Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 9, 2018

The University of Maryland at College Park has fired two athletic trainers who were largely blamed for the June death of football player Jordan McNair.

Steve Nordwall, assistant athletic director of athletic training, and Wes Robinson, the head trainer for the football program, were placed on leave in August following McNair’s death and explosive reports of abusive culture in the flagship institution’s football program.

A pair of investigations, taken over by the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, largely confirmed the abuse and that athletics staffers had failed to treat McNair properly after he collapsed from heatstroke in May.

The revelations launched a public drama between the regents and the College Park administration. President Wallace D. Loh announced his retirement for June next year after it was reported the regents wanted to keep head football coach DJ Durkin and Loh disagreed. The regents reportedly threatened to fire Loh instead. But one day after announcing Durkin would remain at the university, Loh defied the regents and fired him.

Regent chairman James T. Brady also stepped down. The system announced his replacement on Wednesday, current regent Linda R. Gooden, who conceded in a statement that the board’s personnel recommendations were wrong and apologized to the McNair family and the College Park campus.

“In its quest to keep an open mind about the facts presented in the two recent reports on the tragic death of Jordan McNair and the University of Maryland, College Park football program, and subsequent interviews with those involved, the board -- in the minds of many -- lost sight of its responsibility to the university system,” Gooden said in her statement.

Nordwall and Robinson’s firings mean at least four officials have lost their jobs over the scandal, including Durkin and Rick Court, a strength and conditioning coach who negotiated a settlement with the university in August. Court, the regents’ investigation found, routinely used inappropriate language and homophobic slurs and on occasion threw weights, food and, once, a trash can full of vomit at athletes.

The regents’ investigation found that Nordwall did not report McNair’s symptoms to his supervisor until more than an hour after they first began. Robinson, meanwhile, pushed McNair during the practice in May, yelling to McNair’s teammates to “get him the fuck up” while he struggled and then “drag his ass off the field,” football players told investigators.

November 9, 2018

Tokyo Medical University has offered spots to 101 women who were discriminated against when they applied, The Washington Post reported. The women were rejected during a period in which the university lowered the scores of women on entrance exams to assure that a majority of new students each year would be men. The university has now disavowed that policy.

November 9, 2018

Complete College America announced Thursday that Yolanda Watson Spiva will be the nonprofit organization's new president.

Watson Spiva is a former educator and held management roles at the U.S. Department of Education. She most recently served as president and chief executive officer of College Success Foundation, a national nonprofit that provides support and scholarships to low-income students.

“Yolanda’s extensive leadership experience and her breadth of knowledge around postsecondary education, from readiness to access to success, give her a unique perspective on the work and mission of Complete College America,” Jim Geringer, chairman of the CCA Board of Directors and former governor of Wyoming, said in a news release. “Under her leadership, CCA and our Alliance teams will strengthen partnerships and broaden our positive impact on the field of higher education, while continuing to push toward greater innovation and more equitable outcomes for students.”

November 9, 2018

Harvard University on Thursday announced a $200 million gift from the Blavatnik Family Foundation. The funds will support research at the medical school.

Keep up with big gifts, campaigns and more with Inside Higher Ed's fund-raising databases.

November 9, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Carleton College Week, Julia Strand, assistant professor of psychology, explains how seeing a talking face gives us clues even if we can’t fully hear what is being said. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 8, 2018

At least 12 people were shot and killed at a bar in Ventura County in Southern California Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Times reported. The bar was holding its weekly college night and was "packed with college students" as young as 18 at the time. Many others were injured, and the gunman has been killed. Witnesses told the Times that the gunman arrived, dressed in all black, threw one or more smoke bombs and started shooting. Identities of the victims are not yet available.

Pepperdine University, which is among the colleges near the bar, posted to Twitter that the university "has determined that multiple Pepperdine students were on site at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks. At this time, the university is working to identify and provide support to those students."

California Lutheran University, another nearby institution, also published a statement, in which it said it would cancel classes: "The Cal Lutheran community is grieving over what happened last night. We know some of our students were there. We are waiting for more information from law enforcement. We have canceled classes, but the campus is open and all offices will be open. Our chapel is open for anyone who wants to gather. Counseling, pastoral and Student Affairs staff are all available. We have brought in additional resources to support our community."

