Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Faculty Senate will vote on a resolution expressing no confidence in UW System President Ray Cross and the system’s Board of Regents on May 2. Among numerous alleged missteps by Cross and the board, the resolution criticizes them for supporting a new systemwide layoff policy for tenured professors that many faculty members said fell short of providing real tenure protections in the event of program closures for budgetary and academic concerns. The board also approved changes to a Madison-specific policy that many professors said watered down tenure protections. The new policies stem from the Wisconsin Legislature’s elimination of tenure from state statute last year.

The no-confidence resolution, which is still being finalized, was written by Chad Alan Goldberg, a professor of sociology, faculty senator and president of American Federation of Teachers-affiliated United Faculty and Academic Staff. A current draft says, in part, that system leaders’ actions “have damaged the reputation of [Madison] as a great state university that encourages continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found” and that the “the erosion of academic due process and the circumventing of shared governance jeopardize the quality of students’ education.”

The document already has been endorsed by the president of the Madison advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, David Vanness, associate professor of population health sciences. Vanness said in an email to colleagues on Sunday that the case against Cross “is clear and convincing. … His actions at the Board of Regents meeting in March conclusively demonstrated that he has played a direct role in bringing about the weakening of tenure and shared governance as a means of giving the administration ‘flexibility’ and ‘tools’ to set aside tenure and trammel shared governance in order to deal with continuing budget cuts.”

Alex Hummel, university system spokespeson, said via email that the vote "is a faculty matter, and President Cross remains focused on helping the [system's] institutions maintain a world-class education."

 

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Mary V. Bauman, chair of the Hope College board, sent out a message to the campus this weekend that pledged to work on tensions that have surfaced after word spread that board members were talking about firing President John C. Knapp, who enjoys wide support from students, faculty members and alumni. "There is no question we could have handled this personnel issue better. However, please understand that the actions of the board, whether you agree with them or not, are done with what we believe to be in the best interest of Hope College, and not for any personal or ideological differences," said the email from Bauman. The email said that the board would work to "earn back your trust," and that the board supported efforts to diversify the campus. The email also said that board leaders would not try to fire Knapp at a board meeting next month, although it made no promises beyond that. Referring to the protests of students and others who backed Knapp, Bauman wrote, "I am so very proud of the positive and respectful activism that has been demonstrated by so many of you in these difficult times."

On campus, several sources supportive of the president, speaking anonymously, said that they weren't impressed with the email since it didn't acknowledge that the recent tensions came about because of board actions. Further, they asked why the board wasn't pledging to keep the president beyond May.

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Rutgers University at New Brunswick has removed from its art library a piece of art (at right) that depicts Jesus on a dartboard, with darts that have been thrown on to him. It remains unclear how the art was selected for the library. Students took to social media to ask why it was there, to demand its removal and to defend it. A statement from the university to NJ.com said that the art was removed not because it offended some people, but because it violated library rules.

"The artwork in question was removed from the exhibit because it did not meet Rutgers University Libraries policy, which requires art exhibitions and their pieces to be based on university events, curricular offerings and topics of interest to the university community," said the statement. "The process that the libraries use to determine how artwork is selected for inclusion in an exhibit takes into consideration freedom of expression as well as the criteria listed above. We have concluded that the policy and process the libraries use to select artwork for exhibitions was not followed."

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of New Mexico mishandled reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.

"The department specifically found that students, faculty and staff lacked basic understanding about reporting options, duties and obligations, as well as where to turn for help," the department said in a statement. "The investigation also found significant gaps in UNM’s procedures, training and practices for investigating and resolving allegations of sexual assault and harassment, resulting in a grievance process that complainants and respondents alike described as confusing, distressing and rife with delays."

The Justice Department began investigating UNM in December 2014 after several students alleged that the university did not "adequately respond to their reports of sexual assault." In order to comply with federal laws, the department said, the university must now provide comprehensive training to all students, faulty and staff; revise its sexual misconduct procedures so that they ensure "prompt and equitable" resolutions; and adequately investigate all allegations by students who report being sexually assaulted or harassed, including allegations of retaliation.

