Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 13, 2013

The Towson University cheerleading team’s punishment for hazing allegations has been reduced from a yearlong suspension to a semesterlong probation, 650 hours of community service and education about hazing, the Associated Press reported. The cheer team had appealed the initial punishment to a campus committee that decided the team hadn’t received the same level of anti-hazing education and training as other campus groups, Towson’s vice president for student affairs said. Under probation, the team will be allowed to practice but not compete or participate in events. Details of the hazing allegations are unknown, other than the fact that it occurred off campus and is not under police investigation.

September 13, 2013

At Middlebury College, as at many colleges and universities, students place 3,000 small American flags on the grounds to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed so many people on 9/11. This year, five people, one of whom is a Middlebury student, removed some of the flags, angering many other students, The Addison Eagle reported. Those who removed the flags said that they were protesting "America's imperialism." And the student who was in the group said that the flags had been placed on land that was once a Native American burial ground.

A statement from the student added: “My intention was not to cause pain, but to visibilize the necessity of honoring all human life and to help a friend heal from the violence of genocide that she carries with her on a daily basis as an indigenous person. While the American flags on the Middlebury hillside symbolize to some the loss of innocent lives in New York, to others they represent centuries of bloody conquest and mass murder. Three thousand flags is a lot, but the campus is not big enough to hold a marker for every life sacrificed in the history of American conquest and colonialism."FYI - "visibilize' is sic -sj

September 13, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas at Austin describes a newfound threat to the transportation industry. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


September 13, 2013

Reed College is investigating a complaint that an annual student tradition -- sometimes involving nudity -- violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by creating a hostile environment for women, The Oregonian reported. The tradition involves juniors and seniors greeting freshmen as they prepare to start a required humanities course. The juniors and seniors dress as gods and demand "libations" (typically coffee) in return for wishing the new students luck in the course. Some of the juniors and seniors this year were apparently naked, and the nudity led to the complaint.

September 13, 2013

The Massachusetts State Board of Higher Education has summoned the president and board leaders of Westfield State University to Boston for a discussion of the president's expenses, The Republican reported. The request comes as a new outside report detailed numerous violations of spending rules. The president, Evan Dobelle, has admitted to charging some items in error, and has said he has reimbursed the university or its foundation in such cases. Further, he has argued that his spending has been to advance the university's interests.

But the outside report found that Dobelle violated credit card policies on trips to San Francisco, New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, New York City, Washington and elsewhere. In other cases, Dobelle charged the university foundation for travel to Spain, Vietnam, Thailand and China -- without receipts or documentation.

September 13, 2013

The University of Oslo has in a surprising turnaround cleared Anders Behring Breivik to enroll in a handful of political science courses, the Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported on Wednesday. Norwegian law guarantees inmates the right to some form of employment or education, but the news that Breivik had applied to study political science caused an outcry this summer from the families of his victims. The university rejected Breivik's application because he had not finished his high school degree. Breivik, convicted of killing 77 people in a 2011 bombing and shooting massacre, was sentenced to 21 years of "preventive detention" in 2012. The sentence may be definitely extended.

According to the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang, Breivik will study three introductory political science courses, one each in political theory, international politics, and public policy and administration. Breivik will not receive an academic degree for his studies, but he will receive credit should he receive a passing grade. Nor will Breivik personally interact with any of Oslo's faculty members; the university will loan all academic materials to Skien prison. With directions provided by the university, Breivik will study independently and submit his work from prison.

September 13, 2013

Sheldon Hackney who served as president of Tulane University and the University of Pennsylvania, died Thursday at the age of 79, The Vineyard Gazette reported. Hackney died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, widely known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hackney was respected as a historian (he focused on the American South), and his presidencies were generally considered successful.

But the end of Hackney's Penn presidency saw him and the university become the focus of a national debate on free speech. A student had shouted from his dorm room for a group of students below to stop making noise and he had called them "water buffalo." The students below were minority students and the student who shouted faced a university hearing over alleged insensitivity. (The student who shouted "water buffalo" said that the words came from an Israeli phrase for loud, rude people and had nothing to do with race.) The case galvanized many who felt that colleges were going too far in their push to promote sensitivity and that such efforts were intruding on free speech rights.

Hackney left Penn in 1993 when President Clinton nominated him to become chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. While Hackney was confirmed for that post, his confirmation hearings featured extensive discussion of the "water buffalo" case, which drew more attention than his plans for the NEH. At the endowment, one of Hackney's major projects was to encourage public discussion of difficult issues through a program called "A National Conversation on American Pluralism and Identity."


September 13, 2013

A student at Virginia College’s Augusta, Ga., campus has been arrested for allegedly giving her pregnant professor a tainted snack cake. Diane Ambrose was charged with reckless conduct after offering her professor a sealed cake she had injected with a foreign substance through the wrapper, WRDW-TV reported. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says the 12-week-pregnant professor developed a stomach ailment two weeks ago, after eating the treat. Another student knew about Ambrose's alleged plan, but didn’t tell the professor until she knew she had become sick.

Virginia College did not return a call for comment on the condition of the professor and Ambrose's student status. Ambrose, arrested Wednesday, was out on bail Thursday.

September 12, 2013

Nassau Community College adjuncts have been on strike this week, following the Board of Trustees’ rejection of a proposed contract settlement it said it couldn’t afford.

The Adjunct Faculty Association, an independent union representing 2,600 adjunct faculty, has been without a contract since 2010. The union's proposed contract"The union's proposed contract"? -*****Yes---cfsj would have lasted through 2018, and offered a retroactive pay raise of 4.9 percent each year, costing $14.5 million, Long Island Newsday reported. The college said the total cost would have been $63.4 million.

Adjuncts went on strike Monday and plan on continuing to picket each afternoon. Public employees are prohibited from striking under the Public Employees Fair Employment Act and Nassau adjuncts will be fined two days' pay for each day they strike.

Union leaders could not immediately be reached for comment. In a statement on the union website, Charles Loiacono, president, called the fine “a very small penalty for standing up for the agreement that we have negotiated with the County; and it’s certainly nothing compared with the indignity and disrespect shown to us by the [board].”

In an e-mail, Alicia Steger, a college spokeswoman, said: "A professor who teaches a three-credit [course] gets about $5,100. That is the highest of the colleges in the area.  We have heard numerous reports from adjuncts who teach elsewhere that they would love to teach at NCC. So, that is our answer to the claim of unfair working conditions."

September 12, 2013

After months on the fence, Wake Forest University officials decided to join a partnership created by the company 2U to access a pool of for-credit online courses offered by more than a half dozen universities.

The effort, known as Semester Online, proved controversial at Wake Forest's North Carolina neighbor, Duke University, where faculty shot down the idea in April. Wake Forest took its time before joining and at one point questioned the Semester Online business model. But following a faculty vote on Monday that gave the green light, the university announced Wednesday it will join the consortium, which includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame.

“We have engaged in an ongoing campus-wide dialogue about how Wake Forest might best utilize online tools and other technological innovations to effectively enhance our high-touch, face-to-face educational experience," said Provost Rogan Kersh in a statement. "Semester Online is the first online program that is able to offer this level of engagement to our students and faculty.”


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