Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 29, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Inna Gaisler-Salomon of the University of Haifa reveals why stress may have a more far-reaching impact than previously believed. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 29, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is soliciting feedback for a new governance and competitive structure in large part because the biggest athletic departments want more leeway to spend money and grow their revenue-generating programs, football and men’s basketball. Naturally, one idea that has gained traction is a "super division" within or outside of Division I. But if they’re going to get it, a dozen associations for coaches of sports including volleyball, soccer, wrestling and swimming told NCAA leaders, those institutions should be required to raise the minimum number of sponsored sports from 16 to 24, and fund each one at at least 60 percent of the Division I financial aid limit.

“While it might seem counterintuitive to attempt to control expenditures by mandating growth,” coaches wrote in a letter to the Division I Board of Directors, which will hear ideas on restructuring before its quarterly meeting this week, “in this case it is one of few legal ways to achieve cost control. Prudent decision-making is built into the structure by funding requirements.”

The money athletic departments make off football and men’s basketball supports growth in those sports, but it also keeps the non-revenue programs represented by the coaches’ associations afloat.

“Mandating an increase in opportunity for and support of student-athletes in other sports financially links intercollegiate athletics at these institutions with their nonprofit mission while also leveling the funding disparities across Division I,” the letter says. The most elite programs have budgets about 50 percent bigger than the rest of Division I, hence the new sport minimum, the letter says. And 60 percent of the financial aid maximum lets institutions set priority sports while still supporting more athletes. The coaches also proposed developing a model within the NCAA governance structure that would  include coach associations beyond football and basketball on strategic planning, sport management and relationship coordination. Coach association leaders would be included as members or advisors to the various NCAA cabinets, councils and committees (such as rules and championships).

October 29, 2013

Student organizers at Hampshire College called off an appearance by the band Shokazoba amid complaints that the band was "too white" to play Afrobeat music, The Republican reported. Band members are angry, saying that they were falsely accused of being all-white, and that it should be possible for music to be judged on artistic value, not just the race of some of the musicians. The student committee that organized the event posted this note on its Facebook page: "Due to concerned students voicing their opinions about the band Shokazoba, we held community dialogue to hear what individuals had to say. As a result of the dialogue, and discomfort expressed by members of the community in person as well as by email, Facebook, and other means, we have removed Shokazoba from the lineup for Hampshire Halloween."

Many of the comments posted there are critical of the students for uninviting the band. One person wrote: "You know, it's not like these guys run around during their performances wearing dashikis, greeting the audience with a hearty meeng-gah-bou at the start of their set. These are just people who love a certain type of music and are sharing that enjoyment." Another wrote: "This is, without equivocation, one of the most ironically racist decisions I have ever witnessed a group of supposedly educated people come to. The fact that the irony is lost on you makes me believe that maybe that education was wasted. Stupid decision, and every one of you who was party to it should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves."

The college has issued a statement denying that racial issues were at play, and saying instead that the band was dropped because of the rising tensions over the discussion. "On an online event site, some members of our student community questioned the selection of one band, asking whether it was a predominantly white Afrobeat band and expressing concerns about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures. The students tried to be clear that they meant no disrespect to the members of the band in question, but wished to raise larger questions and have a deeper conversation within our own community," said the college's statement. "The decision by student planners not to have the band perform was not based on the band’s racial identity. It was based on the intensity and tone that arose on the event’s planning site on social media, including comments from off campus that became increasingly aggressive, moving from responses to individual student voices to rude, and at times unsettling, remarks. Tensions grew and students felt they were being unfairly characterized and disparaged."

 

October 29, 2013

A University of Wisconsin at Superior professor has voluntarily resigned, after reports surfaced this summer that he pleaded guilty and served prison time for attempted sexual abuse in another state more than 20 years ago, when he was a high school teacher. Matthew Faerber, a tenured professors of vocal music, was placed on paid leave in August after a newspaper in Utah, where he used to live, published a report detailing his past criminal record, involving two 13-year old students. The university announced that he voluntarily resigned, after a lengthy investigation into Faerber’s record, Northland’s News Center reported.

Faerber was hired by Superior in 1998, but the University of Wisconsin System did not introduce mandatory background checks for all employees until 2007.

Chancellor Renee Wachter said in a statement that Faerber -- whose status changed to unpaid leave earlier this month --  resigned "under terms of a separation agreement. We believe that this is a fair and reasonable resolution to a difficult situation, which serves the best interests of students and the entire UW-Superior community."

