Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 20, 2017

The president of Wright State University resigned last week -- almost four months sooner than he had planned to retire from the institution -- in light of a budget crisis at the Ohio college, The Dayton Daily News reported.

“We have a substantial undertaking to bring our budget into alignment with our revenues,” said David Hopkins, outgoing president of Wright State, in an email to faculty, staff and students on Friday.

In lieu of the $432,000 salary he would have earned in the year following his retirement, Hopkins will now be eligible for an annual faculty salary of $200,000 in the College of Education and Human Services. He will still receive $150,000 in deferred compensation.

Cheryl Schrader has been selected as the next president of Wright State. She will take office July 1. In the meantime, the Board of Trustees chose Curtis McCray to serve as interim president. McCray has previously worked with the university as a consultant for its operational review.

The budget crisis that has consumed Wright State over the last few years stems from overspending, officials told The Dayton Daily. This year, the university is projected to spend $40 million beyond what it earned.

“That cannot continue under Dr. McCray’s leadership,” said Michael Bridges, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “You have to live within that budget.”

The trustees hope to bring the university out of as much debt as possible before Schrader takes over this summer.

Last year, the university laid off 23 people to help cut down on costs. An announcement about additional layoffs is expected next month. Wright State has also been under a hiring freeze since February, when Hopkins instituted it.

March 20, 2017

Not only are racial, sexual and gender minority groups more likely to be victims of sexual assault, students who consider their colleges inclusive and tolerant are less likely to be victims, two new complementary studies found.

Published recently in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence and Prevention Science, the studies reveal how populations with intersecting minority identities may be at greater risk of sexual assault, emphasizing the need for more sexual assault research and prevention and treatment programs that address specific marginalized groups.

One study, led by a team from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, was based on surveys from over 70,000 undergraduate students attending 120 higher education institutions between 2011 and 2013.

The team found that women were 150 percent more likely than men to be sexually assaulted, but that transgender people were at much greater risk -- 300 percent more likely than cisgender men to be sexually assaulted.

Gay, bisexual and black men all had higher odds of being sexually assaulted than heterosexual and white men. Black women were more likely than white women to be sexually assaulted, but Asian and Latina women were less likely.

Black transgender people were more likely than white transgender people to be assaulted as well.

The lead author of both studies said this is the first research of its kind to identify ways that intersecting marginalized populations are at greater risk of being sexually assaulted.

In the second study, the team analyzed surveys from 2,000 undergraduate students across all 50 states who identify as part of a sexual or gender minority population. The students who felt that their campus was inclusive and welcoming were found to be 27 percent less likely to be sexually assaulted.

Based on these results, the researchers suggested that such inclusive campus environments might encourage students to speak up and stop a sexual assault if they see one happening or to be more cautious in certain high-risk environments, like events that include drugs and alcohol.

"If sexual assault prevention efforts solely focus on heterosexual violence, they may invalidate sexual- and gender-minority people's assault experiences and be ineffective for them," said Robert Coulter, lead author of the two studies and a doctoral candidate in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. "To overcome this, existing programs could be augmented to explicitly address homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and racism. And new interventions could be created specifically for sexual, gender, racial and ethnic minorities."

March 20, 2017

The student body president at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota is under scrutiny for anti-Semitic tweets he posted almost three years ago, The Star-Tribune reported.

The student, Mayzer Muhammad, who is Muslim, has apologized for the language he used on Twitter in 2014 and said he regrets having been so careless.

The tweets were unearthed about a year ago by Canary Mission, a website that keeps a record of any individuals or groups it says use hateful rhetoric about the United States, Israel and Jews. Muhammad has a full profile on the site with several screenshots from his social media accounts, which he deactivated in response to angry comments.

The president of St. Thomas, a private, Catholic liberal arts college in St. Paul, rejected Muhammad’s anti-Semitic comments in a statement last week and said the university would not tolerate hate speech.

“It is deeply disappointing that the president of our student government or any other member of the St. Thomas community would be accused of anti-Semitic discourse,” President Julie Sullivan said.

Among the comments posted on Muhammad’s Canary Mission profile is one tweet that says, “If you support Israel in any way, shape or form, please unfollow me right now ’cause those people are the scum of the earth.”

