The University of Georgia will soon begin offering “soft benefits” – voluntary dental, vision and life insurance – to domestic partners of employees, it announced this week. Approximately 35 percent of the 150 couples to apply for the benefits are same-sex, a university spokesman said. Although law and policy prohibit state money from funding domestic partner benefits in Georgia, the extension of voluntary, employee-paid soft benefits to domestic partners of employees of state institutions, including Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology, dates back to 2002. "The majority of our peers do it, and it's a competitive matter; it's the ability to compete for talent," said Tom Jackson, vice president for public affairs at University of Georgia. The decision followed a recent vote by the University Council to extend full benefits to domestic partners. In a statement, President Michael Adams said that offering full benefits to domestic partners using private funds "will, unfortunately, require further study."
Higher Education Quick Takes
A former Rutgers University quarterback can move forward with a lawsuit against the video game company Electronic Arts Inc. after a federal appeals court on Tuesday reversed a lower court’s ruling that said the First Amendment protected the company’s right to depict individual players in games. The company’s “NCAA Football” series features avatars that match individual players in height, weight, number – and in plaintiff Ryan Hart’s case, left wrist band – but not in name. While the National Collegiate Athletic Association is not a party to this case, a separate lawsuit against the NCAA -- which likely won't be resolved for a few years -- charges that the association should compensate athletes for benefiting financially from their image.
The number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities was 1.6 percent lower in 2011-12 than it was the year before, but the number of degrees conferred by those institutions was up 5.1 percent, new data from the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics shows. The statistics, published in a report that also presents data on tuition levels, show that colleges that award federal financial aid enrolled a total unduplicated headcount of about 29 million students in 2011-12, down from more than 29.5 million in 2010-11. The biggest drops came among public two-year (down about 250,000 students) and private for-profit (about 200,000 students) colleges, with public four-year universities gaining about 100,000 students and private four-year colleges up slightly. The declines for men and women were roughly proportional.
But despite the smaller pool of students, degree completion increased. The colleges awarded slightly more than 1 million associate degrees (nearly 8 percent more than in 2010-11), and nearly 1.8 million bachelor's degrees, 4.3 percent more than the year before.
Coursera and edX, the two major providers of massive open online courses, continue to partner with more institutions. On Tuesday, edX, a nonprofit started with money from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced it has 15 new partners, including a half dozen in Asia. Both edX and Coursera, a Silicon Valley-based company, have recently touted the global nature of their efforts. Coursera last week gained a prestigious domestic partner: Yale University, which had been taking its time to reflect.
An amendment approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee during the mark-up of the comprehensive immigration reform bill would allow undocumented students who entered the U.S. under age 16 and who are granted registered provisional immigrant status under the DREAM Act to qualify for federal loans and federal work-study. Immigrant farm workers with blue card status would also qualify.
The amendment, which passed on a voice vote, was proposed by Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii. The committee approved the immigration bill in its entirety in a 13-5 vote on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate floor.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday revived a bias lawsuit against Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge that had been dismissed by a lower court. In the case, a woman passed over as police chief said she was denied the position of police chief based on illegal gender bias, and was retaliated against for raising complaints about her treatment. The appeals court said that there was sufficient evidence for a full trial on the case. For example, the court noted that her application received no response and that a man got the job, even though a college degree was a requirement for the position, she had bachelor's and master's degrees, and the man lacked a college degree. While LSU offered non-discriminatory reasons for her dismissal, the appeals court said that the evidence in its entirety was sufficient for the case to go forward.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators has issued an update to its members regarding new procedures in place to verify Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) status at border checkpoints. NAFSA reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has upgraded databases available to Customs and Border Protection officials in order to flag F, M and J visa-holders whose SEVIS status has been canceled, completed or terminated, thus eliminating the need for students and scholars whose status remains active to be routinely referred to secondary inspection points, as was the practice under an interim policy put in place following the Boston Marathon bombings.
Some students engaged in a non-disruptive protest Tuesday at commencement ceremonies for Teachers College of Columbia University. The Washington Post reported that students held signs saying "Not a Test Score" to protest the awarding of an honor and a speaking role to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents. The students said that reforms pushed by Tisch rely excessively on standardized test scores, to the detriment of educational values. Susan Fuhrman, president of the college, released a letter (covering numerous controversies at the institution) in which she defended the honor for Tisch. "I have been listening closely to objections by some about bestowing the TC Medal of Distinguished Service on New York State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch," Fuhrman wrote. "Let me assure you that our decision to bestow the TC Medal on Chancellor Tisch was made to recognize her body of work and leadership across a range of fields, including education, and does not constitute an institutional endorsement of specific decisions, opinions, or policies. The same standard applies to all of our medalists, and going forward we will broaden community involvement in the selection process."
It's rational for college seniors not to want their days on campus to end (especially with the job market looking the way it is). A group of Bucknell University engineering students did what they could to extend their time in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley with a commencement day prank on Sunday. According to the Bucknell Facebook page, President John Bravman received an e-mail that day informing him, in verse, that the hands of the campus's main clock had gone missing. It read:
"Early this morning as the dew did fall
Made we an effort at time to stall."
It was signed, "Your Hard Working Engineers."
Later in the day, the university's public safety chief got an anonymous tip pointing him to the missing hands.