Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 17, 2017

The University of California, Berkeley, agreed to let a former law school dean accused of sexual harassment remain on the faculty on sabbatical through May 2018, the Associated Press reported. Under the agreement, announced Friday, the university will withdraw all disciplinary complaints against Sujit Choudhry and allow him to resign next year with access to more than $100,000 in research and travel funds through that time. The agreement includes a "no admissions" clause, saying that neither Choudhry nor the university's Board of Regents admit to wrongdoing in the case.

Choudhry’s former executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, who accused him of kissing and hugging her without her consent, said in a statement Saturday that the deal “insults all who suffer harassment at the hands of those with power and privilege.” Choudhry will donate $50,000 to nonprofit organizations of Sorrell's choice under the agreement, and he’ll also pay $50,000 of her legal fees.

Berkeley previously substantiated Sorrell’s allegations and gave Choudhry a 10 percent pay cut, and he resigned as dean and stopped teaching but remained a professor, according to the Associated Press. Sorrell sued the university over the harassment last year. Her attorney, Leslie F. Levy, said Saturday that the new agreement is “just one more example of [the university] refusing to take sexual harassment seriously and once again offering a soft landing even after a finding of harassment.”

Choudhry also sued the university over the case, alleging racial discrimination based on the fact that he is South Asian. He accused the university of opening a second investigation of him for the same conduct after Sorrell filed her lawsuit and reports it had mishandled other cases of sexual misconduct. He has since dropped the suit.

April 17, 2017

Auburn University has called off a lecture by white supremacist and accused neo-Nazi Richard Spencer scheduled for Tuesday.

“In consultation with law enforcement, Auburn canceled the Richard Spencer event scheduled for Tuesday evening based on legitimate concerns and credible evidence that it will jeopardize the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors,” the university said in a statement. The university initially intended to allow him to speak.

Spencer promotes the “alt-right,” a right-wing movement often characterized by its racist views.

On Friday, Spencer posted to Twitter simply: "#LetSpencerSpeak." He tweeted Thursday he expected his event at Auburn would sell out. He added in a separate Tweet Thursday, “Perhaps we should overbook and then forcibly remove patrons. What could go wrong?”

Auburn previously released a statement about Spencer’s talk: “We strongly deplore his views, which run counter to those of this institution. While his event isn’t affiliated with the university, Auburn supports the constitutional right to free speech. We encourage the campus community to respond to speech they find objectionable with their own views in civil discourse and to do so with respect and inclusion.”

Spencer had paid $700 for university space and for security, according to news reports.

Over the weekend, Spencer vowed to show up at Auburn and give his talk despite the university's action.

April 17, 2017

Tenure-track and tenured faculty members and librarians at Saint Martin’s University voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Friday. The new union is calling on administrators to honor the vote by engaging in collective bargaining with it. That’s despite previous administrative opposition to a non-tenure-track faculty union on campus on the grounds that as a religious institution, Saint Martin’s is not bound to National Labor Relations Board decisions. That board voted in 2014 to allow contingent faculty members at Pacific Lutheran University to form a union because they did not perform specific religious functions.

The newest Saint Martin’s vote is complicated by a separate, longstanding legal precedent against tenure-track faculty unions at private institutions, because these professors are managers. A local NLRB office ruled against a tenure-track faculty union at Carroll College in 2016 on the those grounds. University officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Roy Heynderickx, university president, said last month in response to a faculty walkout over union issues that the campus's Board of Trustees and Saint Martin’s Abbey have "reaffirmed their belief that a direct working relationship between faculty and administration best serves the educational mission of the university," according to The Olympian.

April 17, 2017

Kentucky's free community college scholarship program will be limited to students seeking certificates in five industries with worker shortages -- health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, business services and internet technology, and construction.

The state's Work Ready Scholarship program was originally conceived and approved by the state's Legislature last year to include students seeking two-year associate degrees. However, the state's Republican governor, Matt Bevin, vetoed that legislation but left $15.9 million of funding for it in the state's budget bill. In December, Bevin issued an executive order redefining the limits of the scholarship to just include certificate seekers in those five areas.

