Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 3:00am

Graduate students and concerned alumni at the University of California at Los Angeles continue to organize against the planned return to campus of a history professor accused of serial sexual harassment, this time with a petition. The document, which had garnered more than 1,600 signatures as of Tuesday evening, asks Janet Napolitano, university system president, and the Board of Regents for the University of California to intervene in campus-level disciplinary proceedings against the professor, Gabriel Piterberg. Despite the severity of the allegations against him, Piterberg was given a one-term suspension and fined $3,000. He also agreed to various behavioral adjustments, such as not meeting with students with the door closed, causing many to question why he is being allowed back on campus at all.

“We, the undersigned, make clear that sexual harassment has no place at our university nor in the [university] system, and that we fully support the survivors of harassment across campuses,” reads the petition. “We are now forced to turn to you and the regents because the behavior and response from UCLA’s administration has broken our trust in their ability to fully respond to sexual violence on campus. We ask that you intervene in dismissing Piterberg from the university in order to show there is no tolerance for sexual harassment and gender violence of any kind at UCLA. We urge you to protect students and faculty from further harm by holding a vote to secure his dismissal, based on his violations of the sexual harassment policies in the Faculty Code of Conduct.”

The document also accuses the University of California System of uneven treatment of sexual harassers and suggests that Piterberg should be forced to resign or be fired, as in other recent sexual harassment cases on other campuses.

Piterberg, who is due back on campus this summer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A university system spokesperson said his office doesn't comment on pending litigation, referring to a lawsuit filed against the university by two graduate students over its handling of the Piterberg case.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 3:00am

The president of Ireland said that universities are facing "a moment of intellectual crisis" in which their purpose is in question, The Irish Times reported. In an address to the European University Association conference, President Michael D. Higgins warned against the reduction of the purpose of universities to "narrow professional training" and said that future generations would see a withdrawal from the humanities as a “betrayal of the purpose of education."

“If we wish to develop independent thinkers and questioning, engaged citizens, our universities must, while providing excellence in professional training, avoid an emphasis that is solely or exclusivity on that which is measurable and is demanded by short-term outcomes," Higgins said.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Angela Bahns, assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley College, explains that birds of a feather do flock together, but only if they’re similar from the beginning of the relationship. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Two graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley are accusing the institution of giving their faculty harasser a slap on the wrist. Kathleen Gutierrez and Erin Bennett are considering suing the institution for failing to do enough to stop Blake Wentworth, assistant professor of South and Southeast Asian studies, from sexually harassing them, according to The Guardian. Wentworth allegedly made sexual comments, the women said, and while a university investigation determined that he made “unwanted sexual advances,” the professor has reportedly received no formal discipline. Several other women have filed additional complaints.

The news comes after two other similar cases at Berkeley this academic year involving another professor and a dean. Last week, Berkeley released hundreds of pages of investigation records involving 19 employees found guilty of misconduct by the university's Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, 11 of whom resigned or were terminated, The Guardian reported -- but no tenured professor was fired for sexual harassment. Wentworth denied the allegations to the newspaper and said he was being “railroaded.” The university said disciplinary proceedings in his case are pending, according to The Guardian.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 3:00am

A new report from Gallup and USA Funds found that 72 percent of associate degree graduates have considered enrolling in four-year programs, but 64 percent don't because of family obligations, cost or job commitments.

The report also found that associate degree graduates are as likely as their counterparts with four-year degrees to strongly agree that their educations were worth the cost. Half of two-year graduates said they would recommend an associate degree program to others.

But the survey also found that associate degree holders are behind bachelor's degree graduates in Gallup's measures of life well-being after graduation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 4:13am

The Hartwick College faculty voted no confidence Monday in President Margaret Drugovich, The Daily Star reported. Many professors have been angry since the summer, when Drugovich eliminated 18 nonfaculty positions. Some faculty members, however, reached out to the newspaper to express support for their president, saying she was leading the college through difficult times. The board chair also released a statement saying that the board has "complete confidence" in the president.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 4:23am

Many full-time faculty members at Tallahassee Community College are protesting a plan by the new provost, Feleccia Moore-Davis, to require them to teach five courses a semester, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. Florida statute requires five courses a semester but allows professors with various service duties to teach four courses. Moore-Davis has noted that the vast majority of faculty members obtain such waivers and has said it is not efficient to have widespread waivers. Professors respond that they do considerable work outside of their courses, so the waivers are justified. Further, professors say, the proposal was made without sufficient consultation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 3:00am

While many academic disciplines are experiencing a tight job market, faculty job openings in communication are increasing, according to an analysis from the National Communication Association. The association identified 802 openings in 2015, up from 752 the year before and 351 as recently as 2009. The top five specializations sought in job listings: strategic/public relations/advertising; mass communication/media studies; organizational; digital/emerging/new media; and journalism.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 3:00am

George Hyde Hanford, who held various key positions at the College Board for 32 years, including serving as president from 1979 until his retirement in 1986, died Sunday at the age of 95. A tribute from the College Board may be found here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Daniel Sznycer, postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University, determines that while shame may be an ugly feeling, it can actually have some benefits in guiding us to better decisions in the future.

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