Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 29, 2014

Larry James, a former Army psychologist and associate vice president for military affairs at Wright State University, won't be invited to campus to interview for a position at Northern Arizona University, a spokesman said late Tuesday. The announcement came after a week of protest from students and faculty over the fact that James was in the running to become the new dean of the College Social and behavioral sciences. Protesters raised concerns about his role as a process evaluator for interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War and at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Many of their concerns came from James's own book, Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib. In that book, and in various interviews, including one last year with Inside Higher Ed, James says he witnessed abusive behaviors by both prisoners and U.S. military personnel, but that he worked to make the situation better. James was assigned to the prison only after the initial revelations about the abuses at Abu Ghraib and his job was to assess and recommend procedures to prevent future abuses. But some critics said his association with the prison is enough to make his appointment to an academic post inappropriate, and others challenged his explanation and the findings of several independent investigations that James was not party to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. They point to a 2010 complaint filed with the Ohio State Board of Psychology by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School alleging that human rights violations continued after James arrived.

Protesters called for university to block James from coming to campus to interview. In an open letter to students and faculty posted on the university website this week, Laura Huenneke, provost, and Dan Kain, vice provost for academic personnel at Northern Arizona said: "Sadly, some individuals (including students) are seeking to prevent his interview and visit. Intimidating flyers are being posted anonymously, and messages have been flying around campus urging people to 'check out' the person via Google or other quick web searches. This behavior is inconsistent with the university’s commitment to civil discourse and fair evaluation of individuals. Indeed, our search process has consistently instructed committee members NOT to search the Internet to learn about candidates, both because of the inaccuracies promulgated on the web and because of the potential for discrimination. Our process is built around our deep respect for giving everyone a fair chance in the hiring process."

In response, Romand Coles, professor of community, culture and environment, posted his own letter, saying: "The concern for evidence-based investigation, accurate representation of what we know, and our best efforts at reasoned deliberation are values I too hold to be absolutely vital to the scholarly enterprise and democratic discourse. Yet based on these standards I come to a very different conclusion about the character of the conversation and work that has been conducted around this search thus far."

On Tuesday, a spokesman said via email: "Dr. James’ leadership skills and record of accomplishments in higher education made him a strong candidate for this position. In searching for a dean, NAU's goals include finding the right match between a candidate’s skills and the college’s needs. After extensive discussions on campus, Dr. James’ candidacy will not be pursued and he will not be visiting campus."

James also sparked student protests and raised faculty concerns last year during his candidacy for division executive director in the College of Education at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He did not get the job, but neither did the other finalist. The post went unfilled.

James did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Coles did not offer additional comment.

January 29, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Roberta Golinkoff of the University of Delaware explains why playing with blocks could give your child a better chance developing math skills. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

January 29, 2014

Allegations from a former Rutgers University football player that a coach bullied him and the university mishandled the response were unfounded, according to an independent 10-page report released Tuesday and reported by the New Jersey Star-Ledger. The report found that during a study hall session, then-defensive coordinator Dave Cohen neither physically threatened nor verbally abused the freshman cornerback Jevon Tyree, and Tyree was not retaliated against after raising these concerns, as was alleged. However, the report did say Cohen was “inappropriate and unprofessional” with Tyree in the study hall incident. Athletics Director Julie Hermann, whom Tyree’s parents accused of ignoring their son’s complaints, also acted appropriately, the report says.

The review came just a couple of months after a Rutgers committee determined the university's lack of oversight and leadership in athletics helped enable the former basketball coach Mike Rice to physically and verbally abuse players for years.

January 29, 2014

It was the main subject of this month's White House summit, and members of the House of Representatives subcommittee focused their attention on the best ways to help low-income college students and first-generation college students not only get into college, but graduate, at a hearing Tuesday. The hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, was to discuss approaches to the issue and needed improvements in the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Witnesses (who included senior administrators at the College of Westchester and Fayetteville State and DePaul Universities), and lawmakers touched on several different themes, many that have been voiced before. Among them:

  • The Pay It Forward Affordability Act, which Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat, plans to introducing later this week. The legislation would let students attend public colleges for free, but once they land their first job after graduation, a percentage of their income will be deducted to pay for the tuition. Oregon's approach to this has been controversial.
  • Simplifying eligibility for the TRIO program, as well as changing it so that it follows the Pell Grant’s eligibility requirements.
  • Finding better ways to measure success. The support program directors at each institution need to use measurable data and more comprehensive metrics to determine the program’s success
January 29, 2014

Yeshiva University, after making student organizers and a nationally recognized photographer meet many conditions for the institution to host an exhibit, has backed out of the exhibit, Haaretz reported. The exhibit, called "What I Be," involves photography of people in which words representing their vulnerabilities are written on their faces or other body parts. Yeshiva released a statement to the newspaper that said the following: “As a university based on Torah ideals, Yeshiva University supports and encourages the artistic exploration of diverse ideas by its students and offers robust programming in dramatics and the arts − all while keeping in line with our values. After close review and much discussion of this event with the student organizers, and taking the sensitivities of all of our students into consideration, we determined that a YU venue would not be able to showcase the project in its entirety.”

January 29, 2014

The New York Senate has passed legislation that would bar public or private colleges in state from using state funds to fund groups that support academic boycotts, The Albany Times-Union reported. The bill is designed to take a stand against the American Studies Association, which has voted to back a boycott of Israeli universities. Many defenders of academic freedom -- including those who have said that the American Studies Association move amounts to an attack on academic freedom -- have criticized the New York bill.

 

January 28, 2014

Citing a "very difficult financial situation," National Hispanic University has stopped enrolling new students, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Laureate Education, a large for-profit chain, bought the San Jose-based university in 2010, announcing plans for it to grow to 8,000 students, many of them attending online. The university was struggling before the purchase, and has failed to right itself in the last few years. Its enrollment stands at just 600 students. And last year the U.S. Department of Education withdrew federal financial eligibility for the university's liberal arts programs, straining its finances.

January 28, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Ken Noll of the University of Connecticut reveals the process of methane production by microbes in woodland ponds. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 28, 2014

Several holding companies of major for-profit chains announced Monday that they have received letters of inquiry from attorneys general in a group of states, usually a dozen or so. The investigations center on business practices, such as the recruitment of students, graduate placement statistics and student lending activities, according to corporate filings. The companies include Career Education Corporation, ITT Educational Services Inc. and Corinthian Colleges Inc. The investigations have been in the works for years, and feature a growing number of for-profits.

January 28, 2014

Northeastern Illinois University has settled for an undisclosed amount with Loretta Capeheart, the tenured professor of justice studies who sued the institution for defamation after she said it accused her of “stalking” a student. Capeheart has claimed the university made that allegation in retaliation for her activism on campus, including protesting the Central Intelligence Agency. Previously, the university had tried to kill Capeheart’s suit by citing state anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) laws. But an appeals court sided against the university in September, saying that the institution did not refute any major aspect of Capeheart’s claim. The news of the settlement comes just weeks after the American Association of University Professors released a report accusing the institution of denying tenure to second professor in retaliation for his department’s involvement in a no-confidence vote in the president. Capeheart, whose legal battle began six years ago, said via email that the September ruling most helped her case, but the recent AAUP report also likely encouraged the university to settle, in that it “publicly exposed the university’s willingness to override basic faculty and citizens’ rights.”

She added: “It is incomprehensible to me that a university that is supposed to be the place for vigorous debate and discussion, the very basis of democracy, chose to engage in a legal battle intent on silencing faculty and others who work at the university.”

A university spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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