Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 8, 2013

What it all will eventually amount to is far from clear. But the agitation over the perception that colleges and the National Collegiate Athletic Association -- and pretty much all parties but athletes themselves -- profit from the sale of merchandise bearing the likenesses of players continues to grow.

USA Today reported Wednesday on the filing of another lawsuit by former players against two photography companies, arguing that they "conspire with numerous colleges and universities that participate in the NCAA … to market and sell thousands of photos of active and former collegiate athletes without offering compensation to or obtaining consent from these student-athletes." The lawsuit is the latest in a string related to the use of players' images in video games and other profitable enterprises.

And the sports Twitterati and blogosphere continued to explode Wednesday with discussion prompted by Jay Bilas, the ESPN men's basketball commentator, who noted in a series of Twitter posts that the NCAA website's own store sells jerseys that lack players' names, in line with NCAA rules that bar the sale of equipment that identify specific athletes. But Bilas noted that punching the names of certain players into the search engine on the ShopNCAASports.com site brings up jerseys with those players' colors and numbers. Excoriating the NCAA's hypocrisy, Bilas's stream of tweets ended by suggesting that if you punched "NCAA Executive Committee" in the search engine, the image that would show up was of a group of clowns.

Within a short time, the NCAA had disabled the website's search function.

August 8, 2013

France is considering a proposal from its High Council for Integration that Muslim headscarves be banned at universities, Reuters reported. A ban is already in place in schools and many French leaders place a high priority on promoting secularism in public institutions. Muslim groups are speaking out against the proposal. "This is one more step in the legal stigmatization of Muslims,” said a statement from the March 15 Liberty Committee, a Muslim group opposed to the proposed ban. "The separation of church and state cannot be reduced, as some want it to be, to an arsenal of laws against Muslims."

August 7, 2013

After an 18-month study on governance of college sports, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics said in a report that “changes are needed to restore integrity” to college sports.

Among its recommendations, the commission shot down the idea that a new division separate from the National Collegiate Athletic Association might be the next logical step. Instead, the report says, the NCAA’s top committees should include more athletics officials, former athletes and other individuals with experience in college sports -- and governance should not just be left to university presidents, as it is currently. Among the other recommendations are to dedicate a portion of the revenue from the impending college football playoff to support athletes’ educational experience, and revise revenue distribution to strengthen incentives for exceptional academic performance by athletes.

The report also suggests a few ideas “that merit further study,” including a new NCAA subdivision, for football only, for the five major conferences and other high-income programs -- an idea that has gained significant traction in the past few weeks thanks to comments and speculation by major conference commissioners. The commission also proposes a new financial framework that might impose spending limits or encourage limited spending, to create greater financial balance among institutions, as well as greater differentiation of structures among sports for things like conference membership and championship formats.

August 7, 2013

The University of Oslo has rejected the application of Anders Behring Breivik, a mass killer, to study political science, AFP reported. Breivik, a right wing extremist, is in jail for his 2011 attacks that killed 77. Norway encourages prisoners to seek education (typically through distance programs) and Breivik's prison had no problem with his applying to enroll remotely. But word of the application set off a debate at the university, with some faculty members saying that they would refuse to teach him. The university said that it evaluated the application under normal procedures and rejected Breivik because he had not finished his high school degree.

 

August 7, 2013

A former women’s head rowing coach at the University of California at San Diego gave six athletes prescription drugs on at least 24 occasions, the National Collegiate Athletic Association said Tuesday, announcing penalties stemming from unethical conduct and the university’s failure to monitor the program. Athletes also competed while ineligible, in some cases, with the knowledge and at the direction of coaches, the NCAA’s public infractions report says.

The former head coach also lied to NCAA investigators about having told athletes to compete and sign for meals under the names of “eligible student-athletes or other individuals.” The rowing team will get one year of probation, a $2,500 fine and vacation of women’s rowing results from 2010-12. The former head coach faces a three-year show cause order, making it difficult for her to be hired at another institution, and a former assistant coach who allowed an ineligible athlete to compete and then lied to investigators faces a one-year show cause order.

August 7, 2013

By September, Yale University will clarify what sort of scenarios it considers “nonconsensual sex” after a semi-annual incident report used the term in reference to "a range of behaviors that fall within the university's broad definition of sexual misconduct." The university will also post more information next week about sexual assault investigations and reporting procedures, the New Haven Register reported. Students found responsible for nonconsensual sex received punishments ranging from written reprimand (by far the most common) to mandatory counseling to a two-term suspension. A slew of criticism and accusations that Yale was watering down the issue and failing to properly punish students who committed sexual assault quickly followed the report’s release Friday. A federal investigation into Yale’s handling of sexual assault on campus ended a little over a year ago with a resolution agreement requiring the university to improve its policies, procedures and practices.

August 7, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Nick Royle of the University of Exeter asks if personality is genetically determined or learned. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 6, 2013

Howard University announced a severalfold expansion of its online offerings on Monday. It plans to offer about 25 online or hybrid programs over the next several years, an increase in online activity over the handful of online programs it offers now.

Howard Provost Wayne Frederick said the new online programs would be for undergraduate and graduate students. He said the arrangement was part of an effort to make Howard a more contemporary university and allow the university to expand its nontraditional enrollment and add to its revenue. Frederick said Howard was interested in reaching students in African and Caribbean countries with its fully online offerings, though the pricing structure of the courses has yet to be determined. The university wants to expand its on-campus capacity by using the online classes to help "flip" the classroom. 

The announcement may be particularly significant because historically black colleges and universities, such as Howard, have a reputation for moving their programs online at a slower pace than other universities, for a variety of reasons. “I think over all, it’s a space where students of color and providers of education to students of color are looking very closely because it does represent a contemporary movement in higher education,” Frederick said 

August 6, 2013

Peter Lach, dean of fine arts at Fairmont State University, has been charged by West Virginia authorities with second-degree sexual assault, and has been placed on administrative leave, The Charleston Gazette reported. A male employee told authorities that while he was in Lach's office, Lach pulled down the employee's pants and restrained him while starting oral sex. When the employee resisted, he said that Lach shoved him and that his head hit a copying machine. Lach, who is in jail, could not be reached.

 

August 6, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union is raising questions about why Florida International University called off a planned baseball game at its campus between players from a Cuban team and their former teammates who now live in the United States, the Associated Press reported. The university called off the game less than a week after it started selling tickets, saying that a "contractual matter" led to the decision and refusing to elaborate. The ACLU has filed an open-records request for communication between the university and an anti-Castro group. "We have troubling evidence that Florida International University canceled the contract for the event based on expectations about political speech or fears about hostile reaction from some community groups which may or may not occur," said Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the ACLU of Florida.

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