Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 10, 2013

The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate a complaint alleging that the University of Connecticut violated Title IX when it “did not respond promptly and effectively to complaints and other information indicating that students have been subjected to sexual violence, including sexual harassment, and that students have, as a consequence, been subjected to a sexually hostile environment,” OCR told the university Monday. The complaint was filed in October by seven Connecticut students who subsequently sued the university, saying officials failed to protect them from sexual assault. General Counsel Richard Orr said in a statement that officials expected the review and “look forward” to working with OCR.

Connecticut President Susan Herbst sparked protest last month by saying the students’ claims were “astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue.” She later said she was not implying that students lied, but that their claim of “institutional indifference” was inaccurate.

December 10, 2013

A report released Monday by Brandeis University’s International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life calls for a resumption of the university’s partnership with Al-Quds University, a Palestinian institution in the West Bank. The report, which was commissioned by Brandeis’s administration in the wake of a Nov. 5 rally at Al-Quds in which demonstrators in black masks and military dress carried fake automatic weapons and employed fascist-style salutes, finds that officials at Al-Quds “responded promptly and appropriately to the November 5 rally by communicating to both internal and external constituencies that the rally violated university policies and principles.”

In suspending its partnership with Al-Quds in November, Brandeis cited both the rally and the university's response to it, specifically a Nov. 17 letter from Al-Quds President Sari Nusseibeh that Brandeis characterized as "unacceptable and inflammatory." The letter emphasized values of equality and mutual respect, but it also criticized “Jewish extremists” who "spare no effort to exploit some rare but nonetheless damaging events or scenes which occur on the campus of Al Quds University…These occurrences allow some people to capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies. Without these ideologies, there would not have been the massacre of the Jewish people in Europe; without the massacre, there would not have been the enduring Palestinian catastrophe.” 

The report from faculty affiliated with Brandeis's center for ethics, justice and public life delves into the context for that letter and ultimately concludes that it "expressed neither intolerance nor hatred" (although the authors write that they understand the reasons it caused offense). They write that “Al- Quds University is playing a courageous frontline role in working for peace by engaging those minority factions in its midst that hold extreme attitudes” and urge Brandeis to resume and “redouble its commitment” to the partnership. A separate statement calls for Nusseibeh to be reinstated as a member of the center's international advisory board. 

Ellen de Graffenreid, Brandeis’s senior vice president for communications, said that President Frederick Lawrence is out of the country, but added that he asked for the report and she is certain he will read it carefully. Brandeis released a statement Nov. 22 requesting a dialogue with Al-Quds University. That dialogue is ongoing, de Graffenreid said, but she declined to be more specific. “With sensitive issues like this, having this discussion through the media is not productive,” she said.

December 9, 2013

The University of Oregon is condemning the behavior of students who on Friday responded to a snowfall by attacking cars and people with snowballs, making it difficult or dangerous for some people (reportedly including professors) to drive. A statement from the university said it was working with authorities to determine who was involved and whether their actions constituted a criminal act. Here is the video:

 

 

December 9, 2013

Faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago voted overwhelmingly last week to authorize a possible strike, following 17 months of contract negotiations with the institution. Joe Persky, professor of economics and president of the University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty, a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, said in a statement that he hoped to resolve contract negotiations without a strike. Mediation sessions have been scheduled through January.

But if the union decides a strike is necessary, 10 days' notice will be given, as required by law. About 80 percent of voters, both on and off the tenure track, showed up for the election, and 95 percent approved of a possible strike, according to the union. The faculty association says it's pushing for more equitable compensation for non-tenure-track professors and shared governance, among other issues.

In an email to faculty members sent Friday, Lon Kaufman, the provost, said he and other administrators would remain in "immediate contact" with the bargaining team to try to reach a resolution, but said that in the event of a strike, "the university does have an obligation to our students and other constituents to continue normal operations. It should also be emphasized that no faculty member is required to strike or stop work, even if urged by the union. Every faculty member has the right to continue work." He continued: "Frankly, both sides need to focus on resolving the contracts. Please be certain that the UIC administration has heard the proposals by the union and will respond with sincere and meaningful proposals as we move through the mediation phase."

December 9, 2013

The Interfraternity Council at the University of Pittsburgh plans this year to fine each fraternity $20 for every tenth of a point below 2.5 of each pledge's grade-point average, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The goal of the new policy is to raise the average G.P.A. of fraternity members so that is it higher than that of all men at Pitt. Officials of the North American Interfraternity Conference said that they knew of many Greek organizations that set minimum G.P.A.s, but that they had not heard of a policy like the one at Pitt.

December 9, 2013

Four more institutions will participate in the University of Wisconsin System's competency-based education program, which is dubbed the UW Flexible Option. System officials said the new offerings will be certificate programs aimed at adult and nontraditional students. They will include certificates in sales, geographic information systems and alcohol and drug abuse counseling, among others. Some will be non-credit programs, while others may soon be linked to "stackable" bachelor's degree tracks.

December 9, 2013

A new study led by a University of Montreal researcher has found that the most Tweeted peer reviewed articles are not those that earn the most citations, a traditional measure of an article's scholarly influence. The science journal articles that receive the most tweets either deal with health issues or have findings that are either humorous or surprising, according to the study, which appears in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. The top two articles in terms of the number of tweets were on the effect of radiation on humans, and the top 15 included articles on acne in teenage athletes, penile fracture, and the links between physical activity and mortality rates.

 

December 9, 2013

Temple University announced Friday that it will drop seven intercollegiate athletic teams, leaving it with 17. Five men's teams will be eliminated -- baseball, crew, gymnastics, outdoor track and field and indoor track & field. Two women's teams -- softball and rowing -- will be eliminated. A statement from Kevin Clark, the director of athletics, said that the university needed to focus athletics spending on other programs. "Temple does not have the resources to equip, staff, and provide a positive competitive experience for 24 varsity sports. Continuing this model does a disservice to our student-athletes," said Clark. "We need to have the right-sized program to create a sustainable model."

December 9, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Erick Galbraith of McGill University explains how climate change could alter ocean currents and the marine nitrogen cycle. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

December 9, 2013

The American Association of University Professors has released an open letter to members of the American Studies Association urging them to reject a proposal backed by the group's leaders to endorse a boycott of Israel universities. Members of the American Studies Association are voting on the proposal this month. The AAUP has a longstanding position against boycotting entire universities or countries, and the open letter reiterated those views. "The association recognizes the right of individual faculty members or groups of academics not to cooperate with other individual faculty members or academic institutions with whom or with which they disagree," the letter says. "We believe, however, that when such noncooperation takes the form of a systematic academic boycott, it threatens the principles of free expression and communication on which we collectively depend."

 

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