Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 23, 2015

Two former athletes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are suing the university and the National Collegiate Athletic Association for failing to provide college athletes with the quality of education they were promised. The suit is seeking class action status and was filed on behalf of former women's basketball player Rashanda McCants and former football player Devon Ramsay.

The lawsuit is the second to be brought against UNC since a report in October revealed that some university employees knowingly steered about 1,500 athletes toward no-show courses that never met, were not taught by any faculty members, and where the only work required was a single research paper that received a high grade no matter the content. It's the first, however, to also include the NCAA (former football player Michael McAdoo sued UNC over the no-show classes in November).

The association reopened an investigation into UNC shortly before the October report was released, but the lawsuit alleges that the "NCAA sat idly by, permitting big-time college sports programs to operate as diploma mills that compromise educational opportunities and the future job prospects of student-athletes for the sake of wins and revenues."

 

January 23, 2015

ESPN has filed a lawsuit against the University of Notre Dame, alleging that the university is violating public records law by refusing to release documents from its campus police force. The lawsuit follows two advisory opinions issued by Luke Britt, Indiana's public access counselor, that Notre Dame’s police force is subject to the state’s Access to Public Records Act. 

Three previous access counselors had said that the police force answers solely to the private university, and therefore doesn’t qualify as a public agency subject to open records law, according the South Bend Tribune. (The local paper's requests for campus police records also have been declined.) 

But Britt writes that while Notre Dame is a private university with the power to establish its own police force, it is Indiana law that gives the police force the power to enforce the law. The university has said that it's confident it is following the law, and that its actions are consistent with the interpretation of the law over the past several years. 

January 23, 2015

AT&T is searching for ed-tech startups to apply to its new accelerator program, which aims to give the companies national exposure, access to mentors -- and a $50,000 investment. The Aspire Accelerator, launched on Thursday, will look for startups that "drive students' educational or career success," particularly at-risk students, the company said in a statement. The accelerator's board of advisers include EdSurge founder Betsy Corcoran, former head of the NAACP Ben Jealous and Sebastian Thrun, CEO of the online course provider Udacity. AT&T has previously collaborated with Udactiy and the Georgia Institute of Technology to launch a low-cost online master's degree in computer science.

January 23, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Dennis Wolan, an assistant professor of molecular and experimental medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, discusses his work on microbiotic enzymes to better understand our bodies and hopefully treat disease. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 22, 2015

In discussing a new committee to examine the finances of the University of California, Governor Jerry Brown has raised a new issue for consideration, whether "normal students" can get into the University of California at Berkeley, Capital Public Radio reported. In discussing the committee, he expressed concern over Berkeley's extremely competitive admissions. "You got your foreign students and you got your 4.0 folks," he said. "But just the kind of ordinary, normal students, you know they got good grades but weren’t at the top of the heap there, they’re getting frozen out."

 

January 22, 2015

Ergun Caner announced this week that he was stepping down as president of Brewton-Parker College, after only a year in office. During that year, Caner led a process of appealing a threat by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges to strip the college's accreditation. On an appeal, the accreditor in December preserved the accreditation, and removed the college's probation status. Caner cited that success in announcing his resignation, but said he was leaving because he could not recover from the July suicide of one of his sons, who was 15. "Brewton-Parker College cannot become a healthy, growing and stable college under the leadership of a man who is broken," he said. "And I am admitting to you that I am broken. I can’t get over his death, and I am not sure I want to. I do know that I cannot muster the fight needed to be the leader of our college. My family and my heart need healing, and you deserve better."

Brewton-Parker is a Baptist college in Georgia and Caner is a controversial figure in evangelical Christian circles. He has written and spoken out about growing up Muslim and converting to Christianity -- a story that many have found inspiring. But some religious bloggers have questioned some parts of his story, prompting considerable debate and scrutiny. When the college hired Caner in December 2013, the press release quoted a trustee as saying: “We didn’t consider Dr. Caner in spite of the attacks; we elected him because of them. He has endured relentless and pagan attacks like a warrior. We need a warrior as our next president.”

 

January 22, 2015

The 2011 decision to end a short-lived program that let students earn two Pell Grants in a single academic year was blamed on a range of factors, including that the program's costs raged out of control and that it failed to encourage students to finish their degrees more quickly. A paper published this morning by the New America Foundation (and discussed in this Inside Higher Ed essay) argues that many of the reasons put forward to explain the program's demise don't stand up to scrutiny -- and that the program, if restored in modified form, could greatly benefit community college students in particular.

January 22, 2015

Authorities have arrested a New York University student and charged him with setting the mattress on which a fellow student slept on fire, The New York Post reported. He then filmed her reaction (she suffered serious burns) and posted the video online, according to the police.

 

 

January 22, 2015

Members of Columbia College’s part-time faculty association, “P-Fac,” voted 232 to 50 to disaffiliate from the Illinois Education Association, they announced Wednesday. Just about half of eligible members participated in the vote. Diana Vallera, P-Fac president, said in a statement that the election was really about the ability of “part-time and contingent faculty to control their own destiny.” She said remaining part of the Illinois Education Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association, was a “roadblock to effective advocacy for our members.”

P-Fac had raised concerns in recent months about staff members at Columbia College trying to secure teaching assignments that adjuncts wanted. The part-time faculty union worried about the Illinois Education Association’s ability to represent members’ concerns impartially, since the staff union, United Staff of Columbia College, also is affiliated with the Illinois Education Association. The Illinois Education Association said in a statement that it values “the right of [union] members to vote on important issues and to have the results of their vote respected.” But the association also said members had raised “significant” concerns about the fairness of the election process. It said it will conduct an investigation in coming weeks into those complaints. In the interim, the association said it will “continue to honor our commitments to P-fac members and provide updates as appropriate.”

January 22, 2015

The University of Oregon is investigating why it released 22,000 pages of information with confidential information about students and faculty members, The Oregonian reported. Two employees have been placed on leave as a result. The documents were given to a faculty member who requested them as public records. But the university did not go through the documents to remove confidential information that the institution was not required to release. The university has asked the faculty member not to release the documents further.

 

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