Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 25, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Paul Gaffney, chair of the philosophy department at St. John’s University, in New York, offers a compelling analysis of the meaning of competition. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


February 24, 2015

The board of South Carolina State University on Monday placed President Thomas Elzey on administrative leave and named the interim provost, W. Franklin Evans, as acting president, The Post and Courier reported. The move came shortly after a legislative committee passed legislation to shut down the historically black college for two years. There are also several legislative proposals to fire all board members, with the expectation that a new board would get rid of the president. Elzey, in office less than two years, has acknowledged many of the financial and other challenges facing the university that have frustrated legislators. But he has said that the university was making progress on what would be a long-term recovery plan.


February 24, 2015

A student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, charged with sexually assaulting a female student, says he was re-enacting a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey, the best-selling novel that is now a hit movie, The Chicago Tribune reported. The student is accused of binding the female student's hands and legs, stuffing a tie in her mouth, and striking her with a belt and hitting her. Authorities say that she repeatedly asked to be let go. The accused student says that the activity was consensual.


February 24, 2015

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center this week released state-level student completion data. The nonprofit center tracked 2.7 million students who first enrolled in college in the fall of 2008, following them for 6 years. The report builds on the center's previous research, which found more encouraging graduation rates than other studies had identified, in part because the Clearinghouse has huge data sets that can follow students across institutions and state lines.

Nationwide, the report found that one in three community college students earned a credential at an institution other than the one at which they first enrolled. And 13 percent of students who began at a four-year public completed at a different institution. In five states (Iowa, North Dakota, Virginia, Kansas and Texas), more than 20 percent of students who began at a community college completed at a four-year institution. The report includes state-by-state tables and other breakouts of the data.

February 24, 2015

Adjuncts at Temple University on Monday kicked off National Adjunct Action Week with a pro-union march around campus. A sufficient number of adjuncts signed a petition to hold an election to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. But the university has challenged their bid on a number of points, including who should and should not be included in the bargaining unit, and the case is pending before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. About 75 adjuncts and their supporters walked across campus, holding pro-union signs and demanding that the university to allow them to set a union election date. Here's a Twitter image of the event:

Sharon Boyle, Temple’s associate vice president for human resources, said the university is concerned about adjuncts’ working conditions, and “didn’t need a march to pay attention to them.” She said the university already has raised adjuncts’ pay from $1,200 to $1,300 per credit hour (most courses are three or four), and that many of their concerns -- such as timelier course assignments and participation in shared governance -- need to be addressed by the full-time faculty. Ryan Eckes, an adjunct instructor of English at Temple, said adjuncts want better pay, benefits and job security, and need to be able to bargain collectively with the university to achieve them.

Although Monday’s march was specifically about the union bid, Eckes said it reflected the goals of adjuncts on other campuses and was timed to coincide with National Adjunct Action Week, an offshoot and extension of National Adjunct Walkout Day, which is planned for Wednesday. “Adjuncts are 70 percent of the faculty nationwide, and most students don’t even know what adjunct means,” he said. “We want to make the public aware of this situation in higher education.”

February 24, 2015

Northwestern University is advising Hamad bin Khalifa University on the creation of its new graduate-level law school in Qatar’s Education City. Northwestern will advise HBKU on curriculum development and faculty hiring for the new law school, which plans to award an American-style, three-year J.D. degree.  

February 24, 2015

The University of Oregon has filed a counterclaim seeking to dismiss a student's lawsuit that alleges the university mishandled her sexual assault case. The “publication of false allegations about Oregon’s handling of a report of an alleged sexual assault creates a very real risk that survivors will wrongly be discouraged from reporting sexual assaults and sexual harassment to Oregon," the filing stated.

The student is suing the university and its men's basketball coach, alleging that they knowingly recruited a basketball player who had previously been accused of sexual assault and suspended from Providence College. That player, Brandon Austin, was one of three members of the Oregon basketball team who were accused of sexually assaulting the female student last year. The three athletes were not charged, Oregon Live reports, though the university eventually suspended them for up to 10 years, or for as long as it takes for the female student to graduate.

The student's suit also alleges that the University of Oregon scrubbed the players' transcripts of any references to sexual misconduct, making it easier for them to transfer to play elsewhere. Austin was able transfer again, this time to Northwest Florida State College, where he is now a member of the basketball team. Steve DeMeo, Northwest Florida State's head basketball coach, has acknowledged Austin's previous suspensions, saying at the time of the transfer that "the college has decided to give this young man an opportunity to continue his education."

In the counterclaim, the university's lawyers said that the student's lawsuit was frivolous and unreasonable. "Plaintiff's attorneys filed a lawsuit with unfounded allegations in an attempt to damage a good man's reputation [basketball coach Dana Altman], curry favor and gain traction in the media, and coerce a public university to pay a hefty sum to plaintiff even though it has done nothing wrong," the filing stated.

February 24, 2015

City College of San Francisco's Board of Trustees should be able to regain their governing authority over the large two-year college this summer, Brice Harris, the California community college system chancellor, announced this week. The board had their powers stripped away as part of CCSF's long-running accreditation crisis, which has stabilized to some degree in recent months. Harris also announced the appointment of a new "special trustee" to oversee City College. Guy Lease, a former community college president in California, will serve in that role until the board returns. He replaces Robert Agrella, who retired last month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

February 24, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Jennifer Maynard, a chemical engineer at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses her work to fight whooping cough. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


February 23, 2015

Further developments in the collapse of Corinthian Colleges:

  • Canadian authorities have shut down the 14 Corinthian institutions in Canada, finding that they no longer had the right to be licensed in the country. Bloomberg reported that officials said the action was needed to protect current and prospective students.
  • Heald College campuses in California (which are part of Corinthian) on Friday received a partial reprieve from the California Student Aid Commission, which a week earlier had blocked their students from receiving state aid, The Sacramento Bee reported. Under the compromise, the ban will continue through at least April, but if students are able to finish the semester, their aid may be provided in a lump sum at that time.


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