Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 31, 2013

The cuts continue in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. East Stroudsburg State University has announced that it is eliminating 15 tenured and tenure-track positions, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The university also plans to close its movement studies and lifetime fitness department and to place a moratorium on bachelor's degrees in music and in French.

 

October 31, 2013

Professors in Cleveland State University's College of Law believe the college dean likened some faculty members with union ties to the devil when awarding them $666 merit raises. The Cleveland State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors filed an unfair labor practice charge with Ohio’s State Employment Relations Board in August against the dean, Craig Boise.

AAUP organizers received raises of $0 or $666 despite “exemplary scholarship and teaching scores,” according to the charge. Of the eight union organizers listed in the charge, two did not receive raises and the remaining six received $666 raises. Other faculty members in the College of Law received $3,000 or $5,000 merit raises, according to the charge.

The charge says Boise’s actions are “a poorly veiled threat in opposition to AAUP’s organizing and concerted activities.” Boise and representatives from Cleveland State University did not respond to requests for comment.

October 31, 2013

San Francisco State University was the site of the first sustained protests for the creation of ethnic studies programs, in the late 1960s. But The Los Angeles Times reported that in the California State University System, of which San Francisco State is a part, ethnic studies is now on the defensive. Administrators have cited enrollment declines to suggest cuts in a number of programs. Faculty leaders are asking for a moratorium on changes to the programs. Experts in the field say that the career focus of so many students today makes it more difficult to attract students. "A discipline like ethnic studies lays itself wide open to the critiques of what the hell do you do with this, can you run a corporation or fly a plane with this?," said Ron Scapp, president of the National Association for Ethnic Studies.

October 31, 2013

A University of Mississippi employee learned the importance of school spirit this month after being reprimanded by an administrator for cheering on an opposing team during a home football game. The reprimand came in the form of a mass letter from the physical plant director to all his staff. According to an article in the Daily Mississippian, which first reported on the incident, "The letter states that while the university will never tell its employees whom they can or cannot cheer for, there is an expectation to support Ole Miss while on the clock.... [I]f employees cannot support Ole Miss, they shall 'remain neutral and without comment.' "

The comment in question was actually a tweet, sent while the employee was working the sidelines of the Oct. 19 game versus Louisiana State University. A Mississippi spokesman, Danny N. Blanton, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the message was in response to the employee's "game day responsibilities."

"We in no way try to influence who our employees support in their own time," Blanton said. "However, we will ask that when employees are on the clock that they are respectful of their employer and not disrupt the team or the fans. We also ask employees who are hired to do a specific job to do that job and not focus on social media."

Mississippi pulled a major upset over No. 11 LSU to win the game, 27-24.

October 31, 2013

The largest athletic programs -- many of which think they are constrained by the smaller budgets of their peers -- will most likely have to suck it up. Or at least their reprieve probably won't come in the form of a separate division, Nathan Hatch, chair of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I Board of Directors, said in a statement Wednesday. At their quarterly meeting in Indianapolis this week, the university presidents who make up the board's membership heard ideas from various groups regarding NCAA governance and structure. Afterward, the NCAA announced it will create a subcommittee to "develop some alternative plans the membership can discuss" at the association's annual convention in January.

A new governance plan could be put up to a vote as soon as August, Hatch has said.

While Division I will likely remain as is and university presidents should stay in control, an altered rule-making process that allows some flexibility for institutions to make decisions in areas like recruiting and financial aid could emerge as a compromise, the statement said. Currently, all Division I institutions must abide by the same limitations and rules, despite their drastically different budget levels.

The board identified other key elements to emerge from the feedback this week: the board should be less focused on day-to-day operations and more focused on overarching strategy for Division I; the division needs a more transparent, fast-moving, streamlined and simple governance process; and all groups, particularly athletics directors and athletes, should have "representation within the governance structure."

The much-discussed prospect of a new division or subdivision for the largest athletic programs garnered support (or at least consideration) from numerous organizations, conference commissioners and faculty groups. But others, including associations of athletics directors and faculty athletics representatives, as well as the Division I Leadership Council, oppose the idea.

October 30, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I Leadership Council, which advises the Division I Board of Directors, opposes a new division for the most competitive athletic programs, according to a statement issued Tuesday. That concept has been floated by numerous organizations, conference commissioners and even faculty groups in recent months, as the NCAA considers different ways to restructure its governance and organization. A new division would afford the biggest programs more leeway in recruiting and spending. (The Faculty Athletics Representatives Association also opposes the idea.)

However, the council, which is made up of athletics directors, conference commissioners and others from across the full spectrum of Division I programs, acknowledged that a true "level playing field" cannot exist when athletic departments vary so dramatically by institution, and proposed adjusting scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance as a compromise. The Division I board will hear feedback from several groups leading up to its quarterly meeting this week.

October 30, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Steve Hirsch of Tufts University traces the historical roots of the societies based on individualism and collectivism. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 30, 2013

The Vermont State Colleges System and the University of Vermont have refused to allow Sodexo to reclassify some of the company workers who operate food services at the colleges, The Burlington Free Press reported. Sodexo announced the reclassification plans, which the colleges had the right to reject, in response to the new federal healthcare law. Some employees who have been considered full-time will now be considered part-time, and lose eligibility for employer-provided health insurance. Student and faculty groups had circulated petitions urging the colleges to block Sodexo's plans. A statement from Sodexo said: "We will work with Vermont State Colleges and the University of Vermont on this ongoing process and will continue to support our employees to help them understand their options and prepare them to meet the requirements of the individual mandate” of the new health reform law."

October 30, 2013

The final results of the Institute for Higher Education Policy's three-year Project Win-Win are in. According to a newly-released report from the institute, the degree audit by 60 institutions in nine states tracked down 6,700 former students who had either earned enough credits to receive a degree or were within striking distance of one. So far more than 4,500 of the former students have received degrees through the program. Another 1,700 have returned to college, with 400 more saying they plan to enroll again.

October 30, 2013

The leader of a Johns Hopkins University-affiliated radiology unit may be contributing to the unjust denials of coal miners’ black lung claims, according to a yearlong investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News. The news outlets said there is a strong evidence that John Hopkins radiologist Paul Wheeler, head of a unit at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, has helped coal companies fight black lung claims as a medical expert using methods not endorsed by leaders and standard practices in his field. Wheeler, whose opinion has been used to help deny hundreds of coal miners' claims, is quoted as saying “I don’t care about the law” and “I don’t think I need medical literature.” Officials at Johns Hopkins appeared to defend Wheeler in a statement to the news organizations but then declined to answer their follow up questions.

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