Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 18, 2021

The California Institute of Technology on Friday announced that it has removed the names of six proponents of eugenics from buildings and other honors. The action follows petitions from alumni and a study by a university committee. The names include that of Robert A. Millikan, Caltech's first president and first Nobel laureate.

"Renaming buildings is a symbolic act, but one that has real consequences in creating a diverse and inclusive environment. It is an act that helps define who we are and who we strive to be," said Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the president.

January 18, 2021

Twelve doctoral programs at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, have temporarily halted the admission of new students, The Star Tribune reported. The programs include English, history and political science. The university says the halt is related to budget cuts brought on by the pandemic. An additional 15 departments will only admit a small number of students.

January 18, 2021

The University of California, San Diego, reports that 245 of its students have tested positive for the coronavirus since the winter quarter began Jan. 4, the Los Angeles Times reported. UCSD also reported that 61 of its employees have tested positive for the virus.

Eighty-five percent “of the on-campus students who are infected went home for the holiday and are testing positive during the incubation period following their return,” said Robert T. “Chip” Schooley, a professor of medicine who is helping run the university's testing and prevention program. “Our interpretation is that they acquired the virus in the community during the break. Going home during a raging pandemic is a dangerous thing. The on-campus case rate is now declining to pre-break levels as we work through the infections that came back from the winter break.”

January 18, 2021

The Utah Board of Higher Education has "unanimous support" for Utah State University president Noelle Cockett, the board said Friday, The Deseret News reported.

The board commissioned an outside evaluation of Cockett amid concerns that she had shown bias against interim head football coach Frank Maile, who is Polynesian and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Though some remarks made were interpreted as potential or cultural bias, they were not intended as such. President Cockett has long demonstrated her commitment to make USU a welcoming, nurturing environment for people from all backgrounds," the board statement said.

The report said that "neither President Cockett nor [Athletic Director John] Hartwell expressly stated that their ‘primary concern’ about Coach Maile was his religious or cultural background, nor that his background would disqualify him as a coaching candidate."

Nick Heninger, a linebacker for the team and the team spokesman, said the outcome was “unbelievable to me. It looks like there’s nothing changing, right?” He said the players may continue to raise concerns. "I mean, we just got shafted by the board right now," he said.

January 18, 2021

The president of Haskell Indian Nations University has rescinded an October order to the student newspaper on what it could do, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Ronald Graham, the president, in October wrote that the student paper needed permission before being critical of students or faculty members, seeking information from government sources, or attempting to "countermand" the college's decisions.

Last week, he wrote that he “took an incorrect approach” in October. “Accordingly, I commit that Haskell will not interfere in the affairs of the Indian Leader [the newspaper] or impede the free expression rights of individual students at Haskell.”

January 18, 2021

The University of Maryland at College Park has agreed to pay $3.5 million to the parents of football player Jordan McNair, who died of heatstroke following a workout in 2018, the Associated Press reported. McNair collapsed during an outdoor conditioning practice in May 2018. He was treated at the team training complex before being moved to the hospital, where he died two weeks later.

Wallace Loh, then president of the university, acknowledged that Maryland handled the treatment of McNair poorly. “The university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful day of May 29th,” Loh said in August 2018. “They basically misdiagnosed the situation. No vital signs were taken. Other safeguarding actions were not taken. For me, that’s enough for me to say I need to come to personally apologize [to the McNair family].”

January 18, 2021

Today on the Academic Minute, Marie Rudden, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical School, explores how to bridge the gap between labor and management. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 15, 2021

Hundreds of faculty and staff at Wheaton College, a Christian college in Illinois, signed a statement condemning the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the "abuses of Christian symbols."

“The January 6 attack on the Capitol was characterized not only by vicious lies, deplorable violence, white supremacy, white nationalism, and wicked leadership -- especially by President Trump -- but also by idolatrous and blasphemous abuses of Christian symbols," the statement says. "The behaviors that many participants celebrated in Jesus’ name bear absolutely no resemblance to the Christian teachings or ethics that we submit to as faculty and staff of Wheaton College."

The statement also faults evangelical Christian leaders for their failures of leadership in the leadup to the Jan. 6 attack. “In the days and weeks preceding January 6, many more leaders, including many evangelical leaders, could have spoken truth to the disillusioned supporters of President Trump -- diminishing the prospects for violence and bolstering the witness of Christian love and the call for justice in our civic life. Some did. However, many wittingly propagated lies, or were unduly silent in a just cause. Our Christian faith demands greater courage,” the statement says.

As of Thursday afternoon, 277 faculty and staff had signed the statement, which was first reported by the Daily Herald.

January 15, 2021

An engineering professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology was arrested Thursday on charges of failing to disclose contracts, appointments and awards from Chinese entities to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The professor, Gang Chen, is accused of failing to disclose advisory roles he had with Chinese government entities in a Department of Energy grant application, and of failing to report more than $10,000 in a Chinese bank account on his 2018 tax return.

In a press release, the Department of Justice said that Chen has held various appointments since 2012 intended to advance China’s technological and scientific development, including by acting as an “overseas expert” at the request of the Chinese consulate in New York and by serving in “at least” two Chinese talent programs. U.S. prosecutors allege that Chen has received approximately $29 million in foreign funding since 2019, including $19 million from a Chinese university, the Southern University of Science and Technology.

Prosecutors say U.S. federal agencies have awarded more than $19 million in grants to support Chen’s research since 2013.

In a statement quoted by the Associated Press, MIT said it was “deeply distressed” by Chen’s arrest.

“MIT believes the integrity of research is a fundamental responsibility, and we take seriously concerns about improper influence in U.S. research. Prof. Chen is a long-serving and highly respected member of the research community, which makes the government’s allegations against him all the more distressing,” the statement said.

The AP also quoted a lawyer for Chen, Rob Fisher, who said Chen “loves the United States and looks forward to vigorously defending these allegations.”

January 15, 2021

The University of Central Florida plans to fire Charles Negy, an associate professor of psychology, not for his past social media comments about “Black privilege,” but for his classroom conduct, according to ClickOrlando.com

"The investigation began following a series of complaints the university received, primarily from current and former students, about his conduct in the classroom," the university said in a statement, noting that Negy has the opportunity to appeal the termination decision. He is not currently teaching, however. "This process was comprehensive and unbiased. The UCF Office of Institutional Equity spoke with more than 300 people and reviewed hundreds of documents and many hours of audio."

Central Florida said its supports "the rights of everyone in our campus community to freely express their opinions, even those we do not support. We also value faculty members’ right to academic freedom to present subjects forthrightly and responsibly, even when those discussions involve comments that some might find offensive." Faculty and staff members "also have a responsibility to not create a hostile or discriminatory environment, which can violate the university’s nondiscrimination policy and code of conduct. The university is committed to a culture of inclusive excellence, and we do not tolerate discrimination against any students or employees.”

Texas A&M University at College Station recently investigated the classroom conduct of two professors following complaints about their extramural speech, eventually disciplining one and terminating the other.

Negy's lawyer, Samantha Harris, said via email that the "outcome of UCF's investigation was predetermined. When Prof. Negy's views became politically inconvenient to them, they set out to find grounds to fire him. It was 'show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.' This pretextual, defamatory investigative report is the latest chapter in UCF’s effort to ruin Dr. Negy -- a man with a distinguished 22-year teaching career -- because they don’t like his views. UCF, along with those who solicited and investigated false complaints against him, have violated his rights and defamed him, and will be held accountable in court."

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