Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 18, 2016

The University of Miami has settled with a former graduate student of philosophy who alleged long-term sexual harassment by Colin McGinn, a professor of philosophy. In her high-profile lawsuit, the student claimed that McGinn used his position of power to gain her trust and “groomed” her for a sexual relationship -- including by inviting her to his office, offering her a research assistantship and asking her to participate in a “hand ritual” that involved prolonged physical contact. McGinn then began to send numerous sexually tinged emails, with lines from the book Lolita and demands for “unlimited hand strokes and full body grips,” according to the complaint. He allegedly kissed the student's feet, to which she responded by wearing sneakers to their meetings to avoid the unwanted kissing, and began demanding sex. McGinn allegedly threatened her for limiting contact over his escalating demands, saying via email, “I am quite forgiving. But this refusal to even meet with me to talk is quite unhelpful. The last thing I want to do is think badly of you, and you are much better off with my support than without it. So please think carefully about your actions.”

The student reported the professor’s actions as alleged violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit sex discrimination in education, according to her complaint. But the university allegedly did not follow protocol for investigations under Title IX, such as by diverting her report to an informal investigation channel, rather than a formal one that would have guaranteed transparency about the status of her case. She alleged that procedural inconsistencies contributed to McGinn’s “academic assault” on her in retribution for her report, which included an email saying he’d be removing her name and any acknowledgment of her significant editorial contribution to a book he authored. He also allegedly sent letters to renowned colleagues at various institutions, saying he was being falsely accused by the student, whom he named. McGinn signed a resignation agreement in early 2013, according to the complaint, but was salaried and employed through the end of year, during which time he was permitted to supervise another female graduate student.

McGinn has argued that “hand job” was philosophical banter. The plaintiff also alleged that the university helped McGinn preserve his reputation while damaging hers, including by submitting a false charge to the Faculty Senate that McGinn had failed to report a consensual relationship, rather than a charge of sexual harassment. The plaintiff's attorney said this week that the case had been settled, and that all parties were prohibited from talking about it. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

October 18, 2016

College students strongly believe digital learning technology and devices have a positive impact on their educational outcomes, a study by McGraw-Hill Education and Hanover Research found. The 2016 Digital Study Trends Survey, an annual survey of students on their attitudes toward technology in the classroom, also found a steady increase in the number of students who say smartphones and other mobile devices are "extremely important" to studying. The share of respondents giving that answer has this year risen to 22 percent, up from just 13 percent in 2014. Other findings include:

  • A majority of students said technology makes studying more accessible (82 percent), helps them earn better grades (81 percent) and improves their focus (62 percent).
  • Cost remains a barrier to technology use. Less than two-fifths of students (39 percent) said they would buy technology not required for a course, even if it was recommended.
  • The laptop remains the No. 1 device for studying; 90 percent of students said the device is extremely or very helpful, easily beating professors and teaching assistants (72 percent), textbooks (67 percent), and learning management systems (63 percent).

Hanover Research surveyed 3,311 students, ranging from freshmen to Ph.D. students, for the study. The full report is available for download here.

October 18, 2016

Nearly half of defaulted student loan borrowers who rehabilitate their loans will default again, said a report released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Monday.

Three-quarters of those who default again will do so within two years of rehabilitating their loan, the report said.

The annual report from the CFPB's student loans ombudsman analyzes complaints made by consumers. The latest report covers complaints from Sept. 1, 2015, to Aug. 31, 2016.

The report finds that challenges setting up an income-driven repayment plan for student loans could push borrowers back into default. More than eight million federal student loan borrowers are in default and 1.2 million went into default in the past year.

Complaints from borrowers to CFPB say customer service issues with student loan servicers create unnecessary challenges for borrowers looking to rehabilitate defaulted loans and enroll in income-driven payment plans.

October 18, 2016

Washington University in St. Louis on Monday announced that it was ending the use of cats in teaching medical students how to insert breathing tubes, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Animal rights groups have protested the university's use of cats in this way, noting that the university was the last to do so.

A statement from the medical school said, “After careful consideration and a significant investment in its simulation center, Washington University School of Medicine now will provide neonatal intubation training using only mannequins and advanced simulators …. Improvements in the simulators make this possible. Therefore, the university has made the decision to no longer rely on anesthetized cats in training health care professionals to perform these life-saving intubation procedures.”

