Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 6, 2022

Kent Fuchs, president of the University of Florida, will step down at the end of the year, the university announced Wednesday. He will have led the institution for eight years.

“When I was appointed in 2014, I was asked to make three commitments to the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors,” Fuchs said in a video about his departure. “First, that I would work to raise the stature of UF to be among the nation’s top 10 public universities. Second, that UF would launch and complete a $3 billion fundraising campaign. Third, that UF would not increase its tuition while I served as president. Those promises were made, and those promises were kept.”

Fuchs will step down following the end of a capital campaign and the appointment of his successor, which will likely occur early next year. After a sabbatical, Fuchs will return to the university as a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

January 6, 2022

Today on the Academic Minute: Alanah Mitchell, associate professor of information management and business analytics at Drake University, examines how to make hybrid workplaces successful. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 5, 2022

The controversial University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax has drawn fresh ire for making racist remarks, this time targeting Asians, The Daily Beast reported.

“I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration,” she wrote.

The remark followed Wax’s provocative appearance on the Dec. 20 edition of The Glenn Show, a podcast hosted by Brown University economics professor Glenn Loury. During a discussion about identity and immigration, Wax said it was difficult to welcome people with different values into Western society.

Specifically discussing “Asian elites,” she asked, “Does the spirit of liberty beat in their breast?” She defined the “spirit of liberty” as “people who are mistrustful of centralized concentrations of authority who have a kind of ‘don’t tread on me’ attitude … who are nonconformist in good ways.”

By contrast, “Asians tend to be more conformist to whatever the dominant ethos is,” she noted, citing “wokeness” as the prevailing elite ideology.

When Loury posted an email from a listener who took issue with Wax’s characterization of Asian immigrants, she doubled down: “I find Asian support for [Democratic] policies mystifying, as I fail to see how they are in Asians’ interest. We can speculate (and, yes, generalize) about Asians’ desire to please the elite.”

“As long as most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions, I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration,” she added.

In a statement Monday, Penn Law School dean Theodore Ruger called Wax’s remarks “anti-intellectual” and “racist,” asserting that her “xenophobic and white supremacist views … are diametrically opposed to the policies and ethos of this institution.”

In 2018, Penn removed Wax from teaching required first-year law classes after she appeared in a video saying she’d never “seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half,” a claim Penn denounced as false, according to The Washington Post.

January 5, 2022

Florida governor Ron DeSantis said Monday that colleges responding to the Omicron spike by temporarily switching to online instruction should offer students a full refund, FloridaPolitics.com reported.

DeSantis has vowed to keep Florida’s schools open, even as the state broke its single-day COVID-19 case record on New Year’s Eve, with nearly 76,000 new cases.

“Our universities are going to be open … they’re going to have in-person instruction,” he told reporters at Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale. “And I think any university that doesn’t do that should have to refund 100 percent of the tuition to the parents.”

DeSantis blasted colleges for scrambling to start the term online while still charging full tuition—and even, in some cases, levying a “COVID-19 fee” on unvaccinated students.

“It’s absolutely insane what’s going on,” he said.

He also mocked the protective measures some campuses are taking as unnecessary for a predominantly young, healthy population.

“Some of them are even doing shelter in place over Omicron,” DeSantis said. “For what? A 20-year-old college student?”

He told reporters that Florida was “locked and loaded” to combat the latest variant, according to FloridaPolitics.com.

January 5, 2022

More institutions are moving classes online to deal with Omicron.

Rutgers University announced that the system would spend several weeks online before returning to in-person instruction on Jan. 31. Students have been told to return to housing Jan. 29 and 30, not Jan. 16-17. “Information on any financial credits or offsets will be forthcoming,” the university said.

Denise M. Trauth, the president of Texas State University, wrote to students and employees that while classes would start, on schedule, Jan. 18, they would all be online until Jan. 31. She stressed that no classes were being canceled. Students still may move into their residence halls as previously scheduled.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte announced that classes would begin as scheduled Jan. 10 but would be online only until Jan. 24.

Huston-Tillotson University, in Texas, will be online from Jan. 10 to Jan. 24.

January 5, 2022

The Touro College and University System announced plans to build a new campus at 3 Times Square, a Midtown skyscraper in the heart of the New York City tourist destination.

The college and university system said Monday it will build a new nearly 250,000-square-foot campus inside the building, affirming the “continued importance” of in-person learning and a commitment to New York City, according to a press release. The campus will transform eight floors of the building into classrooms, science and technology labs, offices, and event space. Jeffrey Rosengarten, senior vice president of operations for the Touro College and University System, said the institution will also build a library, academic facilities, student lounges and cafes within the 3 Times Square space.

Touro, a nonprofit institution of higher and professional education under Jewish auspices, will house the College of Pharmacy, New York School of Career & Applied Studies, Graduate School of Business, Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Graduate School of Social Work, and Graduate School of Technology in the new campus. Touro said it plans to move into the new space in January 2023.

January 5, 2022

The Michigan state Legislature will consider newly announced bills that would open a 30-day window in which more than 1,000 sexual abuse victims of a deceased University of Michigan sports doctor, Robert Anderson, could sue the university for damages, regardless of the statute of limitations, the Associated Press reported. Michigan passed similar legislation following the conviction of Larry Nassar, the former U.S. women’s gymnastics team physician who was convicted of molesting girls and women, including at Michigan State University.

January 5, 2022

Today on the Academic Minute: Deborah J. Bennett, professor of liberal arts at the Berklee College of Music, explores the limits of teaching languages with only masculine or feminine pronouns. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 4, 2022

Proposed legislation in Oklahoma would withhold up to 10 percent of state funding from public institutions that teach components of The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project,” including (as described by the bill) “Any teaching that America has more culpability, in general, than other nations for the institution of slavery; That one race is the unique oppressor in the institution of slavery; That another race is the unique victim in the institution of slavery,” and that “America, in general, had slavery more extensively and for a later period of time than other nations.”

The American Historical Association has already objected to the bill, which was introduced last month by State Representative Jim Olsen, a Republican. The AHA wrote in a letter to the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate that the bill would prevent students from learning such “basic, straightforward” historical facts as “the US Constitution prohibited Congress from abolishing US participation in the international slave trade for two decades; the Plessy v. Ferguson decision legalized racial segregation; the overwhelming majority of slave holders in the U.S. identified as white; and slavery was abolished three decades later in the United States than in most of the British Empire.”

This “irresponsible legislation is an example of blatant censorship and will have a chilling effect on teachers,” the AHA also said. “It is harmful to the youth of Oklahoma, leaving students ignorant of basic facts of American history and poorly prepared for the critical thinking and interpretive skills required for career and civic accomplishment.”

Other states have sought to ban the teaching of so-called divisive concepts as “1619” has gained popularity and a foothold in curricula, but the Oklahoma bill goes further than other legislation, specifically prohibiting the discussion of facts about slavery in U.S. history.

January 4, 2022

The University of California, Irvine, has fired a scholar for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The scholar was Aaron Kheriaty, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the medical school and director of the medical ethics program at UCI Health, the Los Angeles Times reported. In August, he sued the University of California for not exempting him from a vaccine requirement because, he says, he has a “natural immunity” to COVID-19.

On his blog, he wrote, “Everyone at the university seemed to be a fan of my work until suddenly they were not. Once I challenged one of their policies I immediately became a ‘threat to the health and safety of the community.’ No amount of empirical evidence about natural immunity or vaccine safety and efficacy mattered at all.”

University officials declined to comment on the firing.

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