Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 20, 2014

The University of Alabama's Nick Saban is by far the nation's highest-paid college football coach, at $7.1 million this year, but another 26 coaches are also earning at least $3 million in 2014-15, USA Today's annual survey of Football Bowl Subdivision coaches' salaries finds. Four head coaches -- Michigan State University's Mark Dantonio, the University of Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Texas A&M University's Kevin Sumlin, and the University of Texas at Austin's Charlie Strong -- join Saban with salaries of $5 million or more, and a total of 11 coaches top the $4 million mark.

Seven institutions -- Boston College, Brigham Young, Syracuse, Temple and Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest Universities, and the University of Southern California -- declined to provide salary information to the newspaper.

November 20, 2014

An in-depth article in Rolling Stone details a woman's description of a gang rape she experienced at a University of Virginia fraternity, and the culture on campus that the article suggests makes women vulnerable to rape and to being treated poorly if they try to report such assaults. The article was released Wednesday and the university's president, Teresa A. Sullivan, responded with a statement. "The article describes an alleged sexual assault of a female student at a fraternity house in September 2012, including many details that were previously not disclosed to University officials. I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to formally investigate this incident, and the university will cooperate fully with the investigation," Sullivan wrote. "The university takes seriously the issue of sexual misconduct, a significant problem that colleges and universities are grappling with across the nation. Our goal is to provide an environment that is as safe as possible for our students and the entire university community."


November 20, 2014

A math instructor at Weber State University completed coursework for five football players, including a final exam, according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association infractions decision announced Wednesday. The football players gave the instructor their usernames and passwords during the spring 2013 semester, and she logged in to their online math courses to complete tests, quizzes, and exams. As the semester came to an end, an adjunct instructor for one of the math classes noticed that a player had completed six quizzes and a final exam -- all in one hour. The adjunct's concern led to a full review of the developmental math program.

Weber State charged the five students with academic dishonesty and gave them failing grades. The university also alerted the NCAA about the misconduct, and during the investigation, other players said they received help Though NCAA investigators alleged that Weber State had failed to monitor the academic coursework of athletes, the Division I Committee on Infractions determined that the university's compliance system had detected the violations and quickly taken action. "We take full responsibility for the incident," Charles Wight, Weber State's president, said in a statement. "While we regret that it occurred, it is reassuring to know the systems we have in place quickly detected these unethical activities. We must remain vigilant going forward."

The university received several penalties, including three years of probation, a fine of $5,000 plus 2 percent of the football program's operating budget, and a reduction of 9 football equivalency scholarships. The instructor received a five-year show-cause order, and if the instructor ever works for another member institution and has responsibilities in its athletic department, the institution must appear before a committee panel. "The violations were detected in a reasonable time," Rodney Uphoff, chief committee on infractions hearing officer, said during a press call Wednesday. "The school was credited with promptly detecting and coming forward with the information as required by the membership."

Several college sports programs have faced questions about academic dishonesty this year, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is still being investigated by both the NCAA and its accrediting agency after it was revealed that about 1,500 athletes there were steered toward no-show courses that never met, were not taught by any faculty members, and where the only work required was a single research paper that received a high grade no matter the content.

November 20, 2014

Sue Cunningham (right), who has held key fund-raising positions in Australia and Britain, has been selected as the next president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She will in March succeed John Lippincott, who is retiring. Cunningham is currently vice-principal (advancement) at the University of Melbourne. Previously, she was director of development at the University of Oxford, director external relations at St. Andrews University in Scotland and was director of development at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales.

In an interview, Cunningham noted that CASE, while primarily an organization of Americans in fund-raising, public relations, alumni affairs and other advancement fields in higher education, has has grown in recent years to have a strong presence around the world. She has been a longtime active CASE member from her various positions, and said that "what CASE has done magnificently is to really globalize what it does."

She said that in the current challenging environment for higher education, she saw much commonality in the different jobs that make up CASE's members. "This is all about building relationships, with alumni, with potential donors, with opinion formers," she said. And it is important, she said, to push fund-raising without letting the government off the hook. Fund-raising, she said, "is not about replacing" government funding.


