Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 7, 2016

New York University is further challenging a professor’s contention that he was encouraged to take time off after a diversity committee criticized his comments on an anonymous Twitter account and in a student newspaper. The university on Friday released a set of emails between the professor and his dean that suggest the professor requested leave and denied an opportunity to return to campus immediately.

Both Michael Rectenwald (right), a clinical assistant professor of liberal studies, and the university have said the paid leave was voluntary, but Rectenwald has said publicly that he was strongly encouraged to temporarily leave campus after it was revealed that he was Deplorable NYU Prof, the alias behind the Twitter account @antipcnyuprof. The account is critical of safe spaces, trigger warnings and NYU’s administration, among other topics.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post published late last week, for example, Rectenwald wrote, “I’ve become a campus pariah to some (and a hero, perhaps, to a few) in my nontenured NYU faculty job, thanks to the humorless, social justice warrior-brand of campus culture run amok and a misunderstanding about a Twitter account. Enmeshed in a conspiracy -- thinly disguised as sympathy -- of my colleagues’ design, I feel I’ve lost my academic freedom and I potentially stand to lose my appointment.”

The emails between Rectenwald and his dean, Fred Schwarzbach, paint a somewhat different picture. Early last week, for example, Schwarzbach wrote, “Contrary to what you have been saying publicly, we don't give leaves based on faculty members’ posts on social media. … If you no longer wish to take leave, please indicate so in writing to me immediately and we will make all the necessary arrangements to allow you to resume your classes and other duties immediately.” Rectenwald responded that he’d “tried to represents the facts of my leave truthfully, while also merely attempting to respond to the committee on diversity, which took such a potshot at me and with such a lack of collegiality. And I wanted to make my position on the whole trigger warning, safe space and bias reporting culture clear.”

Rectenwald declined immediate comment.

November 7, 2016

Faculty members at the financially imperiled College of New Rochelle were surprised late last week to find that their names had been taken out of online course listings showing options for students to take next semester.

The discovery set off worries about the future of the college days after it released details of a financial crisis that trustees have said will require substantial cost cutting. Faculty members also wondered how they were to advise students on which courses to take without knowing who would be teaching.

But the college said Friday that the removal of names was a mistake. Names were being added back to listed courses, according to a spokesman.

New Rochelle abruptly announced the resignation of President Judith Huntington in October after its Board of Trustees learned about “significant unmet financial obligations.” Trustees shared details of the financial issues last week, saying the college owes $20 million after not making payroll taxes for two years. The college also has more than $11 million in other debts and liabilities.

The college has said it is still reviewing the circumstances that led to the financial crisis but that preliminary findings show there is a path forward for New Rochelle to remain a stand-alone institution. It has indicated it needs substantial outside funding and cuts, however.

November 7, 2016

The board of Alabama State University on Friday suspended -- and indicated that it would soon fire -- Gwendolyn Boyd (right) as president. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that the suspension issue was added to the board's agenda at the last minute. No reason was given except that board members said they lost confidence in Boyd, who has been president since 2014. Employees have reported that the historically black university is facing financial difficulties and that they were told last week that furloughs were about to start.

Some have questioned the board's treatment of Boyd since her arrival. Her contract indicated that she could not have romantic partners cohabitate at her university-owned residence. Boyd did not object and said that it would have no impact on her (single) life, but others said such provisions were unusual and inappropriate.

November 7, 2016

Two student senators at the University of Southern Maine have resigned amid criticism of their response to anti-Muslim graffiti found in the student government offices, The Portland Press Herald reported. The graffiti said, “Deus Vult,” a Latin phrase for “God will it.” The phrase was used by Christians during the Crusades and has been used more recently in the United States by anti-Muslim members of the alt-right movement. The two senators who resigned had advocated cleaning up the words and not reporting them. They didn't know that other students had already discovered the phrase and reported it to authorities.

November 7, 2016

The College of the Ozarks last week sent all students a clarification of its ban on the use of alcohol. The News-Leader reported that the college has amended its policy to state that it applies "regardless of age," so that students could no longer assume that the policy applied only to underage drinking. College officials said they had always viewed the rule that way, but felt the need to clarify. "We don't want there to be any confusion," said a spokeswoman.

November 7, 2016

TeensTalk, an annual survey of college freshmen and high school students preparing to apply to college, is conducted by Chegg and Stamats. Among this year's findings:

  • Nearly one-third of students report researching at least 10 colleges as possible places to apply.
  • More students report getting serious about their college searches in their junior year, as opposed the senior year, the norm in the past.
  • Potential applicants place a high value on ease of application. They report that application fees and additional required essays can be barriers to applying.

The full survey results may be found here.

November 7, 2016

Egypt’s minister of higher education recently directed private universities to review all research papers and dissertations to make sure they do not include “direct or indirect insult to societies or individuals belonging to any brotherly or friendly countries,” the Cairo-based Mada Masr reported.

In the directive published Oct. 15, the minister of higher education, Ashraf al-Shihy, wrote, “I hope that this obligation will include every stage of preparing the thesis, from the study and the research at its inception, ending with its declaration and official publishing approval.” Mada Masr reported that a spokesman for the minister and the head of the country's Council of Private Universities were not available for comment.

November 7, 2016

The University of St. Joseph, in Connecticut, is creating a committee that will study whether the women's college should admit men, The Hartford Courant reported. The university (which already enrolls men in some programs for adult learners) has 747 women in its main undergraduate program, down by 58 students since 2012. Officials stressed that no final decision has been made, but that admitting men and growing enrollment might result in a better experience for all students.

November 7, 2016

Dual enrollment -- in which high school students can earn some college credits for courses at their high schools -- has become widespread. A new report from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, conducted with support from Hobsons, noted these programs' prevalence and some of the motives of colleges for supporting them. Key findings:

  • 86 percent of college offer some dual enrollment credit.
  • Public institutions are more likely than private institutions to do so.
  • More than 75 percent of colleges view dual enrollment as a recruiting tool.
November 7, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Sherry Linkon, professor of English at Georgetown University, delves into deindustrialization and how it can affect working-class voters this election cycle. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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