Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 4, 2013

University of Mississippi officials are investigating an incident in which 20 or so football players and other athletes “from various sports” reportedly heckled theater students performing The Laramie Project, a play about the 1998 killing of the University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, with gay slurs. In a statement sent to Inside Higher Ed, Chancellor Dan Jones and Athletics Director Ross Bjork apologized on behalf of the university, and said that after meeting with athletes to talk about what happened, they would work with student affairs officials and the campus Bias Incident Response Team “to determine the facts and appropriate next steps.” Football coach Hugh Freeze also tweeted Thursday that “We certainly do not condone any actions that offend or hurt people in any way. We are working with all departments to find the facts.”

The faculty member who directed the play told The Daily Mississippian student newspaper, which first reported the incident, that audience members disrupted the play repeatedly with derogatory terms like “fag” and other “borderline hate speech.” Sources also told the paper that the football players attended the play as part of a requirement for a freshman-level theater course.

“I am the only gay person in the cast,” the paper quoted Garrison Gibbons, a student and theater major, as saying. “I played a gay character in the show, and to be ridiculed like that was something that really made me realize that some people at Ole Miss and in Mississippi still can’t accept me for who I am.”

October 4, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Alicia Melis of the University of Warwick explores the similarities of cooperation between humans and chimpanzees. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 4, 2013

The Department of Defense has suspended a program that provides members of the military with money to attend college because of the federal government shutdown. Branches of the armed forces will not authorize tuition assistance for new classes during a government shutdown, a Pentagon official wrote in a blog post this week.

In addition to rejecting new requests for the benefits, the Army said in a statement that it could not process some existing requests that were received before the shutdown began on October 1.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, meanwhile, said it is continuing to process veterans’ education benefits, but that could stop if the shutdown drags on longer than several weeks. The agency has already closed its education call center because of the shutdown. 

October 4, 2013

A University of Alabama assistant strength and conditioning coach was placed on administrative leave for loaning an athlete money in violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, The Tuscaloosa News reported. The football safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, was suspended from the nation’s top football team Wednesday for an unspecified violation of team rules. Corey Harris apparently loaned Clinton-Dix “an amount less than $500” during the summer.

Under the new NCAA enforcement structure, head coach Nick Saban, whose $5.3 million annual salary makes him the highest-paid coach in college football, could be punished for the violation. The new model presumes the head coach responsible for violations committed by his or her staff, unless the coach can overcome that presumption by demonstrating active promotion of an environment of compliance.

October 3, 2013

The Army will close its Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs at 13 colleges and universities because of financial constraints. While one of the universities released a letter from the Army announcing the cuts on Wednesday, the reductions were ordered last month, before the government shutdown. The programs will close or realign by the end of the 2014-15 school year, according to an Army memo. “This action is not a reflection of either the quality of your program or the outstanding cadets you have produced,” Thomas R. Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, wrote in a letter to the chancellor of Arkansas State University, one of the institutions.

Other colleges and universities whose programs will be closed are Georgia Regents, East Tennessee State, Morehead State, North Dakota State, Northern Michigan and Tennessee Technological Universities; and the Universities of California at Santa Barbara, North Alabama, South Dakota, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee at Martin and  Wisconsin at La Crosse,  A spokesman for Georgia Regents University said the university had not received official word about changes to the program.

Arkansas State University will fight to reverse the decision to close its 77-year-old ROTC program, which currently serves 122 participants, Chancellor Tim Hudson said in a press release. So will the University of Southern Mississippi and University of Tennessee at Martin, officials said. A statement from William G. Kale, president of the University of North Alabama, said the university was "shocked to learn of this decision, which was made without consultation and came without warning."

Officials at the other institutions did not respond to requests for comment.

 

October 3, 2013

California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation Wednesday that will tighten the rules on the kinds of bonds that community colleges and school districts can use, The Los Angeles Times reported. The legislation will bar the use of bonds that allow entities issuing them to delay repayment by decades, providing a short-term gain for districts, but creating long-term debt obligations and much more debt than would be the case with shorter term bonds. The new rules limit repayment periods to 25 years (down from 40) and require that interest payments total no more than $4 for every dollar borrowed.

October 3, 2013

Boston College is investigating a student who claimed anonymously on a Facebook "confessions" page that he had raped three women while at the college, The Boston Globe reported. "Confessions" pages are popular on many colleges with students posting anonymously about their hook-ups, crushes or traumas. But the confession to three rapes quickly upset many people on the campus. College officials said that the student who wrote the post turned himself in to authorities and said that it was all a hoax. Paul J. Chebator, dean of students, sent an e-mail to the campus calling the post "very disturbing." Students have organized an event for tonight to discuss the implications of the incident.

 

 

 

October 3, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Shermali Gunawardena of the State University of New York at Buffalo explains how traffic moves along the neuronal highways in the brain. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 3, 2013

Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident who claimed that he was forced from his fellowship at New York University because of pressure from Beijing (a claim the university has vigorously denied), has found a new academic home – well, three homes, actually. He will splitting his time between fellow and advisory positions at the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank in New Jersey; the Catholic University of America's ​Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies; and the New Hampshire-based Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice (named after the late Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos). 

October 3, 2013

Further amending its controversial new health care policy, Pennsylvania State University announced this week that it would offer $100 to employees who complete an online wellness profile and biometric screening and agree to get a physical exam by late November. Those who already have completed their online wellness screenings also may delete them.

This summer, the university said it would punish – to the tune of $100 per month – employees who did not complete those tasks this semester, in an attempt to control ballooning health care costs through increased health awareness among those it insures. But last month, amid intense criticism from faculty, who said that questions in the third-party, online profile -- including those about mental health, alcohol use and family planning -- violated their privacy, Penn State dropped the requirement. (Businesspeople and lawmakers also had criticized the plan.)

Now it’s offering what it calls a “cash reward” for those who opt to complete screenings, or already have done so. The reward to employees whose covered spouses or domestic partners also complete the screenings is $150. "This is being done as a way of recognizing the many benefits-enrolled employees who are participating in the initiative, in light of the suspension of the penalty that originally had been tied to non-participation," Susan Basso, vice president for human resources said in a statement.

Brian Curran, professor of art history and president of the university's newly formed chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said via e-mail that that "it's obviously a good thing that they have moved from a stick to a carrot. The surcharge was much too severe and arbitrary, and it had the effect of driving many otherwise reluctant, mainly lower-paid employees, into complying with what they considered a very serious violation of their personal privacy."

 

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