Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 11, 2014

The United Auto Workers on Wednesday told the New School that a majority of its teaching and research assistants have requested that UAW be recognized as their union. If the New School does not recognize the union, it said, it might ask the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election. That might set off a review of NLRB policy and create a case under which the board could reverse a ruling that has denied collective bargaining rights to teaching assistants at private universities. The request to the New School came just days after a similar request to Columbia University. A spokeswoman for the New School said that it was reviewing the request.

 

December 11, 2014

Bowdoin College is punishing 14 members of its lacrosse team for dressing as Native Americans for a "Cracksgiving" party held at a house -- known as "Crack House" -- in which many of the athletes live, The Bangor Daily News reported. The college has had several recent programs about the insensitivity of costumes based on race or ethnicity.

 

December 11, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, James Pivarnik, an epidemiologist at Michigan State University, profiles a correlation between hitting the gym and hitting the books. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

December 10, 2014

Michigan State University officials may have thought that they had their ideological bases covered when they announced the speakers for this month's commencement. The lineup includes Michael Moore, the decidedly left-of-center filmmaker, and George Will, the decidedly right-of-center columnist. Many students and others are demanding that Will be uninvited because of a column he wrote that was widely condemned by advocates for women who have been sexually assaulted for the way it criticized campus efforts to prevent and punish assaults, and for how it characterized those who have reported assaults. A line that caused particular anger said that such efforts "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." In another phrase that outraged many, he referred to the "supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. 'sexual assault.' " Citing that column, some students have vowed to protest his appearance, while others are organizing petitions urging the university to withdraw the invitation.

On Tuesday, Michigan State's president, Lou Anna K. Simon, made clear that the university was sticking with the invitation. In a statement on her website, Simon noted that Will was invited well before the column that upset so many people. She also said that the university took the issue of sexual assault seriously, and was committed to doing more to protect women. But she said that Will's invitation should not be withdrawn. "Having George Will speak at commencement does not mean I or Michigan State University agree with or endorse the statements he made in his June 6 column or any particular column he has written. It does not mean the university wishes to cause survivors of sexual assault distress. And it does not mean we are backing away from our commitment to continuously improving our response to sexual assault," Simon wrote. "What it does mean is this: Great universities are committed to serving the public good by creating space for discourse and exchange of ideas, though that exchange may be uncomfortable and will sometimes challenge values and beliefs. There is no mandate to agree, only to serve society by allowing learning to take place. If universities do not hold onto this, we do not serve the greater good. Because next time it will be a different speaker and a different issue, and the dividing lines will not be the same."

 

 

December 10, 2014

On Friday, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney sent an all-campus email about various campus efforts to promote inclusion and to support those angered by the recent decisions of grand juries in Missouri and New York not to indict police officers who killed unarmed black men. The email's substance was well-received on campus, but McCartney's subject line -- "All Lives Matter" -- was not. Many of those protesting the grand jury decisions have taken to using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, while some of those criticizing the protest movement have been using #AllLivesMatter instead. Students told McCartney that her heading was being used elsewhere in this way. That prompted another email from the president. "I regret that I was unaware the phrase/hashtag “all lives matter” has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against black people," she wrote, thanking students for sharing the information. The original email and the follow-up email may both be found here.

 

 

December 10, 2014

Deborah O'Connor, a senior lecturer at Florida State University, has resigned after using a slur in a Facebook post, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. O'Connor said she was urged to resign but not forced to do so. She made the comment on the Facebook page of a consultant who has praised the Justice Department for investigating a police shooting of a 12-year-old black boy. The newspaper account of the comments, some of which are left out: "Take your Northern [anti-gay slur] elitism and shove it up your [expletive].  I teach at a university, you [expletive]. What do you do? You are an intellectual fraud, just like your Messiah. Obama has single-handedly turned our once great society into a Ghetto Culture, rivaling that of Europe."

She said of the incident: "I've learned my lesson about Facebook; let's just leave it at that. I decided to resign because I didn't think it was feasible to drag myself and Florida State through this kind of mud."

 

December 10, 2014

The number of American medical schools with student-run free clinics has doubled in the last decade, to 75 percent of medical schools now operating them, according to a new study published in JAMA. The most common services provided by the clinics were outpatient adult medicine, health care maintenance, chronic disease management, language interpreters and social work. The most common diseases treated were diabetes and hypertension.

 

December 10, 2014

Universities in South Korea are tightening their rules against sexual harassment of students by professors, The Korea Herald reported. The moves follow several scandals in which universities were reported to have let abusers either resign without any publicity about what they had done, or let them continue to teach.

 

December 10, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Radu Sporea, professor of engineering at the University of Surrey, analyzes the way we talk about technology and electronics. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

December 9, 2014

The Clemson University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has suspended all fraternity activity and several of its officers have resigned following a "Cripmas" party where students dressed up as gang members. The party was condemned by the university and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon national office, the Greenville News reported, and black students took to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to voice their anger. Students who attended the party also used social media to share photographs from the event. 

In a statement Sunday, Jim Clements, Clemson's president, said the party "raised more concerns" about an already troublesome climate on campus. "At a time of year when our thoughts are turning to family, holidays and the start of a new year all the things that unite us and bring us joy — it is discouraging that so many events and issues are causing division and hurt, and making many students feel unwanted at this great university," he said.

Last week, Clemson replaced its vice president of student affairs amid rising tensions between fraternities and the administration.

 

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