Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 3:00am

St. John's University, in New York, has dropped its requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores -- for at least a three-year trial period. The option will not be open to students who are homeschooled, have a first language other than English or who are applying to a small group of majors.

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Howard Eichenbaum, university professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, discusses how the brain suppresses some memories to better focus on the tasks at hand. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:07am

The American University of Afghanistan in Kabul is reportedly under attack. Reuters quoted an Afghan interior ministry official who said that several gunmen attacked the university and that there are reports of gunfire and explosions.

“They are inside the compound and there are foreign professors along with hundreds of students,” the official said.

A student told Reuters by telephone that he was trapped inside the university.

ABC News reported on Twitter that at least two people were killed and five injured in the attack. Other unconfirmed reports on social media suggest higher numbers of casualties. The ABC report said that shooting had stopped.

A photographer for the Associated Press was in a classroom at the university when the attack took place.

Massoud Hossaini, the photographer, was quoted by AP as saying he was in a classroom with 15 students when he heard an explosion. “I went to the window to see what was going on, and I saw a person in normal clothes outside. He shot at me and shattered the glass,” Hossaini said, adding that he fell on the glass and cut his hands.

He said the students then barricaded themselves in the classroom before most of them later escaped.

Two foreign professors at the university were kidnapped earlier this month. The American University of Afghanistan is heavily funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and offers English-language, Western-style education -- including coeducation -- to Afghan students.

Supporters of the university -- and some at the university -- took to social media to express their dismay about Wednesday’s attack.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:00am

The faculty at the American Film Institute Conservatory voted 35 to 8 to express no confidence in Jan Schuette, dean, and requested that he resign, the institution’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors announced Tuesday. Aggrieved faculty members say the vote follows a year of tensions over matters of shared governance, academic freedom and instruction. They allege that Schuette has canceled faculty meetings, unilaterally imposed changes to the curriculum and admissions process, and fired several instructors without due process.

The conservatory said in a statement that it “embraces change to ensure its peerless educational experience evolves with the art form,” according to Variety. “This march to the future is often driven by passionate disagreement, and we have received conflicting opinions from within the faculty and are currently ensuring that all voices are heard in this process.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:00am

In addition to its major decision in favor of graduate student unions, the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday ruled that instructors of religious studies may be excluded from part-time faculty unions at two Roman Catholic institutions. The two decisions, concerning St. Xavier University and Seattle University, respectively, reverse earlier regional board rulings that adjunct instructors in all disciplines at those institutions may form unions because they don’t perform specific religious functions. The regional board decisions were made in light of an earlier NLRB decision concerning Pacific Lutheran University, which paved the way for adjunct faculty unions at religious institutions.

William Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said Tuesday’s decisions were notable because the exclusion of some faculty members but not others from collective bargaining had never previously been argued in relation to NLRB vs. Catholic Bishops of Chicago. That 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision asserts that faculty members at religious institutions aren’t entitled to collective bargaining under the labor relations act. “Nobody’s ever articulated that before,” Herbert said of the distinction.

“We find that the university holds [adjunct faculty in the department of religious studies] out ‘as performing a specific role in creating and maintaining the school’s religious educational environment,’” reads the NLRB’s decision on St. Xavier, quoting the board’s 2014 decision in favor of adjunct unions at religious colleges concerning Pacific Lutheran. Tuesday’s decision concerning Seattle used similar language and logic, but it applies to adjuncts in the institution's Department of Theology and Religious Studies, as well as the School of Theology and Ministry.

St. Xavier adjuncts are affiliated with the National Education Association, while those at Pacific Lutheran and Seattle University are affiliated with Service Employees International Union. A spokesperson for Seattle said the university was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. A spokesperson for St. Xavier was not immediately available for comment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:28am

Eight athletes at Texas Woman's University were hospitalized this weekend and one has since been released with symptoms related to rhabdomyolysis, a serious and rare condition involving muscle tissue breakdown. The university and Texas health authorities are investigating.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 4:21am

Facing growing public outrage over its firing of an instructor for absenteeism when her absences were due to cancer treatment, China's Lanzhou Jiaotong University issued a statement that said it was “deeply sorry” and agreed to pay the instructor back wages, The New York Times reported. Anger over the case has only grown, however, because the instructor -- Liu Lingli -- died before the apology was issued.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, John Cummings, associate professor of physics at Siena College, describes neutrinos and why they are so key to our understanding of the cosmos. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 - 3:00am

An inspiring story from the University of Mississippi: colleagues Charlotte Pegues and Leslie Banahan share a special bond because Banahan donated a kidney to Pegues, whose kidneys were failing. The successful operation was performed June 9 at the university's medical center. Pegues (on the right in the photograph of the two women) is assistant provost for academic affairs and registrar. Banahan is assistant vice chancellor for student affairs. “I feel like Leslie is my sister,” said Pegues. “I want to repay her in some way, but she said this was a gift. It’s a God thing!”

Banahan said, “I wouldn’t have done this for just anyone, but Charlotte is an amazing woman, someone I wanted to help so she could live a full, long, happy life with her husband, family and friends. We have a special connection now -- sisters, really -- as we have shared this journey together.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 - 3:00am

Wells Fargo will fork over more than $3.6 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to settle claims over what the regulator called illegal student loan servicing practices, according to a release from the CFPB Monday.

In addition to the $3.6 million civil penalty, the bank will pay $410,000 in restitution to consumers. It will also be required to improve practices involving billing and processing of student loan payments.

The CFPB said Wells Fargo's student lending division violated federal consumer protection laws by processing borrower payments to collect higher fees, providing incorrect information on the value of partial payments and charging illegal late fees, among other practices.

“Wells Fargo hit borrowers with illegal fees and deprived others of critical information needed to effectively manage their student loan accounts,” said the bureau's director, Richard Cordray, in a statement. “Consumers should be able to rely on their servicer to process and credit payments correctly and to provide accurate and timely information, and we will continue our work to improve the student loan servicing market.”

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