Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 16, 2015

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees issued a statement Thursday that it will not reconsider its decision to block the hiring of Steven Salaita to a tenured faculty position teaching American Indian studies. The statement said that news accounts of a recent report of a faculty panel -- which found many irregularities in the way Salaita's hiring was blocked, and said that some of them raise academic freedom issues -- "may have given the mistaken impression that the decision regarding Dr. Salaita might be reconsidered. It will not." Salaita's hiring was blocked last year -- after proceeding so far that his courses were announced and he quit his prior job -- amid concerns about the tone of his anti-Israel comments on Twitter.

The board statement said: "Here, the decision concerning Dr. Salaita was not reached hastily. Nor was it the result of external pressures. The decision did not present a 'new approach' to the consideration of proposed faculty appointments. It represented the careful exercise of each board member’s fiduciary duty and a balancing of all of the interests of the University of Illinois. In the end, this is a responsibility that cannot be delegated nor abdicated."

 

January 16, 2015

The Faculty Senate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham voted no confidence Thursday in the leadership of President Ray Watts, AL.com reported. Faculty members said Watts had failed to consult them in a much debated decision to eliminate the football program and also in other matters. But just hours after the vote, board members expressed strong support for Watts.

 

January 16, 2015

Brigham Young University on Thursday clarified that there are a limited number of cases in which students are permitted to have beards, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Some students have been pushing for an end to the beard ban, and the illustration at right shows an image from one student group that argues that beards can be consistent with the religious values at Brigham Young. The university isn't abandoning its general ban. However, those with sensitive skin, whose religious faith bars them from shaving and who are appearing in theater productions that require beards may wear them. However, notes are required by a campus doctor, a member of the clergy and the theater department, respectively.

 

January 16, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Anthony Bogaert, a psychologist at Brock University, chronicles an often-overlooked section of human sexuality: asexuality. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

January 15, 2015

City College of San Francisco's regional accreditor has granted the college a two-year restoration of its accreditation status. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) in 2013 moved to revoke the community college's accreditation, citing financial mismanagement and a wide range of other problems. That would have been a death blow to the huge institution, which would have lost eligibility for federal and state student aid programs.

The college's supporters and the accreditor have waged a politicized battle during the last 16 months. The commission has come under fire during the process, and received a reprimand from the U.S. Department of Education. Then, last June, the commission offered a reprieve to City College by allowing it to apply for two years to fix the identified problems. The college applied for that option, receiving it last week, according to the commission.

Both sides in the dispute are awaiting a ruling by a San Francisco Superior Court judge on a lawsuit that Dennis Herrera, the city attorney in San Francisco, filed last year. Herrera is seeking to block the accreditor's actions, accusing it of political bias, improper procedures and conflicts of interest. The judge is expected to make a decision this week.

 

January 15, 2015

Adjuncts instructors at Pacific Lutheran University who wanted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union have pulled their petition from the National Labor Relations Board. Effectively, the current election is over and the one-third of ballots that were challenged by the university – including votes that were submitted late in October due to the federal government shutdown – will not be counted. In a statement issued late Wednesday, organizers said that adjunct faculty members “could actually get to a new election faster and with less legal expense if faculty proceed to a second vote with those currently teaching” at the university. It’s unclear how, if at all, the decision will impact the NLRB’s recent decision in favor of the adjunct union, over claims from the university that any adjunct union would violate several long-standing legal precedents precluding faculty unions at private and religious institutions. A university spokeswoman said via email: "We appreciate the support of our faculty for [the university's] unique system of shared governance and we look forward to working collaboratively with our faculty to continue the work of addressing the concerns of our contingent members."

January 15, 2015

Many journalists regularly quote a statistic that 1,800 students a year die from alcohol-related causes. The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" column looked into the statistic and raised a number of questions. The figure comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the CDC reports indicate that three-fourths of these deaths are from car accidents in which alcohol may have been a factor. And the estimates on car accidents are in some ways questionable, as the column details. Many other deaths come from fires, falls and drowning -- tragic of course, but not the image many people think they are getting from the statistic (people who drink so much that they die from the alcohol). About 113 people a year between the ages of 15 and 24 die from binge drinking directly, the CDC reports. If about one-third of them are college students, which would reflect national data, that means about 35 college students a year.

 

January 15, 2015

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has decided to stop using student informants, The Boston Globe reported. The decision followed a panel's review of the practice, which faced scrutiny after the heroin overdose death of one student informant. The university panel said that it feared that students with drug problems were becoming informants to avoid dealing with their addictions.

January 15, 2015

As President Obama sells his proposal that community college should be free, one philanthropist is arguing the idea should extend to the first year of college in general. Steven B. Klinsky, a financier who founded the private equity firm New Mountain Capital, wants students to be able to take freshman-level courses through the massive open online course provider edX and -- if they pass subject exams -- start college as sophomores. Klinsky on Wednesday announced a $1 million donation to support the effort, The Washington Post reported.

January 15, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Several advocates for adjunct faculty members spoke Wednesday during a panel called “The Emergence of the ‘Precariat:' What Does the Loss of Stable, Well-Compensated Employment Mean for Education?” at the Albert Shanker Institute here. The education think tank is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, compared the contingent faculty dynamic to an “iceberg,” in which only the less than one-third of faculty members who are tenure-line are visible to parents and others who still believe in an antiquated professor "myth." If the majority teaching force is vastly under-supported and under-recognized, she asked, “Is higher education the Titanic?” Barbara Ehrenreich, co-editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, said the adjunct faculty trend challenged another myth – that of the university as a meritocracy – and said she believed now is a “turning point” in awareness inside and outside academe about poor adjunct faculty working conditions.

Jennie Shanker, an adjunct faculty instructor of art at Temple University, spoke first-hand about the financial, professional and personal hardships of working as an adjunct faculty member, and also spoke about the initial successes of the AFT-affiliated metro-wide organizing campaign in the Philadelphia area. Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis and interim director of American studies at New York University, linked the adjunct discussion to concerns about student debt, which he said is turning education – what was once a “vital public good” – into the “cruelest of debt traps.” 

 

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