Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 3:00am

The Association of Title IX Administrators, a group of officials charged with ensuring gender equity on campuses, issued a declaration of support Monday for the Office for Civil Rights’ controversial “dear colleague” letter that reiterated institutional responsibilities in responding to and preventing sexual assault. The declaration was co-authored by the Women's Sports Foundation.

The letter has drawn negative responses from general counsels and free speech groups, particularly for its clarification that, when considering complaints of harassment and assault, institutions need only apply a preponderance of evidence standard – meaning it’s “more likely than not” that the complaint has merit. While critics have worried the standard might lead a college’s judicial body to issue unwarranted punishments, the association called the standard “the only equitable choice under Title IX as it avoids the presumption, inherent in a higher standard of proof, that the word of a victim is less weighty than the word of an accused individual’s denial.”

The administrators praised the letter’s emphasis on equitable treatment for victims and accused students. Both parties are entitled to certain privileges – a campus advocate for the victim, for instance, or fair notice of the charges for the accused – that colleges have at times been criticized for violating.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 4:31am

The American Bar Association's House of Delegates has approved a resolution urging flexibility by the Law School Admission Council on requests for accommodations by people with disabilities when they take the Law School Admission Test. The resolution calls for information to be made available to test-takers on their options. Further, the resolution urges those involved in standardized testing not to differentiate between those who took the test with an accommodation and those who did not. While the resolution does not mention the council by name, the measure appears a clear reference to legal disputes the council has faced over requests from some test-takers for accommodations, and for those accommodations not to be "flagged" to law schools.

 

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 4:46am

The Alabama Board of Education is divided over the performance of Freida Hill as chancellor of the state's two-year college system, with four of the nine members giving her low marks in numerous areas as part of a recent evaluation, The Birmingham News reported. Three board members gave her high marks, and two others mixed marks. The criticisms were wide ranging, including a lack of communication with the board, poor relations with the state's K-12 system and poor morale in the system. Hill's defenders said that disgruntled college presidents have encouraged the criticisms. Hill is the sixth person to lead the system since a corruption scandal in 2006.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Bard Ermentrout of the University of Pittsburgh explains what the colorful patterns on a seashell can reveal about the evolutionary history of the creature that created it. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan on Friday released a highly critical report on the institution's handling of a complaint that a medical resident at the university had a flash drive at work with child pornography on it. The report faulted the university for taking six months to handle the allegation, and for having a lawyer work on the complaint, rather than notifying the public safety department immediately. Mary Sue Coleman, the university's president, issued a statement in which she called the six-month delay "a serious failure on the part of our institution." The medical resident has since been dismissed from Michigan's program. The report said that no evidence was found that the resident obtained any of the photographs at university hospitals or that he acted inappropriately with any patients.

 

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

An American student at the American University in Cairo was arrested Friday and charged with fomenting dissent, the Associated Press reported. University officials said that they had no information about the arrest, which came amid a series of arrests of Americans working for nongovernmental organizations that promote democracy. Students at the university -- and students at many other universities in Cairo -- have been calling for a general strike this week to protest the continued control of the government by the military, a year after Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

A state audit released Friday revealed that Dickinson State University, in North Dakota, had awarded hundreds of degrees to Chinese students who did not complete required coursework and who in some cases may not have been able to do so, The Forum reported. The report described a campus that was so focused on attracting students that it cut corners to build its international enrollments. When the audit is shared with various authorities, Dickinson could face sanctions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (over visa issues), from the state (over enrollment figures) and from accreditors (over failure to assure educational quality). At a news briefing Friday, officials said that there was no one person or office responsible for the problems, but rather a series of inappropriate decisions involving the multicultural affairs, admissions and academic records offices, as well as a number of academic departments.

Briefings on campus about the audit were interrupted by reports that a university official, with a weapon, was missing. Later, Doug LaPlante, dean of the College of Education, Business and Applied Sciences, was found dead from a self-inflicted gun wound. The audit did not mention LaPlante by name, but officials said that many of the students who were awarded degrees inappropriately had been enrolled in the college he led.

No disciplinary actions were announced against anyone involved in the scandal, but officials told The Forum that Jon Brudvig had resigned as vice president for academic affairs, but would continue in another position.

The institution has been under scrutiny for months, starting with reports in August that it had listed about 180 people as enrolled who never were enrolled.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

China has seen a surge in private colleges in recent years, with hundreds of new institutions created in the last 15 years, The Washington Post reported. Many of the institutions are seen as second choices for those who can't win a spot at a public university, and they charge double the tuition of public institutions, but so many students want a higher education that these institutions continue to attract enrollments.

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Friday rejected the University of Connecticut's request that the association waive a penalty that will ban the Huskies from the NCAA men's basketball championship in 2012-13 because of its players' past academic underperformance, the university announced. UConn officials, who said they would ask an NCAA appellate panel to review the decision by the association's Committee on Academic Performance to an appellate panel, had argued that it would be unfair to penalize next year's UConn players for the academic woes of players who have long since left the university. Connecticut proposed a set of alternative penalties, including forgoing revenues that its conference would have received from the university's participation in the tournament and restricting recruiting by its head coach, Jim Calhoun.

 

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 4:38am

The University of New York, Tirana promises an American-style education and offers a path to an American degree. But does the Albanian university -- locally called "New York University-Tirana" even though it has no ties to NYU -- really provide an American-style education? Those are questions raised in an article in The New York Times that focuses on the institution's arrangement with Empire State College of the State University of New York. For an extra $100 per credit for the first three years, and an extra $5,000 the fourth year, students can obtain an Empire State degree. The article says that the photograph of a library on the university's brochure was taken elsewhere, that most faculty members are locally hired without input from SUNY, and that only 3 of the 15 courses identified as being from Empire State are taught by instructors with doctorates. "SUNY’s influence seemed more like a label than an active presence," the article said.

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