Higher Education Quick Takes
Two national groups aim to stimulate discussions on campuses across the country this year about what the top priorities of American higher education should be and what tradeoffs the country -- and colleges -- would have to make depending on the directions they go in. The campaign, “Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help U.S. Create the Society We Want,” is headed by the American Commonwealth Partnership, a consortium of colleges dedicated to democracy, and the National Issues Forums, a nonprofit organization that organizes and promotes public discussions. The goal is to bring together a variety of stakeholders, from university administrators to local residents in various communities, to discuss the purpose of higher education. About 60 forums are already scheduled for the fall, and organizers hope to hold at least 300 community discussions this year.
As a starting point for these dialogues, the forum proposes three possible directions for higher education: focusing on competing in the global economy by emphasizing science and technology, using higher education to teach students values such as respect and responsibility, or make college more accessible. Panelists at a kickoff event Tuesday at the National Press Club acknowledged that these three choices are not independent of each other, but said they hoped laying out the options would spark debate, and maybe even action.
“My hope for these dialogues is not that they come to the right solution but that they create that ground-up passion,” said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of Syracuse University and one of the panelists Tuesday.
The University of Central Oklahoma has settled a lawsuit by 12 former students and employees, who charged the former debate coach with harassment and retaliation, the Associated Press reported. The lawsuit claimed that the former coach -- Eric Marlow -- threatened to take a scholarship away from a student if she didn't have sex with him, and that he sent threatening text messages. A lawyer for Marlow declined to comment except to confirm that the suit has been resolved. Details of the settlement were not released.
A freshman who was a pledge at Theta Chi and who was at an event with drinking Saturday night died Sunday, The Fresno Bee reported. While the cause of death has not been officially determined, alcohol is viewed as a factor. The university is suspending Theta Chi. Seven years ago, a death in another fraternity house -- following a night of drinking -- prompted the university to announce a series of new steps to prevent alcohol abuse.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s African and Afro-American Studies Department reportedly allowing athletes to take and pass no-show classes did not violate any National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, including those regarding athlete eligibility, the university said in a statement Friday. “On Aug. 23, 2012, University Counsel Leslie Strohm and Senior Associate Dean Jonathan Hartlyn provided an update to the enforcement staff,” the statement said. “The NCAA staff reaffirmed to university officials that no NCAA rules appeared to have been broken.”
NCAA eligibility rules require that, in order to compete, athletes earn at least six credit hours each term and meet minimum grade point averages, which vary depending on an institution's own standards for graduation. But the rules apparently do not address whether taking no-show classes would constitute a violation. The classes reportedly involved altered grades and little to no faculty supervision.
A feature in The Los Angeles Times describes a program at the University of La Verne in which children of migrant farm workers come to campus for a month in the summer to improve academic skills and to experience life at a college. Because many of these students don't have the stability of attending a single high school, and their families don't have much money, many face long odds against ever getting a higher education, which is why the university is focusing on reaching out to them. Adonay Montes, an assistant professor of education and the program director, said of the students: "They live the life of a college student here. We try to provide that experience so when they go back they know how to navigate the educational pipeline by being able to advocate for themselves."
Another faculty in Minnesota has weighed in on the November vote on the proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage. During the first faculty meeting of the year, professors at St. Olaf College voted overwhelmingly to oppose the amendment. The college has said it will not take an official position on the issue, which another Lutheran college in Minnesota, Augsburg College, did in August.
A new obstacle has emerged for the business school of the University of California at Los Angeles, which has been pushing a "self-sufficiency plan" for its M.B.A. program, in which it would give up state funds in return for more independence. The plan, seen as privatization by critics, has been debated for some time. A vote by the UCLA faculty in June appeared to clear the way for final approval by the University of California system.
But a committee of the systemwide Academic Senate has now tabled the proposal to approve the plan. According to the committee, the system does not currently have any policy that would allow a program that is not self-supporting to become self-supporting. Lacking such a policy, the committee declined to approve the UCLA plan. Officials of the business school could not be reached to discuss the implications of this development.
City College of San Francisco, already facing deep budget cuts and threats that its accreditation may be removed, has yet another problem. State audits have determined that the college placed some non-academic employees in a pension system reserved for academic employees, and that inaccurate figures were used to calculate pensions for yet other employees, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Some of the employees and retirees have been told that they are being kicked out of the pension system.