Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 4:04am

Oxford Dictionaries, part of Oxford University Press, on Monday announced its annual Word of the Year. For 2015, it's not a word, but rather an emoji -- in this case the emoji called “Face With Tears of Joy” (at right). Why was it selected? “Emojis (the plural can be either emoji or emojis) have been around since the late 1990s, but 2015 saw their use, and use of the word ‘emoji,’ increase hugely,” said a statement from Oxford. Among the words or phrases that were also considered: “refugee,” “dark web” and “sharing economy.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

Wartburg College in Iowa has confirmed that it’s laying off three of its tenure-track faculty members. But President Darrel D. Colson objected to the idea that Wartburg is becoming less of a liberal arts institution based on personnel and curricular changes Inside Higher Ed reported on last month. “Notwithstanding our loss of some wonderful faculty, a loss I too feel, we have not abandoned our mission or eschewed the liberal arts,” he wrote. “We are duty bound to serve the students we enroll as best we can within the constraints of our resources, and we will continue to meet their needs -- both by responding to the ever-changing vocational choices they make and by ensuring the intellectual rigor inherent in liberal education.”

Meanwhile, two members of the college’s Faculty Council, a faculty representative body, have resigned in protest of how the college handled recent personnel cuts, according to resignation notices to colleagues obtained by Inside Higher Ed. “This resignation is motivated by behaviors and decisions that have affected our work and the institution as a whole,” wrote one of the former council members, Maria Paula Survilla, a professor of art. “As I watch my colleagues struggle to address the loss of faculty and the decimation of their offerings, I feel that I cannot, in good conscience, continue as a member of the council.” Survilla acknowledged the letter in an email but declined an interview.

The college also held a listening session earlier this month to discuss what’s happening there. According to notes from the meeting circulated via email by Pastor Ramona S. Bouzard, dean of the chapel, and obtained by Inside Higher Ed, the tone of the meeting was “sad, frustrated, angry, betrayed, sorrow[ful] and hurt.” Faculty in attendance also agreed there’s been a “lack of leadership” and that they’re concerned “about not having enough resources to accomplish [Wartburg’s] mission,” according to the notes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The president of Loyola University Maryland traveled to Paris to meet with study abroad students following Friday's terrorist attacks. The Reverend Brian Linnane, who is in London for a sabbatical this semester, is posting blog posts about his visit to Paris here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is calling for public research universities to formally consider technology transfer issues in tenure and promotion decisions where applicable. In a report out today, APLU defines technology transfer loosely as “entrepreneurship, innovation and technology-based economic development activities,” and says that faculty members who participate in it should be credited in personnel decisions.

“A faculty member’s accomplishments in technology transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship are worthy of consideration in the review process for tenure and advancement,” the report says. “As with other forms of faculty work, it is essential that the evaluation of technology transfer activities weigh the likely impact of the work, its quality and its foreseeable societal benefit. When it is successful, technology transfer can invigorate the university and establish relationships with other private and public sectors that affirm the value of a research university.”

APLU also makes various recommendations for recognizing and assessing technology transfer in faculty work, based on a survey of U.S. and Canadian public universities on current approaches (which aren't uniform or widespread). Recommendations include making university policy statements that safeguard against conflicts of interest or commitment, and including technology transfer explicitly in personnel policies and criteria.

Henry Reichman, an professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay and chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said that AAUP recognizes three criteria for tenure and promotion: teaching, scholarship or research, and service. “Insofar as technology transfer activities fit any of those criteria they may certainly be considered under those rubrics,” he said. And the “key is that the relevant faculty in each department and institution define which activities are included in each of these criteria.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The top Democrat on a Senate investigatory panel is calling on Congress’s investigative arm to look into how the U.S. Department of Education oversees colleges and universities.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri on Monday sent a letter asking the Government Accountability Office to review how the Education Department green-lights colleges to participate in federal student aid programs as well as how effectively department regulators uncover problems with colleges.

McCaskill, who is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, asked the GAO to examine the rigor of the department’s approval process for colleges and the extent to which the department relies on accreditors and states to oversee and monitor problems.

Her letter comes several weeks after she and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the Republican chair of the investigatory subcommittee, requested a trove of information from accrediting agencies as part of an inquiry into the role accreditors play in assessing the quality and financial health of postsecondary institutions.

The GAO last year issued a report that recommended the Education Department step up its oversight of colleges and accrediting agencies. It found, among other things, that national accreditors were no more likely to sanction poor-performing colleges than they were those with strong student outcomes.

The Education Department has a staff of 232 employees who are charged with overseeing and monitoring colleges, according to a September report by the department’s inspector general. That report found that department regulators in some cases were not properly conducting audits of colleges.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

The University of York, in Britain, has apologized for a press release announcing that it would celebrate "International Men's Day" this week. Many critics said that the university's support for the day suggested a lack of awareness of the many inequities facing women in academe. The university's apology said that "the main focus of gender equality work should continue to be on the inequalities faced by women, and in particular the underrepresentation of women in the professoriate and senior management."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute: Charles Courtemanche, associate professor of economics at Georgia State University, examines the factor of cheap food in the debate over obesity. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Brown University officials are investigating and apologizing for an incident that took place early Saturday morning in which one of its police officers restrained and put in handcuffs a student from another college who was attending a meeting of Ivy League Latino student leaders. The university has promised to pay for a new gathering of Latino student leaders since the one that was to have taken place was called off amid considerable anger over what happened to the student (identified in local press reports as being from Dartmouth College). Many at Brown say there was no reason he should have been restrained.

A memo to the campus by Russell C. Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, said, "I deeply regret that this incident occurred," and that the altercation was "heated and physical."

Christina Paxson, president of Brown, sent an email to the campus promising a full investigation. She also said she would "send a letter of apology tonight to the presidents of the institutions who sent delegates to this weekend’s conference, letting them know I am sorry for the pain their students experienced, and of Brown’s commitment to fund another conference for their delegates."

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Rider University and its faculty union have agreed on a deal that will freeze professors' wages for two years so that the university can abandon planned layoffs and program cuts, NJ.com reported. The cuts would have included 14 full-time faculty positions, an unknown number of part-time adjunct slots and more than a dozen majors. Rider said that the two years of faculty salary freezes will free up $2 million.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday announced a $95.5 million settlement with the Education Management Corporation to resolve allegations that it defrauded the government. The Huffington Post reported on the settlement over the weekend.

The agreement ends a long-running lawsuit that accused the for-profit college chain of illegally paying bonuses to admissions recruiters based on the number of students they enrolled.

Those allegations were brought to light in a whistle-blower lawsuit by a former employee in 2007. The Justice Department, as well as another former employee, joined the suit in 2011.

The Education Management Corporation owns the Art Institutes, Argosy University, Brown Mackie Colleges and South University chains. The company was taken private last month amid falling enrollments and revenue.

Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, called the settlement "historic," noting that the payment would be the largest false-claims payment by a for-profit institution in history. EDMC's actions were "were not just a betrayal of students' trust," Lynch said, "they were a violation of federal law."


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