Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, on Friday announced that he would permit a bill to cut the entire $436,000 state appropriation for an office at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville that promotes diversity to become law. The bill also bars the use of state funds for an annual student event known as Sex Week (the event has long been produced without state funds) and bars the university from promoting the use of gender neutral pronouns. Many students and others have criticized the bill as a move against diversity and said that lawmakers distorted the work of the office. For example, the office did produce materials on the pronouns preferred by many transgender students, but never mandated the use of any pronouns, as some lawmakers suggested it had. Students organized protests (above right) against the bill.

While Haslam is permitting the bill to become law, the governor didn't sign it. He just didn't veto it. His statement explained, "I am letting HB 2248 become law without my signature. This bill received considerable debate and discussion during legislative session, and the final form of HB 2248 was revised so that its primary effect is to redirect administrative funding for the Office for Diversity and Inclusion for one year into scholarships for minority engineering students. Although I do not like the precedent of redirecting funds within a higher education institution’s budget, I find the ultimate outcome of the legislation less objectionable and am therefore letting it become law without my endorsement."

The official who led the diversity office, Rickey Hall, vice chancellor for diversity, has accepted a similar position at the University of Washington, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

Hampden-Sydney College announced on its Facebook page that General Jerry Boykin (at right) has accepted a contract for the next year to teach in the college's military leadership and national security program. The announcement appeared routine, but it followed General Boykin announcing on Facebook that his contract wasn't going to be renewed because of his statements against the Obama administration's policies to require schools and colleges to let transgender students use bathrooms that are consistent with their gender identity. The college issued a statement that this had never been the case, and that the general -- as an adjunct -- was hired from year to year. Further, the college said that it had been looking for "rotating" people to bring a range of expertise to the program, and that this had been the motivation to consider other candidates for the position.

General Boykin still insists he initially lost the contract due to his views on transgender issues. "The PC police tried to silence my voice," he wrote on Facebook. "I stood on my principles and others joined me and we pushed back the tide. Let your heart hold fast in the knowledge that no matter how much they attempt to control the conversation: they are not in the majority."

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

William Paterson University in New Jersey must pay more than $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a former professor of secondary and middle school education who says she was harassed and discriminated against on the basis of race and religion, a jury decided last week. Althea Hulton-Lindsay, former chair of her department, alleged various forms of mistreatment and said she was stripped of her responsibilities and saw her proposals rejected by Candace Burns, dean of the College of Education, because she is black and a born-again Christian, NorthJersey.com reported. For example, Hulton-Lindsay said, Burns once called campus security because she and colleague were praying at the colleague’s desk.

Hulton-Lindsay said that she filed several harassment complaints with William Paterson, but that they were never investigated and that she was eventually removed as department chair in 2012. The professor also alleged retaliation, saying that the action came a week after she filed a complaint, but the jury rejected that claim. Noreen Kemether, a deputy state attorney general who represented William Paterson during the trial, said that Hulton-Lindsay was not discriminated against and rather removed from her leadership role because she failed to work cooperatively with Burns and other colleagues.

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

Organizations that represent research universities have been negotiating with federal agencies over proposed regulations that they fear would effectively prevent many international students from participating in studies financed by business. Currently international students generally may work on basic research, but there are more restrictions on classified research. The new regulations would make research subject to proprietary review by corporate sponsors ineligible for the basic research exemption. Such a rule would exclude international students from too many studies, and would not provide essential protections to American interests, the groups argue. The issue has been being discussed for months, and a new version of the rules may be proposed soon. The groups that are representing universities are the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council on Governmental Relations.

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

Stellenbosch University on Sunday announced that its governing council had approved new principles for a language policy. Stellenbosch is one of South Africa's leading research universities, but the dominance of Afrikaans language courses at the university is seen as discouraging by many black students and potential students who are fluent in English and see Afrikaans as a relic of apartheid. The university has been going back and forth on how much it will emphasize one language or the other, facing criticism on all sides.

Under the principles announced Sunday:

  • English offerings should be expanded so that no student is excluded from programs because of the lack of English instruction.
  • Afrikaans offerings should not be decreased, and should be "further promoted."
  • "[A] commitment to the development and promotion of isiXhosa as academic language."
Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

The Asian Americanno hypen in its name -sj Coalition for Education will today announce that it is asking the U.S. Education Department to find that Brown and Yale Universities and Dartmouth College discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The complaint cites data such as the increasing number of Asian-American applicants and studies that have found that, on average, Asian-Americans need higher grades and test scores to earn admission to elite colleges, and comments from former admissions officers to back up that view. The coalition and other groups have been seeking to challenge affirmative action policies that they say favor all non-Asian applicants (including white applicants) over Asians. To date, these efforts have not succeeded.


Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

At least 30 students enrolled in online courses at the University of Iowa are under investigation for cheating, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. The university uses ProctorU for online exam monitoring, and the company said it has detected several cases of students who may have gotten other people to take exams in their place. ProctorU, like many exam monitoring services, uses identity verification to prevent cheating. The university is investigating the claims.

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

"Art AIDS America," an art exhibit touring nationally (images above are from the show), closed Sunday at Kennesaw State University's Zuckerman Museum of Art, three months after it opened. In the final week at Kennesaw State, some legislators learned about the exhibit and criticized the university for hosting it, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Lawmakers particular objected to a painting of a naked man wearing a clown mask having sex with a skeleton, and images of President Reagan and Jerry Falwell as part of artworks criticizing them and others for their records of ignoring AIDS or not supporting efforts to prevent the spread of the epidemic. Representative Earl Ehrhart, a Republican who leads the powerful committee that controls funds for Georgia's public colleges, said of the exhibit: “It’s gratuitous, an insult for the sake of making a political statement.”

The exhibit has received good reviews in Georgia and elsewhere and its catalog is published by the University of Washington Press.

Robert Sherer, a professor at Kennesaw State who has work in the exhibit, said, “The show is deeply humanitarian …. It’s a show about loss, the political fallout of the AIDS crisis, and touches on all sorts of good and heavy subjects. I was appalled that anyone had a problem with that.”

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

The actor Hank Azaria returned to his alma mater, Tufts University, Sunday as commencement speaker. Azaria is well-known for many roles he has played, and also as the voice of a number of characters on the animated show The Simpsons. He gave Tufts graduates some advice from those characters (in their voices). Enjoy.

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Chris Wrede, assistant professor of physics at Michigan State University, discusses how pre-solar grains inside meteorites are giving us a rare up-close look into the workings of the solar system. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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