Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 3:00am

The board of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges issued a statement on the responsibility of trustees to promote an inclusive campus climate, with principles of civility in place.

The statement said that boards and campus leaders should:

  • Embrace "transparency on the part of presidents, who must work in collaboration with their boards on campus climate issues."
  • Conduct "a periodic review of policies that impact campus climate, ensuring that they are current and consistent with institution mission and relevant laws and regulations."
  • Ensure "the allocation of appropriate resources to address campus climate needs."
  • Support "the creation of proactive, responsive, and adaptive governance practices, including those that create diversity on the board itself."
  • Be champions of "diversity and equal opportunity in the faculty and staff hiring and development process."

The full statement may be found here.

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 3:00am

A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that fewer students are enrolling in two-year institutions after earning bachelor's degrees.

Of students who earned a bachelor's degree in 2013, 5.8 percent enrolled in a two-year institution -- the lowest point in 14 years. Students who are over age 30 when they earned a bachelor's degree are least likely to seek further education at a two-year institution, according to the report.

"The great recession compelled many individuals to return to college," said Doug Shapiro, executive research director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in a news release. "Upon earning their bachelor's degrees, those students typically did not seek further training at two-year institutions."

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 3:00am

A yearlong evaluation of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education by the Council on Library and Information Resources has produced three alternative paths forward for the organization: relaunch, reconfigure or shut down. NITLE, which has helped liberal arts colleges use technology in the classroom, last year moved from its home at Southwestern University to CLIR in order to determine if the organization had a future in the face of dwindling funding and reduced activity. Six current or former CLIR postdoctoral fellows examined NITLE's history, interviewed people associated with the organization and surveyed individuals involved in ed tech or liberal arts education to produce the white paper, which was published Tuesday.

The authors identified a handful of activities an organization focusing on technology in liberal arts education should pursue in order to remain viable. The organization, whether it is NITLE or not, should continue to focus on liberal arts colleges, communicate with members and conduct market research to gather input about its work, and develop a mission that sets it apart from other organizations in the space.

"Whatever shape a future initiative may take, its endurance would rely on its ability to help its constituents adapt to rapid change," the white paper reads. An advisory council will take the report into consideration as it determines NITLE's future.

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 3:00am

St. John's University, in New York, has dropped its requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores -- for at least a three-year trial period. The option will not be open to students who are homeschooled, have a first language other than English or who are applying to a small group of majors.

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute, Howard Eichenbaum, university professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, discusses how the brain suppresses some memories to better focus on the tasks at hand. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:07am

The American University of Afghanistan in Kabul is reportedly under attack. Reuters quoted an Afghan interior ministry official who said that several gunmen attacked the university and that there are reports of gunfire and explosions.

“They are inside the compound and there are foreign professors along with hundreds of students,” the official said.

A student told Reuters by telephone that he was trapped inside the university.

ABC News reported on Twitter that at least two people were killed and five injured in the attack. Other unconfirmed reports on social media suggest higher numbers of casualties. The ABC report said that shooting had stopped.

A photographer for the Associated Press was in a classroom at the university when the attack took place.

Massoud Hossaini, the photographer, was quoted by AP as saying he was in a classroom with 15 students when he heard an explosion. “I went to the window to see what was going on, and I saw a person in normal clothes outside. He shot at me and shattered the glass,” Hossaini said, adding that he fell on the glass and cut his hands.

He said the students then barricaded themselves in the classroom before most of them later escaped.

Two foreign professors at the university were kidnapped earlier this month. The American University of Afghanistan is heavily funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and offers English-language, Western-style education -- including coeducation -- to Afghan students.

Supporters of the university -- and some at the university -- took to social media to express their dismay about Wednesday’s attack.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:00am

The faculty at the American Film Institute Conservatory voted 35 to 8 to express no confidence in Jan Schuette, dean, and requested that he resign, the institution’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors announced Tuesday. Aggrieved faculty members say the vote follows a year of tensions over matters of shared governance, academic freedom and instruction. They allege that Schuette has canceled faculty meetings, unilaterally imposed changes to the curriculum and admissions process, and fired several instructors without due process.

The conservatory said in a statement that it “embraces change to ensure its peerless educational experience evolves with the art form,” according to Variety. “This march to the future is often driven by passionate disagreement, and we have received conflicting opinions from within the faculty and are currently ensuring that all voices are heard in this process.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:00am

In addition to its major decision in favor of graduate student unions, the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday ruled that instructors of religious studies may be excluded from part-time faculty unions at two Roman Catholic institutions. The two decisions, concerning St. Xavier University and Seattle University, respectively, reverse earlier regional board rulings that adjunct instructors in all disciplines at those institutions may form unions because they don’t perform specific religious functions. The regional board decisions were made in light of an earlier NLRB decision concerning Pacific Lutheran University, which paved the way for adjunct faculty unions at religious institutions.

William Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said Tuesday’s decisions were notable because the exclusion of some faculty members but not others from collective bargaining had never previously been argued in relation to NLRB vs. Catholic Bishops of Chicago. That 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision asserts that faculty members at religious institutions aren’t entitled to collective bargaining under the labor relations act. “Nobody’s ever articulated that before,” Herbert said of the distinction.

“We find that the university holds [adjunct faculty in the department of religious studies] out ‘as performing a specific role in creating and maintaining the school’s religious educational environment,’” reads the NLRB’s decision on St. Xavier, quoting the board’s 2014 decision in favor of adjunct unions at religious colleges concerning Pacific Lutheran. Tuesday’s decision concerning Seattle used similar language and logic, but it applies to adjuncts in the institution's Department of Theology and Religious Studies, as well as the School of Theology and Ministry.

St. Xavier adjuncts are affiliated with the National Education Association, while those at Pacific Lutheran and Seattle University are affiliated with Service Employees International Union. A spokesperson for Seattle said the university was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. A spokesperson for St. Xavier was not immediately available for comment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 3:28am

Eight athletes at Texas Woman's University were hospitalized this weekend and one has since been released with symptoms related to rhabdomyolysis, a serious and rare condition involving muscle tissue breakdown. The university and Texas health authorities are investigating.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 4:21am

Facing growing public outrage over its firing of an instructor for absenteeism when her absences were due to cancer treatment, China's Lanzhou Jiaotong University issued a statement that said it was “deeply sorry” and agreed to pay the instructor back wages, The New York Times reported. Anger over the case has only grown, however, because the instructor -- Liu Lingli -- died before the apology was issued.

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