Higher Education Quick Takes
Officials at the University of Maryland at College Park knew that many fans would react its move to the Big Ten "emotionally and negatively," so the university planned a public relations campaign to win them over, according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun. Many fans were bothered by the loss of long-time regional rivalries, among other issues. Maryland's response was to "plant positive comments into fan message boards," the article said. Email messages exchanged among university officials talked about seeing all the negative reaction and working to change attitudes. One official talked of plans to "engage professional assistance in helping to drop positive messages into the blogs, comments and message board sites. I will arrange for this service today."
A paperwork snafu following the merger of two Georgia colleges may have contributed to an 8 percent enrollment decline, according to officials at Middle Georgia State College.
Middle Georgia State – the combination of Macon State College and Middle Georgia College – is the product of a round of mergers pushed by the University System of Georgia. When the first class of students to attend the merged college used the Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year, the online application presented them with these two choices: "Middle Georgia College, Cochran, GA" and "Middle Georgia State College, Macon Cam, Macon, GA.” Students who picked the first received their financial aid normally. Students who picked the second choice didn’t because the identifier was tied to an old school code.
Sheri Rowland, the head of enrollment management at Middle Georgia State, said the problem and resulting delays in offering aid awards caused some students and families to believe the college was providing poor customer service. That, in turn, may have cost the newly merged university some first-year students. “Because of this delay in processing, we wonder if students went elsewhere because they got notification of their financial aid in a much timelier fashion from other institutions than we were able to provide to them this year,” she said.
Rowland said the first-to-second-year retention rate was pretty good, but there was an 8 percent decline in first-year enrollment at the new institution compared to what the total enrollment had been at the two institutions before they merged, which was about 9,100 students. She said no one was at fault and the problem would not occur again.
Rowland said the FAFSA problems didn’t help, but were not the only problem. She said the college has had to rebrand and market itself in a totally different fashion since the merger. “It was a drastic enough difference that it just wasn’t tied to a bad recruiting year,” Rowland said.
The Georgia higher ed system has been pushing mergers since 2011. A recently announced merger of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University is meeting strong opposition from students and alumni. On Wednesday, local news media reported an iconic globe in the center of Southern Poly campus had been toppled, apparently in an act of vandalism or protest linked to unrest after announcement of the merger.
A 2011 lawsuit alleging that Drake University officials tried to keep a student from bringing the service dog she was training into class may proceed in court, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. The Drake law school graduate says university officials were hostile toward her from 2006-9 even though Iowa law permitted her to have the dog in public places, the Des Moines Register reported. A Polk County District Court judge had dismissed the case in April 2012, but the student appealed.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association charged Chadron State College with a lack of institutional control, its most serious breach of conduct, after finding that a former football coach maintained an outside bank account for the program and gave two players $250 for academic and insurance bills. The coach also allowed an athlete to compete while ineligible and lied or misled to NCAA investigators. The association announced Wednesday that Chadron State, a Division II program, will vacate all football wins from the 2011 and 2012 seasons and face recruiting visit reductions. It also charged the university $5,000 and placed a show cause order on the former coach and former athletics director, meaning the penalties will carry over if another institution tries to hire them.
The law dean at Case Western Reserve University told colleagues and students that he would take a leave of absence in response to a lawsuit accusing the dean of retaliating against a professor for reporting potential sexual harassment, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported. Lawrence Mitchell, dean of the Case law school since 2011, said in an email message to law school students and staff that he had asked for the leave to avoid having the lawsuit disrupt the school's work, according to the newspaper. The Plain Dealer reported last month on the lawsuit filed by Raymond Ku, a professor and former associate dean who alleged that he lost his administrative post after informing university administrators about incidents he and others witnessed in which Mitchell caressed a female staff member and made inappropriate sexual comments to others. Mitchell has denied the charges, and Case released a statement last month citing inaccuracies in the lawsuit.
Faculty at Wellesley College have voted to continue the institution's partnership with Peking University, subject to oversight by the college's Academic Council, according to Thomas Cushman, a professor of sociology who spearheaded a letter-writing campaign on behalf of Xia Yeliang, an associate professor of economics at Peking who was fired in October. Many view Xia's termination as retribution for his criticism of the Chinese government, although the university says the decision was based on his teaching and research record. More than 130 Wellesley faculty members had signed a letter objecting to the termination of Xia “based solely on his political and philosophical views” and saying that they would urge the Wellesley administration to reconsider the college’s institutional partnership with Peking if it fired Xia.
Wellesley is expected to release a statement on the matter today. In a previous statement, the college's president, H. Kim Bottomly, indicated she is supportive of efforts to bring Xia to Wellesley as a visiting scholar.
The student body president at Northwest Christian University has revealed that he is an atheist, The Register-Guard reported. Eric Fromm, the president, said he decided to go public to respond to shunning and rumors about his beliefs, which he had been discussing informally. Fromm shared his views with the campus at large by writing an essay for the student newspaper. He said that reaction since he did so has mostly been positive. Michael Fuller, the university’s vice president for enrollment and student development, called Fromm "a man of very high character and respect" and "a great advocate for our student body, which is exactly what he’s supposed to be and do." As to Fromm's lack of faith, Fuller said that, "If we all had our wishes, we wish Eric would be a strong Christian man." But he added: "We’re an open and welcome community, and we meet students exactly where they’re at."
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that male and female students will be segregated in university dorms, the Associated Press reported The issue points to continuing tensions between Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning government and secular-minded Turks, many of whom accuse Erdogan of imposing his conservative beliefs on society at large. Erdogan said of the decision regarding dorms that the government has a duty to students’ parents.
Time for another chance at Inside Higher Ed's Cartoon Caption Contest.
We invite you to submit your ideas for the cleverest caption for the new cartoon, which you can find here.
Pick your favorite from among our judges' three finalists from among the suggestions we received for last month's cartoon.
And kudos to Jim Snyder, who is coordinator of the writing center at Ohio State University-Mansfield. His caption earned the most reader votes among the three finalists chosen by our panel for August's cartoon. You can find out more about his winning entry here.