Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 4:26am

Chicago State University continues to face management and financial controversies. Many employees at the university have received no raises since 2010 and faculty members just received a raise of 2.25 percent. But President Wayne Watson -- whom some board members are trying to oust -- recently gave raises of 17.4 percent, 21.4 percent and 18.8 percent to three top administrators, The Chicago Tribune reported. He also gave promotions and 20 percent raises to two executive assistants in his office. One administrator who didn't get a raise was Glenn Meeks, vice president of administration and finance. Meeks was just fired -- and he says it was in retaliation for his raising questions about the raises. A university spokesman declined to comment on the dismissal of Meeks, and that the raises that were awarded were based on "merit and performance."


Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has suspended an Honor Court proceeding that could charge a student for speaking out about an alleged rape, after learning that the student reportedly filed a federal complaint this week alleging retaliation. Landen Gambill learned last month that she could face penalties as severe as expulsion for “disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another.” Gambill, who is also a party to another complaint filed with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights – this one regarding UNC’s handling of her case and others – never publicly identified the alleged perpetrator. UNC said last month it cannot hear cases or alter verdicts of the student-run court, which no longer hears sexual assault cases.

“For several weeks, the University has grappled with how best to respond to a public claim of retaliation against the university while maintaining the autonomy and integrity of our Honor Court proceedings and the privacy of the individuals involved,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp wrote in a message to students, faculty and staff. “Recognizing the potential conflicts that may exist by allowing both processes to continue, we have asked the student attorney general to suspend the Honor Court proceeding pending an external review of these allegations of retaliation.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Richard Palmer of the University of Alberta reveals a surprising find about how some barnacles reproduce. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 3:00am

The January suicide of James Aune, chair of communications at Texas A&M University and widely known scholar of rhetoric, stunned his colleagues nationwide. The suicide now appears to be related to blackmail, The Houston Chronicle reported. A Louisiana man has been charged with a scam in which he took nude photographs of a female relative, started a sexually explicit online relationship with Aune in which the man posed as the relative, and then pretended to be the father of an underage girl with whom Aune was allegedly corresponding. The man -- Daniel Duplaisir -- then demanded that Aune pay him, threatening to otherwise tell officials at Texas A&M that Aune had been engaged in an online sexual relationship with a girl. On the morning that Aune killed himself, Duplaisir sent a demand that the payments start within three hours or "the calls start." A minute before he jumped to his death, Aune sent Duplaisir a message: "Killing myself now. And u will be prosecuted for blackmail."



Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 3:00am

Mark Brixey, the former bookstore director of Missouri State University, admitted in court Tuesday that he stole $1.16 million from the institution, The News-Leader reported. Brixey made the admission in pleading guilty to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and filing a false income tax return. The university expects to recover most of the money, largely due to an employee theft insurance policy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 3:00am

Judith Shapiro has been named the next president of the Teagle Foundation, and will succeed Richard Morrill in July. Shapiro, an anthropologist, was president of Barnard College from 1994 to 2008, and was provost of Bryn Mawr College from 1986 to 1994. She joined the Teagle board in 2009 and had been leading the search for a new president when other search committee members asked her to leave that panel so she could be considered for the position.

Teagle, which finished 2012 with its endowment valued at $144 million, is small by comparison to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, but it has had influence in discussions of assessment, curriculum, academic rigor and teaching and learning. "I think Teagle has become quite famous for punching above its weight," Shapiro said in an interview. "I think that's because it has picked strategic things to do and has known how to use the bully pulpit in higher education." She noted that Teagle was working on assessment issues "before everyone else."

Looking ahead, she said Teagle will continue to focus grants and gather educators to discuss issues related to teaching and the curriculum. And at a time of rapid change in the use of technology and other tools, Shapiro said she wanted to keep a focus on the substance of what is taught along with teaching. "We'll be paying the right kind of attention to the content of the curriculum as well as the form," she said. "That's complicated because we can't agree on a canon, but that doesn't absolve us from making really good decisions about what's really important."

Shapiro is involved in efforts to use technology to change higher education, serving on the board of Ithaka (which promotes new models of scholarly publishing and communication) and the presidential advisory board of the University of the People (which offers free online education). She said she hoped Teagle and others would help evaluate the many innovations being introduced. "Not much attention has been given to the effectiveness of new ways or teaching, or the business plan," she said. "It's going to take a while to see how it is cost-effective and it could be good teaching."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 4:26am

Controversy continues to grow over an intercultural communications course at Florida Atlantic University in which students were told to write "Jesus" on a piece of paper, to fold it up and to stomp on it. A student has claimed he was suspended when he refused. The university has apologized for the exercise and said that it won't be repeated, but has said it was voluntary and that no student was punished in any way related to the class. Now Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, is calling for the state higher education system to investigate the incident and to identify or create policies to prevent such exercises from being used again, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. Scott called the exercise "intolerant to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom."

The university also issued a video statement by Charles Brown, senior vice president for student affairs, in which he said the university "deeply sorry for any hurt" caused by the exercise. He said that academic freedom must come with "a level of responsibility which we did not uphold" in the exercise. "We are truly sorry that this incident occurred," he said.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 4:32am

A new Marist Poll of sports fans nationally has found that 67 percent of them believe that it is common practice for colleges to break National Collegiate Athletic Association rules in recruiting and training athletes. That figure is up from 55 percent in a poll last year. The study also found that only 21 percent of sports fans believe that college athletes should be paid (beyond scholarships).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 4:30am

Harvard University on Monday sent a letter to thousands of alumni, asking them to volunteer to serve as discussion leaders for a new massive open online course based on a class they took at the university, The New York Times reported. The professor who teaches "The Ancient Greek Hero," said he was thrilled with the idea of a MOOC reaching many more students than he could in Cambridge. But Claudia Filos, editor of content and social media for the course, said that there was a need for more help with discussions. She said that, in some MOOCs, discussions "tend to run off the rails." Alumni who volunteer will be screened before taking on duties monitoring and helping to guide discussions.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Keller of Chapman University explains how organisms alter one of life’s most fundamental processes in oxygen-poor environments. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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