Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Washington's rollout of a statewide software system for its 34 community colleges is millions of dollars over budget and swarming with bugs, The News Tribune reported. Community colleges in Spokane and Tacoma, Wash., are so far the only campuses in the system that have made the switch to the new system, known as ctcLink, but some students there have run into issues such as not being able to register for classes, receiving incorrect financial aid amounts or -- in the case of faculty members -- not receiving a paycheck. Students and faculty members have also expressed concern their personal information is not being stored securely.

Community college system leaders are now saying it could take $10 million to fix the issues, and students may be the ones who have to foot the bill. The timeline to squash the bugs and launch the software across the system appears unclear. PeopleSoft, which is owned by Oracle, won the contract to build ctcLink. The community college system has also worked with the IT consulting firm Ciber on training and installation.

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

A new hashtag many readers might enjoy (its title may sound sad, but many of the entries appear to be intended for a chuckle) is #4wordacademicsadstory:

Some of our favorite entries:

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

President Obama is looking to create new tax benefits for employers who hire the graduates of certain community college programs as an effort to boost collaboration between businesses and higher education.

The proposal, which the White House announced on Friday, will be part of Obama’s budget request to Congress this week. Under the plan, an employer that partners with a community college would be eligible for a one-time $5,000 tax credit for hiring a graduate of the college full time. The employer would be expected to help design curriculum, donate instructors and equipment, and create job-based learning opportunities.

It would be up to states to designate which partnerships between employers and colleges qualify for the tax benefits, which would total $500 million each year for the next five years, according to the White House plan. The goal of the new tax incentives, the administration said, is “to encourage employers to play a more active role in funding and directing educational options at community and technical colleges.”

The proposal builds off legislation introduced last fall by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Representative Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, both Democrats.

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Keuka College announced Friday that it will drop the use of "Wolfpack" as its new team name, following a legal threat by North Carolina State University to challenge the use of the name. NC State also uses "Wolfpack," and has for a long time, but Keuka is criticizing the university for making a big deal about both institutions using the name. Keuka notes that the institutions are quite different (liberal arts college vs. research university, New York State vs. North Carolina, Division III vs. Division I athletics).

“No one could reasonably confuse Keuka College with NC State given the significant differences in our schools -- from our size to our division to our colors,” said a statement from Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, president of Keuka College. “While NC State may be willing to spend their monetary resources on legal challenges at a time when the very value of higher education is being called into question, Keuka College is not.”

Going forward, Keuka's teams will be called "Wolves," and the logo (above right) will not change. NC State's Wolfpack image is at left.

Fred Harman, a spokesman for North Carolina State, said via email, "NC State is the only university that uses the unique mark Wolfpack for its collegiate athletic teams. Like many universities, NC State works to preserve the value of its trademarks, avoid consumer misinformation and protect trademarks from possible infringement."

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Are many academic job ads discriminatory to people with disabilities? That’s what David Perry, a professor of history at Dominican University, alleges in a new op-ed in Al Jazeera called “Disabled People Need Not Apply.” Perry argues that academe, despite its focus on inclusion, is a regular offender when it comes to job ads that exclude large groups of people. “I found around 60 current advertisements, including faculty, staff and administrative positions, at diverse types of universities,” Perry wrote of the analysis on which his piece was based. “At many institutions, every job posting receives one of these clauses, despite many positions being perfectly suited to individuals with all types of bodies, senses and minds.”

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, for example, regularly inserts the following clause into job ads (including one for a professor of French), Perry wrote: “Sedentary Work -- Exerting 10 pounds: Occasionally, Kneeling: Occasionally, Climbing (Stairs, Ladders, etc.): Occasionally, Lifting 10-25 lbs.: Occasionally, Carrying 5-10 lbs.: Occasionally, Pushing/pulling 5-10 lbs.: Occasionally, Sitting for long periods of time: Occasionally, Standing for long periods of time: Occasionally, Speaking; Essential, Hearing: Essential, Vision: Ability to distinguish similar colors, depth perception, close vision: Essential, Walking -- Short Distances: Frequently.”

Even the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Tarrant County College District, an office that includes oversight over disability issues, must be able to meet “physical demands” such as the need to “sit; use hands to finger, handle or feel objects, tools or controls; reach with hands and arms; and talk or hear,” Perry wrote. “What’s more, the employee is ‘occasionally required to stand; walk; climb or balance; stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl; and taste or smell,’ as well as ‘frequently lift and/or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.’ And ‘Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception and the ability to adjust focus.’”

