Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 23, 2023

The American Association of University Professors has condemned Florida’s community college presidents for their criticism of critical race theory.

The presidents, in a joint statement, pledged not to fund or support “initiatives, instruction, and activities” that promote critical race theory or related ideologies.

The AAUP said on Friday, “The AAUP is appalled at the blatant violation of academic freedom and shared governance that the presidents of the Florida College System (FCS) have pledged to commit by February 1, 2023. In less than two weeks, they vow to evaluate the courses offered in their institutions and root out any content that promotes ‘critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.’ Their statement further mandates that any courses that discuss critical race theory may do so only ‘as one of several theories.’ In a democracy, higher education is a common good which requires that instructors have full freedom in their teaching to select materials and determine the approach to the subject. Instead, the FCS presidents, while giving lip service to academic freedom, have announced their intention to censor teaching and learning by expunging ideas they want to suppress. By dictating course content, they are also usurping the primary responsibility for the curriculum traditionally accorded the faculty under principles of shared governance.”

January 23, 2023

Don Green, the president of Point Park University, has left the position after 18 months in the job, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

He cited private, personal and family reasons when he offered his resignation this week, according to the university. Neither Green nor the university elaborated.

January 23, 2023

A batch of emails offering congratulations for being selected for a “30 Under 30” award went out by mistake to some Temple University alumni, leading to an apology by the university on social media.

“Hey @TempleUniv young alumni - we messed up and we're sorry. You are all 30 Under 30 in our [heart emoji],” read the Thursday tweet from the @TempleAlumni account.

Deirdre Hopkins, a Temple University spokeswoman, said the college apologized to all the recipients of the inadvertent email.

“The intended recipients, the 30 under 30 honorees, have been properly notified. We are inviting all of the inadvertent recipients to a special access alumni event later in the spring,” Hopkins said in an email.

Hopkins said Friday she didn’t have details on how many people mistakenly received the award email.

Social media responses tilted toward the humorous and self-deprecating.

“Saw the words ‘distinguished alumni’ and knew someone messed up,” wrote one Twitter user.

Some, however, criticized the mistake.

“When they hit you with the ‘oops’ [skull emoji] I’m embarrassed to be a graduate of Temple’s communication school— their communication has always been horrible,” wrote Carly Civello.

In an email, Civello, 22, said she earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Temple last May and now works as an associate art director.

“I know they can do better, and I hope they learn from this mistake,” Civello wrote.

January 23, 2023

The University of Virginia announced a $100 million gift for a biotechnology institute, which will be named for Paul and Diane Manning, the donors.

The institute will also be supported by $50 million from the Commonwealth of Virginia and $150 million from the university.

January 23, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: Sandra J. Peart, dean and E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Professor in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond, explains why the difficulty of finding good leaders is a societywide problem. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 20, 2023

Yale University has made major changes to its medical leave policy that will allow students struggling with mental health problems to take time off—rather than withdraw—and to return to campus when they’re ready, without reapplying, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Yale has come under fire in recent months for what students suffering from psychological distress have described as callous treatment. Students and alumni sued the university last fall, alleging that Yale officials pressured students experiencing suicidal ideation to withdraw or risk being kicked out. They also had to reapply to be allowed to resume their studies.

By allowing Yale students to take a leave of absence for a mental health crisis instead of forcing them to withdraw, the new policy ensures that they have continued access to health insurance through the university, the Post reported. Students are also allowed to be on campus—which they were not under the old policy—meaning they can hold campus jobs, meet with career advisers and use the library, among other things.

With rates of anxiety and depression continuing to increase among college students, the change reflects a shift in campus thinking about mental illness not as a security threat to be eliminated but as a disability that requires accommodation.

Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis told the Post that Yale wants “to make clear to students their first priority in dealing with mental health problems should be mental health. And obviously we want people to be able to continue their education.”

He added that the goal of the policy change was to “make it seamless for people to be able to return” and to avoid treating students taking a mental health leave the same way as those on leave for disciplinary violations.

January 20, 2023

The Florida Department of Education has said that public schools in the state cannot offer the new Advanced Placement course in African American studies, The Miami Herald reported.

The department, which is part of the administration of Republican governor Ron DeSantis, said that the course “lacks educational value.”

“In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, [the Florida Department of Education] will always be willing to reopen the discussion,” the state wrote in a letter to the College Board, which administers the AP program.

The College Board released this statement to Inside Higher Ed: “Like all new AP courses, AP African American Studies is undergoing a rigorous, multi-year pilot phase, collecting feedback from teachers, students, scholars and policymakers. The process of piloting and revising course frameworks is a standard part of any new AP course, and frameworks often change significantly as a result. We will publicly release the updated course framework when it is completed and well before this class is widely available in American high schools. We look forward to bringing this rich and inspiring exploration of African-American history and culture to students across the country.”

January 20, 2023

Nelnet, a federal student loan servicer, is cutting staff because of delays in the Biden administration’s debt-relief plan and the continued pause on loan payments, the company announced Wednesday.

About 350 employees hired in the last six months will be laid off and about 210 employees will be let go because of “performance reasons,” according to the announcement. Employees were given 60 days’ notice if their performance wasn’t a factor.

Nelnet started growing its staff last year to prepare for the one-time student loan forgiveness program and the restart of payments after the pause was scheduled to end Dec. 31. Federal courts ended up blocking loan forgiveness, which further delayed the resumption of payments. The administration is planning to restart payments 60 days after June 30 or after the lawsuits challenging the debt relief plan are resolved, whichever comes first. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the plan next month.

“These decisions are never easy,” Nelnet spokesman Ben Kiser said in a statement. “With the delay of federal student loan repayment through much of 2023, regrettably, it isn’t feasible to maintain increased staffing levels for work that will remain on hold for a significant amount of time.”

Kiser added that Nelnet hopes many employees will consider reapplying when payments resume.

January 20, 2023

Central State University in Ohio has stopped enrolling new students in Career Plus, a controversial free online college program for union members, The Dayton Daily News reported. The public university will also discontinue offerings for current students after the spring 2023 semester. The program accounted for 3,589 of the university’s 3,633 online students last fall, which was nearly double the institution’s in-person enrollment of 1,801 students, according to the newspaper’s investigation.

Career Plus works together with unions, including the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, to offer a free college benefit to union employees and children of union employees. Students in the program could earn an online associate degree at Eastern Gateway Community College and complete a bachelor’s degree at Central State.

Last July, the U.S. Education Department said that Eastern Gateway’s online program violated federal financial aid rules and that the institution was no longer permitted to disburse Pell Grants to new students. At the time, the Education Department accused Eastern Gateway of charging students it determined to have less financial need less than their Pell-eligible peers. Eastern Gateway is “currently working with the Department of Education to determine if there is a viable way to restructure the program and meet federal financial compliance,” according to the Eastern Gateway website.

January 20, 2023

Delaware State University students on Wednesday held a protest of the university’s police forces, The Delaware News Journal reported.

Students at the historically Black college protested both what they said was excessive force by police officers and a lack of response to serious crimes.

From August 2022 to the day before this protest, the university’s public crime log shows seven reports of rape on campus. Each case is marked as pending.

“We’re just trying to bring awareness to student rights,” said one freshman in attendance, Micaih Lloyd. “Not all students feel safe on campus. We’re supposed to be at a place where we feel loved, where we feel at home. Administration needs to make a change.”

Carlos Holmes, a spokesman for the university, stressed that all students have a right to free speech. “Bottom line is, students have expressed serious concerns about this,” Holmes said. “And the university is listening.”

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