November 20, 2014

Graduate students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa are camping out in tents on campus this week to protest rumored budget cuts. They said that they’ve already received verbal assurances to some of their demands -- namely, that no teaching assistant positions will be dropped next semester. But the rallies, marches and sit-in will continue until they have a statement in writing from the administration, organizers said.

The protests, organized in part by a group called Fix UH Manoa, started after graduate students learned that up to 15 teaching assistant positions could be cut from the biology department for the upcoming spring semester. Graduate students said in letters to administrators that the cuts were ordered so late in the fall semester that graduate students wouldn’t have time to make alternative financial arrangements, jeopardizing their ability to continue their studies. The cuts also would harm undergraduate students, they said, since graduate students manage a heavy class burden and those courses would have to be canceled.  

The cuts were never announced officially, but Jonathan Whitney, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in biology, said they were discussed in emails and meetings with upper-level administration. Nobody was certain exactly how many positions would be cut, he said.

Reed Dasenbrock, vice chancellor for academic affairs, said hours after the protests started Monday that there would not be any teaching assistant positions or core courses cut in the spring. But the student group wants to ensure that administrators aren’t pacifying them now, only to make more dramatic cuts in the fall, Whitney said. “It’s a piece of positive reinforcement, but there’s still a big mess and a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Among other demands, students want a more transparent system of spending, so they know where budget cuts are happening and why, and want the teaching assistant positions that have already been eliminated this year to be reinstated. 

Added: In a statement Wednesday, Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman said he regretted "any undue anxiety caused by premature announcements about possible cuts at the school and college level." He reiterated that no positions would be cut next semester.

Colleges have been spending more than they were allocated in the budget, and as a result, Bley-Vroman mandated all departments to stay within their annual allocations. Next month, a budget committee that includes representatives from the Graduate Student Organization will finish a proposal for a new way to allocate money for the 2015-16 budget that will be presented to the public, according to the statement.


November 20, 2014

An official of the National Labor Relations Board has ordered a new election on a bid by adjuncts at Marist College to unionize. The NLRB official found that the college had engaged in inappropriate activities just prior to the vote, and that these activities raised questions about the fairness of the election, in which a majority of adjuncts rejected unionization. A spokesman for the college said via email that Marist "strongly disagrees" with the decision, and that the college is working to make sure all part-timers can vote. He said that the union was trying to "gerrymander" the election.

November 20, 2014

U.S. Representative John Kline of Minnesota, the Republican who leads the House education committee, will keep that post in the next Congress.

As was expected, Kline's Republican colleagues voted Wednesday to officially name him as the committee's chair for the next two years.

Kline said in a statement that "strengthening higher education" was among the "national priorities that will remain at the forefront of the committee's agenda."

November 20, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Jack Ridge, professor and chair of earth and ocean sciences at Tufts University, discusses his work to more precisely understand geologic time in order to create an accurate record of the planet’s climate. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 19, 2014

The blizzard that has hit the Buffalo region trapped the Niagara University women's basketball team for more than 24 hours as they attempted to return to campus after a loss at the University of Pittsburgh Monday night. Various accounts say that the bus left Pittsburgh around 10 p.m. Monday night and got stuck around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, and remained stuck, with the team members on board, for the next 24 hours. The Associated Press reported that the team rationed available snacks and water and turned some snow into water. Students used social media to post photographs and a hashtag #NUWBBstrandedonabus allowed the university's many supporters, and friends and family of team members, to express support. Team members indicated on social media that they were praying, waiting and making the best of the situation. There were unconfirmed reports on social media early Wednesday morning that team members been rescued after about 30 hours on the bus.

UPDATE: The head coach of the team confirmed on Twitter that everyone is off the bus and on the way back to campus (photo of happy athletes below).

November 19, 2014

U.S. Representative Rush D. Holt, a former physicist and strong supporter of federal funding of scientific research, will be the next head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the group announced Tuesday.

Holt, a Democrat who represents central New Jersey, is leaving Congress this year at the end of his eighth term. He will start as chief executive officer of the AAAS in February.

The group's appointment of Holt comes as tensions between the scientific community and some members of Congress have flared in recent months. Research funding advocates, for instance, have criticized the Republican-led House science committee's inquiry into specific National Science Foundation grants.


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