Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 13, 2017

The College Fix, a conservative website that regularly criticizes what it sees as liberal bias in higher education, has announced it will start to disclose its ties to Betsy DeVos, the new U.S. education secretary. As reported by Inside Higher Ed, the site has been running supportive articles about DeVos without noting that Rick DeVos, her son, sits on the Board of Directors for the Student Free Press Association, a nonprofit group that runs the site and that has received a large portion of its funding from an anonymous conservative donor fund that the DeVos family has donated to heavily in the past.

John J. Miller, executive director of The College Fix, has now published a statement in which he says it was a mistake to publish articles about DeVos without noting the connection. Going forward, Miller said, articles on DeVos will include this statement: "Rick DeVos, the son of Betsy DeVos, serves on the board of the Student Free Press Association, the nonprofit parent organization of The College Fix."

February 13, 2017

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, "Higher Ed Economics -- Beyond Tuition." You may download the booklet, free, here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on the themes of the booklet, on Thursday, March 16, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

February 13, 2017

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is once again calling for the elimination of the Educational Approval Board by next year, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Walker's budget unveiled Wednesday would eliminate the board that regulates the state's for-profit colleges and transfer its duties to the Department of Safety and Professional Services. The governor originally made the proposal four years ago, saying that eliminating the board would remove unnecessary financial and regulatory burdens on for-profit institutions. His opponents, however, find that the board plays an important role in the state's higher education system.

February 13, 2017

A state appeals court ruled last week that Kean University in New Jersey violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act when its Board of Trustees declined to renew a professor’s contract without first warning her of the decision, NJ.com reported.

In 2014, the board voted without discussion to terminate the contract of Valerie Hascup, an associate professor of nursing. The board also voted on personnel decisions that affected a number of other unnamed employees.

The university should have provided Hascup with a warning letter at least two weeks in advance of the meeting, according to the decision from the three-judge panel. The letter, which is called a Rice notice, would have informed Hascup of her rights to have the board discuss her employment openly at the meeting.

By holding a “silent unexplained vote,” the judges said, Kean violated the open public meetings law.

This parts with an earlier ruling from a trial court, which said the public university was acting within the law when it chose not to warn Hascup or any other university employees affected by decisions made at that board meeting.

Last week’s ruling overturns all the employment changes made in that meeting over two years ago, but Hascup’s attorney, Robert Fagella, told NJ.com he doesn’t know how that decision will play out. Fagella also said the ruling properly admonished Kean’s Board of Trustees and their “abominable” conduct.

Kean University officials objected to the outcome. A spokeswoman for Kean said they are reviewing the decision and may consider an appeal.

February 13, 2017

Central Michigan University has determined that an individual who is not a student was responsible for a Hitler-referencing Valentine's Day card that was in a gift bag distributed by the university's College Republicans last week, and that the Republicans were unaware the card was placed there. The incident attracted widespread attention. The university declined to comment on the motives of the woman, who, it said, admitted to what she had done and who is no longer in the area.

February 13, 2017

A professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine lost his research privileges there after eight of his scientific journal articles were retracted for incomplete or unreliable information, The Baltimore Sun reported.

In January, six of Anil Jaiswal’s articles were retracted from the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The other two were retracted in 2014.

Jaiswal, a professor of pharmacology, did not respond to requests for comment from the Sun or from Inside Higher Ed.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore, had investigated the accuracy of Jaiswal’s articles, which led to some of the retractions. Each article is accompanied by a retraction statement.

"This article has been retracted by the publisher," one of the retractions says, according to the Sun. "An investigation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, determined that the data shown in Fig. 2A are unreliable and do not support the hypothesis of this work."

Another retraction states that figures in the article were digitally altered. A third says the data from the paper do not align with the author’s conclusion.

University officials did not go into detail about the investigation, but they did confirm it. In a statement the college said Jaiswal, who had been a professor there for almost 10 years, was “transitioning out of research.”

February 13, 2017

The American Association of Cosmetology Schools filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education Friday over its gainful employment rule. The organization, which represents about 750 institutions, is seeking relief from the regulations.

The organization argues that gainful employment undercounts cosmetology graduates' income because many self-employed workers rely on gratuities and are paid in cash. Many cosmetologists simply underreport their incomes, according to the organization.

"A provision that is supposed to protect our students, in fact, hurts them badly," said Adam Nelson, executive director of AACS, in a news release. "We are proud that our graduates, many of whom were the first in their families to attend any kind of post-high school education, are quite often joining the middle class, establishing themselves in new beauty businesses and raising families and supporting themselves at a very good income level over long-lasting careers."

February 13, 2017

Transparent GMU, a group of George Mason University students, is suing the institution to obtain grant and gift agreements between private donors and the George Mason University Foundation. They’re concerned about the university’s ties to the Charles Koch Foundation, which has donated heavily to their campus and whose previous donation to Florida State University raised concerns about influence over hiring and curriculum decisions. Transparent GMU filed a public records request for copies of relevant agreements, but the university claimed those documents fall outside the scope of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

“We believe the public has a right to know the details of our university’s operations, including its relationship with private donors,” student Gus Thomson said in a statement. The foundation “is doing work for our public school, so it should be held to the same disclosure standards as the university itself.”

Evan Johns, the students’ attorney, said the law “simply does not allow a public university to conceal its records by outsourcing its public business to a private company.”

Michael Sandler, university spokesperson, said via email that gifts come through the institution's foundation, a nonprofit organization "exempt from Virginia public records laws. Donors have the right to request anonymity. And the university and foundation have a responsibility to respect the privacy of those donors. The state recognizes this. If not for the support of private gifts, many of our students would not have the opportunity of higher education. And many of our researchers wouldn’t be able to pursue their work without that support, either.”

UnKoch My Campus, a group fighting donor influence in academe, has previously argued that a gift, according to federal tax regulations, is defined as an “irrevocable donation made without expectation of exchange for anything of significant commercial value.” Yet a 2016 donation from the Koch foundation, related to renaming George Mason’s law school after late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, says that if the institution doesn’t live up to various provisions, the Koch foundation can end the agreement and demand the return of all unexpended funds.

February 13, 2017

A student at Creighton University was cut in the neck by another student in a campus dormitory early Saturday morning, The Omaha World-Herald reported.

Teresa Spagna, the 18-year-old female who was sliced with a knife, did not suffer life-threatening injuries but was taken to the hospital, Omaha police officials told the World-Herald.

The incident occurred around 1 a.m. at Gallagher Hall, a campus dormitory north of downtown Omaha.

Police have arrested Christopher Wheeler, a 19-year-old Creighton student, for the attack. After cutting Spagna, Wheeler stayed in the dorm but relocated to a different floor of the building, authorities said. Police officers locked down Gallagher Hall and checked every room before they found and arrested Wheeler.

He was arrested on charges of second-degree assault, use of a weapon to commit a felony and obstructing an officer. Police still have not determined how Spagna and Wheeler know each other or what triggered the assault.

February 13, 2017

Turkish police detained at least 12 people and used tear gas to disperse protesters demonstrating against the dismissal of academics at Ankara University on Friday, Reuters reported. Dozens of academics at the university were among the more than 4,400 civil servants fired last week in the most recent round of purges following a failed coup attempt in July. More than 125,000 people have been fired or suspended from their positions and 40,000 people arrested since the coup attempt, which the government blames on the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen and his followers. Gülen has denied involvement.

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