Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 14, 2014

The University of Oregon's Faculty Senate says it has approved a statement on academic freedom that is one of the strongest in the country, The Oregonian reported. The resolution followed months of contentious negotiation of an academic freedom statement to be included in the faculty union's contract. The collective bargaining agreement eventually was signed this year, and included what faculty members have described as a compromise between the union and the university regarding academic freedom and free speech.

The new Faculty Senate resolution goes beyond what is included in the contract, extending free-speech protections to students and non-faculty employees, as well as faculty members, for the purposes of teaching, research, shared governance and public service, "which shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal.” The full text of the statement is available here.

In an email, Michael Gottfredson, Oregon's president, said: “I look forward to closely reviewing the senate's latest version of the statement. Academic freedom is central to our mission and underlies everything we do as a university. I fully support the strongest policy possible to affirm and strengthen this freedom." Gottfredson has 60 days to either approve or reject the statement.

April 14, 2014

The American Federation of Teachers on Friday announced a new campaign, "The Promise of Higher Education," to focus attention on policies that the union said are hurting students and faculty members. The AFT is planning efforts both to draw attention to and challenge these policies. "Higher education should be about expanding opportunities for middle- and working-class families, not a 'debt sentence,' and not a way for Wall Street and for-profit colleges to profit off of students and families," said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a speech announcing the new campaign. "Together we can reclaim the promise of higher education as a means to opportunity and success."

April 14, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education used a misleading statistic in its rollout last month of proposed "gainful employment" regulations aimed at for-profit institutions, The Washington Post reported. Advocates for the sector had pushed back on the validity of the department's prominently featured assertion that graduates of 72 percent of programs at for-profits make less than high school dropouts. The Post looked into the argument on its "Fact Checker" blog, and sided with for-profits.

For starters, the baseline earnings calculation for high-school dropouts was not up to snuff, the newspaper found. The feds used a relatively high figure, relative to other data. And then the department, in both a White House briefing and in written material, used the figure in comparison to for-profit programs. That was an "apples to oranges" comparison, the Post said. One key reason is that the median salary for high-school dropouts did not include data for unemployed workers. It also factored in people who were many years into their careers, while using only recent graduates for the for-profit graduate figure.

The department defended the statistic, which the Post called "bogus." An official said the figure was merely a benchmark, and that problems with for-profits are serious. "However you cut it, one statement remains true: Graduates of a significant number of for-profit career college programs wind up getting jobs with very low earnings -- a fact that should cause concern for any consumer who’s considering those programs as a post-secondary option intended to prepare them for a job.”

April 14, 2014

The University of Missouri erred in its own policies and mishandled the case of Sasha Menu Courey, a Division I swimmer who said she’d been raped by one or more Missouri football players in 2010, and who later committed suicide, according to an investigative report by a group of independent lawyers. Missouri officials did not have the appropriate Title IX policies and procedures in place (in violation of federal law), and did not report relevant information to the Title IX coordinator who could have investigated the allegation, the report says. There is also no evidence that any officials other than medical personnel, who are bound by confidentiality laws, knew about the allegation while Menu Courey was alive.

April 14, 2014

Cardiff University abruptly called off plans on Thursday to announce its next chancellor, Wales Online reported. In Wales, as in England, university chancellors' role is largely ceremonial and it is the vice chancellor who is the equivalent of the American university president, but many academics care about who is named chancellor. At Cardiff, the university was expected to announce Thursday that Griff Rhys Jones, a comedian and television star, was to become chancellor. But news that an entertainer was up for the job led some faculty members to push for another term for Martin Evans, a biologist and Nobel laureate.

April 14, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Jeffrey Froh, associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University, shows the far reaching effects that gratitude has on children. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

April 14, 2014

Al-Quds University is disavowing the efforts of one of its professors, Mohammed S. Dajani, who took 27 students at the Palestinian university where he teaches to Auschwitz, to try to teach empathy with Jews, The Washington Post reported. In another part of the effort, Israeli students were visiting the West Bank to learn from Palestinians about their lives and the hardships they face. A German foundation paid for the program, contrary to rumors that Jewish groups had paid. Dajani has been called a traitor by many Palestinians, although he is standing behind the idea.

April 14, 2014

Students at Rowan University are divided about having New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as graduation speaker this year, The South Jersey Times reported. Some are excited about having a famous political figure who still could be a candidate for president in 2016. Others think that his recent traffic scandal makes him an odd choice, and they don't want a divisive figure. On Twitter, one person had fun with Christie's woes, referring to Rowan's location and the date of commencement: "Time for some traffic problems in Glassboro May 16th."

April 14, 2014

The University of South Carolina Upstate has been under attack by legislators lately over a book on gay themes that was assigned to freshmen and a scheduled appearance (since called off) of the comedy show “How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less.” On Sunday, Chancellor Tom Moore published a short essay called "On Being a University," trying to put the events in context. He noted that the university offers a range of programs for all kinds of students -- for students with different academic majors, of different religious groups, for veterans and so forth. Moore wrote that, if one looks at the totality of the programs at the university, issues related to gay students and gay issues "definitely" do not dominate, and are only a small fraction of what is offered.

But he also defended the idea that these programs need to be part of the mix. "If public universities do not offer programs and conferences that deal with cultural dynamics related to LGBTQ and other societal issues, where will such programs occur? Wherever we stand on issues of gay rights and same-sex marriage, denying the presence and importance of these issues in contemporary American culture is tantamount to burying our heads in the sand," Moore wrote. "As a public university, we must engage important issues in our culture, even when doing so makes some uncomfortable."

 

April 14, 2014

Eighty-seven percent of Division III athletes who entered college in 2006 graduated within six years, according to Academic Success Rate data released Friday by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The ASR is an NCAA formula similar to Division I’s Graduation Success Rate -- it includes athletes who transfer into a college, but omits those who leave while academically eligible. Under the government’s Federal Graduation Rate, which does not include that ASR caveat, the percentage of graduates drops to 68. Submitting ASR data is also optional, and only 139 institutions participated in 2012-13.

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