Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 3:00am

Pennsylvania State University announced Monday that it will hold off on any punishments of a fraternity found to have operated private Facebook pages with photos of passed-out women, drug sales and hazing. But the university said it would launch a major study of fraternity life. A statement from Eric J. Barron, president of Penn State, said that he was "personally repulsed and shocked" by the Facebook pages of Kappa Delta Rho, but that he was not prepared -- as some have urged -- to expel or suspend all the fraternity members. "The motivation behind these requests is understandable, however, the criminal investigation by local police into the KDR matter continues, as does the process managed by our Office of Student Conduct. Patience is required to allow these investigations to continue unimpeded so that we can achieve a level of justice that fully matches the outcomes of the investigations. I ask for your understanding as due process proceeds," he said.

 At the same time, Barron said he was appointing a committee to study the Greek system at Penn State.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 3:00am

Saving Sweet Briar, a group of alumnae and other supporters of the college, on Monday sent a letter to the college's president and trustees, accusing them of violating state law and calling on them to resign. The letter says that the board members have violated their obligation to carry out the college's mission and to use funds donated to the college for its operation, not to close it down. Sweet Briar referred questions to its lawyer, who said he was traveling and unable to study and respond to the letter.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Cathy Hatcher, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, discusses her research on the formation of blood vessels at the embryonic stage to help understand coronary anomalies. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Monday, March 23, 2015 - 3:00am

President Obama, in an interview with The Huffington Post, responded to question about how the University of Oklahoma responded (in part by expelling two students and kicking a fraternity off campus) to a video showing a fraternity chant about not admitting black students to their organization. And the president strongly backed the university's actions, while offering some perspective on the incident.

The president's answer: "Look, at any given point on any given day, somebody is doing something stupid out there. In the age of the Internet, it's going to attract attention. I don't think this is the first time that somebody at a fraternity has done something stupid, racist, sexist. It won't be the last. What was heartening was the quick response from President Boren, somebody who I know well and I know who has great integrity. The quick reaction from the student body. You know, the way we have to measure progress here is not, 'Is there ever going to be an incident of racism in the country?' It's, 'How does the majority of our country respond?' And on that front, there's no doubt that the overwhelming number of students at the University of Oklahoma, and around the country, think that kind of behavior is deplorable and don't accept it. Frankly, 30 years ago or 40 years ago, there might have been a different reaction and more tolerance for that kind of racist chant."

Monday, March 23, 2015 - 3:00am

The chancellor of Bob Jones University on Saturday apologized for a statement he made in 1980, while president of the university, that gay people should be stoned to death. At the time, Bob Jones III told a reporter, "I'm sure this will be greatly misquoted, but it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel's day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands."

For several years, a group urging Bob Jones University to stop discriminating against gay people has been gathering signatures on a petition to ask Bob Jones III to apologize. On Saturday, he did, posting this on the university's blog: "I take personal ownership of this inflammatory rhetoric. This reckless statement was made in the heat of a political controversy 35 years ago. It is antithetical to my theology and my 50 years of preaching a redeeming Christ who came into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. Upon now reading these long-forgotten words, they seem to me as words belonging to a total stranger -- were my name not attached. I cannot erase them, but wish I could, because they do not represent the belief of my heart or the content of my preaching. Neither before, nor since, that event in 1980 have I ever advocated the stoning of sinners."

As the statement suggests, the university continues to call gay sexuality sinful, in violation of university rules for students or employees. The relevant university policy states in part: "Bob Jones University believes that any form of sexual immorality -- such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography or any attempt to change one’s biological sex -- is sinful and offensive to God."

Monday, March 23, 2015 - 3:00am

North Carolina State University has suspended the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and banned alcohol at fraternity events (except those of historically black fraternities) after the discovery of what appears to be a "pledge notebook" with offensive statements, The News and Observer reported. Among the quotations in the notebook: “if she’s hot enough, she doesn’t need a pulse” and “that tree is so perfect for lynching.”

A man who answered the phone at the fraternity house referred questions to the national fraternity office, which issued this statement: “These statements are inconsistent with the values of Pi Kappa Phi and will not be tolerated.”


Monday, March 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has charged in legal filings that for-profit Globe University has violated state law by making unlicensed loans with "usurious interest rates” as high as 18 percent, The Star Tribune reported. Swanson asked that the loans to nearly 6,000 students be invalidated, so the students would not have to repay them and should be reimbursed for payments they have made. The filing said that the university wasn't registered to make the loans and the interest rates far exceeded what state law permits. University officials disputed the attorney general's statements, and accused her of trying to advance a political agenda.


Monday, March 23, 2015 - 4:18am

The University of Massachusetts System, like many colleges and universities, has used debt financing in recent years to add and renovate facilities. But an article in The Boston Globe raises questions about the impact of using so much debt. The current debt level is $3 billion. This year, the university will pay $203 million in debt and interest, up from $137 million five years ago.


Monday, March 23, 2015 - 3:00am

The office of California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday announced how it plans to distribute a new $50 million fund for innovation in higher education. The idea was to pick the best ideas that bubbled up from faculty and administrators at the state's public institutions. College were directed to submit proposals that attempt to increase degree production, encourage the acceptance of transfer credit and help students graduate on time. Brown's office picked 14 winners, with awards ranging from $2.5 million to $5 million.

Monday, March 23, 2015 - 3:00am

In the latest "This Week," Inside Higher Ed's free news podcast, Tracy Mitrano of Mitrano & Associates and Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education joined Inside Higher Ed's Doug Lederman and the moderator, Casey Green, for a conversation about tension between free speech rights and efforts to ensure a welcoming campus environment. In our second segment, Coastal Carolina University's Ralph Byington and Thomas Hoffman discuss the institution's program that rewards faculty and staff members for increased student retention. Sign up here to be notified of new editions of "This Week."


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