Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 6, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Lori Martin, associate professor in the department of sociology and African-American studies at Louisiana State University, discusses the issues that continue to divide the country. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 5, 2017

Santa Ono, president of the University of British Columbia, this week released a statement apologizing to John Furlong (right) for the cancellation of a speech he was scheduled to give a scholarship fund-raising event. Furlong was CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and was widely praised for his work to make the event a success. But when word spread that he was going to speak at the UBC event, some First Nations groups (those representing indigenous Canadians) circulated an open letter criticizing the appearance. The letter cited allegations -- which Furlong has denied -- that he was abusive to First Nations children he taught at a school in 1969 and 1970.

Canadian authorities have said that they have investigated the allegations and that they did not result in charges. Many have criticized the university for effectively lending credibility to the allegations by withdrawing the invitation.

Ono's statement said that organizers of the fund-raising events erred in withdrawing the invitation for Furlong to speak.

"UBC made this decision in good faith, but without proper consideration of its potential impact on Mr. Furlong or his family. While this decision was made without my knowledge or that of the UBC Board of Governors, I deeply regret this error and have apologized to Mr. Furlong on behalf of UBC. We do so again here," said Ono. "While some take issue with Mr. Furlong, he also has a great number of supporters in the community, and there can be no question over his record of public service and his extraordinary contributions to amateur sport, to B.C. and to Canada. There is also no question that he deserved better in UBC’s handling of this matter. At root, the university’s decision making throughout this matter did not meet the standard I am eager to instill. While a modern university should neither court nor shy from controversy, our decision making should be the result of a robust deliberative process."

January 5, 2017

The board chair at Portland Community College has resigned over a decision by the college to declare itself a "sanctuary campus," willing to do everything possible to protect students who lack legal documentation to remain in the United States, Willamette Week reported. Gene Pitts, the board chair who resigned, wrote in his resignation letter that "the decision to use the term 'sanctuary college' politicizes the college, places risk on the backs of the 40-plus percent of the college's students that receive Pell Grant monies (and ultimately on the college's federal funding), and alienates a percentage of voters as we approach the college's next bond campaign."

The college announced it was going to use the term "sanctuary college" in December. A statement issued by the college at the time said in part, "While it is important and responsible to acknowledge that the term 'sanctuary college' has no legal status and does not confer legal protection to students or their families, it nonetheless offers a powerful statement of support to some of our most vulnerable students and their families at this time of uncertainty."

January 5, 2017

A Minnesota judge this week ruled that Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business, two embattled for-profits, must pay restitution to more than 1,200 defrauded students, reported the Star-Tribune.

The state's attorney general, Lori Swanson, had sued the for-profits, alleging they had misrepresented job opportunities for graduates of their criminal justice programs. A court agreed last September, finding the two institutions had engaged in consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices.

Following that ruling, the U.S. Department of Education last month cut off the flow of federal financial aid to the two for-profits.

The institutions said in a statement that they are considering an appeal. In the meantime, they will continue to work with regulators while winding down academic programs.

"The court’s final order was limited to one program -- criminal justice -- which has not been offered for more than two years and which represented no more than 4 percent of the schools’ overall student population at any given time," the institutions said. "We are disappointed that the court’s findings, based on the testimony of only 16 students, have resulted in such significant harm to the education and degrees of tens of thousands of students and alumni."

Note: This article has been updated from a previous version to add a statement from the two institutions.

January 5, 2017

Republican legislators in Wisconsin last month threatened to cut funds from the University of Wisconsin at Madison for offering a course on race relations called The Problem of Whiteness. University officials have defended the course and denied allegations that the course denigrates white people.

Now the same legislators are criticizing a voluntary six-week program at Madison, in which men talk about masculinity, and saying that should be cut as well. “Our friends at UW Madison not happy enough with labeling 'whiteness' as a societal problem, now are attacking another societal ill … men and their masculinity,” said an email from State Senator Steve Nass to The Capital Times.

A press release from the university said that the program (similar to those at many other colleges) "operates on a transformative model of social justice allyship. First, facilitators ask students to consider how the students’ opinions about masculinity affect their own perceptions every day. Second, they consider how those opinions affect the people around them. Finally, the program examines how those perceptions affect the whole campus community."

January 5, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Mark Molesky, associate professor in the department of history at Seton Hall University, delves into a tremor of the past. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 4, 2017

The main sign of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion was vandalized with a swastika some time before people arrived on the Cincinnati campus Tuesday morning. Authorities are investigating, and the swastika was washed off the sign. Many campuses have been reporting swastika vandalism in the last two months -- with only some of the incidents involving Jewish-related spaces.

