Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 1, 2013

Johnson C. Smith University announced 21 non-faculty layoffs Thursday (as well as the freezing of 30 unfilled positions) in response to a significant enrollment decline this fall, The Charlotte Observer reported. A year ago, fall enrollment at the university set a record at 1,801, but this fall it ended up at 1,387. A key factor in the decline, officials said, was tighter rules on loan eligibility that resulted in some students or families being denied loans that they received in the past -- an issue that has been a source of frustration at many historically black colleges this year.

 

November 1, 2013

Twenty-nine of the 64 State University of New York campuses will modify their sexual assault policies and procedures to align with each other and with federal law, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights announced Thursday. The resolution agreement concludes a three-year compliance review, one of OCR’s “proactive” efforts undertaken not because of an individual complaint but because of a combined set of factors, among them SUNY's size. The agreement does not apply to SUNY’s community college campuses, each of which has its own governing board and financial structure. Still, it is OCR’s most impactful agreement to date in terms of reach: 219,000 students and 70,000 employees will be subject to the new policies. (Note: This item has been corrected from an earlier version to clarify that this was a voluntary agreement reached between SUNY and OCR.)

As part of the investigation, OCR reviewed 159 cases of alleged sexual harassment at four SUNY campuses. Officials found that in some instances complainants did not receive “prompt or adequate investigations,” did not receive notice of the outcome of their complaints, or were not provided equal opportunities to attend pre-hearing conferences or present evidence and witnesses at their hearing.

The agreement requires the campuses to make several adjustments to comply with Title IX, including: designating a Title IX coordinator at each campus; setting up procedures for 24-hour reporting; providing sexual harassment training for all staff; conducting annual climate reviews; and ensuring all students and staff know their rights and options under Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination. Those steps are more or less consistent with changes colleges entering resolution agreements have been ordered to make since OCR issued its April 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter.

November 1, 2013

"Full Moon on the Quad" is a tradition at Stanford University in which students kiss one another at midnight on the first full moon of the fall semester. The New York Times reported on how Stanford officials try to make sure people are kissed only when they want to be (the use of slogans like "Consent Is Sexy") and that the event doesn't result in the mass spread of germs (students with colds are discouraged from participating, and students are encouraged to use mouthwash, but not to brush or floss beforehand).

November 1, 2013

Massive open online course provider Coursera will provide physical spaces in which to use its digital content, the company announced on Thursday. Along with five partner organizations, including the U.S. State Department, Coursera will establish "Learning Hubs" at more than 20 locations around the world, including at campuses and U.S. embassies.

The hubs will provide free access to the Internet and Coursera's MOOCs, but the company is also promising a more traditional learning experience. Some courses will feature in-person sessions, which can range from tutoring to discussions, moderated by a "local facilitator who has familiarity with the subject."

Coursera's announcement is the latest in a trend of MOOC providers expanding abroad. In the past month alone, Coursera and edX have both targeted China to broaden the scope of their platforms.

November 1, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Elaine Handley of Empire State College explores the long literary tradition of writing about inanimate objects. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 1, 2013

The University of Oregon has discovered that some employees working on federal grants padded their pay by putting in for hours they didn't work, The Oregonian reported. The university has already repaid the government $330,000 as a result, and officials said that there are other employee pay records that are still being investigated.

 

November 1, 2013

Florida Atlantic University's football coach, Carl Pelini, along with the defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis, resigned Wednesday after their boss confronted them about alleged marijuana use at a recent social event, ESPN reported. “On Monday, I was made aware of these concerns and I immediately reported the allegations to our general counsel,” Athletics Director Pat Chun said at a press conference. “The university acted quickly and decisively to follow up and take action that is in the best interests of our student-athletes and the University overall. I can assure you that we have no information that suggests anyone other than these two individuals engaged in these activities.” Pelini was in his second season as head coach and leaves with a 5-15 record.

November 1, 2013

University of Michigan students and administrators are denouncing the use of racial stereotypes in an invitation to a fraternity party originally scheduled for next week and now called off, MLive.com reported. Theta X invited students to a "World Star Hip Hop Presents: Hood Ratchet Thursday" party, specifically inviting "bad bitches, white girls, basketball players, thugs and gangsters." The invitation featured a photo of a black man holding cash, and also featured language such as "we goin back to da hood again!!"

The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, published an apology from the fraternity. "The individuals responsible for the event would like to state that there was no intent to cause harm by way of stereotypes and other damaging views. However, we realize that the terms used in their context were harmful and offensive to our community at large," said the apology.

 

November 1, 2013

York College put its wrestling program on interim suspension due to “violations of the Student Code of Conduct and the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, including hazing,” according to a college statement sent to Inside Higher Ed. Campus safety officers and administrators at the Pennsylvania college are investigating the situation during the suspension, which bars the team from “all activity,” and individual students will face campus judicial board hearings. A college spokeswoman told the York Daily Record that she didn't know how many instances of hazing occurred, but administrators learned of the conduct through an anonymous email sent to the athletics department.

October 31, 2013

A University of Mississippi employee learned the importance of school spirit this month after being reprimanded by an administrator for cheering on an opposing team during a home football game. The reprimand came in the form of a mass letter from the physical plant director to all his staff. According to an article in the Daily Mississippian, which first reported on the incident, "The letter states that while the university will never tell its employees whom they can or cannot cheer for, there is an expectation to support Ole Miss while on the clock.... [I]f employees cannot support Ole Miss, they shall 'remain neutral and without comment.' "

The comment in question was actually a tweet, sent while the employee was working the sidelines of the Oct. 19 game versus Louisiana State University. A Mississippi spokesman, Danny N. Blanton, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the message was in response to the employee's "game day responsibilities."

"We in no way try to influence who our employees support in their own time," Blanton said. "However, we will ask that when employees are on the clock that they are respectful of their employer and not disrupt the team or the fans. We also ask employees who are hired to do a specific job to do that job and not focus on social media."

Mississippi pulled a major upset over No. 11 LSU to win the game, 27-24.

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