Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 18, 2019

Post-St. Patrick's Day will be business as usual at the University of Dayton, which advised its professors not to cancel classes today and to “set high expectations for class attendance,” such as by scheduling quizzes or tests during class time -- and warning students to be sober.

“Tell them ahead of time that you will ask them to leave if they come to class inebriated and that you will make a report to the dean of students if they engage in disruptive or disrespectful behavior that interferes with others’ learning in the classroom,” reads a recent memo from the provost’s office. Faculty members “have both the authority and responsibility to establish standards for the learning environment in your class. This includes, among other things, establishing classroom policies related to attendance, participation, phone or computer use, preparedness and (relevant to St. Patrick’s Day) sobriety.”

The missive was prompted by what it described as “questions about the authority and responsibility faculty have to manage their classrooms -- especially but not only with regard to potential student misconduct on or around St. Patrick’s Day.”

Today is also the first day of classes after Dayton's spring break. But Paul Benson, provost, said in a statement that the letter is sent every year and is "another tool the university is using to emphasize its expectations for student behavior relating to St. Patrick's Day. The letter reflects long-standing policies regarding faculty authority to address classroom conduct."

March 18, 2019

Inside Higher Ed is conducting a reader survey to learn more about our readers and how they use our services. The survey should take 10 to 15 minutes to complete, and those who participate will be entered to win one of five $100 gift cards from Amazon. All responses will be confidential. You may find the survey here. If you have questions about the survey, please email us.

March 18, 2019

The Department of Education on Friday released new guidance on the 2016 borrower-defense rule instructing colleges to drop enforcement of mandatory arbitration agreements.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blocked the rule from taking effect in 2017, but after a legal battle with consumer advocates and several states, she was ordered by a federal court to carry out the rule in October.

The department has made little progress on a backlog of borrower-defense claims from student borrowers who claim they were defrauded or misled by their colleges. But in December, it carried out one part of the rule by canceling $150 million in student loan debt held by borrowers whose colleges closed had closed since November 2013, most of them former Corinthian Colleges students.

The Obama administration rule also barred colleges from enforcing mandatory arbitrary agreements that prevented students from taking their complaints to a court. In the new guidance last week, the Education Department told institutions that they may no longer compel a student to address their complaint through an internal resolution process.

March 18, 2019

Bradley University on Friday banned a longtime sports reporter from attending basketball events because he wrote some articles that did not promote the university's brand. But amid widespread criticism, the university reversed itself and apologized Saturday. President Gary Roberts issued a statement indicating that he had been unaware of the ban and that it was inconsistent with the university's policies. "I personally and Bradley University institutionally do not believe that it is the job or duty of anyone in the media or any media outlet to promote Bradley’s brand. It is the media’s job to report the news and facts in a truthful and unbiased way and occasionally to express opinions that are reasoned and based on accurate facts as best they know them," said Roberts.

March 18, 2019

A bipartisan group of lawmakers last week reintroduced the College Transparency Act, legislation that would produce new data on program-level college student outcomes like graduate earnings and loan repayment.

In place of Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who retired this year, the bill will be carried by Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican. Other chief co-sponsors of the bill include Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, South Carolina Republican Tim Scott, and Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

A federal ban on student-level data has been in place since 2008, and private colleges in particular continue to hold reservations about a federal data system. But bipartisan momentum has gathered behind the legislation. The bill has 17 co-sponsors, two more than the total in the previous Congress.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the GOP chairman of the Senate education committee, suggested in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last month that the College Transparency Act was one of several bipartisan bills that could be included in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

March 18, 2019

Adjunct professors at Elon University voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, 112 to 68, the News & Record reported. Elon said in a statement that it’s “gathering further information about the results and process of the election and will soon make a decision on next steps.”

March 18, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, part of USC Dornsife Week, Moh El-Naggar, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Southern California, discusses how something small could help us thing big. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 15, 2019

Members of the College Council at Pitzer College voted Thursday to recommend suspending the college’s study abroad program, but Pitzer president Melvin L. Oliver said that he would not put the recommendation in place.

Members of the council, which is made up of faculty, students and staff and is Pitzer's main legislative body for shared governance, voted 67 to 28 with eight abstentions in favor of suspending the study abroad program at the University of Haifa. Faculty at Pitzer had previously voted in favor of suspending the Israel study abroad program.

Supporters of the suspension of the Israel study abroad program frame the action in terms of supporting Palestinian rights and protesting Israeli visa and immigration policies that would restrict the ability of all students to study abroad at the country's universities.

But in a statement explaining why he would not implement the recommendation Oliver argued it was against the best interests of the college. He cited a number of reasons in his statement, including that the recommendation to suspend the Israel study abroad program "curtails the academic freedom of those students who wish to study at the University of Haifa." He said that by putting in place an academic boycott of Israel, the recommendation "sets us on a path away from the free exchange of ideas, a direction which ultimately destroys the academy’s ability to fulfill our educational mission."

Oliver also characterized the recommendation of the College Council as "prejudiced" in that it singles out Israel. "If implemented, the recommendation would unnecessarily alienate a large cross section of the college’s constituencies. The reputational harm to the college would be irreparable and as president of this institution, I cannot permit that to happen," he wrote.

One of the main proponents of suspending the Israel study abroad program, Daniel A. Segal, the Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and a professor of history, said in a statement that Oliver's veto of the 67-to-28 vote "shows a failure to appreciate that Palestinians are our fellow human beings, and a contempt for the college’s democratic process."

"Because of the divisiveness of the president’s actions and his betrayal of the college’s core values, the president is doing grievous damage to the college I love and have served for 32 years," Segal said. "And more importantly, he is doing grievous damage to the most plausible path to justice and a positive peace for all our sisters and brothers in Israel and Palestine alike."

Study abroad programs have increasingly become a target of the movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The Pitzer vote follows two widely reported instances last fall in which a professor and graduate instructor at the University of Michigan each cited their support for the academic boycott in declining to write letters of recommendation for students seeking to study abroad at Israeli universities.

March 15, 2019

The Westfield State University chapter of the Massachusetts State College Association, the campus faculty and librarians union, voted no confidence in Ramon S. Torrecilha, university president, they announced this week. The union said that 211 of 219 voters had no confidence in Torrecilha’s “leadership skills and fiscal stewardship of the institution.” Most full-time faculty members participated in the vote, along with some part-timers. Members cite recent, tense contract negotiations between the statewide union and the statewide Council of Presidents, along with Torrecilha’s alleged top-down management style and lack of transparency as reasons for the vote.

Kevin Queenin, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement that it’s "immensely disappointing and puzzling to learn" of the vote. Listing Torrecilha’s accomplishments, including fund-raising success, faculty and staff hires, and community engagement, Queenin said, "An effective and transparent leader, [Torrecilha] has had the full support of the board throughout his tenure and the long collective bargaining process and we are pleased that an agreement has been reached on the contract."

March 15, 2019

Nine members of the University of Maryland Medical System’s Board of Directors have business relationships with the system worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each, The Baltimore Sun reported. While some are criticizing the ties as creating conflicts of interest, the system says that the business ties are legal.

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