Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 13, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Dorion Borbonus, associate professor of history at the University of Dayton, looks into the long past of Rome to uncover unheard voices. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

July 12, 2018

The University of Kansas has taken down a controversial work of art in which images are placed on an American flag (right).

The university acted after Republican politicians criticized the art. Chancellor Douglas A. Girod issued a statement citing safety concerns for ordering the flag to be taken down and moved into the campus art museum that sponsored the installation. "Over the course of the day, the conversation around this display has generated public safety concerns for our campus community. While we want to foster difficult dialogue, we cannot allow that dialogue to put our people or property in harm’s way," he said.

University officials had earlier on Wednesday defended the flag display.

Governor Jeff Colyer of Kansas and Steve Watkins, a Republican candidate for Congress from Kansas, condemned the art installation at the University of Kansas, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

The piece, called “Untitled (Flag 2)," by German artist Josephine Meckseper, resembles an American flag with additional illustrations. It is part of a national project called "Pledges of Allegiance."

"To those who would trample, burn, or deface the flag, thank a soldier. It hurts me to see a defaced flag fly at the University of Kansas," Watkins wrote on his Facebook page. "My thoughts turn to my friends whose coffins were draped in our flag. I’m sorry that a Kansan would deface our symbol of strength, unity, and patriotism."

Colyer, a Republican, issued a statement Wednesday demanding the art piece be taken down.

"The disrespectful display of a desecrated American flag on the KU campus is absolutely unacceptable," Colyer said in a news release. "Men and women have fought and bled for that flag and to use it in this manner is beyond disrespectful. I have communicated with KU Chancellor Doug Girod and Board of Regents President Blake Flanders to express my disappointment that a taxpayer funded institution would allow such a display of our sacred flag, and I demand that it be taken down immediately."

Peter Bonilla, vice president of programs at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, issued the following statement Wednesday.

"The University of Kansas must not take down this work of art. Instead KU must take a strong stand for the First Amendment. By doing so, KU would stand apart from the numerous institutions that have censored artistic expression," he said. "The First Amendment doesn’t exist to protect politically popular speech. It exists to protect the speech likeliest to stir controversy, and it is a crucial check against the power of the state to silence dissenting voices."

July 12, 2018

John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s Pizza, on Wednesday apologized for using a racial slur to describe black people. His use of the slur also raised questions for universities with which he is associated as a donor.

The University of Louisville announced that he was stepping down as a trustee.

Purdue University received $8 million from Schnatter's foundation this year and then renamed an economics center the John H. Schnatter Center for Economic Research. The Journal & Courier reported that Purdue officials said they would "continue to assess the situation while reinforcing our values."

The University of Kentucky received a $12 million gift in 2015 -- from Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation -- to create a center for the study of free enterprise. Jay Blanton, a spokesman for the university, released this statement: “Without question, the language reported in the conference call is unacceptable and has no place in our community. We look forward to Mr. Schnatter further addressing this issue in response to the heavy criticism he is rightly receiving.”

Ball State University also has a free enterprise center named for Schnatter, an alumnus. A spokeswoman said via email, "We just received this information within the last few hours so it is premature for us [to] comment on this specific incident involving John Schnatter. At Ball State, our alumni, faculty, staff, and students are committed to the Beneficence Pledge which encourages us 'to act in a socially responsible way' and 'pledge to value the intrinsic worth of every member of the community.'"

July 12, 2018

Many students and alumni of Yale University's law school are circulating a petition denouncing the way the law school issued a press release on President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. "The law school published a press release boasting of its alumnus’s accomplishment," the petition says. "The school’s post included quotes from Yale Law School professors about Judge Kavanaugh’s intellect, influence and mentorship of their students. Yet the press release's focus on the nominee's professionalism, pedigree, and service to Yale Law School obscures the true stakes of his nomination and raises a disturbing question: Is there nothing more important to Yale Law School than its proximity to power and prestige?"

The petition notes the anticipated votes Kavanaugh would provide on the Supreme Court for (the petition's authors believe) limits on civil liberties, abortion rights, gay rights and more. "Now is the time for moral courage -- which for Yale Law School comes at so little cost. Perhaps you, as an institution and as individuals, will benefit less from Judge Kavanaugh’s ascendent power if you withhold your support. Perhaps Judge Kavanaugh will be less likely to hire your favorite students. But people will die if he is confirmed. We hope you agree your sacrifice would be worth it. Please use your authority and platform to expose the stakes of this moment and the threat that Judge Kavanaugh poses."

