Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 27, 2023

This month’s episode of the Pulse podcast features an interview with Guillermo Elizondo of Territorium. In a conversation with Rodney B. Murray, host of The Pulse, Elizondo explains how the company’s digital competency records can benefit learners and employers. 

January 27, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, professor of humanities at the University of Puerto Rico–Mayagüez, explores problems with English-only policies in education. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 26, 2023

A former priest who worked at DeSales University has been sentenced to 37 months in prison after pleading guilty to accessing child pornography, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced Tuesday.

William McCandless accessed “over 3,000 webpages depicting and offering child sex abuse images” in 2017, according to authorities, as well as dozens of stories that graphically described “the sexual torture of young boys.”

McCandless, a DeSales alum, worked at the university’s Wellness Center from February to October 2017, The Allentown Morning Call reported. His employment was terminated when university officials learned he was under investigation.

January 26, 2023

End Rape on Campus, an initiative of the nonprofit Civic Nation, released a new digital tool Wednesday that allows users to compare the sexual assault statistics and policies of different college and universities. Called the Campus Accountability Map and Tool, the resource includes data on 750 institutions across the United States.

For each college or university on the map, the tool uses data from the U.S. Department of Education to show how many rapes, fondlings, instances of domestic violence, instances of dating violence and stalking incidents had occurred on campus between 2018 and 2020. It also notes whether the institutions’ sexual assault policies, investigation procedures, prevention efforts, survivor supports and accessibility meet EROC’s standards.

The new tool “puts campus accountability on the map to empower students with the resources students need—statistics, prevention efforts and survivor support resources—all in one location,” said Kenyora Parham, executive director of End Rape On Campus, in a press release. “We hope this resource will provide support and recourse for survivors, as well as information for all students and advocates to help them continue to hold their institutions accountable.”

EROC hopes the tool will help push colleges to standardize sexual assault policies and procedures, which remain inconsistent. For example, only 58 percent of institutions provide what EROC considers a comprehensive definition of consent. Many campuses also lack important resources for survivors, EROC noted; for example, only 5 percent of institutions require Title IX investigators and adjudicators to receive cultural competency training, and just 28 percent partner with a local rape crisis center.

January 26, 2023

Providing the right services and supports is key to helping students succeed academically, engage in the college experience, be healthy and well, and prepare for life after college. On Feb. 6, Inside Higher Ed will debut a new Student Success hub to provide actionable news, ideas, advice and inspiration to college and university professionals who care deeply about ensuring all students have what they need to be successful in college and beyond.

We recognize that administrators, staff and faculty have prioritized student success and have implemented practices, strategies and approaches that could help their colleagues across higher ed to better support students in their journeys through and after college. The Student Success hub offers many opportunities for professionals at two-year and four-year institutions to share advice, including tips, takeaways and inspirational stories.

Specific content needs include opinion pieces, research and survey data, plus contributions related to:

  • New student success initiatives
  • Innovative features of student success programs
  • How to expand the reach of student success programs
  • Simple actions that can promote academic success
  • Campus engagement strategies
  • Physical, mental and emotional health efforts
  • Career exploration and preparation
  • Data-based decision making
  • Uplifting conversations or moments with students
  • Unique partnerships between institutions and the community or members of the higher ed industry
  • Student success initiative funding and prioritizing

In addition, the content hub will include profiles of professionals in new student success–related roles at an institution and Q&As with executive-level student success administrators about lessons learned in their careers.

Learn more about contributing or being featured in upcoming Student Success content.

To ensure you don’t miss the latest Student Success content, subscribe to the free daily newsletter, also launching Feb. 6.

January 26, 2023

Hamline University’s full-time faculty members voted 71 to 12 on Monday to call for the resignation of President Fayneese Miller, The Pioneer Press reported.

Miller’s administration called it “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic” and “an act of intolerance” for an adjunct professor, Erika López Prater, to have shown an image of Muhammad in class in the fall. López Prater subsequently did not get rehired for the spring semester. Academic freedom advocates have criticized Miller and have noted that López Prater warned her students about what she was going to do.

“We are distressed that members of the administration have mishandled this issue and great harm has been done to the reputation of Minnesota’s oldest university,” said a statement the faculty adopted. “As we no longer have faith in President Miller’s ability to lead the university forward, we call upon her to immediately tender her resignation to the Hamline University Board of Trustees.”

A Hamline spokesman said Miller was discussing with her team how to respond.

