Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 10, 2017

Inside Higher Ed's Cartoon Caption Contest offers you multiple ways to participate.

Get creative and suggest a caption for this month's cartoon by clicking here, or click here to vote for your favorite from among three finalists chosen by our panel of judges.

February 10, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Craig Smith, research investigator at the University of Michigan, explores how reacting positively might help increase confessions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 9, 2017

The Big 12 Conference, of which Baylor University is a member, announced on Wednesday that it would withhold 25 percent of future revenue distributed to Baylor, pending an independent review of the university’s sexual misconduct processes. The decision comes after two recent court filings alleged that members of the university's football staff covered up reports of sexual violence and other misconduct by athletes. Last year, Baylor fired its head football coach over the allegations, and both its president and athletic director resigned.

"By taking these actions, the board desires to ensure that the changes that were promised are actually made and that systems are in place to avoid future problems," David Boren, the University of Oklahoma's president and chairman of the Big 12's Board of Directors, said in a statement. "The proportional withholding of revenue distribution payments will be in effect until the board has determined that Baylor is in compliance with conference bylaws and regulations as well as all components of Title IX."

February 9, 2017

Racist and anti-Semitic email messages were sent to some email groups at the University of Michigan on Tuesday, in a "spoofing" attack. In such attacks someone essentially forges the header of an email so that the messages appear to come from people -- in this case a professor and one of his graduate students -- who didn't in fact send them. The university is investigating, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

February 9, 2017

Nearly 80 percent of scholarships awarded to law school students are not based on financial need, according to new data from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement. More than two-thirds of white students who were surveyed received such scholarships, while less than half of black students did. Scholarships were given to those with high LSAT scores. And these students were less likely than others to be first-generation college students.

A statement from Aaron N. Taylor, director of the study and associate professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, said, “While law schools have become more generous in awarding scholarships to students, this bounty has not been spread evenly or equitably. Narrow conceptions of merit ensure that scholarship funds flow more generously to students most likely to come from privileged backgrounds -- leaving students from disadvantaged backgrounds bearing more of the risks associated with attending law school. The end result is a cascade of negative outcomes, including a perverse cost-shifting strategy through which disadvantaged students subsidize the attendance of their privileged peers. This is the hallmark of an inequitable system.”

February 9, 2017

The House this week approved a resolution to block new teacher-prep rules finalized by the Obama administration last year.

The resolution, introduced by Kentucky Republican Brett Guthrie, would eliminate the rule through the little-used Congressional Review Act. GOP leaders have said they plan to use the CRA to roll back a number of regulations crafted by the previous administration, including the teacher-prep and borrower-defense rules.

Five Democrats joined with 235 Republican House members to approve the resolution 240-181. No GOP member voted against the resolution. The resolution will head to the Senate next.

February 9, 2017

The University of California must pay the former chief counsel at its Riverside campus $2.5 million for allegedly retaliating against her for reporting what she called “rampant” gender discrimination at the campus, a jury decided this week.

Jurors found that the plaintiff in the case, Michele Coyle, reported allegations of gender discrimination by the campus’s former provost, and that those reports were a “substantial motivating reason” for her subsequent termination, according to a verdict form.

The executive vice chancellor and provost in question, Dallas Rabenstein, is now retired, but Riverside’s former chancellor, Timothy P. White, who is alleged to have failed to protect Coyle from retaliation, is now chancellor of the California State University System.

The University of California said in a statement that it was “disappointed” in the verdict and that it “vehemently denies the allegations of retaliation made in the lawsuit, and is considering all legal options, including an appeal.”

Coyle, who worked at Riverside for six years before being let go in 2012, was awarded some $783,000 in past lost earnings, $1.6 million in future lost earnings and about $72,500 in other damages.

She claimed in a lawsuit that she’d originally been hired to address issues including harassment at Riverside, and grew concerned about Rabenstein’s behavior. She alleged that he called certain female employees “biddies,” told one woman that mothers of young children shouldn’t work outside the home and joked about having rarely advanced women in his home department.

Coyle said her complaints about Rabenstein were not taken seriously, however, and that instead of investigating, White and others “circled the wagon” around their male colleague.

Things soon went from bad to worse, when the Labor Department planned to conduct an audit of the university’s compliance with affirmative action and equal opportunity laws, according to Coyle’s complaint. Rabenstein allegedly refused to fund a faculty compensation data analysis ahead of the audit -- one that Coyle claimed would have revealed pay equity issues -- and “deliberately mischaracterized” data from previous years.

Coyle requested funding from White but was fired less than a week before the audit was to take place. Administrators allegedly said she had focused too much on policy issues at the expense of giving legal advice, but Coyle claimed they were really trying to silence her. As further proof of that motive, she said she was replaced with a younger, male lawyer with no experience in employment law, and that her previous performance reviews gave no indication of a problem.

February 9, 2017

Graduate student assistants at Loyola University at Chicago voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Tuesday. A total of 120 out of 210 eligible graduate assistants voted, with 71 voting for the union and 49 voting against it. Graduate students at Columbia University also have voted to form a union since the National Labor Relations Board ruled they could do so in a major decision in August; the ruling reversed past legal precedent against graduate student unions on private campuses. Columbia has said it’s challenging the election, and a similar vote at Harvard University proved inconclusive. Graduate workers at Duke University are currently holding a union election.

Funding has been a “critical issue” for graduate student employees at Loyola, where the average yearly salary is $18,000, according to information from SEIU. “With this vote, we’ve leveled the playing field for all Loyola graduate student workers,” Liz DiStefano, a graduate assistant in social psychology, said in a statement. “Together, we will negotiate better pay and decent health care so we can focus on our students and our studies without the distractions of struggling to buy groceries and pay rent.”

John Pelissero, Loyola’s provost, said in a statement that while the university is “disappointed with the result, we will work through the NLRB's processes and procedures to bargain a contract for the represented graduate assistants.”

February 9, 2017

Faculty members at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks voted no confidence in the president of the statewide university system, roughly 2-1, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The Faculty Senate at the system’s Anchorage campus also voted no confidence in the president, Jim Johnsen, last month. Reasons for both motions center on a system reorganization based on budgetary concerns, with faculty members saying they’ve had little to no say in the process. Robbie Graham, system spokesperson, said that Johnsen and the state’s Board of Regents “understand that change is necessary, that change makes people uncomfortable and not everyone will be happy with the outcome.”

February 9, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Jonathan Dinman, professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, explores a breakthrough against a dangerous pathogen. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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