Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 16, 2015

Canadian authorities are investigating the theft of three paintings from various buildings at the University of Toronto. Police officers say the paintings were stolen from separate locations, and that they were cut out of their frames. The most valuable of the three is "Church of Santa Maria della Salute," by Francesco Guardi (at right). The Globe and Mail reported that paintings by Guardi have sold in recent years for many millions of dollars.

February 16, 2015

The National Labor Relations Board on Friday remanded another case involving a would-be adjunct faculty union at a religious college -- Duquesne University -- back to a regional NLRB office in light of the NRLB’s recent ruling regarding Pacific Lutheran University. The NRLB earlier this month sent three similar union cases back to their respective regional offices for further action in light of the Pacific Lutheran ruling.

In that case -- which many called a major win for unions and a blow to long-standing legal precedents challenging the right of tenure-line faculty members at private institutions and faculty members generally at religious institutions to freely form unions -- the board said adjuncts at Pacific Lutheran could form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union. The board based its decision on its opinion that adjuncts at Pacific Lutheran don't perform specific religious functions that might cause them to fall outside its jurisdiction, and on the opinion that the faculty members lacked the managerial duties that might prevent them from forming a union.

A majority of Duquesne adjuncts voted in 2012 to form a union affiliated with the United Steelworkers, but the university appealed their right to form a union, citing its Roman Catholic affiliation. The union has been on hold since. Experts say these remands are largely procedural, but some adjuncts at affected institutions say they're cautiously optimistic that their union bids are one step closer to becoming real.

Also on Friday, the NLRB remanded to a regional office an earlier decision granting Saint Xavier University a review of a regional director’s decision regarding its would-be adjunct union. That remand was made in light of the recent (2014) U.S. Supreme Court decision in NLRB vs. Noel Canning, which successfully challenged the constitutionality of some NLRB appointments made during a Congressional recess. Some have argued that the decisions made by implicated appointees -- including the Saint Xavier decision -- are not legal. The case already had been remanded back to the regional director in light of the Pacific Lutheran decision.

February 16, 2015

Peking University announced Sunday that it is replacing its president, who has been controversial, with another academic leader who has also been controversial, The South China Morning Post reported. Out is Wang Enge, who has been in the office only two years and who has been criticized for his push for an elite college within the university to educate foreign students. He is being replaced by Lin Jianhua, who has been controversial in two previous presidencies.

February 16, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Ron Mallett, research professor of physics at the University of Connecticut, discusses theories of studying time travel. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

February 13, 2015

The National Association of the Deaf on Thursday sued Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, saying the institutions violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by not captioning all of the course content they make available online. Some of the content, NAD said, relies on automatic captions provided by Web sites such as YouTube, which sometimes produce unintelligible captions depending on audio clarity, while other videos don't offer captions at all. The cases are filed in a federal district court in Massachusetts.

February 13, 2015

Full-time, non-tenure-track arts and sciences faculty members at Tufts University voted by a two-to-one margin to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced late Thursday. The full-time adjunct bargaining unit is the second SEIU faculty unit on campus, after the part-time adjunct unit that formed in 2013. Part-time adjuncts have since won unprecedented gains in their contract, such as longer-term contracts, pay increases and the right to be interviewed for full-time positions. 

“We believed that a union would help us build a real community -- one where all faculty can more effectively contribute to our shared mission of educating students,” Penn Loh, a lecturer in urban and environmental policy and planning, said in a statement. “Coupled with the progress made by our part-time colleagues, today’s victory will no doubt raise the Tufts learning experience to new heights.”

Kimberly Thurler, a Tufts spokeswoman, said via email that the university remained neutral throughout the election process and respected the faculty members' decision. Moving forward, she added, "we hope to work productively with the SEIU as the collective bargaining process begins. It is worth noting that our full-time lecturers already have stable positions, most with multi-year contracts. They have the exact same benefits as our tenure-stream faculty and have received the same average salary increases as tenure-stream faculty." They also play a role in shared governance, she said.

February 13, 2015

Education Corporation of America (ECA), a privately held for-profit chain, will buy all 38 Kaplan College campuses. Kaplan Higher Education will continue to operate its Kaplan University and eight professional schools.

Terms of the deal were not released. But both sides said the all-stock transaction would give Kaplan a "preferred equity interest" in ECA. The 38 Kaplan College campuses currently enroll 12,500 students. The campuses lost $12.5 million last year, according to a corporate filing, and had a total revenue of $275 million. ECA operates Virginia College, Golf Academy of America, Ecotech Institute and New England College of Business. Virginia College is the largest, with 27 campuses and online programs, mostly in the Southeast.

"The combined ECA footprint, after the transaction closes, will include more than 70 career-oriented campuses and online programs across 20 states, serving approximately 30,000 students," the company said in a written statement.  

February 13, 2015

Divest Harvard, a student group that wants Harvard University to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, started a sit-in Thursday outside the office of President Drew Faust. WBUR reported that Faust agreed to meet with the students if they would agree to leave the building -- and that they rejected the request. On social media Thursday night, the students reported that they were settling in for the night. In 2013, after reviewing the issue, Faust said that divestment was not "warranted or wise."

 

February 13, 2015

Scott W. Steffey will step down as president and chief executive officer of Career Education Corporation, the major for-profit chain announced. Steffey took over the top post of the publicly traded company in 2013. An industry analyst said his departure and brief tenure were surprising.

February 13, 2015

Tennessee's governor, Bill Haslam, this week unveiled several higher education proposals as part of his budget plan. He included $1.5 million for a pilot program to offer a version of the state's free community college scholarship to adult students. Qualifying adults will be more than halfway to an associate degree in previously earned credits, said Mike Krause, the executive director of the Tennessee Promise program. Like traditional-aged students, they would get two years of free tuition at community colleges. Haslam, a Republican, called for another $1.5 million for adult students to receive similar scholarships to attend one of Tennessee's 27 colleges of technology.

Krause said the governor's budget plan would include $2.5 million to expand a successful remedial education program, which brings community college faculty members into public high schools. The program, which is dubbed Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support (SAILS), would reach 18,000 students this year. Krause said the state had seen a 4 percent decline in students with remedial needs in recent years.

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