Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 4, 2013

Baylor University's student government adopted a resolution last month that asked the university's board to change the student code of conduct to ban "deviate sexual intercourse"deviate is sic -sj instead of "homosexual acts." The resolution would in fact ban every sex act that two men or two women might perform, but would clarify that the same acts are also inappropriate for straight couples -- and that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is wrong. Supporters of the measure said that they hoped it would remove some of the stigma felt by gay students at the university. The measure was mocked by some gay people as doing far too little, but the resolution will not even be delivered to the university's board.

The president of the study body vetoed the resolution. Wesley Hodges, the student body president, told The Waco Tribune that his action was not meant as an attack on gay people. “I truly believe that Baylor treats its students with grace, love and truth, and in doing that seeks to accept all students, but does not affirm all student behaviors,” he said. “Simply because the university disagrees with your actions or lifestyle, does not imply that it is seeking to attack you.”

November 4, 2013

College trustees should be informed and engaged with administrators as they work to combat sexual misconduct issues on campus, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges said in an advisory statement. “Colleges and universities are defending against lawsuits, federal investigations, and negative publicity arising from their response to sexual violence on campus,” AGB wrote. “As they do with other issues related to campus culture, governing boards have a duty to become and remain informed about sexual misconduct on campus, and to satisfy themselves that administrators are addressing the issue in a way that protects their institutions against potential adverse financial and reputational consequences.” Specifically, board members should ensure their institution is meeting federal obligations such as identifying a Title IX coordinator, has policies that ensure fair treatment for all parties in a complaint, and is properly training its “various constituencies” on reporting and responding to alleged sexual assault.

November 4, 2013

The University System of Georgia, which has already had four consolidations of eight colleges and universities in the past several years, is now planning to combine Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University into an institution that will keep the Kennesaw State name. The two universities are about 15 minutes apart and have a combined enrollment this fall of 31,000. The plan was announced Friday, and is already drawing opposition

Rumors of such a merger had been floating for years, said Professor Meighan Dillon, head of the Faculty Senate at Southern Polytechnic, though she found out the mercer was actually happening shortly before a press release announcement went out around lunchtime on Friday.

“This opportunity creates a new dynamic for us to raise educational attainment levels and enhance our ability to contribute to regional economic development,” Kennesaw State President Dan Papp, who will also serve as president of the merged university, said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the many talented individuals at both institutions in the coming months as we create a new institution.”

The university system's announcement also featured a quote from Lisa Rossbacher, the president at Southern Polytechnic. But she told The Marietta Daily Journal that she was not consulted and found out about the plan only a day before it was announced.

More than 1,800 people who are supporters or students at Southern Polytechnic signed an online petition opposing the merger. "We are dismayed by the closed-door, deceitful process through which the decision was made, and feel strongly that the cultures, identities, and missions of the two universities are incompatible," says the petition.

November 4, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex digs up the evolutionary origin of a strange phobia. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

November 4, 2013

The CBS Los Angeles affiliate revealed last week that Carlos Vazquez -- who works as a parking officer at the University of California at Irvine and as a public safety officer at Golden West College -- posts photos of Hitler and degrading remarks about black people on websites. The photos of Hitler suggest admiration. For example, Vazquez created a photo with his children and Hitler and wrote as a caption: "Proud father moment when my daughter met the great fuhrer."

Another photo shows a hamburger with a swastika drawn in mustard and the caption, "I will have the Nazi burger easy on the Jew sauce." A spokeswoman for Irvine said she was offended by the web postings but that they were irrelevant to Vazquez's duties at the university. "As ill as it may make us to look at some of these things, we do have freedom of speech in this country," she said. But Jon Arnold, a public safety officer with Golden West College, said that "this officer is going to be put on administrative leave immediately." Vazquez declined to comment.

 

 

November 1, 2013

Maryland officials and lawyers for the state's public historically black colleges have agreed to mediation on what to do about a federal judge's ruling that the state has discriminated against the colleges by permitting duplicative programs to be set up at nearby predominantly white institutions, the Associated Press reported. The judge in last month's ruling suggested that the state and the colleges would be well served by mediation, as opposed to the judge outlining a full plan for dealing with the discrimination.

