Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 28, 2014

The University of Connecticut on Thursday informed two tenured music professors that it was seeking to fire them. The move came the day after the university released a report -- prepared by an outside lawyer -- that detailed how the university responded to numerous allegations and rumors that Robert Miller, one of the professors, inappropriately touched children at a summer camp and engaged in inappropriate touching and other behavior with male UConn students. The report found extensive evidence to back the allegations against Miller. Further, the report found that David Woods -- the other professor and formerly Miller's dean -- did nothing appropriate about the allegations. (The report quotes Miller as saying he did try to dismiss Miller, but said that there is no evidence for this.) Under UConn's collective bargaining procedures, Thursday's letters to the two professors start a process that they could contest.

February 27, 2014

The associations that represent allopathic and osteopathic medical schools announced Wednesday that they had agreed to a common system for accrediting U.S. providers of graduate medical education. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine said that under the arrangement, the osteopathic associations would become members of the graduate medical education group, and that the joint accrediting system would allow "graduates of allopathic and osteopathic medical schools to complete their residency and/or fellowship education in ACGME-accredited programs and demonstrate achievement of common milestones and competencies."

 

February 27, 2014

A new law has made Washington State the fifth state where students who lack the legal documentation to live permanently in the United States are eligible for state student aid, Reuters reported. Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said that the law would help "thousands of bright, talented and very hard working students across the state of Washington."

February 27, 2014

A faculty committee has recommended that Harvard University adopt policies designating specific officials to authorize an email search and -- in most cases -- to inform anyone whose email is searched, The Boston Globe reported. The recommendation follows a controversy in 2012 in which many email accounts were secretly searched. Harvard has not had clear policies on the issue, the committee found. The panel said that there needs to be a "legitimate" or "important" reason for such searches. And that reason -- not an email account holder's status as a student or employee or as a certain kind of employee, such as tenured professor -- should dictate whether a search is performed.

 

February 27, 2014

Thirty-one current and former students at the University of California at Berkeley filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday charging that the university has mishandled allegations of sexual assault, The Los Angeles Times reported. In May, nine students filed a complaint, and that has now been expanded. The complaint charges that, among other things, officials discouraged women from filing charges against their assailants, women were not informed of their rights and that campus judicial processes favored the accused. Berkeley's chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, on Tuesday announced the hiring of new employees to investigate sexual assault complaints and help victims. He also said survivors could be allowed to appeal decisions in internal sexual misconduct cases.

February 27, 2014

Chicago State University owes its former general counsel $2.5 million, a jury in Illinois found last week. The verdict – $480,000 in back pay and a $2 million punitive damage award – would go to James Crowley, who turned into a whistle-blower after a dispute with President Wayne Watson over disclosure of public records that would reveal when Watson started his job. According to The Chicago Tribune, Watson’s first day on the job was disputed because it would determine whether he was eligible for a pension from his time at another public college. 

Crowley said the president threatened him over disclosing too many documents, an allegation Crowley took to the state attorney general. Nearly four years to the day after Watson fired Crowley, the Cook County jury reached its verdict. Crowley's lawyer, Anthony Pinelli, said the judge could increase the value of the verdict by doubling the amount of back pay. The verdict also said Crowley should be reinstated as the university’s top lawyer. Watson is still president.

“Whether that's going to happen or what we're going to do about it, I haven't spoken to the other side about it," Pinelli said. Chicago State plans to appeal, the Tribune reported. 

Crowley had been working part time for a law firm, but he was laid off several months ago and is looking for work, Pinelli said. Chicago State is also dealing with recent allegations that its provost, Angela Henderson, plagiarized her Ph.D. dissertation. The university has also gone on the offensive against a faculty-run blog called Crony State Faculty Voice, which has been highly critical of Watson. The blog called the jury verdict in the Crowley case “the Watson Clown Show's latest ethical, fiscal and public relations disaster.”

February 27, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Elliot Berkman of the University of Oregon reveals the limits of brain training. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

February 27, 2014

A coalition of higher education, business and other groups seek to make the case for more federal investment in research and higher education with a four-minute video explaining the "innovation deficit." The groups hope to remind members of Congress (and those who influence them) about the important contributions that scientific and other research make to the knowledge economy -- and the economy at large.

February 26, 2014

Men of color attending community colleges are less likely to obtain an associate degree than are white males, despite being the most engaged in and out of the classroom, a new report finds. In "Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges," the Center for Community College Student Engagement reveals that even though black and Latino students at two-year institutions show more interest than their white peers in obtaining an associate degree or certificate, only 5 percent actually accomplish that goal within three years, compared to 32 percent for white students.

One of the reasons the gap might exist, the authors of the report say, is because of what they call stereotype threat. That’s the “fear of fulfilling a negative stereotype,” and it can be triggered unintentionally. That fear can affect a student’s performance in the classroom. Recommendations to help close the gap, they say, start with institutions first acknowledging the issue, because not enough of them are looking at how systemic disparities can affect a student of color’s educational experience. The report offers tools for leaders at these colleges to conduct focus groups, and questions to help guide campus-based and community-based discussions on issues such as aspiration, achievement and equity.

“Grappling with these disparities is a task for virtually every community college,” said Kay McClenney, the director of Center for Community College Student Engagement, in a press release. “Campus conversations and actions must address at least three factors: substantially different levels of college readiness across racial and ethnic groups, the demonstrated effects of stereotype threat on performance in higher education, and continuing impacts of structural racism evident in systems throughout American society,” she said.

February 26, 2014

A total of 370 colleges and universities met the federal definition of "Hispanic-serving institution" in 2012-13, up from 356 the previous year, Excelencia in Education said in its annual analysis of the fast-growing sector of higher education. The group reported that about 60 percent of all Latino students were enrolled in such institutions, and that the colleges and universities were heavily concentrated geographically, with more than 80 percent of them located in five states.

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