Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 10, 2019

The mother of a Northwestern University basketball player, Jordan Hankins, who ended her own life in 2017, is suing her daughter’s sorority and some of its former members. She alleges that Alpha Kappa Alpha’s hazing led to Hankins becoming depressed and anxious and, eventually, her suicide.

Felicia Hankins filed her complaint in federal court Tuesday. In addition to suing the campus chapter of AKA, Hankins also named the national branch in her lawsuit. Northwestern is not a defendant.

The complaint states that when Jordan Hankins was joining the sorority, a process known as rushing, she was subject to “physical abuse including paddling, verbal abuse, mental abuse, financial exploitation, sleep deprivation, items being thrown and dumped on her, and other forms of hazing intended to humiliate and demean her.”

Jordan Hankins allegedly told AKA members that the rituals were triggering her post-traumatic stress disorder and she was having suicidal thoughts. She was found hanging in her dormitory in January 2017.

January 10, 2019

A California state appeals court has ruled that college students who could be expelled or severely punished for sexual misconduct must be allowed to question their accuser.

The court ruled on a lawsuit that emerged from a disciplinary case involving a University of Southern California football player, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The student was kicked out of the university for allegedly raping another student, but he never received a hearing over the accusations, according to the newspaper.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles deemed USC’s sexual assault investigations unfair. The institution’s system gives one official “the overlapping and inconsistent roles of investigator, prosecutor, fact-finder and sentencer,” Justice Thomas Willhite wrote in a 3-0 ruling. This is commonly known as a single-investigator model.

The ruling comes at a time when U.S. secretary of education Betsy DeVos has proposed new regulations around a key federal gender antidiscrimination law that would provide more protections for students accused of sexual assault.

January 10, 2019

Proposed legislation from the House science committee would require federal research agencies to adopt a common policy on sexual harassment, similar to what the National Science Foundation announced in 2018, Science reported. An identical bill died last year, but this one has bipartisan support. The NSF now requires grantee institutions to tell it when an investigator is found to have engaged in misconduct or is placed on leave pending the outcome of an investigation. 

January 10, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, Donna McCloskey, associate professor in the School of Business Administration at Widener University, explores how to set boundaries between work and home. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 9, 2019

Some immigrant children are far more likely to major in math, science or technology fields in college than are those born in the United States, a new study has found. Immigrant children who arrive in the U.S. after age 10, and who come from countries whose native languages are dissimilar to English, are the group most likely to major in STEM fields in college. Among these students, 36 percent major in STEM fields. About 20 percent of U.S.-born students major in STEM fields. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

January 9, 2019

A newly released analysis of federal data found that student debt levels increased most among affluent students in the four years before 2016. One reason, according to the report from the Manhattan Institute, is that wealthy students tend to choose pricey colleges. And these students and their families "are usually better placed to take advantage of the arbitrage opportunity offered by federal student loans -- i.e., borrowing at subsidized interest rates and investing any cash that this frees up in a higher-return investment, such as retirement savings."

Borrowing increased during the four-year period for students across all income categories, according to the report, which was funded by the Lumina Foundation. And while high-income students are less likely to borrow to attend college, they tend to borrow larger amounts than other students. And those amounts are increasing more rapidly. The analysis found that in 2015-16, students from households with annual incomes of at least $120,000 borrowed, on average, an estimated $25,500 over the course of a bachelor's degree program, up by $5,000 from 2011-12. These students borrowed about $10,500 more than students in the lowest income quartile (below $30,000), a $3,000 increase in the $7,500 borrowing gap from four years earlier.

January 9, 2019

The Education Department announced more than 20 new hires Tuesday, including additions to the top leadership for higher ed programs.

Dan Currell joined the Office of the Under Secretary as deputy under secretary. His duties cover a range of postsecondary issues including vocational and adult education and student aid. Currell was previously managing partner at AdvanceLaw. His résumé includes little direct experience in postsecondary policy, although he served as a trustee for two private colleges, Midland University and Gustavus Adolphus College.

Casey Sacks joined the department as deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. Sacks previously served as vice chancellor for the West Virginia Community and Technical College System.

January 9, 2019

Today on the Academic Minute, Lynn Ulatowski, assistant professor of biology at Ursuline College, describes one method of getting students to look at the big picture. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 8, 2019

Bernice Sandler, who held positions in government and in academic associations in which she advocated for gender equity in education, died last week at the age of 90. Sandler was widely called the "godmother of Title IX" for her work on the landmark legislation. Details on her career may be found in this obituary in The Washington Post and at the website of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

January 8, 2019

Christine Roth, professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, is suing the institution and the university system to prevent the release of public records about her alleged plagiarism case to the Wisconsin State Journal, the LaCrosse Tribune reported. The Journal has been seeking records about the case, including a related settlement agreement, since October.

Roth says that releasing the files will do irreparable harm to her reputation, especially where there are errors of fact. Her attorney, Peter Culp, blamed the situation on an unnamed “disgruntled colleague who has continually refused to accept decisions that have already been made and accepted by all.” The university said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

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