Higher Education Quick Takes
William Penn, a Michigan State University professor who lost his teaching assignments for this semester after he was caught on tape denigrating Republicans, will be back in the classroom next semester, MLive reported. Since the incident, he has been paid for non-teaching duties.
Four members of the U.S. Senate’s education committee announced Monday that they were forming a bipartisan task force to examine the impact of federal regulations on colleges and universities. Senators Lamar Alexander and Richard Burr, both Republicans, and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Michael Bennett, both Democrats, said that they were concerned some regulations were overly burdensome for institutions of higher education. The task force “will conduct a compressive review of federal regulations and reporting requirements affecting colleges and universities and make recommendations to reduce and streamline regulations, while protecting students, institutions and taxpayers,” the senators said in a statement.
Nicholas Zeppos, the chancellor of Vanderbilt University, and William Kirwan, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland, will co-chair the task force, which is to include 14 college and university presidents and higher education experts. Colleges have long complained that they are unduly burdened by an array of legislative and regulatory obligations that are often confusing and unevenly enforced by the Education Department. That argument has routinely been made by the American Council on Education, the umbrella group for higher education lobbying groups, which will provide “organizational assistance” for the task force.
Lawmakers are currently gearing up to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which expires at the end of this year. The chair of the Senate education committee, Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, has said he wants to have a draft of the legislation by early this year after the committee completes a series of 12 hearings on various higher education issues. Alexander, the panel’s senior Republican, has said he wants to “start from scratch” in rewriting the Higher Education Act so as to eliminate burdensome requirements.
Brandeis University on Monday suspended its partnership with Al-Quds University, citing the failure of leaders at the Palestinian university to condemn a recent protest in which demonstrators used the traditional Nazi salute and honored "martyred" suicide bombers. In a statement on its website, Brandeis said that President Frederick Lawrence had acted after asking the president of Al-Quds to issue an "unequivocal condemnation" of the protests. But the statement published on the Al-Quds website -- an English translation of which the president of Al-Quds, Sari Nusseibah, sent to Brandeis -- criticized "Jewish extremists" who "spare no effort to exploit some rare but nonetheless damaging events or scenes which occur on the campus of Al Quds University," as well as calling for a respectful campus environment. Brandeis called the statement "unacceptable and inflammatory," and said it would suspend the relationship with Al-Quds.
The squeeze that research universities are feeling because of federal budget cuts may put their credit ratings at risk, Moody's Investor Services said Friday. The rating agency did not formally change its outlook on research universities but did warn that the budget reductions, known as sequestration, are a negative development for the creditworthiness of those institutions. “Increasing pressure on federal research funding is credit negative for research universities, especially those with less-established records that will likely be less successful in securing grants in the current strained environment,” Moody’s wrote in its weekly credit outlook report. “Many universities built up their research infrastructure, both physical and faculty, in the mid-2000s, expecting increasing grants and contracts would cover the cost of their investments,” the report adds. “Now that the anticipated funding is constrained, some universities will struggle to cover the increased fixed costs, resulting in weakening operating performance.”
Moody’s cited a survey released this week that found 70 percent of large research universities had experienced funding reductions or delayed research projects due to sequestration.
Higher education and research advocates have said the sequester budget cuts, which first took effect in March, are severely detrimental to scientific discovery and the nation’s economic competitiveness. College presidents and their lobbyists in Washington are pressing lawmakers to end sequestration, which will trigger another round of across-the-board cuts in mid-January unless Congress acts to stop it.
Rutgers University at New Brunswick, which faced a major scandal this year over a videotape showing its basketball coach mistreating players, is now being accused of failing to deal with against the defensive coordinator on its football team, NJ.com reported. A former football player and his parents say that Dave Cohen, defensive coordinator, found him in a study hall, called him a "pussy" and a "bitch," and threatened to head-butt him. Rutgers says that Cohen apologized and was reprimanded and that it thought the matter had been resolved to the player's parents' satisfaction -- statements they are now contesting.
A faculty member at Hocking College, in Ohio, has been barred from campus as authorities believe he may be a threat to three other faculty members, The Athens Messenger reported. The campus was informed of the ban and threats Thursday afternoon, and leaflets posted on campus include the faculty members name and photograph. The Messenger said it could not reach the man who was named as the threat.
Bob Jones University, an evangelical institution that bars any sex outside of heterosexual marriage, devoted last week's four chapel services to gay issues. The decision to do so prompted much speculation and debate on social media. Randy Page, director of public relations at the university, said via email that the decision to focus on same-sex attraction came at the request of students. During one of the services, Stephen Jones, president of Bob Jones, told the students about a "totally inappropriate letter" received by one student who may be gay. Jones told "the student body that the sentiments expressed represented nothing of the spirit of Christ and would not be accepted here," Page said.
BJUnity, a group promoting equity for gay students at Bob Jones, called the chapel services "a farce," and noted that the university has never apologized for hostile statements made in the past by university leaders.
The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association on Friday called off its football championship game for the year after the quarterback for Winton-Salem State University was allegedly assaulted by players for Virginia State University, The Winston-Salem Journal reported. One Virginia State player has been arrested and Winston-Salem officials said that more may have been involved. A statement from the conference said that it has barred the Virginia State football team from postseason play. Keith Miller, president of Virginia State, issued this statement: "Virginia State University has indefinitely suspended a member of the VSU football team. Further, VSU will pursue a thorough internal investigation into Friday’s incident of which the findings and recommendations will be reported directly to me. We will include both students and alumni in this internal investigation process. Based on the report, further disciplinary action may be forthcoming. Playing on a VSU athletic team is a privilege. Student-athletes who fail to live up to the ideals of our institution will forfeit that privilege. We have a zero tolerance policy toward acts of violence, on or off campus, and we take that policy very seriously."