Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Virginia announced Tuesday several changes to its institutional governance policies made in the wake of the university's tumultuous summer in which members of the institution's governing board forced the resignation of President Teresa Sullivan only to reappoint her two weeks later after significant campus pushback. The changes were noted in a memo to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Colleges Commission on Colleges, which has been reviewing the university's policies since this summer. The changes are:
1) The board must hold a public meeting and a vote of the full board before making changes to a president's employment status. There was no vote about Sullivan's resignation and board members who supported Sullivan were surprised to learn others felt the same way.
2) The board instituted a quarterly presidential evaluation meetings to "review progress on goals and established benchmarks, and to advise the president on current priorities of the board," according to the memo. One of the issues raised this summer was whether there was sufficient agreement between the president and board about the university's direction and whether Sullivan was aware of board members' concerns.
3) The rector (the board chair) will, in consultation with the president, appoint one non-voting faculty member to each standing committee that doesn't have faculty representation. The university's faculty members, who were cut out of much of the resignation and reappointment discussion this summer, have been pushing for a larger role in governance.
Just about every November features controversies in which photographs surface on Facebook or other social media sites featuring students in blackface Halloween costumes. This week, however, Duke University is apologizing for a such a photograph -- showing members of the women's lacrosse team, one in blackface -- that appeared on the university's official athletics site, The News & Observer reported. On Monday, the photograph was removed. A statement from the head coach, Kerstin Kimel, said: "The Duke women’s lacrosse program celebrates Halloween with an annual gathering. This year, some of our costume choices were insensitive and entirely inappropriate. No offense was intended, but that does not matter because we should have realized how these choices would be viewed by those outside of our program."
North Lake College held a training program last month on how to deal with a shooter if the Texas community college ever faced such a situation. But as WFAA News reported, students weren't told that a drill was going to be taking place, and many faculty members didn't read the e-mail telling them about the drill (and encouraging them to tell students). As a result, many students believed a real shooter was on the loose, and made frantic calls to 911.
With the U.S. Supreme Court considering a case on the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions, studies continue to appear to shed light on the issues. One released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here) looked at the performance of minority students before and after the University of California system dropped the consideration of race in admissions. Graduation rates of minority students went up, but the study finds that only a small share of that improvement can be attributed to better "matches" between students and the institutions in which they enroll. More important factors included the general increase in selectivity in the system, and an apparent effort by the university campuses -- facing declines in admission of minority students -- to do more to make sure those who were admitted were retained and prepared for graduation.
Much of the post-election discussion in the last week has focused on such topics as the "ground game" to get out the vote, and the Obama and Romney campaigns' ability to reach certain voting groups. An article in The New York Times reports on an unofficial, unpaid team of prominent social scientists who advised the Obama campaign. These professors were known as the Consortium of Behavioral Scientists. They provided data-driven advice on such topics as how to counter false rumors about the president, and how to characterize Romney in advertisements.
Adjuncts at St. Joseph's University have the kinds of grievances that have led their counterparts elsewhere to seek union representation, and they may go down that road. But the non-tenure-track faculty members aren't waiting for unionization to raise issues with the administration. A series of meetings and increased activism have already led to raises and more attention for the adjuncts, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. 'We've made a lot of noise, and we are in the process of making a lot of noise, and I'm making a lot of noise myself," said Caroline Meline, an instructor in the philosophy department who saw a $280 raise in her per-course pay as a result.
The California State University System is considering a series of fees that would be "incentives" for students to move to graduation in a timely way. Students would be required to pay extra for retaking courses, or those who have accumulated so many credits that they could have graduated. But The Los Angeles Times reported that student groups say that the plan is flawed, and incorrectly assumes that students aren't working as hard as they can to finish their degrees. A survey released by a student group says that the proposed fees are likely to force students to borrow more, not help them graduate on time.
Presidents of community colleges received annual raises of roughly 4 to 6 percent per year between 2006 and 2012, according to a newly-released survey of executive compensation from the American Association of Community Colleges. The presidents' median base salary was $167,000. The association's study also found that three-quarters of respondents plan to retire within the next decade.
Lonnie Norton, director of computing at the University of Utah's College of Humanities, has been arrested for kidnapping his estranged wife, taking her to a campus building, and raping her, The Deseret News reported. His wife filed for divorce last week. A statement from the University of Utah said: "University employees who commit violent acts on university property are not eligible to remain employed at the university and will be excluded from campus. The university does not comment on individual personnel actions or ongoing investigations."