November 8, 2018

Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law, one of the United States' top-tier law schools, recently announced a wave of faculty cuts in light of a budget shortfall.

Rachel Bertsche, director of strategic communications for the law school, declined to say exactly how many faculty will be cut or how much the shortfall is, but she noted that “employees impacted have been informed their contracts will end at the end of the academic year.” Tenured faculty positions will not be affected.

Law schools across the country have faced enrollment declines and budget constraints since the 2008 recession, and the upcoming cuts at Pritzker indicate that the elite law schools are not immune to such issues.

“As stated in the July 19 letter from Northwestern University senior leadership, the university is seeking efficiencies to address a budgetary shortfall and has called on academic and administrative units to help. Each unit at the university will be approaching the process differently, tailoring approaches to their local realities while trying to be flexible and dynamic in how they respond," Bertsche wrote in an email. "The university is seeking to minimize the impact on essential services and core academic and research activities."

November 8, 2018

The University of California, Los Angeles, asked a student Palestinian-rights group to remove UCLA's name and references to the university's Bruin Bear mascot from its promotional materials. The students are pushing back.

A logo for Students for Justice in Palestine's upcoming conference depicts a bear with a Palestinian kite, which, the university claimed in its cease-and-desist letter, "some may interpret as an intention to endorse violence." The university also requested that the group remove any mention of UCLA except to state where the conference will be held.

"Taken as a whole, these uses claim, suggest, or imply an affiliation with or an endorsement by UCLA of [National Students for Justice in Palestine] and/or its annual conference which is simply incorrect," the letter read.

The students, in conjunction with the ACLU of Southern California and Palestine Legal, issued a statement in response.

“We condemn attempts by UCLA administration to taint imagery that is grounded in freedom and liberation. Moreover, we reject UCLA’s attempt to infringe on our right to associate a bear (which is not trademarked) and a kite -- a children's toy -- with justice for the Palestinian people,” the statement read in part. “The stated demands are ridiculous, and we will continue to use both design elements.”

The ACLU of Southern California and Palestine Legal sent an additional letter to university officials and requested a response from them by Nov. 9 that confirms they will not take legal action against the students.

Tod Tamberg, a university spokesman, said that the students had complied with the university's request to remove "UCLA" from the conference logo.

"Some members of the Jewish community have been sharply critical of upcoming conference, demanding that UCLA move to cancel it. As a public university, UCLA is legally bound to comply with the First Amendment, which protects everyone’s right to express their views, even those that are offensive and hateful or that the university opposes," Tamberg wrote in an email. "Use of campus facilities by a registered student organization to host an event neither constitutes nor implies UCLA’s endorsement of the event, the speakers or the views expressed."

November 8, 2018

Nyack College has announced that it plans to close its campus in Rockland County (outside New York City) and consolidate all programs at the college's Manhattan campus. Currently, Nyack enrolls more undergraduates in Rockland than in Manhattan. Officials said that they can better advance academic programs on a single campus in Manhattan.

November 8, 2018

In a notable departure from its traditional sales model, publisher Cengage announced an all-you-can-read subscription model earlier this year -- setting one price for access to all of its ebooks and course materials.

Speaking to investors on Wednesday, Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, said that initial sales of the Cengage Unlimited subscription were “in line with expectations.” Hansen reported that more than 500,000 students had purchased an Unlimited subscription this semester, with most students opting for the shortest subscription duration of four months, which costs $119.99.

Cengage made $77.1 million in gross sales from Unlimited subscriptions this quarter, Hansen said. The publisher invested $18 million in the launch of Unlimited, which included building new technology, bolstering the sales team and marketing the product to students and faculty.

“We knew we were taking a calculated risk as the first mover,” said Hansen. But the all-access subscriptions are already “resonating with faculty and students,” he said.

Though pleased with initial sales, Hansen said Cengage “still has a lot of work” to do to educate institutions about the subscription model.

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