Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 18, 2016

Roxbury Community College has called off plans to privatize its information technology services department after Massachusetts auditors criticized the college for awarding a $3.4 million contract to do so without seeking bids, The Boston Globe reported. The college originally said that skipping a process to review other proposals was needed because this was an interim contract, but the deal lasted through 2019. The college had eliminated the jobs of IT employees when it signed the contract, and has indicated it will hire new employees now. The employees who lost their jobs were represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and AFSCME officials say they have been told by the college that new employees won't be eligible for the union.

January 18, 2016

North Carolina's State Board of Community Colleges voted 11-7 Friday not to study the feasibility of offering bachelor's degrees in nursing, The News & Observer reported. Proponents of the idea noted that North Carolina lacks enough bachelor's degree holders in nursing, and that its community colleges offer well-respected associate programs. But board members said they did not want to start a turf war with the University of North Carolina system or risk a shift in mission away from an emphasis on two-year degrees.

January 18, 2016

Colleges in Flint, Mich., are assuring students and employees that they are doing their own testing of water safety and taking extra steps to ensure water on campus is safe to use amid many concerns about unsafe drinking water in the area. The University of Michigan at Flint started using water filters a year ago and conducts tests to make sure they are working. Kettering University has tested its water and determined that it is safe, and is noting that the problems in Flint are serious in some parts of the city but not others. Mott Community College started testing its water a year ago as part of an effort to provide safe water on campus.

January 18, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Adam Arenson, associate professor and director of urban studies at Manhattan College, examines the lives of African-Americans in the North after escaping slavery. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 16, 2016

A researcher is among those reportedly being released by Iran as part of a deal with the United States. Initial reports Saturday did not mention the researcher, but The New York Times reported that Iran also agreed to release Matthew Trevithick, whom the Times identified as a student whose detention in Iran had not been previously reported.

The United States Institute of Peace released a statement from Trevithick's family in which they said he has been held in an Iranian prison for 40 days. He traveled to Iran, the statement said, in September for a four-month intensive language program at the Dehkhoda Institute, a language center affiliated with Tehran University. He was trying to build fluency in Dari, a language closely related to Farsi.

When he started his language training, Trevithick took a leave from his position as co-founder of the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization, which is based in Turkey. From 2010 to 2014, he was director of communications at the American University of Afghanistan, and he previously worked for the American University of Iraq.

January 15, 2016

Liberty University has hosted multiple presidential candidates and was praised for inviting Bernie Sanders, whose views on various issues differ from those supported by many at the university. But now some students are criticizing Liberty for inviting the leading Republican candidate in many polls, Donald Trump. The criticism is not about inviting Trump, but about scheduling him for Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Some students are planning a protest.

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that the timing was intentional. Noting that King urged that people be judged not by skin color, but by the content of their character, Falwell said, “Liberty stands for that principle and I believe that Mr. Trump does as well.”

January 15, 2016

A South Korean court ordered a professor to pay 10 million won, or $8,262, to each of nine women who claim that her book on Japan’s World War II-era military brothels defamed them, The New York Times reported.

The women, South Koreans who say they were forced to work in the brothels, object to Park Yu-ha’s 2013 book, Comfort Women of the Empire, which critics argue parrots the views of Japanese apologists. Park, a professor of Japanese literature at Sejong University, in Seoul, said she will appeal the civil verdict. She also faces a separate criminal trial for alleged defamation.

Scholars argue that nationalist passions in Japan and South Korea, as well as in China, have distorted historical study of the euphemistically named "comfort women." Amid continuing historical disputes about whether women were "coerced" into the brothels and the extent of the Japanese government's direct involvement, the Japanese and South Korean governments recently announced a settlement in which Japan apologized to the women and pledged $8.3 million for their care in old age.

January 15, 2016

The New York City Independent Budget Office released a report this week detailing how much the city could spend on offering free tuition at its seven City University of New York community colleges.

The report details that the city could spend as little as $138 million, limiting to three years the tuition assistance for full-time students, or a high of $232 million for an unlimited number of years for all full- and part-time students. The report estimates that providing free tuition to all students would cost $3,456 per student. That figure takes into account the shares of students who do and do not receive state or federal financial aid.

Over all the CUNY system enrolled 58,000 full-time and 40,000 part-time students in 2013. The annual tuition rate is $4,800, but the report details the total cost of attendance, including books, supplies, travel and living expenses, which is $12,000 for students living at home and $24,800 for independent students.

January 15, 2016

Trinity University in Texas on Thursday announced that it would opt out of the state's new campus carry law, becoming the 20th private college there to do so, according to The Texas Tribune. The law, which will take effect this year, allows guns into public college classrooms and dormitories, to the consternation of many academics in Texas and elsewhere. While the law obligates public institutions, it allows private nonprofit colleges to opt out, and many of them are choosing to do so.

"The safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is our highest priority," Danny Anderson, Trinity's president, said in the university's statement. "A weapons-free environment is the best learning environment for a residential campus like Trinity."

The Texas Tribune is keeping a running list of colleges opting out of the law.

January 15, 2016

A slate of candidates for Harvard University's Board of Overseers is running a campaign in the alumni election on the platform of making the university free, The New York Times reported. The slate also wants Harvard to reveal more information about how it make admissions decisions. The candidates believe that such information may reveal discrimination against Asian-American applicants. While the Board of Overseers (whose members are elected by Harvard alumni) is an influential player in Harvard governance, the university is ultimately governed by the Harvard Corporation.

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