Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, August 24, 2012 - 3:00am

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.”

Friday, August 24, 2012 - 4:28am

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.


Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 3:00am

The families of the donors who gave Columbia University $400,000 in 1927 to build Casa Italiana are suing the university, arguing that it has ignored the intent of the gift, Bloomberg reported. The purpose was to create a center for study of the Italian language and culture, the suit argues. Instead, the university has placed a research center there that, though focused on Italy, runs many programs that are "elitist and detached, European and international." Further, the suit charges that some of the programs play on Italian-American stereotypes. One such program identified in the complaint was called "What’ya mean I’m funny? Ball-busting Humor and Italian American Masculinities," A Columbia spokesman said that the university does not comment on litigation.


Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Texas at Austin is in negotiations about joining two prominent organizations that offer MOOCs (or massive open online courses), The Texas Tribune reported. The two are Coursera and edX. Texas officials said that the outcome of the negotiations could be announced in a few weeks.


Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 3:00am

Regent University announced Wednesday that it plans to filed a trademark complaint against the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia for naming two merged institutions Georgia Regents University, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Before the Georgia regents voted on the name, Regent University expressed concern about the plan. The Georgia system declined to comment. Georgia Regents University combines Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences Universities.

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 3:00am

A recently released poll of education leaders, including lawmakers and current and former Education Department staff, found that most think Mitt Romney's selection of Representative Paul Ryan as a running mate isn't terribly significant for education -- except for the future of the Pell Grant. "Education is not Paul Ryan's thing and he's not likely to focus on it," said one respondent, according to Whiteboard Advisors, which released the poll Wednesday. But because Ryan's budget would force changes to Pell, several suggested that program -- for better or worse -- could be a policy focus in a Romney/Ryan administration.

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 3:00am

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.


Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 3:00am

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."

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 3:00am

"No loans" policies -- in which students with family incomes below certain levels receive grants in place of loans --have resulted in colleges that adopted them seeing gains in the percentage of students eligible for Pell Grants, says a report being released today by the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Private institutions saw a 1.7 percentage point average gain in Pell-eligible students, while publics saw a 1.3 percentage point increase. While the report praises these programs, it also identifies dangers in them. "When well-publicized, these programs have the potential to generate greater interest among high-achieving low-income students," the report says. "When this occurs, enrollment management professionals may be tempted to use these aid programs as a marketing strategy that simply drums up interest among the highest-achieving low-income students. As a result of this increased demand, opportunistic colleges may try to 'skim' the top low-income students without actually changing the total proportion of low-income students on campus."

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 3:00am

The former University of Nebraska women’s basketball player who told police last month that three men broke into her house, pinned her down and carved anti-gay slurs on her body faked the attack, officers said Tuesday. Charlie Rogers, a lesbian who holds the Cornhusker record for second-most blocked shots ever at the university, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to filing a false police report, but officers told the Associated Press the attack was a hoax in which Rogers cut her own chest, legs, buttocks and abdomen. In identifying a motive, police pointed to this message Rogers had posted on her Facebook page four days earlier: "So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me.” Like many of the fake hate crimes put on by college students looking to make a political statement or meet some personal ends, Rogers’s hoax prompted broad, public support for the alleged victim. Rogers’s lawyer said the former player stands by her report, which she made amid a local debate over a proposed city ordinance that would ban discrimination against LGBT people, and “has no reason to lie about what happened.”


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