Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is calling for public research universities to formally consider technology transfer issues in tenure and promotion decisions where applicable. In a report out today, APLU defines technology transfer loosely as “entrepreneurship, innovation and technology-based economic development activities,” and says that faculty members who participate in it should be credited in personnel decisions.

“A faculty member’s accomplishments in technology transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship are worthy of consideration in the review process for tenure and advancement,” the report says. “As with other forms of faculty work, it is essential that the evaluation of technology transfer activities weigh the likely impact of the work, its quality and its foreseeable societal benefit. When it is successful, technology transfer can invigorate the university and establish relationships with other private and public sectors that affirm the value of a research university.”

APLU also makes various recommendations for recognizing and assessing technology transfer in faculty work, based on a survey of U.S. and Canadian public universities on current approaches (which aren't uniform or widespread). Recommendations include making university policy statements that safeguard against conflicts of interest or commitment, and including technology transfer explicitly in personnel policies and criteria.

Henry Reichman, an professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said that AAUP recognizes three criteria for tenure and promotion: teaching, scholarship or research, and service. “Insofar as technology transfer activities fit any of those criteria they may certainly be considered under those rubrics,” he said. And the “key is that the relevant faculty in each department and institution define which activities are included in each of these criteria.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The top Democrat on a Senate investigatory panel is calling on Congress’s investigative arm to look into how the U.S. Department of Education oversees colleges and universities.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri on Monday sent a letter asking the Government Accountability Office to review how the Education Department green-lights colleges to participate in federal student aid programs as well as how effectively department regulators uncover problems with colleges.

McCaskill, who is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, asked the GAO to examine the rigor of the department’s approval process for colleges and the extent to which the department relies on accreditors and states to oversee and monitor problems.

Her letter comes several weeks after she and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the Republican chair of the investigatory subcommittee, requested a trove of information from accrediting agencies as part of an inquiry into the role accreditors play in assessing the quality and financial health of postsecondary institutions.

The GAO last year issued a report that recommended the Education Department step up its oversight of colleges and accrediting agencies. It found, among other things, that national accreditors were no more likely to sanction poor-performing colleges than they were those with strong student outcomes.

The Education Department has a staff of 232 employees who are charged with overseeing and monitoring colleges, according to a September report by the department’s inspector general. That report found that department regulators in some cases were not properly conducting audits of colleges.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of York, in Britain, has apologized for a press release announcing that it would celebrate "International Men's Day" this week. Many critics said that the university's support for the day suggested a lack of awareness of the many inequities facing women in academe. The university's apology said that "the main focus of gender equality work should continue to be on the inequalities faced by women, and in particular the underrepresentation of women in the professoriate and senior management."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute: Charles Courtemanche, associate professor of economics at Georgia State University, examines the factor of cheap food in the debate over obesity. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Brown University officials are investigating and apologizing for an incident that took place early Saturday morning in which one of its police officers restrained and put in handcuffs a student from another college who was attending a meeting of Ivy League Latino student leaders. The university has promised to pay for a new gathering of Latino student leaders since the one that was to have taken place was called off amid considerable anger over what happened to the student (identified in local press reports as being from Dartmouth College). Many at Brown say there was no reason he should have been restrained.

A memo to the campus by Russell C. Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, said, "I deeply regret that this incident occurred," and that the altercation was "heated and physical."

Christina Paxson, president of Brown, sent an email to the campus promising a full investigation. She also said she would "send a letter of apology tonight to the presidents of the institutions who sent delegates to this weekend’s conference, letting them know I am sorry for the pain their students experienced, and of Brown’s commitment to fund another conference for their delegates."

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Rider University and its faculty union have agreed on a deal that will freeze professors' wages for two years so that the university can abandon planned layoffs and program cuts, NJ.com reported. The cuts would have included 14 full-time faculty positions, an unknown number of part-time adjunct slots and more than a dozen majors. Rider said that the two years of faculty salary freezes will free up $2 million.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday announced a $95.5 million settlement with the Education Management Corporation to resolve allegations that it defrauded the government. The Huffington Post reported on the settlement over the weekend.

The agreement ends a long-running lawsuit that accused the for-profit college chain of illegally paying bonuses to admissions recruiters based on the number of students they enrolled.

Those allegations were brought to light in a whistle-blower lawsuit by a former employee in 2007. The Justice Department, as well as another former employee, joined the suit in 2011.

The Education Management Corporation owns the Art Institutes, Argosy University, Brown Mackie Colleges and South University chains. The company was taken private last month amid falling enrollments and revenue.

Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, called the settlement "historic," noting that the payment would be the largest false-claims payment by a for-profit institution in history. EDMC's actions were "were not just a betrayal of students' trust," Lynch said, "they were a violation of federal law."

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Grand Canyon University, a Christian for-profit institution, announced Friday that it will extend spousal benefits to same-sex partners of employees. A statement announcing the shift stressed that the university continues to believe "that the Bible is clear about marriage being a sacred union between a man and a woman." But the university said that "in this specific instance, GCU is making a conscious choice to maintain its religious beliefs, while respecting and honoring its neighbors, as well as the system of government and laws that exist today, by extending employee benefits to spouses of lawfully married same-sex couples." The statement stressed that Grand Canyon was making the decision itself, and not being forced to change policies. But the American Civil Liberties Union recently threatened to sue Grand Canyon if it did not treat employees in same-sex marriages the same as employees in opposite-sex marriages.

Two Christian colleges that treat gay married employees the same as straight married employees recently ended their membership in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, amid opposition from many CCCU members to same-sex marriage and a view expressed by some of those members that colleges that recognize same-sex marriages should be excluded from membership. Grand Canyon has no affiliation with the CCCU.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

INDIANAPOLIS -- It is the job of universities with big-time sports programs -- not the National Collegiate Athletic Association -- to ensure that athletes are taking real courses and earning high-quality degrees, the NCAA's president told a roomful of public university presidents and other administrators Sunday.

Mark Emmert, the association's president, said that significant increases in the academic preparation of freshmen at many colleges and universities have put athletes -- whose academic profile has changed little -- at a growing disadvantage, creating a "mismatch" on "a lot of campuses." Athletes are competing in the classroom with ever-stronger students while spending "spectacular amounts of time" on their sports. That tension makes it incumbent on institutional leaders to ensure that "we are not cheating young men and women by not providing them academic programs of high quality," Emmert said.

"It's not the role of a national athletic association to say what an English course has to be to have integrity," he said. "Some people somehow think the NCAA ought to be able to walk onto campus" and play that role. "But that’s your job; you have to make sure you’re doing it."

Emmert's comments come at a time when the NCAA is preparing to increase its eligibility standards for athletes, and amid a rash of academic scandals that some attribute to the pressure on colleges to keep academically underprepared athletes eligible.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 4:13am

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia announced Saturday that in response to a study group's recommendations, he would rename two buildings that honor former university presidents, one of whom authorized the sale of 272 slaves from a plantation in 1838 to help pay off the university's debt, and the other one who advised on the sale. Students have said that these former presidents shouldn't be honored as they are with building names at the university. As a result of the announcement, Mulledy Hall and McSherry Hall will be renamed Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall, respectively, until new permanent names are selected. While the university has been studying the possible name change for some time, the announcement follows a protest Friday in the president's office.


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