Faerber could not immediately be reached for comment.

October 28, 2013

As the National Collegiate Athletic Association contemplates how it will redesign its governance and membership structure, some groups, including conference commissioners, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and the Division I Faculty Athletics Representatives Board, have suggested or at least been open to the notion of the largest athletic programs forming their own division. That would allow more leniency in how they could recruit and provide financial aid to athletes.

But the group that represents FARs in all divisions, the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association, wants Division I to stay intact. In a position statement obtained by Inside Higher Ed, the FARA Executive Committee argues that Division I institutions are committed to a group of core academic and athletic values and primarily compete against each other, so retaining the current division would be "the most practical option."

The FARA also wants the Division I Board of Directors to comprise a "small group" of university presidents (as it does currently) and CEOs "looking to position intercollegiate athletics through the changing and challenging landscape of American society." The group would not make policy but would set an overarching agenda and oversee NCAA leadership at lower levels. FARs, athletic directors, coaches, athletes and other stakeholders would have a say in policy development, and would be entitled to seats on the various boards, councils and committees that make rules.

October 28, 2013

Khan Academy last week released its first batch of videos to help students prepare for the revised version of the Medical College Admission Test, which will debut in 2015. The 150 videos were created by the winners of a student competition hosted this year in collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health organization. The videos have been fact-checked by the AAMC. New videos will be added to Khan Academy's MCAT page over the course of 2014.

October 28, 2013

Brown University announced Sunday that its board has decided not to sell off investment holdings in coal companies. Brown's policies set out criteria for divesting the endowment of certain kinds of investments, and a letter released from Christina H. Paxson said that while she believed coal production causes "social harm," one of the criteria, she was not convinced on other requirements.

"The existence of social harm is a necessary but not sufficient rationale for Brown to divest," she wrote. "Once social harm is established, divestiture may be warranted if either divestiture is likely to help reduce the harm or the harm is sufficiently grave. Taking the second of these criteria first, is it the case that the social harm from coal is so grave that divestiture is warranted? Absent a bright-line threshold for gravity, this is a judgment call, and a difficult one at that. I believe that although the social harm is clear, this harm is moderated by the fact that coal is currently necessary for the functioning of the global economy. Coal is the source of approximately 40 percent of the world’s electricity, and it provides needed energy for millions of people throughout the world. In many regions, there are serious technological impediments to transitioning away from coal. In addition, coal is used in the production of other products, such as cement and steel, which are central to the economies of both developed and developing countries. The comparison to tobacco is instructive. Unlike tobacco, which arguably has no social value, a cessation of the production and use of coal would itself create significant economic and social harm to countless communities across the globe." She added that "Brown’s holdings are much too small for divestiture to reduce corporate profits. Furthermore, because the profits of these companies are determined primarily by the demand for their products rather than their stock prices, divestiture would not reduce profits even if Brown’s holdings were orders of magnitude larger."

The student group that has been pushing for divestment of coal holdings outlines its position here.

 

 

October 28, 2013

Just about every year, Halloween brings campus disputes over costumes built around ethnic or racial stereotypes. Several universities this year are trying -- in advance of Halloween -- to discourage offensive costumes. The University of Colorado at Boulder has put posters up on campus that show members of different racial and ethnic groups -- and some of the stereotypes that have been the basis of costumes. The tag line for the posters: "You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life." The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities sent a letter to students urging them to avoid costumes that perpetuate stereotypes, The Star Tribune reported.

 

October 28, 2013

Department chairs at the Columbia Gorge Community College in Oregon passed a resolution expressing no confidence in the college's president, who some said erred when announcing a high-profile personnel decision that warranted faculty input.. The nine department chairs passed a no-confidence resolution in President Frank Toda’s leadership.They are upset that Toda named a chief academic and student affairs officer without consulting faculty.

Faculty members are concerned that chief academic and student affairs officer Lori Ufford does not have the necessary background in academic instruction for the position, and are asking the president and the college’s governing body to agree to make future hires using a process that considers faculty recommendations.

Toda and Ufford did not respond to requests for comment.
 

October 28, 2013

Campus Equity Week -- organized by the New Faculty Majority to draw attention to the conditions of faculty members off the tenure track -- kicks off today. On different campuses there will be lectures, rallies and teach-ins. A list of events may be found here.

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