Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 15, 2021

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Bentley University Week, Betsy Stoner, assistant professor of natural and applied sciences, details how microplastics are affecting our seas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 14, 2021

The University of Phoenix is demanding the Republican Attorneys General Association return $50,400 it donated to the organization, because of the group’s reported involvement instigating the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of President Trump, according to Popular Information, a political newsletter.

The university, however, did not return inquiries by phone and email on Wednesday.

But according to the newsletter, the university confirmed it is asking for the refund. "We have asked RAGA to return our contribution to us as soon as possible," Popular Information quoted the university as saying.

According to the newsletter, the organization, which works to elect Republicans as the state attorneys general, spread conspiracy theories about the stealing of the election from Trump on Twitter. The group’s policy arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, sent out a robocall encouraging “patriots” to march on the Capitol. The group’s executive director, Adam Piper, resigned over the fallout from those activities, The Wall Street Journal reported.

January 14, 2021

New York University believes it is the first private university to top 100,000 applications, with a 20 percent increase this year. About 95,000 applied to the campus in New York City, and the rest applied to the campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. More than 22 percent of the applicants were from underrepresented minority groups. By comparison, Harvard University received 43,330 applicants for the Class of 2023.

January 14, 2021

A bipartisan group of three senators on Wednesday asked the Government Accountability Office to examine whether colleges and universities are doing enough to make sure disabled students have the same access to learning during the coronavirus pandemic as others.

“Under normal circumstances, accessing the appropriate accommodations can prove challenging for students in higher education,” wrote Senators Maggie Hassan, a Democrat from New Hampshire; Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania; and Dr. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, students face many of the same challenges in accessing appropriate accommodations as they did prior to the pandemic, but must now do so navigating remote and distanced learning.”

In particular, the senators expressed concern about the ability of students with disabilities to use videoconferencing and other equipment in remote learning. “Even when students have access to adequate broadband and technology, these teaching modalities can, without forethought and planning, introduce particular challenges in meeting accessibility standards that are legally mandated through the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), resulting in potentially negative effects on the academic achievement and co-curricular learning of students with disabilities,” they wrote.

A survey in October by the Student Experience in the Research University, or SERU, Consortium, found that students with disabilities are more likely to experience financial hardships, mental health challenges and food and housing insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Students with disabilities were more likely to feel unsupported by their universities than students without disabilities, the report said.

January 14, 2021

Community college students who enrolled in the fall were more likely to want to get a four-year degree than those who either considered or did enroll in the spring but decided not to in the fall, according to a survey by New America.

The survey of 1,696 adults by the progressive think tank found that 43 percent of students who were enrolled last spring and continued to be enrolled in the fall were interested in earning a four-year degree, or more. Forty-five percent of those who considered enrollment in the spring but enrolled in the fall were interested in earning a degree, the study found.

In comparison, a smaller percentage of the students who did not enroll in the fall were interested in a degree. Only 20 percent of those enrolled in the spring who decided not to enroll in the fall wanted to earn a degree, as well as only 28 percent of those who considered enrolling in the spring but did not either then or in the fall.

Among the survey’s other findings, financial hardship during the pandemic was a major factor in students’ decisions not to enroll in the fall. Of those who had attended in the spring but not in the fall, 41 percent said they had to work, and 38 percent said they could no longer afford their program. Among those who had thought about enrolling in the spring but didn’t enroll in the fall, 47 percent cited uncertainty around the pandemic, 44 percent said they could no longer afford a program and 37 percent said they had to work.

January 14, 2021

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Bentley University Week, Laurel Steinfield, assistant professor of marketing, discusses the paradoxes that come when big companies try to help. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 13, 2021

Middlebury College in Vermont announced in a one-sentence statement Tuesday that it has revoked the honorary degree presented to Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, in 2005, and said it had communicated the decision to Giuliani's office.

Middlebury president Laurie L. Patton previously announced the college was considering revoking the honorary degree "in light of the role that presidential attorney Rudolph Giuliani played in fomenting the violent uprising against our nation’s Capitol building on January 6, 2021."

January 13, 2021

Deans of law schools across the country issued a joint statement Tuesday in response to last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol, calling the attack “an assault on our democracy and the rule of law.”

A total of 157 law deans signed the statement. They called this moment a rare occasion in which they must speak together about the fundamental commitments of the legal profession, to attempt to preserve its integrity and to support the rule of law.

“The effort to disrupt the certification of a free and fair election was a betrayal of the core values that undergird our Constitution,” the statement from the deans said. “Lives were lost, the seat of our democracy was desecrated, and our country was shamed.”

Many lawyers and judges worked “honestly and in good faith, often in the face of considerable political pressure,” to ensure a free and fair election in 2020, the statement continued. But the law deans “recognize with dismay and sorrow that some lawyers challenged the outcome of the election with claims that they did not support with facts or evidence.”

Those unsupported challenges betrayed the values of the legal profession, the law deans said. The legal profession requires lawyers pursuing legal action to bring claims in good faith grounded in facts and evidence.

The deans called for a sustained effort by legal educators and lawyers to restore faith in the rule of law and the ideals of the legal profession.

They did not identify by name any of the individuals or groups that worked to challenge the election or storm the Capitol.

Last week’s attack has roiled law schools and the legal profession. Thousands of law school students and alumni have petitioned for Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz to be disbarred because they led attempts in the Senate to stop Congress from counting electoral votes last week.

Cruz graduated from Harvard Law School, and Hawley graduated from Yale Law School.

The New York State Bar Association is considering expelling President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, because of comments he made before last week’s attack on the Capitol and because of his efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election in recent months. Such a move would not stop Giuliani from practicing law, because the association is a voluntary association and disbarments require a state court committee’s approval.

January 13, 2021

Harvard University’s Kennedy School removed U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik of New York from the Institute of Politics’ Senior Advisory Committee, after Stefanik refused to step down. Doug Elmendorf, dean, shared the news with other committee members, citing Stefanik’s false statements about voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and related court actions. Elmendorf said his initial request that Stefanik resign “was not about political parties, political ideology, or her choice of candidate for president.” Instead, he said, her recent remarks “bear on the foundations of the electoral process through which this country’s leaders are chosen.”

Stefanik -- a Harvard alumna who first became involved with the institute as a student -- said in a statement that as “a conservative Republican, it is a rite of passage and badge of honor to join the long line of leaders who have been boycotted, protested and canceled by colleges and universities across America.” Harvard’s decision “to cower and cave to the woke Left will continue to erode diversity of thought, public discourse, and ultimately the student experience.” The fourth-term representative opposed certifying the presidential election results last week and publicly said, without evidence, there were “unprecedented voting irregularities.”

The federal Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees determined the election was “the most secure in American history.”

January 13, 2021

Jéaux Rinedahl, an adjunct professor of nursing at Seattle Pacific University, says he was told last year he did not qualify for an open full-time position because he is gay. He says he was encouraged to keep teaching on a part-time basis, however. Seattle Pacific is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. Rinedahl, a Christian, is now suing the institution.

“SPU’s actions are on the wrong side of history,” Rinedahl’s lawyers wrote in an open letter to the university. Beyond violating the “core beliefs” under which the university operates, the letter says, denying Rinedahl a permanent job based on his sexual orientation “violates state and federal anti-discrimination laws.” The university has declined comment, citing the lawsuit.

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