Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 30, 2020

In March, Florida State University decided to temporarily permit its employees to care for children while working remotely. The university now will reverse that policy, the administration announced in a memo to faculty and staff members. Beginning Aug. 7, employees will no longer be allowed to care for children while working remotely. If a staff member fails to abide by this requirement, the university can rescind approval for remote work.

"Now that our local public schools are planning to resume in-person instruction next month and local day-care centers are open throughout the county, FSU is also shifting back to normal policy," the university wrote in a statement clarifying its policy. "Florida State University is closely monitoring Leon County School’s reopening plans. If circumstances change, Florida State University will make any adjustments accordingly."

With the resumption of normal policy, employees must arrange for someone else to care for their children during work hours, and the human resources department can request the specifics of that arrangement.

Florida State also clarified that the change will not affect staff members who regularly do their jobs remotely.

The announcement drew negative attention on social media from faculty members at several universities.

Though childcare providers were deemed an essential business by many states -- including Florida -- and not ordered to close, an April survey of providers from the National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests that nearly half of facilities or programs were closed entirely at that time, and 17 percent were open only for children of essential workers.

June 30, 2020

Bethany College has removed the name of the late senator Robert C. Byrd from its campus health center. A message from Tamara Rodenberg, the president, said the name "created divisiveness and pain for members of Bethany community, both past and present."

"We respect the Byrd family name, but we can no longer let it represent how we lead in today’s world. We will honor our past, but we must propel the college into a new shared future. And so from this point forward, a new chapter begins on our campus, one informed by more diverse voices, one predicated on mutual respect and human value, and one that aims to unite through words, actions and hope," Rodenberg said.

The Byrd name is on campuses throughout West Virginia, owing to his work as a powerful Democratic senator before he died in 2010. Early in his career he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but he renounced the organization.

June 30, 2020

Calhoun Community College in Alabama has received criticism for its name, a reference to John C. Calhoun, a former U.S. vice president who owned slaves and argued for the institution of slavery. The community college has said it will forward any complaints on to the Alabama Community College System, whose chancellor and Board of Trustees handle naming policies, AL.com reported Thursday.

The move comes after a statue of Calhoun was removed from downtown Charleston, S.C., Wednesday.

June 30, 2020

The University of Utah has restructured its Department of Public Safety by reducing the chief of police's oversight over various safety services, such as emergency management and campus security, which will now fall under the leadership of the university's new chief safety officer, a June 27 university press release said. Utah also implemented a community services division that will support crime victims, and a victims’ advocate was also recently hired within the police department, according to KSL Newsradio.

The changes come after an independent review of the department following the 2018 murder of Lauren McCluskey, an athlete who contacted campus police several times to report harassment and abuse by her killer. The review found officers and other university officials failed to adequately respond and protect McCluskey.

Marlon Lynch, who was hired as the new chief safety officer in February, will oversee the public safety department. A new police command staff will build relationships with students, faculty and staff members, and the new community services division will support the university’s behavioral intervention efforts and the Treat Assessment Team, which is being developed, according to an official in the Office of the Chief Safety Officer. The university will begin construction on a new building to house the division at the end of the year.

June 30, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Longwood University Week, Sarai Blincoe, associate professor of social psychology, explores three things we consider in deciding whom to trust. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 29, 2020

Princeton University on Saturday removed Woodrow Wilson's name from its School of Public and International Affairs and a residential college. Wilson was a Princeton alumnus and president of the university. Christopher L. Eisgruber, the current president, wrote to the campus, where protests in 2015 (and before that) called for removal of the name. In April 2016, a campus committee "recommended a number of reforms to make this university more inclusive and more honest about its history. The committee and the board, however, left Wilson’s name on the school and the college," Eisgruber wrote.

Today, he wrote, "the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks drew renewed attention to the long and damaging history of racism in America."

He added that the board acted because "Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time. He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice. He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today. Wilson’s segregationist policies make him an especially inappropriate namesake for a public policy school."

June 29, 2020

Opponents of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's rule making it more difficult for those who have been defrauded by their colleges to have their student loans forgiven are looking to the courts to block the measure after suffering a defeat in Congress Friday.

In a victory for DeVos, the Democratic House failed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a bill that would have undone DeVos’s controversial borrower-defense rule.

Both the House and Senate had passed a resolution to block DeVos’s rule from going into effect for new borrowers on July 1, but it was vetoed by Trump. Six Republicans joined Democrats Friday as a majority of the House voted for the override, 238-173. But it fell short of getting the necessary two-thirds support to pass.

“We look forward to implementing the Administration’s borrower defense rule on July 1 that protects students from fraud, treats higher education institutions fairly and protects taxpayers,” an Education Department spokeswoman said after the vote.

The vote, however, was largely symbolic. Even supporters did not expect it to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

The action now moves to the courts. Consumer groups looked to a federal lawsuit in New York brought in February by the Project on Predatory Student Lending and Public Citizen Litigation Group on behalf of the New York Legal Assistance Group.

“The 2019 borrower defense rule will make it nearly impossible for cheated borrowers to get the loan cancellation they are legally owed -- which is exactly what Secretary DeVos intended,” Eileen Connor, director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending, said in a statement on Friday. “Congress had an opportunity to stand up for students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges, but they refused.”

“Congress and President Trump had the chance to stand with Americans struggling against fraud, corruption and bureaucratic red tape, but instead they walked away,” said Persis Yu, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, another group that has opposed the rule.

June 29, 2020

Morehouse College, a historically Black college in Atlanta, canceled fall athletics competition due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, President David Thomas said in a message to the campus on June 26. The cancellation will impact both the football and cross-country teams, which compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division II and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference against other historically Black institutions.

“I know this news will be most disappointing to our scholar-athletes, especially our seniors,” Thomas said. “I can only ask for your understanding and respect for the fact that the college is prioritizing your health and safety ahead of all else.”

Other HBCUs, such as Tennessee State University, Jackson State University and Southern University, have canceled a few football games held on sites away from campuses in recent weeks, but Morehouse is the first to cancel the season outright, The New York Times reported. Bowdoin College, a private liberal arts college in Brunswick, Me., that competes in Division III, also announced on June 22 that it had canceled fall athletics.

Clemson University announced Friday that 14 football players tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases on the team to 37, ESPN reported.

June 29, 2020

After posting a racist video on TikTok, a student at Hardin-Simmons University has been subject to the college's disciplinary process and is no longer enrolled, NBC News reported Saturday.

“Upon learning about a TikTok post made this week by an HSU student, we immediately took action to address the situation and began the required disciplinary process,” the university said in a statement. “We can confirm that the student associated with this incident is no longer enrolled at Hardin-Simmons University.”

In the video in question, the student is wearing an HSU shirt and depicting perceived different reactions by the public to murders, depending on the race of the perpetrator and victim. When text in the video says, “People when a BLACK person kills a WHITE person,” or “People when a BLACK person kills a BLACK person” the student in the video remains calm. When the text says, “People when a WHITE person kills a BLACK person,” the video shows flames and the woman in anger.

The university's president said in a statement that the post was "deeply disappointing and unacceptable."

June 29, 2020

David Bridel resigned as dean of the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts after admitting to having had a relationship with a B.F.A. student in 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported. The prior day, another woman described the relationship in a town hall meeting. “I fully accept, however, that my behavior in 2009 demonstrated a failure in judgment and evidence of irresponsibility,” he wrote in a letter to the faculty. “I apologize, profusely, for any harm I caused by my conduct in 2009.”

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