Rabbi Aaron Panken, president of the college, issued a statement that said in part, "We will not let this act of hate alter our important work. We are indebted to the people of Cincinnati who have stood by us for generations and who have offered their support again today. Tomorrow, a new day will dawn and the values we hold dear will continue to light the way."

January 4, 2017

The Ohio Ethics Committee has reprimanded Michael Bridges, president of the Wright State University Board of Trustees, for helping his son get a job at the university's research arm, The Dayton Daily News reported. While the ethics committee did not find evidence that Bridges forced the hiring, it said that he broke state law when he emailed his son's résumé to a potential supervisor and helped schedule interviews. The director of the research institute later recommended creating a new position for the son. The ethics panel reached an agreement with Bridges not to seek prosecution in return for his accepting “a public reprimand from the commission” and his pledge “to not participate in any employment matters related to his son or any other family member employed by WSU.”

January 4, 2017

The University of Minnesota has fired its head football coach, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday. The coach, Tracy Claeys, faced intense criticism last month after his players threatened to boycott the Holiday Bowl over the suspension of 10 teammates who had been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing a female student.

"Have never been more proud of our kids," Claeys wrote on Twitter after the boycott was announced. "I respect their rights [and] support their effort to make a better world!" Even after the boycott ended, Claeys continued to say he supported his team, saying that the tweet "was all about [him] supporting their actions to try to improve the due process." Following the coach's comments, local sports columnists questioned whether Claeys should have his contract extended, faculty members publicly condemned his comments by calling the tweet “a terrible thing” and a petition called on the university to fire the coach.

The boycott initially attracted sympathy from many alumni and those concerned about issues of due process, but support for the university's stance grew as details emerged about what happened to the female student, in particular after a redacted version of the university's equal opportunity office's report on its investigation was published online. Contrary to the team's comments, the 80-page report shows that the football players were interviewed, their assertions were considered and they were not all judged equally responsible for what happened. The report also details why the university found that four of the players engaged in sexual assault and others engaged in forms of harassment, such as videotaping the victim without her consent. None of the players face charges for the alleged assault.

"I made a difficult decision today on behalf of the University of Minnesota," Mark Coyle, Minnesota's athletic director, said in a statement Tuesday. "With the support of Board of Regents leadership and President Eric Kaler, I have decided to take the Gophers football team in a different direction with new coaching leadership. I determined that the football program must move in a new direction to address challenges in recruiting, ticket sales and the culture of the program. We need strong leadership to take Gopher football to the next level and address these challenges."

The coach's earlier comments in support of the team's boycott, Coyle said, were "not helpful."

January 4, 2017

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a letter to Democratic lawmakers that federal authorities should not use personal information provided by young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers for deportation-related purposes, Politico reported. President-elect Donald J. Trump has said he would end the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, under which hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children have obtained temporary relief from the possibility of deportation -- prompting widespread concerns that information they provided to the government for DACA-related purposes could potentially be used to aid in their deportation. Trump has not indicated he will use DACA recipients’ information in this way.

“Today there are 750,000 young people enrolled in DACA who, when they applied for enrollment, relied on the U.S. government’s representations about the use of their personal identifying information,” Johnson’s letter states. “Since DACA was announced in 2012, DHS has consistently made clear that information provided by applicants will be collected and considered for the primary purpose of adjudicating their DACA requests and would be safeguarded from other immigration-related purposes … We believe these representations made by the U.S. government, upon which DACA applicants most assuredly relied, must continue to be honored.”

More than 100 members of Congress sent a letter to Obama in December calling on him to “consider taking executive action to prevent DACA enrollees’ personal information from being used for purposes other than originally intended, including for the purposes of removal.” One of the leaders of that effort, Judy Chu, a Democratic congresswoman from California, issued a statement Tuesday describing Johnson’s response on behalf of the Obama administration as inadequate.

“Secretary Johnson’s commitment to protecting DREAMers from deportation is admirable, as is the work done by DHS and this administration to protect and support immigrants,” Representative Chu said. “However, this letter unfortunately falls short on necessary assurances for the future. While, as the letter states, ‘longstanding and consistent procedure of DHS’ has limited the use of personal information submitted to the government, our concerns are with the actions of the incoming president, who has expressly run against norms and precedent. That is why we specifically requested an executive order to provide greater security for undocumented immigrants who trusted us by explicitly preventing the personal information submitted by DREAMers to be used for their deportation. Without such a legal assurance, immigrants who believed our promise of security are left to the devices of President-elect Trump, who has repeatedly promised to be a deporter in chief.”

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