Sam Crane, director of public policy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and a disability rights lawyer, told Perry that some of the ads were likely illegal, and that an employer cannot simply list categories that exclude wide swaths of disabled Americans without a very strong reason.

Perry said he was hoping to start a conversation about hiring best practices. “Unintentional discrimination is still discrimination,” he wrote. “Boilerplate clauses keep disabled people from even applying for jobs. ‘Requirement creep,’ likely put in place by [human resources] professionals eager to avoid trouble, exacerbates discrimination and could, if someone had the time and money, lead to legal trouble.” Without deliberate change, he wrote, “unemployment will continue to be the biggest problem facing Americans with disabilities. It’s time for employers to take a hard look at their hiring practices.”

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Delilah White, a visiting assistant professor of mass communications at Emory & Henry College, in Virginia, quit her job last week amid fallout from a campus protest, WCYB News reported. Minority students held a rally at the college last week. White supported the protest, and in a statement quoted by the news outlet, she said fallout from that support made it impossible for her to continue at the college. "After the demonstration on Wednesday, further isolation from colleagues and students ensued from the idea that I was behind the deeds not words movement, bringing me to a breaking point. I cannot function mentally nor physically in a manner that holistically benefits all of our students when I am immersed in an atmosphere of intimidation and prejudice from the majority of students and now, from a host of my colleagues," said the statement.

White could not be reached by Inside Higher Ed.

Via email, Dirk Moore, a spokesman for the college, said, "We did have a professor meet Friday with our president and vice president for academic affairs, asking to be released from her one-year contract. Although, according to a news report, she issued a statement about her reasons for wanting to be released from her contract, I'm not aware of what reasons she may have presented to the president and vice president during their meeting. I only know that they did not ask her to resign and that they accepted her request with sadness and regret."

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Dortmund Technical University, in Germany, has closed its prayer room after disputes over the actions of Muslim students in the room, the Associated Press reported. Some Muslim students required Muslim women in the room to wear veils and to be seated separately from men during services. Such practices violate university rules on gender equity.

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

The Association of Community College Trustees released two white papers today. One examines how leaders from the two-year sector can partner with local school districts to close the gap in college readiness. The other paper tracks how Latino students are faring at community colleges.

The association, along with the American Association of Community Colleges and Higher Education for Higher Standards, is urging community college leaders to partner with K-12 for more high school interventions, to identify college-readiness measures, to revise institutional placement practices, to provide reformed remediation opportunities for first-year students and to work with policy makers to push these practices statewide.

"One of the great strengths of the American education system -- as with the United States as a whole -- is its great diversity," said Noah Brown, president and chief executive officer of ACCT, in a news release. "At the same time, we have a responsibility to unify our public high school and community college systems to give students their best chances of success."

By eliminating the disconnect between K-12 and higher education, the organization believes the number of recent high school graduates who need at least one developmental course will decrease, while completion rates will improve. Currently, about 58 percent of recent high school graduates in community colleges took at least one developmental course.

The paper highlights colleges across the country that are already doing this, including Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee, Washington [State] Community and Technical College System and Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania.

The second white paper outlined challenges many Latino students face while attending community colleges. More than half are the first in their families to attend college, 41 percent receive Pell Grants and 62 percent work while enrolled full time. Latino students often enter college less prepared than their non-Hispanic white peers, and this gap has not changed in recent years.

As a result, more than half of Latino students who first begin at a community college drop out without earning a credential.

The paper describes five promising student success programs at colleges that enroll large numbers of Latino students, including ones at the City University of New York and at Lee College, which is located in Texas.

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Tierney Lorenz, a visiting research scientist at Indiana University, discusses her research into sex and the immune system. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 4:31pm

Suffolk University announced Friday afternoon that President Margaret McKenna will stay in office for now, but will leave no later than the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year. Board leaders have been pushing for her to leave, but students, faculty and alumni have rallied to keep her and pushed for the board chair to quit. The university also announced that Andrew Meyer, the board chair, will finish his current term in May and not seek re-election.

Further, the university announced that "the board has agreed to adopt new bylaws that reflect best practices in higher education by May 2016." While it is unclear how the bylaws will change, many have said that board members have attempted to micromanage and have not understood the proper dividing line between areas of board oversight and administrator oversight. Supporters of McKenna, who is Suffolk's fifth president in five years, say that she is the first president in a long time to seek out and listen to the views of students and faculty members.

While the board met to discuss the issue, students who support McKenna marched and stood outside as snow fell in Boston, posting photographs of their protest, such as the one above right, to social media.

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