Another reads, “The yahood [Jews] will get what [sic] coming for them Insha’Allah.”

“I am absolutely sorry and regret that I chose my words so poorly,” Muhammad told The Star-Tribune. “What these organizations are portraying me to be is an anti-Semite, and that is something that I am not.”

Muhammad remains in his post as president of the undergraduate student body. He has made efforts to repair his relationship with the Jewish community, including by meeting with the university’s rabbi in residence last week.

March 20, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Michael Mann, assistant professor in the department of geography at George Washington University, discusses the difference between climate and weather and how it affects our beliefs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 17, 2017

Top leaders of the congressional education committees from both parties wrote to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education, Thursday to get answers on the "cause and scope" of this month's shutdown of a financial aid data tool by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which cited the vulnerability of student data to identity thieves. (The Wall Street Journal reported that an inspector general for the IRS is investigating whether the tool was being used for fraud.)

In addition, the Oversight Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives' top Republican and Democrat joined a bipartisan group of eight other members in writing to the U.S. Department of Education and IRS to request documents and information about the shutdown.

Last week, in a joint statement, the IRS and the Education Department said the online data tool would be down for "several weeks."

That's a problem for many financial aid applicants, who use the site to transfer tax information to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Many applicants are facing FAFSA deadlines in coming weeks. Indiana postponed its deadline Thursday, with other states mulling a similar move.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, joined their Democratic counterparts on the two chambers' education committees to ask the department what it and the IRS will do to help students who are affected by the shutdown.

"The loss of the [data retrieval tool] could discourage many eligible low-income students from applying for aid or [income-driven repayment] plans altogether," they wrote. "We are requesting a staff briefing from you that includes the appropriate staff from all the relevant department offices involved in this situation to obtain further information about the nature of the current outage. We would like to hear about the timeline of events from the start of the outage to an estimated reinstatement date; steps the department is taking to remedy the situation for students, borrowers and parents; and the actions the department will take to protect applicants' data privacy and security during and after this outage."

The group of congressional leaders requested the briefing to occur by the end of next week.

March 17, 2017

A new study from the University of California, Riverside, shows that student veterans attending rural community colleges struggle with integrating into campus communities.

The study surveyed 211 student veterans and learned from 23 survey respondents that they struggled with the aftermath of trauma exposure, including sleep disturbance, hypervigilance, irritable or aggressive behavior, and difficulty concentrating.

The study was published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability and states that colleges should integrate support services for veterans into campus communities, as well as refer them to mental health-care resources.

March 17, 2017

The Trump administration on Thursday withdrew 2015 guidance issued by the Obama administration that barred student loan guarantee agencies from charging collection fees to defaulted borrowers who start repaying their loans quickly. The Education Department's notice said the Obama-era guidance -- which endorsed a position taken by a federal appeals court in a case ultimately settled by USA Funds -- "would have benefited from public input on the issues."

March 17, 2017

The Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries and the Association of American University Presses will later this spring launch a joint initiative to support open-access monograph publishing. A dozen research universities have so far signed up to participate in the AAU/ARL/AAUP Open-Access Monograph Publishing Initiative, agreeing to award at least three publishing grants of $15,000 a year for five years. The associations have also signed up 57 publishers -- all of them university presses -- that will accept the grants.

March 17, 2017

We hear there's another competition going on this month, but that's no reason not to play Inside Higher Ed's Cartoon Caption Contest.

There are multiple ways to play. Suggest a caption for this month's cartoon, or vote for your favorite among the three finalists chosen by our panel of experts from among the submissions for last month's cartoon.

And congratulations to Tom Melecki, winner of our contest for January. His submission for the cartoon at right -- "That's the day the 46% of us who voted for Trump begin exercising our huuuuge mandate over the 54% of you losers who didn't! Wow, I love 'new, new' math!" -- won our readers' hearts. He is a former director of student financial services at the University of Texas at Austin. He is now founder of College Affordability Solutions. Thanks to all for participating.

March 17, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Brian Blais, professor of science and technology at Bryant University, examines where the fiction ends and the reality of disease epidemics begins. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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