The Yale law press release in question may be found here. A spokeswoman for the law school said that the press release did not endorse Kavanaugh, "We are a nonpartisan institution. We routinely acknowledge high-profile nominations of our alumni," she said, adding that "we did exactly the same thing not so long ago when Justice Sonia Sotomayor" was nominated. That press release may be read here.

July 12, 2018

Ken Peterson, a professor of music at Dixie State University who was terminated earlier this year for alleged violations of university confidentiality policies, will be reinstated, following a Utah System of Higher Education decision in his favor, the St. George News reported. “The matter has been resolved and I will be returning to my teaching position,” Peterson said in a statement. “I don’t have the words to adequately express my gratitude for the outpouring of support I’ve received from my friends, students, fellow faculty, and the community.”

A university spokesperson said that Dixie State “wholeheartedly supports this decision, and we look forward to working with Peterson again.” University policies and procedures “exist to provide a structured process and ensure fairness to and protection of faculty members throughout appeals,” she added.

Peterson and another professor of music, Glenn Webb, were terminated last semester for allegedly discussing the tenure bid of a colleague in their department. The university accused the two professors of serious violations of university ethics rules. But the professors’ many supporters said termination should be reserved for the most serious of offenses, not gossip. A faculty review board also has recommended that Webb be reinstated, but the state university system has not yet weighed in on his appeal.

July 12, 2018

A new report from the Century Foundation released today found that statewide free college programs received more political support during economic downturns, even when overall spending on higher education fell.

According to the report, funding per full-time-equivalent student grew between 12 and 142 percent in six states studied from 2007 to 2013, during the Great Recession, while overall state funding per FTE student fell between 18 and 38 percent in each state.

Jen Mishory, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and author of the report, examined free college programs in Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma that vary in eligibility requirements. All of the programs offered free tuition and were not solely merit based. She found that these programs retained and increased funding even when the legislatures in those states cut funding for other financial aid programs. And all six programs grew at a time when their state financial aid budgets fell by an average of 6 percent per FTE nationally.

"Budgets were tight during the Great Recession, and even during those tight times, [these programs] sustained or increased funding over time," Mishory said. "What's interesting is none of these programs are truly universal."

Some of the programs maintained political support despite having an inequitable structure that sends disproportionate aid to wealthy families, while others also had political support but limited their dollars to low- and middle-income families.

Mishory said that future programs that offer clear messages and defined benefits and that target low and middle-income students and have sustainable funding streams can drive support.

July 12, 2018

A study published by the American Enterprise Institute Wednesday suggests that the proportion of low-income students at selective colleges is edging up, not decreasing, as some other recent studies have suggested. Instead, the paper argues, the group that has been most squeezed out of selective private and public colleges in the last decade has been those students in the middle socioeconomic quartiles.

But the impression most readers of the study are likely to be left with is that students from the top quartile continue to dominate enrollments at the 200 most selective colleges and universities. In 2015-16, the latest year for which AEI had data from the Education Department's National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey, 54.2 percent of undergraduates at those colleges were from the top 25 percent of the socioeconomic ladder, while the remaining students were split fairly equally from the other three quartiles.

July 12, 2018

A new report by Joni Finney of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education offers state-by-state comparisons on postsecondary educational opportunity. States are evaluated on factors such as preparation of high school students, engagement with nontraditional college students, support for minority students and the fiscal heath of the state. Many of the states are found lacking. General analysis plus the state comparisons may be found here.

July 12, 2018

The announcements keep coming -- Brown University will no longer require applicants to submit the essay portion of either the SAT or ACT. A statement from Logan Powell, the university’s dean of admission, said, “Our goal is that for any talented student interested in Brown, the application process is not a deterrent -- and we don’t want this test to be a barrier to their application.”

Princeton and Stanford Universities announced last week that they were dropping the requirement. So has the California Institute of Technology.

July 12, 2018

Three institutions -- the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, California State University Fresno and Montgomery County Community College -- are working to update their advising practices with technology, and sharing their progress.

The Community College Research Center recently published a report outlining how each of the institutions is proactively reaching out to students that might need help, as well as working to more effectively use data in students’ one-on-one sessions with advisers.

Early results indicate that all three institutions have had to restructure their advising to enable students to have longer sessions with advisers. The institutions have also grappled with how to use data such as early-alert flags and midterm grades to encourage, rather than discourage, students.

Future reports will discuss the short- and long-term impact of these advising strategies on student outcomes.

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