Higher Education Quick Takes
Robert Agrella is the new "special trustee" for City College of San Francisco, which may lose its accreditation next year. The California community college system chancellor, Brice W. Harris, appointed Agrella to the role on Monday. Agrella had previous served as the system's representative on the City College governing board -- a position that was created last year, after the college's received a stiff sanction from its regional accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The new trustee position will come with added and "extraordinary" powers, according to Harris.
Meanwhile, the American Association of University Professors weighed in with an initial take on the crisis. In a news release the faculty group cited criticisms about the commission that professors at City College and faculty union leaders in California have voiced, including that the accreditor has been "excessive and unfair" in its treatment of CCSF and other community colleges. The association promised to investigate those concerns and urged the commission to reconsider its decision to yank City College's accreditation.
Yeshiva University has been sued for $380 million by 19 former students of the high school it runs, who allege a cover-up of sexual abuse by a teacher and administrator there, The Forward reported. The abuse is alleged to have taken place in the 1970s and 1980s, and Yeshiva officials have admitted that they did not notify authorities of the charges when they heard about them. Normally the statute of limitations on such charges would have passed, but the lawyer for the ex-students is focusing on what the suit says was a fraudulent covering up of the abuse. Not only did the university not turn over the accused to authorities, but the university treated them as honorable people, making victims uncertain of what to do and unaware that others were being abused. The university declined to comment on the suit.
Some alumni and others are questioning a plan by William Peace University to use two-thirds of its $33 million endowment to buy a retail center adjacent to campus, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. University officials said that the center would provide income now and could at some point in the future provide facilities for expanding the university. Others question devoting so much of the university's endowment to the project. Still others have raised questions about the university's refusal to release the names of the trustees who voted on the matter.
Xia Yeliang, an economics professor at Peking University, has confirmed to The South China Morning Post that his department will be voting on whether to expel him. Xia has written and spoken out critically about Chinese government policies. He is currently a visiting professor at Stanford University but plans to return to Beijing to defend his right to speak out and hold a faculty position at Peking University. "This is not coming from Peking University, this is coming from the central leadership," Xia said. "The state of academic freedom is getting worse and worse. Nowadays, you don't have the right to debate anymore. A university is a place that should be free and open."
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has filed an objection to a unionization bid by faculty members at the University Laboratory High School that the campus runs, The News-Gazette reported. The union organizers say that these faculty members are entitled to collective bargaining. But the university says that these teachers are part of a larger group of non-tenure-track faculty members at Urbana-Champaign, and that any consideration of a union should involve all such instructors, not just those at the high school.
Pima Community College has faced a series of controversies and been placed on probation by its accreditor in the last year, all the while generally defending its actions. But The Arizona Daily Star noted that the college's latest report on dealing with its accreditation woes takes a different approach, admitting problems and apologizing for them. Among other things, the college has been accused of ignoring issues of sexual harassment and moving too quickly to change admissions policies. Among the statements in the college's report that the Daily Star highlighted:
- "We accept full responsibility and say we are profoundly sorry for the serious breaches of integrity."
- "The era of inattention and heedlessness is over."
- "We failed to respond quickly and give proper credence to allegations of sexual misconduct."
- "Our constituents, stakeholders and colleagues spoke, but we did not listen. For this, we are truly sorry."
Students whose parents have university degrees but are working in jobs that don't typically require such a degree were likelier than their peers to question the value of applying to college, a new study of British college-aged youth finds. The study, conducted by Britain's Strategies Society Centre and funded by Universities UK and Pearson, compares the college-going aspirations and behavior of a group of academically qualified and interested British students who considered not applying to a university and those who never had any such hesitation. It is published in the wake of the British government's decision to significantly increase tuition levels.
The report provides a wealth of information about which factors are likeliest to deter students from considering enrolling and from ultimately doing so. In general, the data back up the conventional wisdom that students from economically disadvantaged families are more likely than their peers to consider not applying to attend a university. But while having a parent with a university education generally made students less likely to express concern about applying to college, that pattern did not hold true for those at lower socioeconomic levels.
“It seems that when young people weigh up the costs and benefits of higher education, the experience of their parents is paramount,” said James Lloyd, director of the Strategic Society Centre.
Some of the wealthiest American universities are starting to invest in Africa, seeing the potential for large gains, Reuters reported. Northwestern University, with holdings in companies in Kenya and Nigeria, recently doubled its African investments. Other large endowments investing in Africa include those of the Universities of Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and Wisconsin. Rockefeller University is expected to make such an investment this year.