Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 6, 2015

Faculty leaders at Clemson University have renewed a push to rename a campus building that honors Benjamin Tillman (right), a notoriously racist politician in South Carolina who was known for promoting and joining in violence against black people. Faculty members and students have been pushing for a change for some time, but the board has rejected the idea. Now, in the wake of the Charleston murders, nine past presidents of the Faculty Senate have issued an open letter calling for the board to reconsider.

"While renaming Tillman Hall will, in isolation, fail to secure a sustainable and more inclusive future for the university, it is far more than symbolic. It is an affirmation that honoring those whose station and legacy were achieved in significant measure via the vilest actions of intolerance has no place at Clemson University now or in the future -- even as the history, university-related role and scholarly study of those same individuals must have an indelible role in our educational mission. It is an affirmation that community matters; that ignorance can be replaced with enlightenment; that the administration and our board have a special responsibility as stewards of our institutional culture; and that we can hold, recognize, adapt to and share changing values."

David Wilkins, chair of the Clemson board, told The Greenville News last week that the board has no plans to rename the building.

July 6, 2015

An article in The Los Angeles Times explores how the California State University System won an additional $97 million from the state this year. Much of the attention in the legislative session focused on the very public debate over funding for the University of California System. But Cal State took a more low-key approach, without threats of tuition increases. Instead, Cal State relied on lobbying by administrators, alumni, faculty members and students, creative use of social media, and also red "I Stand With CSU" socks (at right), which were popular with legislators.

July 6, 2015

The American College of Greece, which offers an American-style and American-accredited education for 2,500 students in Athens, is allowing students to enroll without making a down payment that would normally be required, in light of the closure of banks and Greece's economic crisis. The vote Sunday by Greek citizens against a bailout plan that would have imposed new austerity measures may add to the economic chaos. About 84 percent of students are Greek nationals, so the lack of access to their funds and family funds is significant. Thimios Zaharopoulos, provost of the college, said via email that the continued closure of banks could create problems for the college and all parts of Greek society. The college's endowment, he said, is in the United States and so should not be directly affected by the crisis.

Zaharopoulos was optimistic about the long term. "ACG has been around for 140 years and has survived multiple disasters. It will survive this one as well," he said.

July 6, 2015

The primary trade group for the for-profit sector, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), said last week that it will appeal a federal court ruling over the Obama administration-led gainful employment rules, which went into effect this month.

A federal court in 2012 largely invalidated a previous version of the regulations. But last month a federal judge rejected a legal challenge by the for-profit group to the new rules, which require vocational programs at for-profits (and nondegree programs at community colleges) to meet minimum thresholds with the debt-to-income rates of graduates. A different federal court also upheld the rules in response to a legal challenge by a for-profit association in New York.

APSCU said it would appeal, arguing that gainful employment “needlessly complicates the efforts of new traditional students to achieve a career-focused education that helps them get jobs, and we will continue to fight to keep opportunities open for students who are often struggling to juggle family, work and school.”

July 6, 2015

Baylor University has dropped a reference to "homosexual acts" from a list in its sexual misconduct policy of barred activities, The Waco Tribune reported. The shift does not mean that gay people have acceptance at Baylor. Lori Fogelman, a spokeswoman, said that the university would continue to apply the policy in a way consistent with Baptist beliefs that define acceptable "sexual expression" as being between a married man and woman. Fogelman told the Tribune that "these changes were made because we didn’t believe the language reflected the university’s caring community."

 

July 6, 2015

Webster University was found to owe the U.S. government $95,464 for federal aid violations involving its programs in the United Kingdom administered in partnership with Regent’s University London. An examination of the agreement between Webster and Regent’s led Education Department auditors to conclude that Regent’s, not Webster, was the entity that was primarily responsible for the delivery of the programs, and that Webster had therefore “permitted an ineligible institution [Regent’s] to improperly receive Title IV [Higher Education Act] program funds and provide a program to Title IV recipients.”

Webster, a private university based in St. Louis, was found to owe $87,869 in improperly disbursed Pell Grants, plus another $1,024 in interest and an additional $6,571 to account for projected defaults on direct loans that were awarded to students in the ineligible programs.

A Department of Education spokesman said that Webster had paid the full amount and had not appealed. “Webster has met all commitments to the Department of Education,” Webster said in a statement. Webster, which has campuses in seven countries, including a campus in Thailand that has a host of problems, is ending its partnership with Regent’s.

“As the [department's] report clearly concludes, this issue was exclusive to degree-seeking students enrolled full-time in programs offered at Regent’s University campus,” the university's statement said. “Webster looks forward to identifying new campus partners in the U.K. that will allow us to continue our presence there.”

July 6, 2015

The social sciences department at the University of Buenos Aires is being criticized for hosting a live sex performance with actors, the Associated Press reported. The event was promoted as a "post-porn" work of performance art. Rector Alberto Barbieri said that the university is investigating. He said he was particularly concerned about the event taking place in a public space where minors could attend.

July 6, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Michael Howell, a neurologist at the University of Minnesota, discusses the importance of sleep training. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 2, 2015

The Chicago Tribune had to sue to get records of the expenses of Robert Breuder, who is currently on leave as president of the College of DuPage, a community college outside Chicago. The documents that were released show considerable spending that theoretically was about building relationships with donors, but frequently didn't involve donors so much as senior administrators, trustees and vendors.

For example, for one outing to a private fish and game reserve with three others, including the college lawyer and a vendor, Breuder spent $1,292 in college foundation funds -- on two bottles of red wine purchased in advance, a lunch, gun rental and ammunition. Thirty pheasants were shot. Other uses of foundation funds include $1,450 for four days of dining in California wine country, and $683 for a "unique" wine pairings event at a liquor store.

Foundation officials have defended spending as necessary to build relationships and cultivate donors. Breuder was unavailable for comment.

 

 

July 2, 2015

Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, two candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, shared thoughts on higher education in the past two days.

Bloomberg described a recent event where Bush was asked about the problem of student debt. Bush said that part of the problem was created by students taking too long to graduate. On campus these days, he said, students have "the French work week. It’s not the kids’ fault." He said that administrators were to blame for considering 12 credits a full course load.

BuzzFeed News interviewed Cruz about, among other things, affirmative action, which the senator opposes. He said that colleges should focus on academic merit and not race, and he said that leading universities are today enforcing "negative quotas" against Asian applicants much the way they once did for Jewish applicants. “We see it now with colleges in California … negative quotas against Asian students because academically they’re excelling," he said.

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