October 18, 2016

About 180,000 students worldwide are enrolled in international branch campuses, according to highlights released from a forthcoming report by the Observatory on Borderless Education and the Cross-Border Education Research Team (C-BERT) at the State University of New York at Albany. Steady growth in new campuses has continued: a total of 66 international branch campuses were founded from 2011 to 2015, compared to 67 between 2006 and 2010. There were about 250 total international branch campuses at the end of 2015.

China is the main host country for branch campuses, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia and Qatar, which collectively are home to 100 international branch campuses. The top five home countries -- the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and Australia -- account for 180 of the campuses.

The full report is scheduled to be presented next month at an Observatory event in Malaysia.

October 18, 2016

College students who graduated with student loan debt in 2015 left with an average of $30,100 in debt -- an increase of 4 percent over the 2014 average, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the Institute for College Access and Success. (Note: This item was corrected from an earlier version to note that the average debt is for graduates who borrowed.

About one-fifth of that loan debt came from nonfederal loans, which provide fewer consumer protections. Nearly a third of graduating seniors left college with no student loan debt.

The report is the 11th annual analysis by TICAS of students' debt upon graduation.

"Student debt is still rising, and the typical college graduate now leaves school with over $30,000 in loans," said TICAS President Lauren Asher in a statement. "We need to make college more affordable and debt less burdensome for students and families."

TICAS found that high debt persists in Northeast and Midwestern states, while states in the West had the lowest levels of average student loan debt. Two-thirds of graduates with state student loan debt attended college in Minnesota, New Jersey and Texas.

October 18, 2016

The Big 12 Conference will not expand beyond its current 10 members, the league announced Monday, dashing the hopes of several college programs that have been lobbying to join the conference over the past year. "Ten is the right number," Gregory Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, a Big 12 member, said in a statement. "It promotes a competitive balance and allows for a round-robin schedule in the different sports, which is best for our student-athletes. This is the right way to ensure a strong conference moving forward."

The news likely came as a disappointment to several institutions that have increased athletic spending in recent years in hopes of receiving an invitation to one of the wealthier Power Five conferences, of which the Big 12 is a member.

“The Big 12’s decision in no way changes the mission of the University of Houston that began long before there was talk of conference expansion,” Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston, one of the colleges that had hoped to join the Big 12, said in a statement. “We remain committed to strengthening our nationally competitive programs in academics and athletics that allow our student-athletes to compete on the national stage. We are confident that in this competitive collegiate athletics landscape an established program with a history of winning championships and a demonstrated commitment to talent and facilities in the nation’s fourth-largest city will find its rightful place. Our destiny belongs to us.”

October 18, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Scott Selisker, assistant professor of English at the University of Arizona, examines if we are as free thinking as we think we are. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 17, 2016

Santa Clara University officials and students have been shaken this month both by incidents of intolerance and leaked video of those incidents. In one instance, people vandalized an art exhibit showing statues to represent the 43 students abducted and presumed dead in 2014 in Mexico. In another, a swastika was drawn in blood on a residence hall elevator.

Officials have vowed to investigate and punish the people involved. But at the same time, officials are concerned about leaked video of the incidents (the statue vandalism may be found here and the swastika incident is below). The video comes from security cameras that are supposed to be used by security officials and not released to the public. Some of the videos posted to social media have had the tag line "SCUWatch is watching."

October 17, 2016

Princeton University has agreed to pay millions of dollars to a fund to assist local home owners and to provide other funds to support low-income residents in the local area. In return, local taxpayers have agreed to drop a suit challenging the university's exemptions from property taxes. The trial on that suit was scheduled to start today. The university also agreed to extend by two years an agreement under which it makes voluntary contributions to the budget of the town of Princeton.

A statement from President Christopher L. Eisgruber said, "We had every confidence that the courts ultimately would have affirmed the university's continuing eligibility for property tax exemption on buildings and facilities that support its educational, research and service missions, but we concluded that the contributions we will make under the settlement agreement are a better expenditure of funds than continuing to incur the considerable costs of litigation."


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