Although Bevin's order was issued in December, the change only recently became clear because legislators were not aware that the term "diploma" didn't include two-year degrees within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

Kentucky is the second state to consider limiting tuition-free programs to just certificate seekers in specific fields.

April 17, 2017

Brown University announced Friday that it is waiving its application fee (currently $75) for applicants who participate in various federal programs for low-income students. Like most colleges and universities, Brown already had a policy of waiving the fees for those who fill out a fee-waiver request. But some institutions -- such as City University of New York, Bowdoin College, and Trinity College of Connecticut -- last year announced automatic fee waivers for some low-income applicants. The idea is that there are many families for whom the fees (especially applied to multiple institutions) are a burden and for whom the waiver process may be discouraging.

April 17, 2017

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Council has adopted sweeping reforms for college football recruitment that will, among other substantial changes, create an earlier signing period for prospective recruits.

Legislation approved Friday by the council still must pass the Division I Board of Directors, which is scheduled to meet April 26.

Among the changes:

  • A shift to the recruitment calendar that allows for an earlier signing period in December, beginning this year.
  • Recruits can make official visits to campuses in a period beginning April 1 and extending to the end of June, but visits can’t interfere with a prospect’s high school camp or clinic.
  • Bowl Subdivision institutions can’t hire anyone “close to” prospective student-athletes for two years before and after a student’s anticipated and actual enrollment at a college or university.
  • Bowl Subdivision institutions are allowed to hire a 10th assistant coach, effective January 2018.
  • Bowl Subdivision institutions can only sign 25 prospective and current players to a first-time financial aid agreement or a National Letter of Intent. Student-athletes enrolled at the school for at least two years, or prospective or current players who suffer an incapacitating injury, are excluded from this requirement.
  • Bowl Subdivision coaches and staff members can’t participate in more than 10 days of camps and clinics in June and July at a campus or other facilities regularly used for practice or play.
  • Coaches employed at a camp or clinic can engage in recruitment conversations, with educational lessons on eligibility, gambling, agent rules and drug regulations being required.

The Division I council also has barred twice-daily practices, mirroring the actions of Division II and II leaders of the NCAA recently.

Teams now are allowed to practice an additional week earlier.

Sports science research teams within the NCAA have determined that a majority of concussions and deaths occur with “consecutive periods of contact,” Bob Bowlsby, chairman of the Division I Football Oversight Committee and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, said in a recent conference call with reporters.

April 17, 2017

A British exchange student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was killed in a stabbing attack on a tram in Jerusalem Friday, the BBC reported. A 57-year-old Palestinian man who police said had recently been released from a psychiatric hospital was detained at the scene of the attack.

The student who was killed, Hannah Bladon, 21, came to Hebrew University in January as an exchange student from the University of Birmingham. In a statement Hebrew University condemned "such acts of terror that harm innocent people, and especially a student who came to Jerusalem to study and widen her academic horizons."

April 17, 2017

On this weekend's Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch reprised their characters of Sully and Denise, stereotypes of working-class Boston residents, this time touring Harvard University with their newly admitted daughter and offending some of the other parents. A key part their daughter's decision-making process on enrolling is based on the name of a dormitory for freshmen. If you didn't watch the sketch yet (it's below), we won't ruin it for you, but the name of the dormitory is real.

April 17, 2017

Today, as part of the Academic Minute's Current Affairs Week, Corey Brettschneider, professor of political science at Brown University, discusses whether the ban is legal. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 14, 2017

Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the day a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people on the campus. This weekend, the university has scheduled a series of events to mark the tragedy, including traditional vigils of mourning, but also a salute to first responders and an exhibit of books in honor of those killed. Several alumni chapters have also organized days to work together on community service projects to honor those who died. A list of activities is here. The photos above show a composite of those who were murdered and the Blacksburg, Va., memorial to them.

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