Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 24, 2017

Have something to say about the inauguration? Our Cartoon Caption Contest provides an opportunity -- click here to submit a caption for this month's cartoon.

Click here to choose your favorite from among the three finalists for last month's contest.

And congratulations to A. M. Skuce, the winner of our Cartoon Caption Contest for November. Her caption for the cartoon at right -- "My son just called to tell me there is an issue with his financial aid. As parent, I cannot continue to come here so frequently to solve his problems. In the future, please send all correspondence to me directly. And why are you making that helicopter noise?" -- was chosen by our readers from among three finalists. Thanks to all for playing.

January 24, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Martin Krieger, professor of planning at the University of Southern California, examines the work of professors. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 23, 2017

A tornado hit William Carey University, in Mississippi, early Saturday, causing extensive damage. The only injuries were minor, but estimates on repair costs are not yet available. The university said its main campus would be closed until further notice. The photos are among those posted by the university to social media.

January 23, 2017

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference on Friday announced the suspension of 15 men's basketball players at LeMoyne-Owen College and Lane College after a brawl broke out at a game between the two teams. The brawl quickly escalated and included one player appearing to use a chair to attack another. The conference is also banning some fans who became involved from attending any more athletic events.

January 23, 2017

The Senate education committee has pushed back a vote on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary to give senators time to review a letter of agreement from the Office of Government Ethics. The vote by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will now take place Jan. 31 at 10 a.m. -- a week later than originally planned.

The letter from OGE outlines steps DeVos has agreed to take to avoid conflicts of interest. That agreement, released Friday, lists 102 potential conflicts of interest with financial assets DeVos will divest from.

The committee held its confirmation hearing for DeVos last week but heard few major revelations about her positions on higher ed policy.

A spokeswoman for committee chairman Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said DeVos has completed paperwork required by the committee ahead of the hearing and will spend the coming days answering additional questions submitted in writing by senators.

January 23, 2017

More than 50 student government presidents have signed a letter to President Trump asking him to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, under which more than 700,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, many of them now college students, have obtained the right to work and temporary protection from deportation. Trump has said he would end the program, created under President Obama's executive authority, although the White House chief of staff told Fox News Sunday this weekend that the president wants to work with legislators “to get a long-term solution on that issue.”

The letter also urges Trump to continue visas for international students as well as H-1B visas, which for some international students provide a route to staying and working in the U.S. after graduation but which Trump has criticized as a "cheap labor program" ripe for abuse. During the campaign Trump at one point proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country and subsequently said he would temporarily suspend visa processing for certain countries "that have a history of exporting terrorism" in order to put in place new screening procedures -- what he called "extreme vetting."

“We urge you to uphold and continue DACA, H-1B visas and visas for international students generally -- including for Muslim students -- and we are prepared to meet with you to make our case,” states the letter signed by the student government presidents, which was authored by Clark University's undergraduate student president, Cory Bisbee. “We urge you not to waste valuable and limited political capital waging what will quickly be branded a war on students and laying waste this country’s world-renowned institutions of higher education.”

January 23, 2017

Lincoln University in Missouri made headlines last year for shuttering its history department against the advice of a faculty committee. Now Lincoln has changed its financial exigency policy in ways that would make it much easier to lay off tenured faculty members. Financial exigency -- defined by the American Association of University Professors as a dire, institutionwide crisis -- is one of the few ways AAUP policy says that professors in good standing may lose their jobs. Most institutions have adopted that policy, and those that don’t risk possible censure by the AAUP.

Lincoln has changed its rules to specify that financial exigency may be declared not only at the university level, but also “for specific colleges, schools, departments or programs.” Faculty members with the shortest term of service now also “will generally,” not definitively, be terminated before those with longer periods of service.

A spokesperson for Lincoln did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate secretary for tenure, academic freedom and governance at AAUP, called the university's new policy a “significant departure from our standards” and reiterated that the association defines financial exigency as “a severe financial crisis that fundamentally compromises the academic integrity of the institution as a whole and that cannot be alleviated by less drastic means.”

January 23, 2017

Teresa A. Sullivan (right) announced Friday that she plans to step down as president of the University of Virginia when her current contract ends in the summer of 2018. While president, Sullivan has pushed plans to expand the faculty and selected academic programs, and led efforts to improve the undergraduate experience and academic advising. She also led efforts to complete a $3 billion fund-raising campaign. And Sullivan worked to fight sexual assault when the university was the subject of a now notorious Rolling Stone article about an alleged fraternity rape, and she pushed to continue those efforts and to mend campus relations when the article turned out to be false. In the last week, she announced plans to increase undergraduate enrollment to admit more Virginians and to provide new financial aid funds to those not eligible for most other aid.

Sullivan may be best known for her successful effort to hold on to her job in 2012 when board members ousted her but backed down two weeks later amid an outpouring of support on campus for Sullivan and anger at the board members who wanted to remove her.

January 23, 2017

Asked on Fox News Sunday whether President Trump plans to sign an executive order undoing President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program this week, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, refused to make any commitments either way but said the president would be working with legislative leaders “to get a long-term solution on that issue.” During the campaign Trump pledged to end DACA, under which hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, many of them college students, have obtained the right to work and temporary protection from deportation. Trump has since suggested he wants to "work something out" for DACA beneficiaries but has not offered specifics to that effect.

Per the transcript of the weekend news show, the host, Chris Wallace, asked Priebus what executive actions Trump plans to sign today and this week. “And specifically, and is he going to undo DACA, the Obama executive action to defer deportation for the 700,000 so-called DREAMers who were brought into this country illegally as children?” Wallace asked. (DREAM refers to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors legislation first introduced in 2001, which has repeatedly failed to pass both houses of Congress; the term has come to refer to many young undocumented immigrants, including those affected by DACA.)

Priebus responded, “Well, on the last one, I think we’re going to work with House and Senate leadership as well to get a long-term solution on that issue, but --”

Wallace cut in. “So, you won’t undo DACA until --”

“I’m not going to make any commitments to you, but I’ve, you know, I’m obviously foreshadowed there a little bit,” Priebus replied.

January 23, 2017

Santa Clara University has announced a $100 million gift to fund a 300,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for education in science, mathematics and technology (design for facility is shown at right). The gift is from John A. and Susan Sobrato. He is an alumnus, and they lead a prominent real estate company in the Silicon Valley.

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