Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that students with concealed carry permits could bring handguns to university classrooms. But this week, Jerry Peterson, a professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said he would cancel classes if he found that someone had brought a firearm to class, according to the Daily Camera.
Although Peterson said he was only speaking for himself, Philip P. DiStefano, the chancellor at UC-Boulder, sent out an e-mail Tuesday to faculty members that they could not shut down a class if a student with a concealed carry permit brought a gun. “Such actions discriminate not only against the concealed carry permit holder – who is exercising a basic right granted under Colorado law – they deprive all other students of the education they have paid for and have a right to,” DiStefano said in his email.
The dean of business at Hampton University has since 2001 banned male students in the five-year undergraduate/M.B.A. program from wearing dreadlocks or cornrows, WVEC 13 News reported. Some students at the historically black college have criticized the rule, but Dean Sid Credle said he believes that the ban on some hairstyles has helped students get good jobs. He also rejected the idea that the styles being banned were a part of black culture. "When was it that cornrows and dreadlocks were a part of African American history?" he asked. "I mean Charles Drew didn't wear it, Muhammad Ali didn't wear it. Martin Luther King didn't wear it."
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.