Higher Education Quick Takes
Instructure, the maker of the Canvas learning management system, raised $30 million in venture capital to help fuel its competition against Blackboard, Desire2Learn and other more established players, the company said this week. Bessemer Venture Partners put up $26 million and existing investors put in another $4 million.
“We plan to use it for growth. We still think there is a great opportunity in this market to take market share,” said Brian Whitmer, an Instructure co-founder. Right now, he said the five-year-old company has about 5 percent of the LMS market.
Whitmer said the company would hire sales, development and support staff. It may also buy other startups. “We may use some of it for acquisitions," he said.
Another goal, of course, is to eventually take the company public. Bessemer's Silicon Valley partner Byron Deeter will join the Instructure board.
Rutgers University officials knew its new athletic director Julie Hermann was involved in two lawsuits that -- coupled with recently unearthed verbal abuse allegations by Hermann’s former athletes – called the university’s vetting process into question. In 1997, a jury awarded damages to a former University of Tennessee assistant coach who claimed in a lawsuit against the university that Herman fired her because she was pregnant, and in 2008, a University of Louisville assistant coach targeted Hermann in a sexual discrimination lawsuit. Search committee co-chair Richard Edwards said in an email to the group’s 27 other members that Rutgers officials knew about the lawsuits, and also clarified other details to search committee members who said they were left in the dark during the process. Once Hermann reached the finalist stage for the Rutgers position, the search firm conducted a background check, which failed to discover the 16-year-old allegations by athletes who played volleyball for Hermann at Tennessee.
Also on Wednesday, Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi – who has also been criticized over the hire and its preceding abuse scandal, which led to the previous athletic director's ouster – reiterated his support for Hermann. “I am confident that Julie and her team will set the stage for a great transition,” Barchi said.
Queen's University in Canada is apologizing for having asked a student to remove his underwear art from an exhibit to be presented to donors, The Toronto Star reported. David Woodward, the student, was among those asked to participate, but organizers asked him to take down his art when they saw it. The work he was to have presented, "All I Am Is What I've Felt," consists of images and words written on white men's briefs. He said that he considers the work to be about gender, sexuality and intimacy. The underwear art (tame in comparison to student art that has caused controversy elsewhere) may be viewed here.
Coalitions of librarians and colleges and universities filed friend of the court briefs Tuesday supporting the HathiTrust in a lawsuit in which authors' groups charge that the digital repository is violating their copyright in making some of their works freely available. The briefs were filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which is considering an appeal of a federal judge's ruling last October that sided overwhelmingly with the trust and the universities (Michigan, California and Wisconsin, and Indiana) that created it. In their brief urging the Second Circuit to uphold the lower court, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries argue that a ruling for the Authors' Guild and the others challenging the HathiTrust would "prevent libraries from performing some of their most basic functions, from film preservation to Internet access." And the brief filed by the American Council on Education, several other major groups of college presidents, and Educause vigorously defends the doctrine of "fair use" that they say the plaintiffs challenging HathiTrust would undermine.
The Authors Guild is scheduled to reply to these briefs within a month.
An explosion took place just before noon Tuesday at a building at Nyack College's Rockland County campus. College officials said that five employees and two students were in the building at the time. While there were injuries, there were no fatalities. Authorities are trying to determine the cause of the explosion.
A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday says that Lone Star College's system for electing its Board of Trustees discriminates against minority citizens, The Houston Chronicle reported. Lone Star has at-large elections where the entire community college district's area is used to elect all board members for the community college system. The suit argues that no Hispanic trustees and very few black trustees have ever been elected, even though 30 percent of the district population is Latino and 16 percent is black. Subdividing the system district into areas would probably result in a more diverse board, the suit says. Lone Star officials said that they had not been formally served with papers, and could not comment on the suit.
The president of St. Mary's College of Maryland is leaving amid a major enrollment and budget shortfall after just three years in office, the institution announced Tuesday. Joseph F. Urgo said in the release that he had asked the public liberal arts college's board not to renew his contract, for "personal and professional reasons." The change comes in the wake of news that the college had fallen significantly short of its enrollment target for next fall, necessitating a budget cut of as much as $3.5 million.
The National Endowment for the Humanities is investigating whether laws were broken when grant applications from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences incorrectly indicated that its leader, Leslie Berlowitz, has a doctorate, The Boston Globe reported. The Globe reported this week that two grant applications had the false claim of a doctorate, and the endowment found a third. A spokesman for the academy said that Berlowitz didn't review the portion of the grant applications that had the incorrect information about her education. But the Globe reported that the false claim also has appeared in a job ad for the academy and in a draft advance obituary prepared at the academy for Berlowitz.