Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 12, 2017

Wheelock College will merge into Boston University in June under an agreement announced Wednesday, bringing together the two institutions with campuses separated by about a mile.

All of Wheelock's assets and liabilities will be transferred to BU June 1, 2018, provided regulators approve. The agreement comes several weeks after the two institutions announced in August that they had started merger talks. Wheelock, by far the smaller of the two institutions, was seeking a merger partner as it faced enrollment and financial challenges.

A new school of education, the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, will be created by the merger as BU's School of Education is combined with Wheelock's School of Education, Child Life and Family Studies. Income from Wheelock's endowment will go toward the new college.

Current Wheelock students in good standing will be able to finish their academic programs at BU. They will become students in existing BU programs, continue to study in Wheelock programs being incorporated into BU or enroll in transitional programs in which they will finish their Wheelock courses of study. Tuition for current Wheelock students will remain at Wheelock levels but will be subject to the same annual percentage increases applied to BU students. Financial aid packages guaranteed by Wheelock will not be changed. All students seeking admission after the merger's completion will be subject to BU admissions requirements and tuition.

The two institutions have agreed on a process for transferring tenured Wheelock faculty members to positions at BU. Nontenured Wheelock faculty will be considered individually for positions at BU based on program need, and Wheelock staff will be considered for positions at BU. As soon as the merger is completed, Wheelock's campus will be used for BU academic programs.

David Chard, the president of Wheelock, will become interim dean of the new Wheelock College of Education and Human Development starting June 1. He will be appointed to that position for at least two years.

“I believe this merger is our strongest option for preserving the mission of Wheelock College and the legacy of Lucy Wheelock long into the future, and I am pleased that we have reached this milestone,” Chard said in a statement. “[BU] President [Robert] Brown and I have discussed our intent to support Wheelock students and alumni during this transition and welcome them as part of the Boston University community.”

October 12, 2017

Twitter isn’t always friendly to academics; professors have been bashed and threatened via the medium (and sometimes professors do the bashing). But for Doug Schneider, a professor of accounting at East Carolina University, Twitter turned out to be a place for praise. Last week, a student emailed Schneider, asking for help on some course material during a late-night study session at the library, according to ABC-11. Instead of simply replying, Schneider headed to the library to help the student out. A student in the study group was so moved by the visit that she took a photo and shared it on social media with the caption “Sometimes ya just gotta appreciate professors who do everything possible to help you succeed.”

Photo of Doug Schneider, with a student, time stamped 11:10 p.m., with the caption “When [you’re] confused and email your professor and he comes to the [library] to help you study. Aw.” Photo posted Oct. 5 by student Marissa Flood from East Carolina’s Joyner Library.

The tweet has since been liked more than 36,000 times. East Carolina joined the conversation, too.

October 12, 2017

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday dropped a controversial plan to suspend an ethics law that prevents its employees from receiving pay or other benefits from for-profit institutions, the Associated Press reported.

A recent inspector general report found that two VA employees violated the rule by working as adjunct instructors at for-profit colleges that receive federal veterans' benefits. In September the agency said it would grant a waiver exempting all VA employees from the rule, calling it unfair and outdated, as long as employees follow certain federal requirements on conflicts of interest.

Ethics experts, Senate Democrats and major veterans' groups criticized the move, with some saying the VA should issue waivers on a case-by-case basis, where warranted, instead of a blanket waiver.

“It’s highly questionable,” Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, told the AP. “The VA has a great big pot of money, and every educational institution wants a piece of the action. And there’s no doubt for-profit colleges have a lot of influence in this administration.”

The VA told the wire service that it decided to delay action on the rule after receiving "constructive comments" about the plan.

October 12, 2017

The high-level departures continue at the University of Southern California. David Carrera, a university vice president who played a key role in fund-raising efforts, has left his position amid allegations that he treated women in discriminatory and harassing ways, the Los Angeles Times reported. The article said, "In interviews with investigators, some employees alleged that Carrera questioned women who worked under him in USC’s fund-raising operation about their dating habits and volunteered information about his sex life, the sources said. Those employees also said that Carrera made comments about the desirability of female coworkers and women he encountered at donor fund-raising events, the sources said." Carrera did not respond to requests for comment.

