Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, July 25, 2016 - 4:29am

The University of California Board of Regents voted last week to add a new rule for those administrators who wish to do consulting work or serve on the boards of companies, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The administrators must now demonstrate how the work benefits the University of California. About 50 senior administrators already have such arrangements with companies and they are exempt from the rules. The rules change follows criticism of university administrators who serve on various corporate boards.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:30am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Friday that it is asking any future hosts of NCAA championships to complete a survey about discrimination. The questionnaire asks host sites if their cities, counties and states have "passed antidiscrimination laws that are applicable to all persons" and if they have laws that "regulate choice of bathrooms or locker rooms."

In April, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a new rule requiring host sites to "demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination and also safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event." The board adopted the change after the state of North Carolina enacted a law banning people from using public bathrooms that did not match their biological gender. The law is widely seen as discriminating against transgender people.

Last year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association also condemned a controversial Indiana law that gave businesses the right to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The association, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, then joined a coalition of Indiana businesses aiming to add LGBT civil rights protections to state law.

At the same time -- as a growing number of religious NCAA institutions request and receive waivers allowing them to discriminate against LGBT athletes -- gay rights groups have criticized the NCAA for not taking a similarly hard line with its own members.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Dozens of scholarly groups have issued statements condemning the purges in higher education in Turkey that followed the recent coup attempt. In the immediate days after the failed coup, the Council of Higher Education demanded the resignation of more than 1,500 university deans. More than 15,000 education ministry officials were suspended and 21,000 schoolteachers had their licenses revoked. The government also reportedly banned professional travel for all academics.

Twenty-four academic associations, including the American Anthropological Association, the American Sociological Association, the Middle East Studies Association, the Modern Language Association and the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, issued a joint statement last week noting “with profound concern the apparent moves to dismantle much of the structure of Turkish higher education through purges, restrictions and assertions of central control, a process begun earlier this year and accelerating now with alarming speed.”

“As scholarly associations, we are committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression,” the statement continues. “The recent moves in Turkey herald a massive and virtually unprecedented assault on those principles. One of the Middle East region’s leading systems of higher education is under severe threat as a result, as are the careers and livelihoods of many of its faculty members and academic administrators.”

The American Political Science Association also sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressing “our deepest concern and continued alarm regarding reports of purges, punitive measures and other steps taken in a wholesale manner against political scientists and other scholars in Turkey.”

“Like many, we are extremely concerned that the scale and speed of these responses represents a lack of due process and lack of specific evidence of involvement with the coup by the individuals who have been targeted. These steps suggest a broad campaign against intellectuals and intellectual expression, in violation of Turkey’s international and domestic legal obligations to protect institutional autonomy and academic freedom, including under Turkey’s constitution,” association leaders wrote.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Access Group, a nonprofit organization composed of nearly 200 law schools, has released a new student loan calculator for law school. The free tool is aimed at helping students determine the cost of law school and the federal student loan repayment options they may qualify for after graduation.

“You can go ahead and find out which school might be best for you and which repayment plan might be best for you,” said Cynthia Cassity, Access Group's vice president of marketing and strategic engagement. “It’s important with the amount of debt out there.”

The tool contains data on the cost of certain law schools and the living expenses of certain cities, said Libby Rosenberg, director of marketing for Access Group. “In a previous version of the calculator, a lot of that information was not necessarily at people’s fingertips,” she said. “So we decided that we could gather that information and prepopulate that data for the user.”

Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit that seeks to make entry to the legal profession more fair and affordable, said he believes the tool is appealing but potentially misleading. “It’s underestimating debt,” he said. “It’s showing the ease of repayment based on just a single year. But tuition continues to increase. So does the cost of living.”

