Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 3:00am

Florida's higher education governing board said Tuesday that it would begin an investigation into whether officials at Florida A&M University ignored warnings that hazing was rampant within the marching band at Florida A&M University, days after a member of the band died, an apparent hazing victim. In a letter to the chair of Florida A&M's board, Ava Parker, the chair of the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida, said its review would seek to determine "whether university administration took appropriate action to address the hazing activities referenced by [Julian White, the band's former director], and any hazing activities in the student population at large."

"The events surrounding the tragic death of Robert Champion and allegations by Dr. White that he received little support despite repeatedly advising current and former university administrators of hazing activities within the Marching 100 band, is of grave concern to the Board of Governors."

 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 3:00am

Séverine Autesserre, a Barnard College political scientist, was today named winner of the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. She was honored for her new book, The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press). In the book, she argues that international peacekeeping works better when close attention is paid to local conflicts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 3:00am

Monday was a day of protest at University of California campuses, with students objecting to the way the university system is managed and to recent incidents at the Berkeley and Davis campuses in which many say the right of peaceful protest was denied by campus police officers:

  • The University of California Board of Regents was attempting a teleconference, with regents meeting on several campuses, but the regents were forced to move to other rooms when students at several locations started chanting protest slogans, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. After the regents left the rooms (and finished their official business elsewhere), students took over the room and declared that they would act as "people's regents."
  • Several hundred students held a "general strike" at the university's Davis campus, but many other students appeared to be going to class as usual, The Sacramento Bee reported.
  • At the University of California at Santa Cruz, several hundred students occupied the student services building, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.
  • The Occupy California movement has posted accounts of many other protests.
  • At the University of California at Merced, a young campus without much history of protests, Chancellor Dorothy Leland issued a statement to praise the students for taking a stand, and doing so peacefully. "Thanks to the mutually respectful and collaborative atmosphere — which is a hallmark of our campus — academic, research and administrative activities of the university were carried out as they would be on any other day. I appreciate everyone's commitment to our campus' Principles of Community, as well as the time and effort students and others took to convey their dissatisfaction with rising cost of tuition and detrimental cuts to the university’s budget," she said.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 3:00am

The Modern Language Association and the Middle East Studies Association have both issued statements condemning the way the University of California has handled recent protests.

The MLA's Executive Council distributed an e-mail to members Monday in which it said: "Many of us have viewed with revulsion the images of campus police in riot gear pepper-spraying a nonviolent circle of protesters at the University of California, Davis, seated with arms linked, participating in a classic act of civil disobedience. We have seen other videos from the University of California, Berkeley, showing campus police brutalizing protesters. The use of force deployed by the police against protesters is deeply troubling.... Teaching and learning can flourish only where free and open discussion is guaranteed. Education depends on respect for all members of the community. The MLA therefore insists on the importance of the right to free speech, including lawful protest, as vital to colleges and universities and exhorts higher education administrators everywhere to safeguard that right."

The Middle East Studies Association sent a letter to the University of California calling for a fully independent inquiry into the police actions and for assurances that the university will "respect, and will protect, the rights of members of the university campus to engage in peaceful protest on campus."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 3:00am

Oregon's Board of Higher Education voted unanimously to cut short the presidency of Richard Lariviere at the University of Oregon, despite impassioned pleas from faculty and staff members and students at a highly contentious board meeting Monday. The vote came after a week in which it became clear that the board that governs the Oregon University System had reached informal agreement not to renew Lariviere's contract when it expires next June, citing the president's perceived failure to work collaboratively with board members and the system's other colleges. Board members listened as a parade of Lariviere's supporters described his contributions to the university and criticized the board's decision; they then voted, one by one, to endorse Chancellor George Pernsteiner's recommendation that Lariviere be dismissed without cause in 30 days.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 4:32am

Syracuse University's firing Sunday of an assistant basketball coach accused of abusing three boys may not end the institution's legal problems, reported The New York Times. The article noted that the third allegation against Bernie Fine, the fired coach who has denied wrongdoing, falls within the statute of limitations -- unlike the first two charges. If Syracuse is sued for failing to take action earlier, the article noted that as a private institution it cannot invoke sovereign immunity that might be used by Pennsylvania State University to try to limit its liability in the sex-abuse scandal it faces. While Syracuse investigated an allegation against Fine in 2005 and said it could not find corroborating evidence, the Times article suggested that this may not help the university. First, the article quoted a legal expert as saying that corroboration frequently doesn't exist in rape or abuse cases. (The charges at Penn State are unusual in that they include witnesses to some instances of the abuse.) Second, the article noted that -- until Sunday -- Jim Boeheim, the head basketball coach, had been a strong supporter of Fine against the charges. “I think the university could have enormous liability, including Boeheim, who was in a supervisory capacity,” one lawyer told the newspaper. “It comes down to who knew what, or who should have known. And you have to ask, because Boeheim’s defense of Fine was so complete after the initial allegations, would he have been at all open to look into anything suspicious?”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 4:35am

While student groups protested loudly outside, the board of the City University of New York voted Monday for a series of $300 tuition increases that will raise charges at CUNY's four-year institutions to $6,330 by 2015-16, The New York Times reported. The students protesting said that the increases would hurt low-income and minority students. But CUNY officials said that cuts in state support required the tuition increases to maintain the quality of the university system, and said that financial aid would continue to make it possible for students of all income levels to enroll.

 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Adam Rabinowitz of the University of Texas at Austin outlines his efforts to preserve archaeological research for examination by generations of future archaeologists. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, November 28, 2011 - 3:00am

An Illinois appeals court last week granted a stay to the University of Illinois at Chicago of the certification of a new faculty union at the institution. The university is challenging the right of the union -- which is affiliated with both the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors -- to represent both adjuncts and tenure-track faculty members. In October, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board rejected the university's argument and certified the union, but the university appealed and also asked for both a stay of union certification and expedited review of the case. University officials said that they expected a ruling on the case in the spring.

Monday, November 28, 2011 - 3:00am

As of Friday, the Occupy movement was no longer occupying any space at the New School. For a week prior, Occupy supporters from the New School and other colleges were protesting (and sometimes sleeping) in a study center at one New School facility. University officials said that the landlord to the building (which is not owned by the New School) was concerned about the students sleeping there, and that New York City Fire Department officials said that the occupation was producing a fire hazard. Blogs also started to detail the spraying of graffiti in the study center (which in what may be an irony was created in response to the demands of a student protest a year ago about inadequate study space). The New School then told the Occupy movement supporters that they had to leave the study center, but that they could occupy an art gallery of the New School, and could stay there 24 hours a day through the end of the semester -- provided that only students were admitted to the gallery (although the students need not be New School students) and that people not sleep there. By Friday, the study center was empty; workers are cleaning and painting it so it can open on Monday. The initial move to the art gallery did not go according to the New School's plans, as some protesters slept there and others used the wall for graffiti. So the protesters were asked to leave and the New School is cleaning and repainting and planning to turn the gallery over to the Occupy protesters on Monday, provided that the terms are followed.

The movement, now dispersed, has not issued any statements on its departure from the protest spaces. New School officials said that everyone eventually left without police intervention or arrests. A statement on the blog kept during the occupation of the study center said that those there were concerned that "the pigs of the NYPD are preparing to attack our space," and also criticized the New School. "New School administration, despite their mealy-mouthed lip service to the movement, has decided to side with the banks, landlords, millionaire university trustees, and whining conservative students who are all clamoring for this break in the miserable daily routine to end," the blog post said.

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