His exit follows the departures of two medical school deans -- one over previous reports of harassment and one over reports of illegal drug use and association with criminals.

October 12, 2017

Colleges and universities should be more flexible about the use of test scores and perhaps consider a lesser emphasis on them when evaluating international applicants, advises a statement being released today by the National Association for College Admission Counseling and its international division. The statement notes that many testing dates have been called off recently amid concerns about testing security. As a result, the statement notes, many international students have struggled to take the tests they need to apply to American colleges. The statement comes at a time of increased frustration for those who help international students apply to American colleges, and repeated calls for changes in the practices of major testing organizations.

October 12, 2017

The University at Buffalo, of the State University of New York, announced that it has started the process of revoking an honorary degree awarded to Harvey Weinstein, an alumnus who was the subject of recent stories from The New York Times and The New Yorker detailing how he harassed and abused numerous women over many years. The SUNY board must approve a degree revocation, but the university has started the process.

October 12, 2017

Eight colleges have been sued in federal court in New York in the last two weeks for having websites that, the suits claim, are inaccessible to people with disabilities, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Some of the institutions being sued include Hofstra University, Fordham University, Manhattan College and Long Island University. The suits were all filed on behalf of one plaintiff, who is blind, and said the websites were not accessible to him when he tried to find tuition information, academic calendars and locations. The institutions may be found in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Iona College, one of the defendants, through a spokesman said it “takes all matters of discrimination seriously and strives to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and appropriately. The college will continue to ensure everyone has equitable access to its facilities including its website.”

Legal action against college websites is rare, according to the Times. Of 751 lawsuits filed since January 2015 regarding web accessibility for people with disabilities, just seven were directed at academic websites. These lawsuits have more than doubled that figure.

October 12, 2017

In light of federal indictments for widespread bribery and corruption in the world of college basketball, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday that a new commission will study the current system.

Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state and Stanford University provost, will lead the Commission on College Basketball, the NCAA announced Wednesday. Other members include presidents from the University of Notre Dame and the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as current and former athletics directors, and Mark Emmert, the NCAA's president.

“Individuals who break the trust on which college sports is based have no place here,” Emmert said in a statement. “While I believe the vast majority of coaches follow the rules, the culture of silence in college basketball enables bad actors, and we need them out of the game. We must take decisive action. This is not a time for half measures or incremental change.”

The commission will examine the relationships among the NCAA and member institutions and their staffers to apparel companies, other corporations and agents.

Federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed charges against 10 people last month, among them four assistant or associate basketball coaches at high-profile universities, and Adidas executives, as well as some affiliated with the company. The FBI investigation is continuing, with officials hinting that fraud is more widespread.

The commission will also try to fix institutions’ relationships with the NCAA national office and study the NCAA’s relationship with the National Basketball Association and the so-called one-and-done phenomenon, the practice of a college athlete playing for a single season for transitioning to the professional level. It will start work for the first time in November and give recommendations in April.

October 12, 2017

Part-time lecturers at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences reached a second, tentative contract deal, averting a strike planned for this week. The five-year agreement covers 240 adjuncts who voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union in 2014. Gains in the new contract build on those achieved in a first contract notable for its pay increases and job security measures. The new deal includes pay raises of 22.5 percent over five years for half the part-time faculty, and a 12.5 percent pay increase for others. Eligibility criteria for a professional development fund are expanded, and faculty members will get earlier notification of non-reappointment.

James M. Glaser, dean of arts and sciences, said in a statement that Tufts has had “a productive and respectful relationship with our part-time faculty, and under the terms of the new agreement they would continue to enjoy pay, benefits and terms of employment that lead our local peer institutions and the relevant market, as was the case with the previous contract.”

October 12, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Susan Gilbertz, professor of geography at Montana State University Billings, looks into how our favorite places can determine how we think of the world. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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