Higher Education Quick Takes
Morris Brown College, a historically black college that lost accreditation in 2003 and that has struggled to stay alive since, may be on the verge of collapse due to a foreclosure scheduled for early next month, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The college has millions in debts and only 50 students. (Its enrollment was once 3,000.) The college is planning a prayer vigil for Saturday, hoping for a plan to move forward.
Because college athletes operate in an “invisible labor market” that exploits students’ money-making potential while severely limiting their rights and mobility, they are entitled to unionization and collective bargaining rights – and would be well-advised to use them, according to a new study. Athletes are subject to “non-negotiable, one-sided agreements imposed by a monopoly” – the National Collegiate Athletic Association – and thus function as employees despite having no say in their welfare, argues Michael LeRoy, a professor of law and of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois. LeRoy proposes a special kind of collective bargaining for athletes, one that “draws from existing labor laws for public safety employees that prohibit strikes but allow final offer arbitration on a limited range of bargaining subjects.”
As part of the massive commercialization of college sports, NCAA football and National Football League games are coordinated to minimize competition between the two and maximize revenues, supporting the argument that collegiate athletes more closely resemble professional athletes than amateur ones, LeRoy argues. (Under the NCAA’s “amateurism” model, athletes are denied salaries, benefits from agents, extra benefits and contact with professional teams.) Just the threat of unionization would produce a “union substitution effect,” LeRoy says, prompting colleges to respond by giving athletes more say. “An invisible union is a plausible middle-ground approach to address the interests of student-athletes,” LeRoy said in a press release. “Without a credible threat of unionization, schools have little incentive to concede that they are essentially professionalizing college football.”
The California Senate has sent to Governor Jerry Brown legislation that would allow research assistants at the University of California and California State University systems to unionize, the Associated Press reported. Teaching assistants at the public universities already have that right. Republicans opposed the measure, saying it would increase college costs.
The Rev. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, president of Ateneo de Manila University, a Roman Catholic institution in the Philippines, has issued a statement different from the more than 192 faculty members who jointly have endorsed legislation in that country that would make contraception more widely available. The president's statement said that the bill could "weaken commonly shared human and spiritual values." He said that he respected the faculty members' "social compassion," but he urged them to "continue in their discernment of the common good." Further he asked them to be sure that "the Catholic position" on the issue be taught in classes.
Sri Lanka's government has shut down almost all of the nation's universities, BBC reported. Faculty members have been on strike at the university, and government officials blamed the professors for turmoil on campuses, saying that they were giving students "darkness, without any hope." Academics say that they have been on strike and protesting over government plans to privatize some of higher education, and over political interference in campus decisions.
A former professor at Richard J. Daley College was indicted Wednesday on charges of theft from the government over allegations that she falsely claimed to have a doctoral degree to be paid extra money, The Chicago Tribune reported. Authorities say that Carol Howley was overpaid by $307,000 by the City Colleges of Chicago as a result of her fake degree. She claimed to have earned the degree at Rush University, but officials there said that she never enrolled. Howley could not be reached for comment. The college fired her in 2011.
Republican delegates have drafted a preliminary version of the immigration plank in the platform for the party's national convention that would deny federal funding to colleges and universities that allow illegal immigrants to enroll as in-state students, according to The New York Times. The plank reportedly takes a hard line on immigration generally. Delegates will consider the full platform for approval at next week's convention in Tampa, Fla.
Graham Spanier, who was forced out as president of Pennsylvania State University over the Jerry Sandusky scandal, has given his first extensive interview since the turmoil became public, telling The New Yorker about his friendly relations with the late Joe Paterno and what he knew (or maintains he didn't know) about what Sandusky did. Spanier disputes many of the findings of the Freeh Report, which was commissioned by the university, and says he was not told of the seriousness of the allegations against Sandusky in the now-infamous shower incident. Spanier also suggests that the university's leaders erred in largely endorsing the findings of the Freeh Report, which he predicts will be found to be inaccurate in key ways.
A Christian college in Minnesota has joined a coalition opposing an amendment to that state's constitution to ban gay marriage. Augsburg College, associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, announced Tuesday that it had joined Minnesotans United for All Families, a coalition of organizations working to defeat the proposed amendment. (Minnesota state law does not allow gay marriage.) Minnesota state law allows organizations with nonprofit status, including colleges, to weigh in on ballot measures.
Augsburg is the second college to publicly oppose the amendment, although faculty members at other colleges have also spoken out against it. Capella University, a for-profit college, announced Aug. 3 that it opposed the amendment. "Capella is a stronger place because of our diversity, and we have made an intentional effort to create a workplace that is supportive of families of all backgrounds," the company's chairman and chief executive officer, Kevin Gilligan, said in a statement at the time. "Just as importantly, I am very concerned that this amendment will have a negative impact on the ability of Minnesota companies to attract and retain talented employees."