Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 10, 2017

The American Anthropological Association established a Rapid Response Network on Academic Freedom and affiliated with Scholars at Risk to strengthen its commitment to free inquiry, it announced Monday. The response network is a diverse advisory group of anthropologists with scholarly expertise on academic freedom issues, to be chaired by Marc Edelman, professor of anthropology at Hunter College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. Scholars at Risk is an international nonprofit that works to protect threatened scholars and promote academic freedom.

“The pattern of events in the U.S. and around the world in 2016 indicates a gathering storm that threatens the academic freedom of anthropologists and other academics,” Alisse Waterston, association president and professor of anthropology at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said in a statement. “Historically, these threats have been most effectively mitigated when scholarly and professional associations like ours have investigated and spoken out against attacks on academic freedom.”

January 10, 2017

Two advocacy organizations launched a hashtag campaign Monday called #DearBetsy to urge President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary to support Title IX protections for victims of sexual assault.

The groups, End Rape on Campus and Know Your IX, began the campaign on social media ahead of Betsy DeVos's Senate confirmation hearing. Activists and other advocates had expected that hearing to take place Wednesday, but the Senate education committee announced Monday it would be moved back to Jan. 17. DeVos has not commented publicly on her views regarding Title IX. But GOP lawmakers have argued that enforcement under the Obama administration has gone too far and should be scaled back.

The organizations asked supporters to use the hashtag to express why Title IX protections are important to them.

In a 2011 Dear Colleague letter to colleges and universities, the Obama administration asked institutions to better investigate and adjudicate campus sexual assault allegations. And in 2014, the administration began keeping a public list of institutions under investigation for Title IX violations.

January 10, 2017

The University of British Columbia announced Monday that it has reinstated the speaking engagement of John Furlong at a fund-raising event next month.

Santa Ono, president of the university, last week apologized to John Furlong for the cancellation of a speech he was scheduled to give. Furlong was CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and was widely praised for his work to make the event a success. But when word spread that he was going to speak at the UBC event, some First Nations groups (those representing indigenous Canadians) circulated an open letter criticizing the appearance. The letter cited allegations -- which Furlong has denied and that have been rejected by authorities -- that he was abusive to First Nations children he taught at a school in 1969 and 1970.

In announcing that Furlong would be speaking, Ono said, "I have made it my decision as president of the university to reverse course because it is simply the right thing to do. I decided this after better informing myself with the facts, including Mr. Furlong’s stellar reputation in the fields of business, leadership and sport, the diverse views of our many stakeholders, and, as importantly, the judicial record. The British Columbia Civil and Supreme Courts have ruled in favor of Mr. Furlong in every matter that has come before them. The university had no basis to put its judgment above theirs."

The university's original decision to cancel the event with Furlong has been widely criticized in Canada.

January 10, 2017

Charlotte School of Law will reopen this semester despite losing access to federal financial aid, The Charlotte Observer reported. The for-profit law school is on probation with its accreditor, the American Bar Association, for problems with its admissions policies, curriculum and bar exam passage rates. Last month the U.S. Department of Education suspended the law school's access to federal aid, citing its accreditation problems and that the school had made misrepresentations to students.

The school last week told students that it would reopen, with classes beginning next week. Without access to federal aid, the school said on its website that students might need to explore "bridge financing" such as private loans.

January 10, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, associate professor of biology at Grinnell College, explores whether changing the surfaces you touch may have a health benefit. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 9, 2017

An Associated Press analysis examines all the financial costs for Pennsylvania State University associated with the scandal over Jerry Sandusky, the former football coach who was convicted in 2012 of the sexual abuse of numerous boys. The total so far is $237 million, including settlements with victims, legal costs, fines and more.

January 9, 2017

Using data from Florida's public four-year colleges and universities, a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here) finds wide variation in the costs to institutions associated with various majors. Engineering is by far the most expensive major, costing $569 per credit hour awarded. Other majors on the high end include science and technology fields such as health sciences ($461) and physical sciences ($346). Generally, humanities fields are much lower, with English coming in at $280 and philosophy at $245. Among the lowest cost was mathematics at $209. Most of the costs were instructional expenses.

The study was conducted by Joseph G. Altonji, a professor of economics at Yale University, and Seth D. Zimmerman, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago.

January 9, 2017

Student loan debt is not responsible for the rise in young people “boomeranging,” or returning home to live with their parents, according to a new study by researchers at Dartmouth College and Montana State University.

The primary factor associated with boomeranging is college completion rates, the study in Sociology of Education found. Students who did not graduate from either a two- or four-year program were about 40 percent more likely to move back in with their parents than are students who earned postsecondary degrees. Additionally, students who experience a smooth transition into traditional adulthood experiences, such as marriage and full-time employment, are far less likely to boomerang.

However, the study did find a connection between debt, race and moving home. Black students who took on debt are at a greater risk of boomeranging than are white students -- a result the authors attribute to economic inequality and societal influences that affect minorities. These can include discrimination in college and in the labor market, limited access to fair credit, and loans with high interest rates.

January 9, 2017

The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity on Saturday released a letter urging the U.S. Senate to reject President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general. The group includes many campus diversity and equal opportunity officers, and the letter highlighted a Sessions quote on affirmative action from 1997. At the time, he said, "I think it has, in fact, been a cause of irritation and perhaps has delayed the kind of movement to racial harmony we ought to be going forward [with] today. I think it makes people unhappy if they lost a contract or a right to go to a school or a privilege to attend a university simply because of their race." The diversity group's letter says that Sessions has continued to espouse such views, in particular when rejecting some of President Obama's judicial nominees. This view, the group says, distorts affirmative action in implying that colleges are accepting or rejecting candidates based on race alone.

January 9, 2017

The president of Ecclesia College, a Christian college in Arkansas, has issued a statement denying any link to a bribery scandal involving state legislators. One former legislator has reached a plea agreement that references his work -- and that of other legislators -- in which he was allegedly paid by two nonprofit groups to obtain state grants for them. Local news outlets have reported that Ecclesia is one of those nonprofits.

The college's president, Oren Paris III, posted a statement on Facebook denying any involvement with bribery. The statement said that the college does seek and has received state grants, and that the college has used consultants to help. But the statement adds that when the college has received grants through various programs, "every dollar of those funds have been used for the purposes for which they were requested." The statement adds, "We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state legislator."

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