Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Swarthmore College announced Tuesday that it is keeping its requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores, but that the writing portions on both exams will not be required. "We value writing, and it is of critical importance in being a successful college student,” said a statement from Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions. “But the essay sections of both exams have now been made optional by the testing agencies and we believe there are other ways to determine success in college. These new requirements will better serve our holistic review of new student applications.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 4:29am

Oklahoma Wesleyan University has become the second Christian college to quit the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities because two of that group's members have changed their policies to allow for the hiring of gay faculty members who are married or who are celibate. A statement from Oklahoma Wesleyan's president, Everett Piper, said: “Oklahoma Wesleyan has determined it is not in the university’s best interest to continue to affiliate with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. CCCU’s ambivalence in deciding the status of two member institutions that have advised CCCU they will permit same-sex couples to be employed as faculty members indicates to us that it is time for our university to move in a different direction. We believe in missional clarity and view the defense of the biblical definition of marriage as an issue of critical importance to Christian colleges. The CCCU’s reluctance to make a swift decision sends a message of confusion rather than conviction.”

Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College in July announced policies that would permit the hiring of some gay faculty members, and that decision has upset many other members of the CCCU. Union University, in Tennessee, last month announced it was leaving the CCCU as a result of its failure to kick out Eastern Mennonite and Goshen.

The Christian college group has said that it is consulting with all of its members about what to do. That process is scheduled to conclude on Sept. 21.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Michigan State University mishandled multiple cases of sexual assault and harassment, in violation of federal law, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said on Tuesday.

Federal investigators found that the university did not promptly investigate student complaints and its policies and procedures did not comply with the federal antidiscrimination law known as Title IX.

"Its failure to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence in a prompt and equitable manner caused and may have contributed to a continuation of a sexually hostile environment for numerous students and staff on campus during the years covered by OCR's investigation, 2009 to 2014," the department said in a statement.

The university entered into an agreement with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to resolve the findings, without admitting any violation of the law.

The agreement will require, among other things, that the university provide enhanced staff and student trainings, revise its policies and procedures, and conduct surveys to gauge attitudes about sexual assault and harassment on campus.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today "Data, Analytics and Student Learning," our latest print-on-demand compilation of articles. The booklet features articles about trends, debates and strategies of a range of institutions. This compilation is free and you may download a copy here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. Eastern about the themes of the booklet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 4:15am

China's Ministry of Education has announced that universities will be required to poll students and faculty members on possible major policy changes, Xinhua reported. The ministry is also requiring universities to hire someone responsible for communicating with reporters.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Faculty members and librarians disagree on the importance of working together, according to a survey conducted by Library Journal and Gale, the library arm of Cengage Learning. The two organizations surveyed about 1,000 faculty members and librarians, finding that the latter group valued cooperation more strongly. Virtually every librarian surveyed, or 98 percent of those respondents, said they wish for better communication with faculty, while not even half of surveyed faculty members, or 45 percent, said the same. About one-quarter of faculty members, or 27 percent, said they don't believe cooperation is necessary at all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

Whitworth University is condemning an incident in which some athletes at the institution dressed in blackface and wigs to portray themselves as the Jackson 5 for a social event. Photos were posted to social media, angering many on the campus. Larry Burnley, the university's chief diversity officer, posted a statement on Facebook that said in part: "Whitworth University is imbued by its Christ-centered mission that informs our value for diversity and our demonstrated commitment to providing students, faculty, staff and guests with an environment that is safe, welcoming and respectful of all cultures and identities …. It has been brought to the university’s attention that several students from our women’s soccer team dressed in blackface and with afro wigs in an attempt to depict the musical group the Jackson 5 at an informal event held at a local bowling alley …. The student who posted the photo has since removed it and expressed remorse for the insensitivity of the decision to dress in this manner. The administration is taking further steps to examine the developments around the students’ decision to engage in this insensitive act. It is critical that the student body and Whitworth community learn from this behavior and consider not only the real or perceived intent of such actions, but also the detrimental impact they have on members of our community, regardless of intent."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Adam Gaffey, a linguist and philosopher at South Dakota’s Black Hills State University, analyzes the language used in campaign speeches. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 4:28am

A national survey by University of Michigan researchers has found that 5.9 percent of college students used marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis in 2014. (Daily or near daily is defined as 20 or more times in the past 30 days.) This level of pot use is up from 3.5 percent in 2007. In addition, the study found that 21 percent of students reported using pot at least once in the last 30 days.

The study also found that 39 percent of students used any illicit drug (including marijuana) in the last 12 months. That figure for 2014 is down slightly from 41 percent the year before but up from 34 percent in 2006. Most of the gain from 2006 on was in the use of pot.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 3:00am

Nearly a year after announcing controversial changes to faculty and staff health care benefits, including the introduction of coinsurance and an out-of-pocket deductible, Harvard University backtracked somewhat. Provost Alan M. Garber said in an email to faculty and staff that a new plan without deductibles and coinsurance is now available to nonunionized professors and staff members. The new, alternative point-of-service plan will have a higher premium but no deductible or coinsurance for in-network care -- hopefully appealing to those seeking predictable insurance costs, Garber wrote.

Harvard also removed deductibles and coinsurance for diagnostics labs and X-rays, which some faculty members objected to last year as barriers to seeking preventive care. Addressing concerns that the health care changes would disproportionately affect those at the lower end of the employee pay scale, the university is also shifting salary tiers upward -- meaning that employees who make less than $75,000 will be part of the lowest tier, up from $70,000, and eligible for lower premiums.

“The announcement of changes to be introduced with Harvard’s 2015 health plans stimulated considerable discussion and concern within the university community,” Garber said. “We have heard the views of many members of our community in open forums, online, and in a number of other informal meetings with individuals and groups. We deeply value the thoughtful comments and suggestions that we received.” Still, Garber said that health insurance premium rates for everyone will increase year over year, due to the rising cost of care. 


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