In a joint statement Jan. 17 with the chair of Hamline’s Board of Trustees, Miller said “sometimes we misstep” and that it was “flawed” to have used the word “Islamophobic” to describe the incident. The statement came out the same day López Prater sued the university.

January 26, 2023

Nature reports that over 300 scientists are urging the University of California, Los Angeles, to rescind the discipline of a Robert H. MacArthur Award–winning ecologist.

The publication says UCLA suspended Priyanga Amarasekare without pay for a year and cut her salary by a fifth for a further two years. Her lab website says, “Professor Amarasekare is on leave for the 2022-2023 academic year.”

Furthermore, Nature reported, UCLA “forbade her from accessing her laboratory, maintaining her insect colonies, managing her grants or contacting students” and “barred Amarasekare from discussing the matter publicly.”

“A native of Sri Lanka and one of two women of color who have tenure in the ecology and evolution department, she has previously accused the university of discrimination for repeatedly denying her promotions that were granted to colleagues,” Nature wrote. “Former students and faculty members who are familiar with the situation think that Amarasekare’s suspension was retaliation for speaking out.”

In an email to Inside Higher Ed, UCLA declined to provide its reasoning.

“While many statements have been presented as facts and circulated publicly, we are bound to respect the privacy of the numerous individuals involved in this matter, which removes our ability to address any specifics. While this approach carries the risk that misinformation, if any, is not corrected or that the university’s actions are misunderstood in the forum of public opinion, fairness and policy require that personnel issues be addressed through a deliberative and confidential process.”

UCLA’s statement also said it “supports freedom of expression and does not condone retaliation of any sort, in any case.”

January 26, 2023

The Skills First Coalition, a group of American businesses and education and training providers, wants the 118th Congress to pass legislation that would expand Pell Grants to short-term programs, improve the transfer of credits between higher education institutions and support new approaches to credentialing and skills verification, among other priorities.

The coalition includes IBM, HP, Boeing and Western Governors University.

“Close collaboration between businesses, educators, and lawmakers to advance the aforementioned polices will further enhance efforts to meet the needs of workers and employers while future-proofing the U.S. economy,” the coalition wrote in a letter Wednesday to the House and Senate education committees. “The stakes have never been higher to meet the demands of this moment for current and future generations.”

North Carolina representative Virginia Foxx, who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, introduced a bill Wednesday along with a group of other House Republicans that would expand the use of the Pell Grant to programs that run for at least eight weeks. Eligible programs also would have to offer programs that align with in-demand industry sectors or occupations, meet the hiring requirements of potential employers. The programs also would have to operate for a year before becoming eligible and have completion and job placement rates of at least 70 percent.

January 26, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: Rahim Esfandyar-Pour, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and biomedical engineering at the University of California, Irvine, explores one way to make wearable tech more accessible. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 25, 2023

Hundreds of students at Bethune-Cookman University gathered on campus Monday afternoon to protest what they said were unlivable conditions in dorms and facilities, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. The unrest stemmed in part from the university’s decision not to move forward with a contract for Ed Reed, whom it had tentatively agreed to hire as head football coach last month, after he posted videos complaining about the state of the campus.

Students at B-CU, a historically Black university in Daytona Beach, Fla., said there was mold growing in dorm rooms, a lack of hot water and air-conditioning, and more—and that the B-CU administration had ignored such problems for too long. During the protests, students demanded the removal of the entire Board of Trustees and that the university rectify the facilities problems and resume contract negotiations with Reed.

B-CU reached an “agreement in principle” with Reed on Dec. 27 but never finalized the deal; he had been working on campus without a contract since. After Reed posted profanity-laden videos on social media last week complaining that the athletics facilities were in disarray and that he and members of the football team had had to pick up trash on campus, the university announced that it had “decided not to pursue contract negotiations” and was reopening the search for a new coach.

B-CU president Lawrence Drake II issued another statement Tuesday responding to the student protesters’ complaints—which he said would be addressed in meetings with university leaders—and elaborating on the decision to end negotiations with Reed.

“As we continued to observe him, we felt that his behavior was not aligned with the traditions of our founder and the university,” Drake wrote, adding that a new coach would likely be chosen in the next “week to ten days.”

Daytona Beach was also one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Ian in October, and Bethune-Cookman suffered more damage than most campuses in the state. It was closed for two weeks afterward, and cleanup efforts and reconstruction are still underway; Drake implied that this damage contributed to the dilapidated state of the campus.

“For some buildings and facilities, in light of two unprecedented weather events … and enrollment growth, we have begun renovation and construction immediately,” he wrote.

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