Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, November 16, 2015 - 4:23am

Leo Groarke, president and vice chancellor of Canada's Trent University, last week announced that he would donate $50,000 to create an endowment in honor of his brothers, Louis and Paul Groarke, to support philosophy programs. The brothers (at right) have an unusual distinction: they are identical triplets, and until Leo was appointed president, all three were philosophy professors at Canadian universities. Leo taught at Wilfrid Laurier University before moving to Trent. Louis teaches at St. Francis Xavier University. Paul teaches at St. Thomas University.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

A year after being put on notice by its accrediting agency, Wilberforce University, a private historically black college in Ohio, is in the clear.

In December 2014, the Higher Learning Commission determined the college was out of compliance with key requirements -- such as having an effectively functioning board and sufficient financial resources -- and at risk of losing its accreditation.

Now things are looking much better for the college, and the HLC is praising college administrators for developing "working plans to achieve the goals of the institution" and creating "realistic financial projections which will help the university and its future plans." The accrediting agency has placed Wilberforce under a "standard path" of accreditation, and lifted the order that put the college on notice.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

North Carolina legislators are seeking notes from a closed session of the University of North Carolina governing board in which members gave 12 of the system's 17 chancellors raises.

The request reflects growing frustration of the governing board by legislators, several of whom think the board is too secretive. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told The News & Observer that the request reflects an "open meetings issue" reflective of "a number of other issues" the Legislature has had with the board.

The UNC board decided Friday to give the Legislature the records, according to the Observer, but some members said it was an intrusion on the board's autonomy.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Instructure saw its stock close at $18 on Friday, rising 12.5 percent as its first day as a publicly traded company drew to a close. The stock passed $18 by late morning before falling slightly and stabilizing above $17 for much of the afternoon. Last-minute activity pushed the price back to the $18 mark. The company, which develops the learning management system Canvas, set the price of its initial public offering of 4.4 million shares at $16, the lower end of its range.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has upheld the right of Towson University to keep off the football team an athlete who nearly died when on the team two years ago, The Baltimore Sun reported. Gavin Class was on the team when he collapsed. While Class was suffering from extremely high temperature, his heart briefly stopped and his liver failed. He has since restored his health and wants to return to the football team, with support from his medical team. But Towson's medical team maintains that he remains too high a risk, and that the university is not equipped to provide the monitoring needed to assure his safety.

A lower court gave Class the right to return to the team. But the appeals court said, “Giving deference to Towson University’s judgment, as we are required to do, we uphold its determination.”

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:30am

UPDATE: The North-American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference withdrew their support of the Safe Campus Act on Friday. Both groups said in statements that they will continue to support the Fair Campus Act, which includes many of the same provisions, but would not require students to report an assault to police before allowing a campus investigation.

"After listening to our member fraternities and partners, the NIC is withdrawing its support of the Safe Campus Act," the NIC stated. "The ultimate goal of campus reform is to provide a safer environment for students to further their education."


Five college safety and student affairs groups on Friday stressed yet again that they oppose the Safe Campus Act, a bill that would limit how colleges can respond to cases of campus sexual assault.

The proposed legislation would bar colleges from investigating incidents of sexual assault unless the alleged victim reported the crime to law enforcement. It would also require colleges to allow both the accusers and the accused to have access to lawyers during the investigation and hearing process, and allow institutions to choose what standard of proof they use for deciding responsibility in cases of sexual misconduct.

When the bill was introduced in Congress in July (along with a related bill called the Fair Campus Act), civil liberties organizations, fraternity and sorority groups, and the lobbying group representing them -- a frequent financial contributor to one of the bill's sponsors -- applauded the Safe Campus Act as providing an avenue for “much-needed reforms.” But campus safety groups and victims’ advocates immediately decried the legislation as redundant and harmful. The list of groups opposed to the bills has grown to more than 200 organizations.

During a panel discussion at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Clery Act on Friday, representatives from the American Association of University Women, the Association for Student Conduct Administrators, the Clery Center for Security on Campus, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education spoke out against the proposed legislation. "Everyone on this stage is an agreement that the Safe Campus Act and the Fair Campus Act are not about making campuses safe or fair," Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center, said.

William Taylor, president of IACLEA and chief of police at San Jacinto College, added that he believes requiring students to report sexual assault to law enforcement "puts police in an adversarial role" that would have a chilling effect on victims coming forward when they have been assaulted.

Though the bills have been backed by the North-American Interfraternity Conference, the National Panhellenic Conference and the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee -- which has spent more than $200,000 on lobbying efforts -- some fraternities and sororities spoke out against the legislation. Last month, Lambda Chi Alpha, a founding member of the IFC, left the organization, blaming the split, in part, on its disagreement with the IFC's lobbying efforts. At least seven national sororities -- Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Phi, Delta Phi Epsilon, Gamma Phi Beta, Phi Mu and Sigma Delta Tau -- have now released statements stating their opposition to the proposed legislation.

"Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority rejects the proposed Safe Campus Act and Fair Campus Act," Delta Phi Epsilon said in a letter to the National Panhellenic Conference Friday. "The bills eliminate the process by which sexual assault survivors on college campuses may seek relief, support, advocacy and help from their campuses."

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

The removal of Liang Xinsheng from his position as deputy head of the English department at Lingnan Normal University, in China, for allegedly publishing “radical opinions” on social media, has raised concerns of a further crackdown on free expression, the South China Morning Post reported. New Chinese Communist Party guidelines issued last month restrict members from challenging party policies and criticizing party leaders.

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 3:00am

Today on the Academic Minute: Russell Ciochon, professor of anthropology at the University of Iowa, explains that this isn't the first time humans have faced the crisis of rising sea levels. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, November 13, 2015 - 3:00am

Presidential candidates are weighing in on this week's protests and resignations at the University of Missouri:

Donald Trump told Fox, of the resignations, "I think it's disgusting. I think the two people that resigned are weak, ineffective people. … I think that when they resigned, they set something in motion that's going to be a disaster for the next long period of time."

On another Fox show, Ben Carson said Missouri students were engaged in "infantile behavior," adding that "we're being a little bit too tolerant, I guess you might say, accepting infantile behavior. I don't care which side it comes from. To say that I have the right to violate your civil rights because you're offending me is un-American."

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton made their remarks on Twitter, with Clinton retweeting the comments of an aide.


Friday, November 13, 2015 - 3:00am

James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville, has been much criticized (and through a spokeswoman apologized two weeks ago) for posing with his staff wearing stereotypical Mexican clothing and sombreros for a party last month (right). But on Thursday, in a time of heightened scrutiny of college leaders on inclusiveness, he issued a new, personal apology to students and faculty members. He pledged -- by raising new money, not by reallocating -- to provide more funds for financial aid for Latino students and to recruit more Latino faculty members.

He pledged to use his mistake to change the university to be more committed to diversity. "I deeply regret the Halloween costumes worn by my staff and me. We made a mistake wearing a costume that misrepresents the culture of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and does not foster the inclusion and diversity efforts that we have worked hard to build over the past 13 years on our campus," he wrote. "I, and I alone, take full responsibility for this incident. I have prayed for God’s forgiveness, and I ask for your forgiveness as well. We now have an opportunity to use this incident to bring about meaningful changes that will strengthen us as a campus."


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