“UNM is not alone in trying to deal with one of the most difficult problems on today’s college campuses,” Robert Frank, the university's president, said in a statement. “While we respect the efforts of the DOJ, we believe its report is an inaccurate and incomplete picture of our university. It is a brief snapshot in time that came on the heels of a high-profile and widely publicized accusation of a sexual assault involving UNM students. Even so, we receive it in a spirit of cooperation and pledge to continue our campuswide improvements to combat this complex issue.”

The university also released a timeline showing the steps it has taken in recent years to improve how it handles allegations of sexual assault (click on the image below to enlarge).

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

A racist video on YouTube -- with the headline “SIUC White Is Right” -- has disturbed many students and others at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. The video, which contains racial slurs throughout, may be found here, although the university is trying to have it removed. Rumors are circulating that a fraternity at the university is responsible for the video, but a spokeswoman for the university, via email, said that "we do not have reason to believe that is was actually from the fraternity it is being attributed to and are investigating."

On Sunday night, the interim chancellor, Brad Colwell, sent out an email to all students. "The promotion of disruption and violence is not acceptable," he said. "It distracts all of us from our mission, and it makes members of our community feel unwelcome and unsafe. Individuals who hide behind anonymity, or who tie their views to organizations they do not represent, must not be allowed to disrupt our campus. Individuals who use the power of social media to spread hate and fear must not be allowed to be the voice of our community."

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Business, housing and IT administrators say they expect the cost of providing wireless network services will continue to climb, even as fewer of them believe their budgets will grow to keep up. Those and other findings appear in the 2016 State of the Residential Network report, released today by the Association for College and University Technology Advancement and the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International.

Colleges are using different strategies to try to keep costs down, according to the survey. Nearly half of respondents (44 percent) say they outsource some residential network services or are considering doing so, a share that has doubled since 2013. Others are considering throttling certain types of web traffic (41.6 percent), combining wireless network services with other IT services on campus (47.8 percent), adding or increasing student technology fees (9 percent, with another 29.9 percent considering it), or all of the above (29.2 percent).

The survey, which launched in 2011, includes responses from 406 administrators at 365 colleges and universities.

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Many higher education leaders take care to note that a presidential candidate's appearance on campus does not suggest any institutional or personal endorsement. And many campus presidents are nowhere to be seen when candidates appear. But that wasn't the case Saturday at Bryant University at a campaign rally for Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination and is hoping to pick up delegates in Rhode Island.

Kasich was introduced by Ron Machtley, a former member of Congress who is now the president of Bryant. “This is the only candidate, in my opinion, who understands the privilege, the prestige and the purpose, not only of the presidency, but of the process to get there,” said Machtley, according to WPRI News.

Machtley did not respond to an email from Inside Higher Ed about whether his comments constituted a formal endorsement.

Kasich also had an exchange about college affordability during his appearance. Nicholas Celico, a freshman at the University of Rhode Island, asked whether Kasich's emphasis on reducing the federal deficit would have an impact on student borrowing. Kasich responded by asking Celico why he hadn't gone to a community college and then went on to say tuition rates are too high. Celico, a Kasich supporter, told WPRI of the candidate's response, “It’s cool. I appreciate that he’s being honest. … Sometimes you need the cold, hard truth in life.”

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

A professor of English at Bangladesh's Rajshahi University was hacked to death on Saturday in an attack for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, The New York Times reported. The killing of Rezaul Karim Siddiquee bears similarities to recent targeted killings of secular activists in Bangladesh by Islamist militants, but it is not clear why Siddiquee might have been targeted. According to police who interviewed his family, he had not published materials critical of Islam and had not received any threats.

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, a group of 93 leading colleges introducing an alternative to the Common Application this summer, on Friday issued the essay prompts to be used on the first application. A notice from the coalition notes that colleges may or may not use the essay questions and/or may have their own questions. The initial essay prompts are fairly standard for the genre:

  • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  • Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  • Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  • What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
Monday, April 25, 2016 - 3:00am

Four Turkish academics who had been detained on charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda” in connection with their support for a petition opposing a military campaign against Kurdish separatists have been released pending trial, The Guardian reported. Prosecutors intend to seek a lesser charge, “denigrating Turkishness,” which carries a maximum two-year prison sentence, against the academics. The next hearing is scheduled for September.

The more than 1,000 Turkish professors who signed the Academics for Peace petition in January have faced a range of repercussions, including criminal investigations and university-level disciplinary actions. Some of the signatories have been suspended or terminated from their university positions.

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