Colleges have been required to display net price calculators -- which prospective students can use to estimate how much they will pay after federal or institutional grants -- as part of the Higher Education Act reauthorization in 2008. But law schools have not been subjected to this mandate, although law school debt can be more severe.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

An ex-professor of anatomy at New York Institute of Technology who was accused of videotaping students in a campus bathroom with a hidden camera was found dead in his apartment late last week in an apparent suicide, the New York Daily News reported. Jackie Conrad, the professor, had been arrested a week earlier on unlawful surveillance charges, after a woman using the bathroom saw a pen with a blinking light sticking out from a ceiling tile and reported it to authorities. Conrad admitted to placing the camera, according to a criminal complaint. The university said that Conrad was no longer an employee after his arrest.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

General Assembly, the largest coding and skills boot-camp provider, has laid off 50 employees, which is roughly 7 percent of the New York City-based company's work force, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. Jake Schwartz, the company's CEO and cofounder, told the newspaper that the layoffs were to make sure “we are completely self-sustainable and ready to control our own destiny for as long as it takes.”

Access to venture capital recently has tightened for many start-ups, the WSJ reported. General Assembly reportedly brought in $70 million in revenue last year. The company plans to make an announcement soon about new strategic investments, Schwartz said, while it seeks to continue growing a relatively new corporate training program.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

A faculty report about the climate at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley describes a pervasive “culture of fear” exacerbated by poor campus communication, according to The Monitor. The 23-page report, produced by the campus Faculty Senate, outlines the enduring difficulties of merging Texas’s former Pan-American and Brownsville campuses, including a “number of major issues that interfered with the ability of faculty and staff to perform their responsibilities efficiently.” Rio Grande Valley enrolled its first students in fall 2015.

Among concerns raised are a lack of administrative communication with faculty, staff and students, compensation, and impeded efficiency. “I’m not aware of any culture of fear,” President Guy Bailey told The Monitor, attributing faculty worries to the ongoing transition from two institutions to one.

“The first semester was fraught with significant glitches such as payroll errors, flawed advising processes and commencement exercises that were lacking in both pomp and circumstance,” reads the report, which also alleges that department chairs have in some cases suppressed discussion of potentially contentious subjects. “The second semester was smoother on the surface; however, major issues continued to permeate the campuses, which need to be addressed if [Rio Grande Valley] is to flourish and succeed.”

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Bentley University’s adjunct faculty union reached a tentative contract agreement with the institution just three days before a planned protest over stalled negotiations. The four-year deal includes increases in per-class pay, more consistency in teaching assignments from semester to semester, a professional development fund and assurances of academic freedom. The contract describes an additional process for reporting workplace conflicts and violations.

“We are pleased to have this settled so we can all move forward,” the university said in a statement. Bentley adjuncts are affiliated with Service Employees International Union and had been planning a protest for Monday to coincide with the 40th anniversary celebration of the university's Center for Business Ethics. Campus adjuncts voted to form a union in early 2015 and said negotiations were taking too long.

“Negotiations like these are never easy, but both faculty and the administration remained committed to the process,” said Summar Sparks, a bargaining team leader and adjunct professor in expository writing, said in a separate statement. “After Friday’s marathon mediation session, I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement that we can bring back to our colleagues for a vote.”

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Students may no longer apply to the Master’s International program with ties to the Peace Corps on any campus, The Keene Sentinel reported. The corps reportedly has outgrown its goals for the program and will be retiring it. Master’s International was created to pair graduate students “holding advanced sector-specific training and skills with relevant Peace Corps volunteer opportunities,” Emily Webb, corps spokesperson, told the Sentinel. Now, however, she said, the corps is attracting “remarkable numbers of highly qualified [applicants] and has created in-country trainings for volunteers that are far more robust and focused than they were in 1987,” when Master’s International began.

The corps has partnered with more than 90 U.S. academic institutions as part of the program, allowing students to pair their master’s degrees with relevant service. The program’s end won’t affect currently enrolled students or those who enroll by September.

Monday, July 25, 2016 - 4:02am

Today on the Academic Minute, Jonathan Wynn, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, discusses how more performances and less concrete can lead to fewer problems for cities. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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