman Catholic affiliation put it outside the jurisdiction of the NLRB, but a major 2014 board decision in favor of an adjunct union bid at Pacific Lutheran University opened the door to adjunct unions at religious institutions. A local NLRB office eventually decided that Seattle’s adjuncts could count their ballots, and the tally -- 73 for and 63 against -- was announced earlier this month.

Sundborg said in his statement that Seattle is not opposed to unions, and many of its employees already are unionized. The problem is faculty unions in relation to the college’s religious mission, he said. “For example, would the university be required to hire faculty openly hostile to our Jesuit way of teaching and Catholic identity?” he asked. “Would the university be prohibited from removing a faculty member who seeks to undermine our core religious identity?”

The faculty union is affiliated with Service Employees International Union. “We see the administration is doubling down on their specious claim of religious exception, by trying to pass off economic issues as religious issues,” Ben Stork, adjunct professor of film studies at Seattle, said in a news release. “In reality this is about not wanting to pay for the basic labor that the university runs on.”

October 3, 2016

In a win for part-time faculty members at California community colleges, Governor Jerry Brown on Friday signed into law legislation mandating that college districts negotiate with adjuncts over re-employment and termination rules, The Sacramento Bee reported. The legislation is a pared-down version of an earlier bill that would have guaranteed a workload for long-serving adjuncts. It nevertheless has significant support from part-time faculty members who seek consideration of seniority in reappointments and increased job security.

“There are over two million students in California community colleges, and part-time faculty play a critical role in their success,” Jose Medina, a Democratic assemblyman who proposed the legislation, said in a statement. “By improving employment practices for part-time faculty, this legislation will benefit both these dedicated educators and their students.”

October 3, 2016

As athletes and others involved with sporting events take a knee to call attention to police violence against black people, campus experiences continue to vary.

At East Carolina University, about a dozen members of the marching band took a knee when playing the national anthem. Sports Illustrated reported that when the band took the field at halftime, it received many boos.

At the University of Virginia, where the men's basketball team posed together for a team photograph (at right), on their knees, to support the cause, the head coach is backing the players.

"Our guys realize there are a lot of issues going on in our country," said Tony Bennett, the head coach, in a statement to ESPN. "I support their desire to promote peace and equality."

The women's volleyball team at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black institution, took a knee during the anthem last week and produced a video to explain why.

October 3, 2016

The University of Minnesota has an annual tradition in which student groups may sign up to paint internal panels on a pedestrian bridge. This year, the Republican student group at Minnesota signed up for one of the panels and painted messages (at right) supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump for president, and featuring his proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Groups representing immigrants organized a protest against the panel, and they accused the Republican group of spreading hateful ideas about people who are immigrants.

The debate intensified when someone vandalized the Republicans' panel, writing "Stop White Supremacy" over the painting.

That prompted Eric Kaler, president of the university, to issue a statement that noted the hurt caused by the message but said that vandalism is not an appropriate response to a message protected by free speech. "While this is protected as free, political speech, we have heard from members of our community who find the phrase hurtful, offensive, anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx," Kaler said of the Republican message. "People in our community may disagree with the sentiment expressed. However, while the university values free speech, the subsequent vandalism of the panel is not the way to advance a conversation."

October 3, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education adjusted the cohort default rates of 11 institutions -- including one that was subsequently exempted from sanctions by the federal government -- in its latest annual report on borrowers who stopping making payments on student loans within three years of leaving school, a spokeswoman said.

The department announced Wednesday that three-year cohort default rates had dropped for the second year in a row to 11.3 percent for student borrowers who entered repayment in the 2013 fiscal year, citing measures such as income-driven repayment plans and new college affordability measures.

It had also made adjustments to cohort default rates for a handful of institutions in the previous two years by not holding colleges and universities accountable for defaulted loans that met certain criteria. A department spokeswoman said adjustments were made to take into account the impact of "split status" borrowers, who have multiple federal student loans that may not fall under the same repayment status.

This is the last year that institutions will have default rates adjusted to reflect split status borrowers, as they were instructed beginning with the 2011 fiscal year borrower cohort to begin resolving split status issues.

October 3, 2016

Tristan Rettke, the East Tennessee State University student who last week disrupted a Black Lives Matter rally wearing a gorilla mask and taunting black students with a banana, is no longer a student at the university. The incident angered many on the campus, and Rettke faces criminal charges of civil rights intimidation. In an update to the campus posted to Facebook, the university said the student in the incident "is no longer enrolled" and "will not be enrolling in the future."

October 3, 2016

Yoshinori Ohsumi (left), a Japanese cell biologist, was this morning named winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine. He was honored for "his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy." Ohsumi is a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Early in his career, he taught at Rockefeller University.

Information on his research may be found here.

October 3, 2016

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, has proposed a national service "reserve," in which Americans -- and in particular young Americans -- could volunteer for short-term or part-time assignments working on national problems. Her announcement said that she would "work with higher ed institutions to explore granting credit for college-level learning gained through service experiences."


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