Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 13, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Nancy Gallagher of the University of Maryland at College Park offers an analysis of the public perception of this deal. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



April 10, 2015

For the first time in its history, Harvard University hired an equal number of women and men as junior faculty members in 2014-15, according to a new report from its Office of Faculty Development and Diversity. Harvard took on 62 new tenure-track faculty members this year, exactly half of whom were women; 24 percent were minority. Some 28 percent of the Harvard ladder faculty over all are women -- at 438 faculty members, that's about 90 more than even 10 years ago. Harvard says it’s cautiously optimistic that the gender parity can be maintained over time; while many factors play into such an outcome, the university's made a significant effort to welcome more women onto the faculty in recent years by conducting broader, more inclusive faculty searches and through various pipeline efforts aimed at increasing the number of female faculty members. Harvard’s diversity tactics are somewhat similar to those recently announced by Brown University, which pledged to double its proportion of underrepresented minority faculty in 10 years. 

“Over the past several years, Harvard, like many institutions, has worked diligently to diversify its faculty at all levels,” Judith D. Singer, Harvard’s senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity and James Bryant Conant Professor of Education, said via email. “While we cannot guarantee that the same will happen next year, this year’s success is a remarkable fact that was entirely unimaginable when I joined the faculty 30 years ago.”

April 10, 2015

The governing board for Phi Theta Kappa, a community college honor society, on Thursday released a written statement responding to allegations from two students about Rod Risley, the group's director. Inside Higher Ed recently reported on the controversy.

The two women, who are former student leaders for the group, said they experienced sexual harassment, intimidation, inappropriate touching and unprofessional behavior by Risley. The response from the board, which is investigating those allegations, challenged what it said is "incorrect and misleading information concerning the history" of the women's complaints and how the board has handled them.

The statement said the board was not aware of any of the allegations by Toni Marek, one of the two students, before she resigned from Phi Theta Kappa. The first time board members heard about the complaints of the second student, Rachel Reeck, according to the statement, was after Marek had filed a lawsuit. A court later dismissed that lawsuit.

Regarding the ongoing investigation, the board said it was being handled by a law firm that reports to the board, not Risley. The board also has hired another law firm to conclude and verify the inquiry.

Risley has stepped down, voluntarily, during the course of the investigation, the statement said, beginning on April 14. A spokeswoman for a member of the board said Risley will continue to be paid during his leave.

The statement also pushed back on Inside Higher Ed's reporting about Risley's compensation, which was $743,000 in 2013, according to the group's most recently available tax filing. The reported amount is "misleading," the board said. His base salary is $321,000. The additional compensation includes contributions such as a performance bonus, car allowance and health insurance. The board also said Risley's compensation reflects his 38 years of work for the honor society.

However, Risley made more the previous year. The group's 2012 tax form shows a total compensation of $1,052,813 (including $293,551 in base pay, $60,000 in bonus pay and $699,262 in other compensation). He received an additional $317,322 in other compensation from the honor society or related organizations, according to the form.

                                                          -- Paul Fain

April 10, 2015

The National Communication Association released its 2014 faculty jobs report Thursday, reporting that the number of faculty positions in communication is up 1.6 percent over 2013. While that gain is modest, the number of positions is double that of 2009. The top specializations in faculty job listings in the field: digital/new media, public relations, mass communication, health and rhetoric.


April 10, 2015

The doctors who work in clinics for students at the University of California System started a rolling strike Thursday, The Los Angeles Times reported. The doctors plan to strike for four days at the campuses in Northern and Central California, and then for four days at the campuses in Southern California. The university said that management doctors would fill in as much as possible, but that some nonessential appointments for students were being moved. The doctors' union says that the university has engaged in unfair labor practices in contract negotiations -- a charge the university denies.


April 10, 2015

The former softball coach at Nyack College has been charged by New York State authorities with 94 counts of improper sexual contact with athletes on what was his team, The Journal News reported. Kurt Ludwigsen, who was hired in September and fired last month, is accused of kissing players, touching them sexually and harassing them. He is being held in jail and did not have a lawyer for his first court appearance.


April 10, 2015

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has filed court papers challenging the right of a county attorney to sue to block the closure of Sweet Briar College, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The county attorney's suit cheered alumnae who have questioned the board's actions. But Herring said that it is the state that has oversight, not a county. Further, he suggested that the board of Sweet Briar has a right to close, provided it seeks permission from the state and that his office can make sure that "Sweet Briar's assets are used in a way that is in the public interest and as close as possible to the donation's original purpose."

April 10, 2015

A former Southeastern Louisiana University head women's volleyball coach violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules when he allowed a volunteer coach to act as an assistant coach, the N.C.A.A. announced Thursday. The head coach invited the volunteer to join his staff in 2013, the N.C.A.A. stated, and soon instructed the volunteer to "perform coaching activities" without officially counting the coach as a member of the staff.

The head coach also arranged open gym sessions outside the playing season and had "impermissible interactions" with four volleyball prospects, including providing one-on-one instruction to a prospect who attended the university's summer camp. Penalties include a $5,000 fine, a two-year show-cause order for the former head coach and a one-year extension of the university's existing probation stemming from a 2013 case in which 137 athletes competed without meeting eligibility requirements. The probation will now end in 2018.

April 10, 2015

A reader sent us a video of Biddy Martin, Amherst College's president, announcing (in a very nonserious way) the performers for the annual spring concert. We could tell there was humor, but much of it went over our heads, so we consulted with some usually reliable sources at the college.

It turns out that Martin earlier this week sent an all-campus email announcing that the Dalai Lama would be visiting in October. But then she thought that maybe the wrong version of the email went out. So she asked Pete Mackey, chief communications officer: "This is the wrong version. What happened, Pete?" Except instead of sending the email to Mackey, she hit "reply all" on her all-campus email. That prompted students to organize mock protest movements to protect Mackey from any punishment. A #justiceforpete hashtag appeared on Twitter, and some students even staged a rally. (For the record, Martin assured the campus that Pete wasn't in trouble at all.)

It's not every campus communications officer who can inspire a rally in his defense. Nor would every president joke about her own mistake, as Martin does in the video that follows, and which may now make (some) sense. The video also provides answers for those who wonder what college presidents would do with their time if banned from using email.



April 10, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Greg Bell, a medieval history expert at Winthrop University, offers a profile of the Crusades, focusing on time off the battlefield. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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