Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 30, 2016

Jay Hershenson, senior vice chancellor of the City University of New York, will be leaving the system offices at the end of the year to return to Queens College, a CUNY division that is his alma mater. There he will become vice president for communications and marketing and senior adviser to the president. He is leaving at a time when Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for major changes in the CUNY system.

Hershenson has been a vice chancellor of the CUNY system for the last 32 years, serving under eight different CUNY chancellors. During that time, he has won numerous awards, many of them for his efforts on behalf of minority and disadvantaged students. Many of his counterparts nationally have said that it is unheard-of for someone to remain so long in such a highly visible senior position at a university system that faces its share of controversies and political challenges. In 2009, he received a joint award for his service to CUNY and state government relations from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the American Association for State Colleges and Universities, and the American Association of Community Colleges. A tribute video released by CUNY at the time is below.

November 30, 2016

Richard B. Spencer, a leader of the white nationalist group the National Policy Institute, is headed to Texas A&M University to start what he promises will be a series of speaking events on campuses. Many at Texas A&M are unhappy about the visit, and some are planning protests.

On Tuesday, the university's president, Michael K. Young, announced plans for an event that will compete with Spencer's Dec. 6 appearance. In a statement, Young didn't name Spencer but said that his views "are abhorrent and profoundly antithetical to everything I believe." Young also reiterated that, as a public university, Texas A&M could not turn Spencer away. "Freedom of speech is a First Amendment right and a core value of this university, no matter how odious the views may be," he said.

While Young applauded those planning to protest, he said he would be attending an event now planned for the football stadium the night Spencer is in town. The event, to be called Aggies United, will feature speakers and entertainment. Young closed his statement by saying, "Take heart in our university. Along with all of you, our commitment to core values is unwavering and we are strong!"

November 30, 2016

DeRionne Pollard, president of Maryland's Montgomery College, since 2013 spent roughly $130,000 in college funds on travel, meals and entertainment, according to a report by a local NBC affiliate. The two-year college, which is located in suburban Washington, also spent $70,000 on private security for Pollard, including an armed driver.

The news report quoted several students at the college who were critical of the spending by Pollard, who receives $281,000 in annual salary. But the college's governing board defending her in a written statement, saying Pollard's travel improved the college's visibility and helped "foster strategic opportunities and partnerships that yield grants, scholarships, employee training agreements and more."

Earlier this month the board's chair, Marsha Suggs Smith, published an opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed where she discussed the decision to hire a security detail for Pollard, saying she had been the subject of explicit threats.

November 30, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Russell Zwanka, professor of marketing at SUNY New Paltz, discusses how social media can cause problems when one practice is accepted in one place but not in another. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 29, 2016

Several university presses are offering postelection reading lists for those trying to make sense of the election results and the divisiveness present in much of the country. Here are the lists offered by the University of California Press, as well as by Oxford, Princeton and Yale University Presses.

November 29, 2016

The executive committee of Heterodox Academy, a group of scholars dedicated to viewpoint diversity, is taking a stand against Professor Watchlist. The watch list, which seeks to “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom,” could chill free speech, the committee said in a statement. The list poses problems similar to those posed by campus bias response teams, which investigate various report of bias, and which have been heavily criticized by those on the political right and free speech purists.

“Whether the reporting is done to a campus authority, setting in motion weeks of time-draining bureaucratic procedure that is often far removed from common sense, or whether the reporting is done to the internet at large, triggering public shaming campaigns and a cascade of threatening tweets and emails, such reporting systems encourage everyone to walk on eggshells,” the committee said. “This kind of fearful climate deprives everyone of the vigorous debate and disagreement that is essential for learning and scholarship.”

Rather than seeking to discourage certain voices on campus, it said, “we think the better approach is to encourage a variety of voices -- heterodox voices -- so that bad arguments can be answered with good ones and scholarly ideas can be tested by the strongest minds on both sides.” This is the committee’s first public statement. Heterodox Academy is a group of scholars who advocate for a more intellectually diverse professoriate and who reject various orthodoxies that “forestall scholarly inquiry.”

PEN America, which works to advance literature and free expression, on Monday also criticized Professor Watchlist.

"While no credible university administrator will take seriously a website so clearly intended to bait and sow divisions on college campuses," Suzanne Nossel, the group's executive director, said in a statement, "PEN America condemns the so-called Professor Watchlist. While claiming to stand up against bias, this list is a noxious purveyor of precisely what it claims to deride: the intimidation and ostracization of those who express controversial views on campus."

November 29, 2016

Earlier this month, the University of California, San Diego, laid off its entire theater production staff: 21 employees employed by the Department of Theatre and Dance.

The move comes as UCSD implements a new staffing plan for January 2017, meant to more efficiently divide the workload as the number of performances at the La Jolla Playhouse grows. Theater production employees are currently employed by UCSD but are paid by both the university and the Playhouse. Come January, the two organizations will hire separate staffs -- the two organizations are hiring for 21 new positions in total. Laid-off employees have been encouraged to apply for the new jobs.

