Higher Education Quick Takes
Adding to the list of recent, high-profile sex assault allegations in the sciences, a new article in Science details a controversial case in anthropology. Brian Richmond, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, allegedly assaulted an unnamed museum research assistant at a conference in Italy in 2014, and the case went public at last year’s meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in St. Louis. The account triggered additional allegations of misconduct, and Richmond is now working off-site as the museum investigates the accusations against him. Richmond denied the assistant's allegations to Science, calling the encounter consensual.
The assistant says that after a night of drinking, she woke up in Richmond’s hotel room with him on top of her, kissing her and groping under her skirt. She says she could not have possibly given consent; he says he stopped as soon as she asked him to. The first of several museum investigations found that Richmond had violated a policy against relationships between supervisors and subordinates. The museum says it gave Richmond a “zero tolerance” warning, but he says he’s been asked to resign.
One of Richmond’s former mentors at George Washington University also launched an informal investigation into his colleague’s past, which yielded additional allegations of unwanted sexual advances from other women. As a result, Richmond resigned from the Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya, which is affiliated with George Washington. (The colleague, Bernard Wood, a professor of human origins at George Washington, says Richmond was told he was no longer welcome at Koobi Fora.) Richmond told Science that while other relationships in question have been consensual, “I regret that I was not sensitive to how my academic position could impact the dynamics of consensual relationships.”
In December, the Natural History Museum sent a memo to all staff saying that it had asked an outside firm to review its sexual harassment policies and roll out training. Science’s story recalls a widely cited 2014 survey of anthropologists suggesting widespread sexual misconduct at field sites, as well as a number of sexual misconduct cases in fields including astronomy.
Suffolk University has ended a controversial, long-term marketing contract with Regan Communications, whose chairman has ties to many trustees, The Boston Globe reported. Many on campus have viewed the contract as a conflict of interest because of reported trustee pressure to keep the contract and not consider other alternatives, as President Margaret McKenna has sought. The head of the company was involved with efforts to remove McKenna, who held on to her job last week, but who will leave prior to the start of the 2017-18 academic year.
George Regan, who runs Regan Communications, blasted McKenna in comments to the Globe. “President McKenna has chosen to blame me for her contentious relationship with the board, rather than acknowledging her own indefensible actions as the true reason for the board’s deep and valid concerns for her ability to lead the university,” he said. But many on campus are praising her for ending the relationship with the company.
Course material provider Flat World Education is replacing its CEO effective immediately, saying the company "needs leadership deeply rooted in higher education and end-market distribution." In an email to shareholders on Tuesday, the company said it had accepted CEO Christopher Etesse's resignation and appointed Jade Roth, senior vice president of strategy and content, to the position. The company said the leadership change will help it "capitalize on the huge market opportunities for [competency-based education] and beyond." Roth came to Flat World Education from Barnes & Noble's college bookstore division as recently as November.
Baylor University is facing new criticism -- much of it from its own students and alumni -- over a statement by President Ken Starr expressing concern for victims of sexual violence, The Dallas Morning News reported. Many noted that the president released the statement on Super Bowl Sunday, a time when many wouldn't notice. Many say Baylor continues to avoid tough issues related to sexual assault, especially when allegations involve a star athlete. Many are speaking out using the Twitter hashtag #baylorscandal. Others held a vigil on campus Monday night (see photo at right).
Eastern Illinois University on Monday announced the layoffs of 198 civil service employees, the Associated Press reported. The move is the latest in efforts by public colleges and universities to deal with the failure of the state to adopt a budget and provide funds. Others who work at Eastern Illinois will face one furlough day a week. If the university starts to receive state funds by March 12, the layoffs will be rescinded.
Raymond Burse, president of Kentucky State University, warned in a letter to students, faculty members and alumni that budget cuts being proposed by Governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, could force the historically black college to close, Kentucky.com reported. The governor wants a 4.5 percent cut in the current fiscal year, followed by a 9 percent cut over the following two years. With enrollment falling, the university can't absorb such reductions, Burse said.
Black students enroll disproportionately in majors that are not the most lucrative, according to a report being released today by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. While African-Americans comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only 7 percent of STEM majors. And while they make up 10 percent of health-related majors, their largest numbers are in the lowest-earning major: health and medical administrative services. A 2011 book -- Opting Out -- found similar trends among black students at elite colleges.
A black professor at Princeton University said in several recent posts to social media that she was arrested and mistreated by police over an unpaid parking ticket.
On Twitter Sunday, Imani Perry, an African-American history professor at Princeton, described being pulled over by police in Princeton Township and arrested “for a single parking ticket three years ago.” Police handcuffed her to a table, she said, refused to let her make a call before being arrested and, despite a female officer being present, a male police officer performed a body search.
A spokesman for the police department said Perry was pulled over for speeding, after which it was discovered that her driver’s license had been suspended and there was an active warrant for her arrest due to unpaid parking tickets. "She was put under arrest pursuant to the warrant, our policy and state law," the spokesman said. The police department has opened an investigation into the incident, all of which was recorded. (A local news site collected more details here.)
In a subsequent post to Facebook, Perry elaborated on her feelings about the incident. "I did not purport to be without fault," she wrote. "Now, make no mistake, I do not believe I did anything wrong. But even if I did, my position holds. The police treated me inappropriately and disproportionately. The fact of my blackness is not incidental to this matter."
"Some critics have said that I should have expected what I received. But if it is the standard protocol in an affluent suburb to disallow a member of the community to make a call before an arrest (simply to inform someone of her arrest) and if it is the protocol to have male officers to pat down the bodies of women, and if it is the norm to handcuff someone to a table for failing to pay a parking ticket, we have a serious problem with policing in the society."
Elizabeth Garrett, the new president of Cornell University, notified the campus Monday that she is being treated for colon cancer. She said she would cut back on some duties while being treated at Cornell's medical center, and was confident that other senior members of her team would keep things moving and keep her informed. "I am optimistic that with the support of my family, friends and the Cornell community, I will be able to resume a fuller schedule soon and manage this illness," she wrote.