 

November 1, 2013

A group of Northeastern University students stormed the library quad in a flash mob performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” Thursday, in support of the university’s adjuncts’ union drive. About a dozen Empower Adjuncts Student Coalition members broke out in dance and song, changing the lyrics of Jackson’s creepy classic to reflect their cause. Here’s the first verse: “It's after midterms, and we're all gasping sighs of relief/But across campus, injustice has its claws sunk in deep/They're everywhere: teachers without proper compensation/Poverty wages, no offices or job security -- and we don't agree.” And the chorus? “It's time for adjunct, adjunct rights/We're building up momentum, the fuse is set alight/We've got to stand up, fight the fight/Let's organize together to make things better, better tonight.”

Similar events took place throughout the week at campuses nationwide, as part of the United Students Against Sweatshops’ “Hallo-Week of Action” against what it calls low-wage worker “exploitation” in higher education, and Campus Equity Week, a national, adjunct-driven campaign to raise awareness of their working conditions.

But Northeastern students said they were protesting in particular the university’s recent hiring of Jackson, Lewis, a New York-based law firm specializing in “labor and preventive practices,” among other areas, according to its website, as outside counsel for a union drive there. Sophomore Troy Neves said the student group hoped to encourage university administrators to “remain neutral” as adjuncts attempt to organize under the Service Employees International Union. Tufts University adjuncts recently voted to unionize with SEIU, which seeks to organize adjuncts across Boston, but Bentley University adjuncts recently voted down a union effort there.

Mike Armini, a Northeastern spokesman, said the university had met with concerned students recently, telling them the firm had been hired to help the university “navigate” the intricacies of labor law related to the union drive. He referred questions about the university’s position on the drive to a letter to part-time faculty from Stephen Director, the provost. “Ultimately, the decision about whether to support SEIU or not is yours,” the letter reads. “We do want to emphasize that the issue of union representation is of critical importance to every faculty member, including you, as well as to the university as a whole. Therefore, we urge you not to remain uninvolved. However you may feel about this issue, please make your voice count.”

November 1, 2013

Johnson C. Smith University announced 21 non-faculty layoffs Thursday (as well as the freezing of 30 unfilled positions) in response to a significant enrollment decline this fall, The Charlotte Observer reported. A year ago, fall enrollment at the university set a record at 1,801, but this fall it ended up at 1,387. A key factor in the decline, officials said, was tighter rules on loan eligibility that resulted in some students or families being denied loans that they received in the past -- an issue that has been a source of frustration at many historically black colleges this year.

 

November 1, 2013

Twenty-nine of the 64 State University of New York campuses will modify their sexual assault policies and procedures to align with each other and with federal law, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights announced Thursday. The resolution agreement concludes a three-year compliance review, one of OCR’s “proactive” efforts undertaken not because of an individual complaint but because of a combined set of factors, among them SUNY's size. The agreement does not apply to SUNY’s community college campuses, each of which has its own governing board and financial structure. Still, it is OCR’s most impactful agreement to date in terms of reach: 219,000 students and 70,000 employees will be subject to the new policies. (Note: This item has been corrected from an earlier version to clarify that this was a voluntary agreement reached between SUNY and OCR.)

As part of the investigation, OCR reviewed 159 cases of alleged sexual harassment at four SUNY campuses. Officials found that in some instances complainants did not receive “prompt or adequate investigations,” did not receive notice of the outcome of their complaints, or were not provided equal opportunities to attend pre-hearing conferences or present evidence and witnesses at their hearing.

The agreement requires the campuses to make several adjustments to comply with Title IX, including: designating a Title IX coordinator at each campus; setting up procedures for 24-hour reporting; providing sexual harassment training for all staff; conducting annual climate reviews; and ensuring all students and staff know their rights and options under Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination. Those steps are more or less consistent with changes colleges entering resolution agreements have been ordered to make since OCR issued its April 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter.

November 1, 2013

"Full Moon on the Quad" is a tradition at Stanford University in which students kiss one another at midnight on the first full moon of the fall semester. The New York Times reported on how Stanford officials try to make sure people are kissed only when they want to be (the use of slogans like "Consent Is Sexy") and that the event doesn't result in the mass spread of germs (students with colds are discouraged from participating, and students are encouraged to use mouthwash, but not to brush or floss beforehand).

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