The new staff will be employed on a nine-month calendar rather than the twelve-month calendar followed now. Staff will have the option for summertime work. Salaries will also be cut between 25 and 45 percent, and pensions and retirement benefits will be reduced, according to a letter written by laid-off employees, although this hasn't been confirmed by the university. The letter also said that some of these employees have worked for the department for 10 to 20 years.

The employees were given 60 days' notice before the layoffs were effective, and employees will receive one week of severance pay for each year of employment as well as preferential rehire status. Nearly 1,440 people have joined a Facebook group in protest of the university's decision.

November 29, 2016

Liberty University has hired Ian McCaw -- the former Baylor University athletics director who resigned amid widespread claims that his athletic department mishandled reports of sexual assaults committed by football players -- to serve as its new athletics director, the university announced Monday. The university said it hired McCaw with the goal of one day transforming its football team into a top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision program.

“Ian’s success really speaks for itself,” Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty's president, said in a statement. “You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure -- it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going. This is an exciting time for us.”

McCaw resigned as athletics director at Baylor in May. His resignation came days after Baylor's Board of Regents fired the university's head football coach and forced out its president following allegations that the world’s largest Baptist university mishandled -- and sought to suppress public discourse about -- reports of sexual assaults committed by its football players and other students. Baylor officials said earlier this month that, in total, 17 women reported 19 sexual or physical assaults involving football players since 2011, and that four of the reports involved gang rapes. Baylor said McCaw was told about at least one of those gang rapes, which involved five football players, but he did not report the allegations to the university's judicial affairs office or anyone else outside the athletic department, as required by federal law.

Last week, Baylor reached an undisclosed settlement with two women who reported being gang raped by football players in 2012. 

"Liberty to me represents a pinnacle of professional and personal opportunity where we’re going to be able to develop champions for Christ, develop a world-class student-athlete experience and achieve victory with integrity," McCaw, echoing comments made by Baylor officials before the sexual assault scandal there came to light, said in a statement."We certainly want Christian student athletes to grow up dreaming of competing for Liberty University.”

When asked why Liberty would hire McCaw after what took place under his watch at Baylor, the university said in an email to Inside Higher Ed that McCaw "is a godly man of excellent character." Regarding Title IX and campus sexual assault, the university added, "We can’t think of an athletic director in the country who is more sensitized to the importance of complying with the intricacies of Title IX than" McCaw.

"There will be time, no doubt, for Ian and his attorneys to address questions about what happened at Baylor, but we don’t intend to litigate those facts with the press," the university said. "If he made any mistakes at Baylor, they appear to be technical and unintentional, out of line with an otherwise distinguished record. We are completely satisfied that Ian McCaw is a good man and a great athletic director."

November 29, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Abraham Palmer, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, examines if a tendency for loneliness can be found in your genes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 28, 2016

Help select the top university press book of 2016 that would make a good holiday gift for someone in academe!

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to launch the second annual contest where readers decide the top books of 2016 that would make ideal holiday gifts. If you are looking for your next great read or trying to find the perfect gift, be sure to check out the contest hashtag, #IHEreaderschoice, to see and vote on entries.

Whether you are a book lover, an author or part of a press, anyone in higher education, or someone who wants to gift a great book, this is your chance to see the best from university presses.

Nominating a Book

Anyone may nominate -- on Twitter or Facebook -- a book that was published by a university press in 2016. Entries should include the #IHEreaderschoice hashtag and one or more of the following: book title, image of the book cover or link to the book’s page on the press website or another site. You can nominate more than one book, and in the event that a book is nominated multiple times, we will tabulate the total number of votes a book receives. The nomination period is Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.

Voting for a Book

To vote for a particular book, simply like or retweet the tweet or the Facebook post containing the nomination. You can vote for as many books as you like. The voting period is Dec. 5-9. On Dec. 12, we will tabulate the number of votes each book received and announce the top five titles. The book with the most votes will be the official winner.


Anyone who voted for the winning book will be entered into a random drawing, and five lucky voters will receive a copy of the book.

The publisher of the winning book will enjoy special Inside Higher Ed 2016 Readers’ Choice Winner recognition in an advertising campaign as well as the opportunity to appear in the Daily News Update just in time for holiday gifting. The winning book will also be displayed at the Inside Higher Ed booth at the Modern Language Association conference Jan. 5-8, 2017.

Last year, more than 300 books were nominated, and the winner was The Poems of T. S. Eliot, edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue (Johns Hopkins University Press).

Runners-up (in order): The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation, by Darrel Wanzer-Serrano (Temple University Press); In the Name of Editorial Freedom: 125 Years at the Michigan Daily, edited by Stephanie Steinberg (University of Michigan Press); Letters to Santa Claus, by the Elves (Indiana University Press); How to Write a Thesis, by Umberto Eco (MIT Press).

Questions? Feel free to reach out to Scott Jaschik.

Good luck!


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