Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 29, 2014

Yeshiva University, after making student organizers and a nationally recognized photographer meet many conditions for the institution to host an exhibit, has backed out of the exhibit, Haaretz reported. The exhibit, called "What I Be," involves photography of people in which words representing their vulnerabilities are written on their faces or other body parts. Yeshiva released a statement to the newspaper that said the following: “As a university based on Torah ideals, Yeshiva University supports and encourages the artistic exploration of diverse ideas by its students and offers robust programming in dramatics and the arts − all while keeping in line with our values. After close review and much discussion of this event with the student organizers, and taking the sensitivities of all of our students into consideration, we determined that a YU venue would not be able to showcase the project in its entirety.”

January 29, 2014

The New York Senate has passed legislation that would bar public or private colleges in state from using state funds to fund groups that support academic boycotts, The Albany Times-Union reported. The bill is designed to take a stand against the American Studies Association, which has voted to back a boycott of Israeli universities. Many defenders of academic freedom -- including those who have said that the American Studies Association move amounts to an attack on academic freedom -- have criticized the New York bill.

 

January 29, 2014

Tom Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, was among several business leaders and policy experts to testify before the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Tuesday on the effects of the Affordable Care Act's so-called employer mandate. The law requires large employers to provide health insurance to employees working 30 or more hours per week, or face fines. Snyder said that the college already had reduced some adjuncts' hours and had to compensate by hiring others in anticipation of the law taking effect in January. Many other colleges and universities have done the same during the past 18 months, capping adjuncts' maximum course loads to ensure that aren't full-time, benefits-eligible employees under the law.

"Because of the unique role of the adjunct in the community college, the end result may be less access for the students and the inability of faculty to stay with one college,” Snyder said, noting that adjuncts' hours include not only contact time with students but also preparation time outside of class. The president said Ivy Tech supported the idea of expanding access to health care, but that it would cost the college system up to $12 million annually to provide all its employees working 30 hours or more weekly with health insurance.

Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy group, testified in November to the House Education and the Workforce Committee about how institutions' responses to the law were hurting adjuncts. She was not invited to Tuesday's hearing. 

Via email, she said: "The problem with colleges like Ivy Tech doing it is that they are not putting the mission of education first. The mission of higher education is not to figure out ways to cut costs by cutting faculty-associated costs; the mission of higher ed is to invest in the people who make education happen -- the teachers and the students."

January 28, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Ken Noll of the University of Connecticut reveals the process of methane production by microbes in woodland ponds. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 28, 2014

Several holding companies of major for-profit chains announced Monday that they have received letters of inquiry from attorneys general in a group of states, usually a dozen or so. The investigations center on business practices, such as the recruitment of students, graduate placement statistics and student lending activities, according to corporate filings. The companies include Career Education Corporation, ITT Educational Services Inc. and Corinthian Colleges Inc. The investigations have been in the works for years, and feature a growing number of for-profits.

January 28, 2014

Northeastern Illinois University has settled for an undisclosed amount with Loretta Capeheart, the tenured professor of justice studies who sued the institution for defamation after she said it accused her of “stalking” a student. Capeheart has claimed the university made that allegation in retaliation for her activism on campus, including protesting the Central Intelligence Agency. Previously, the university had tried to kill Capeheart’s suit by citing state anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) laws. But an appeals court sided against the university in September, saying that the institution did not refute any major aspect of Capeheart’s claim. The news of the settlement comes just weeks after the American Association of University Professors released a report accusing the institution of denying tenure to second professor in retaliation for his department’s involvement in a no-confidence vote in the president. Capeheart, whose legal battle began six years ago, said via email that the September ruling most helped her case, but the recent AAUP report also likely encouraged the university to settle, in that it “publicly exposed the university’s willingness to override basic faculty and citizens’ rights.”

She added: “It is incomprehensible to me that a university that is supposed to be the place for vigorous debate and discussion, the very basis of democracy, chose to engage in a legal battle intent on silencing faculty and others who work at the university.”

A university spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

January 28, 2014

Don Matthews, the professor of religious studies who was suspended from teaching at Naropa University after taking an indefinite vow of silence, has been reinstated, the Daily Camera reported. Matthews was suspended in December after refusing to speak in class, in protest of what he said was institutional racism at Naropa. Administrators said they had logged dozens of students complaints against Matthews, including that he told students they needed to seek mental health services and had threatened to sue others for defamation. The vow of silence in the classroom was a kind of last straw, they said, although President Charles Lief said the institution was devoted to working with Matthews to ensure he returned to teaching. Matthews denied those claims, and said he was unaware of student complaints against him prior to his suspension. Lief said he'd been offered multiple opportunities for professional development. Naropa, a Buddhist university, does not offer tenure to professors. Matthews said he had hired legal representation and had filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to see if the suspension had violated his civil rights. A board spokesman on Monday confirmed that his case was being investigated by a regional board, but had no further information.

January 28, 2014

Landing a job right out of law school is a challenge many recent graduates experience. Despite the gradual decline in the overall employment rate for those students, 92 percent in 2007, and 85 percent in 2012, law students in their final year still said they are satisfied with the overall law school experience, according to a new survey. Even though the overall satisfaction has remained consistent, 55 percent of law school students are still unsatisfied with their institutions’ career counseling and job search help. The Law School Survey of Student Engagement, the study, received responses from more than 26,000 students at 86 different law schools.

The decline in dissatisfaction seems to occur shortly after the first year and it’s not just with career advising, but all advising services like academic, personal and financial aid.

January 28, 2014

Internet2 will offer workshops and campus visits to assist small institutions seeking to upgrade their cybersecurity measures, the technology consortium announced on Monday. The effort will be funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Starting next month, Internet2 will host the first of three regional workshops this year on how investments in cybersecurity can benefit campus research, and over the next two years, the consortium will make consulting visits to up to 30 institutions. According to Internet2's grant application, the two-year effort will also produce a manual of best practices. Those findings will be made publicly available on Internet2's website to benefit institutions unable to participate.

January 28, 2014

A DeVry University graduate will be among First Lady Michelle Obama’s special guests at this evening’s State of the Union address, the White House announced Tuesday.

Sabrina Simone Jenkins of Charleston, S.C., a single mother who worked full-time while graduating from college, was selected to sit in the House gallery with Mrs. Obama. The First Lady’s guests are often mentioned in the president’s speech and are selected to highlight key themes of the address.

The White House said Jenkins’ story illustrated perseverance and a determination to improve oneself. 

“After servicing in the Air Force,” according to a White House press release, Jenkins “took classes at DeVry University while working full time, graduating with a 3.7 GPA at the age of 42 – all while caring for ailing family members and becoming seriously ill herself.” She then earned a masters degree in human resources.

Jenkins now owes nearly $90,000 in student loan debt, “something that will only worsen” as she pays for her teenaged daughter to attend college, according to the information provided by the White House.

The president's advisors have said this year's speech will focus on “opportunity, action and optimism” and will reflect the administration’s desire to move forward unilaterally with executive actions the face of a gridlocked, divided Congress.

But few other details have been released, leaving it unclear what, if anything, Obama will say about higher education tonight. In his most recent addresses to Congress, Obama has warned colleges about rising tuition and pushed accreditation as a lever to slow the growth of college costs.  

Another guest of the First Lady will be 23-year-old Cristian Avila, a “DREAMer” and immigration reform activist from Phoenix, Ariz. Avila was brought to the United States illegally as a child and received temporary relief from deportation through the administration’s deferred action program.  

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