Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 24, 2014

College athletes meet the definition of part-time worker under federal law just as federal work study participants do and should be paid at least minimum wage, a lawsuit filed in federal court this week alleges.

USA Today reports on the lawsuit's filing in federal court in Indianapolis, where the NCAA has its headquarters, and notes that the lawsuit -- by naming every Division I college and university as a defendant, as well as the association -- expands the scope of institutions that are directly targets of the large and growing collection of lawsuits seeking to change how college athletes are compensated.

October 24, 2014

The University of California at Santa Barbara is expected today to announce a $65 million gift to its Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, The New York Times reported. The gift, from Charles T. Munger, an investor best known as Warren Buffett's business partner, will support a residence for the institute, which brings groups of physicists together for long periods of times to brainstorm.

October 24, 2014

At Ohio State University and the University of Oklahoma, controversies involving marching bands have become significant issues on the campus and statewide.

Ohio State has now, in response to a lawsuit by the band director it fired, Jonathan Waters, released more details about the inappropriate behavior that the university says led to the dismissal. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the university's latest legal filings say that officials found "a third sexual assault in the band while he was in charge, and they found several raunchy student-produced videos that sometimes included students who were partially nude. Waters sometimes appeared in cameos, according to OSU." Waters has denied wrongdoing and many band alumni are backing him.

In Oklahoma, Justin Stolarik resigned as director of the Pride of Oklahoma band, amid widespread criticism of the band's performance and of rules -- recently lifted -- that barred band members from speaking out about their concerns, The Norman Transcript reported.



October 24, 2014

State officials in Montana and administrators at Stanford University are looking into whether a project by researchers at Stanford and Dartmouth College may have inappropriately deceived voters, the Associated Press reported. Some voters in Montana received a flyer in the mail this week -- which looked to many like official election material because it contained the state seal -- that rated judicial candidates on a scale of "more liberal" to "more conservative."

The mailer was sent by researchers at Stanford and Dartmouth as part of an experiment of whether residents are more likely to vote if they have more information about candidates. The AP article quotes Montana's secretary of state, Linda McCullough, as saying she believes the researchers "actually crossed the line from research into influencing voters." A spokeswoman for Stanford, Lisa Lapin, told the news service: "We are taking this very seriously.... We sincerely apologize to those voters and we apologize to the secretary of state for the confusion."

October 24, 2014

Swiss universities are reporting significant drops -- of between 11 and 38 percent -- in the enrollment of European students from outside the country, The Local reported. The European Union denied Switzerland continued participation in a system that permits European students easy access to universities throughout the continent after Swiss voters approved tougher rules on immigration.


October 24, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Dan Chelotti, an assistant professor of English at Elms College, delves into writer’s block. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


October 23, 2014

In an interview in The New Yorker, President Obama expressed support for affirmative action in higher education, and questioned how precisely a Supreme Court deadline for phasing out the consideration of race should be viewed. The article looks broadly at President Obama's influence on the federal court system, and touches on affirmative action toward the end of the piece. In a landmark Supreme Court decision upholding the right of public colleges to, under certain circumstances, consider race in admissions, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that they should no longer be needed in 25 years. Justice O'Connor, since retired from the court, wrote the decision in 2003. Asked about that deadline, Obama told the magazine that Justice O’Connor would “be the first one to acknowledge that 25 years was sort of a ballpark figure in her mind.”

Generally, Obama signaled continued support for affirmative action. “If the University of Michigan or California decides that there is a value in making sure that folks with different experiences in a classroom will enhance the educational experience of the students, and they do it in a careful way,” the universities should be allowed to consider race and ethnicity, he said.

At the same time, however, he said that the best long-term solution to unequal opportunities in American society is improvement of the K-12 education system. “I understand, certainly sitting in this office, that probably the single most important thing I could do for poor black kids is to make sure that they’re getting a good K-through-12 education. And, if they’re coming out of high school well prepared, then they’ll be able to compete for university slots and jobs. And that has more to do with budgets and early-childhood education and stuff that needs to be legislated," Obama said.


October 23, 2014

Lasell College, in Massachusetts, has suspended its service learning trip to Uganda out of a commitment to gay rights as well as concerns about terrorism and the spread of Ebola.

In a statement, the college said that “the dangerous situation in Uganda for the LGBT community is repugnant to our community and safety of our students would be overly compromised.” The statement cited several reasons for canceling the trip, including the persecution of LGBT individuals following the passage of a harsh anti-gay law last February; the possibility that the law, since nullified, could be reinstated; travel advisories from other countries, including the United Kingdom, on the threat of terrorism in Uganda; and the spread of the Ebola virus in African countries. The U.S. Department of State has not posted a warning against travel to Uganda, although it does rate the country as being at high risk for terrorism. Uganda has not had any cases of Ebola during the current outbreak.

Lasell had sponsored two trips to Uganda in the past two years.

October 23, 2014

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the Presidents' Forum this week released a policy report that explores the potential for an external quality review process for "non-institutional" providers in higher education. This emerging field include companies and nonprofits that offer courses, modules or badges. Most of this sector is online, non-credit and low-cost.

The two groups last year formed a commission to look at options for quality assurance in the space. The commission's report describes three possibilities: a voluntary, cooperative effort by providers; a voluntary service offered by an existing third-party association; or a new external group created for this purpose.

"The commission calls upon the postsecondary education community to seize this moment as a critical time to consider development, adoption and extension of new approaches that address the need for institutional and organizational quality review," the report said.

October 23, 2014

Towson University has suspended Rabbi Barry Freundel from his faculty position, following his arrest on charges of secretly recording women as they bathed in a Jewish ritual bath at the synagogue he led in Washington, The Baltimore Sun reported. The university acted amid reports that he took some Towson students to the synagogue and fears that he may have engaged in inappropriate activity with them. Fruendel has entered a plea of not guilty but has not commented on the charges.



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