Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 17, 2014

Seven of the 15 members of the College of Charleston’s presidential search committee warned trustees against politicizing the process that eventually selected South Carolina’s lieutenant governor.

In documents, first reported by The Post and Courier, nearly half the members of the search committee -- including the head of the college’s foundation -- said the trustees could end up doing long-term damage to the college. The trustees picked Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell, and now his promotion of Confederate history and the process by which he was picked could damage Charleston’s reputation and turn away prospective students and donors.

Faculty have said the search process was a sham, given that McConnell emerged at the top of the heap despite reports the search committee didn’t choose him as a finalist.

“After our work concluded, rumors have run rampant here in Charleston about the candidate slate presented to you and the likelihood the slate will be modified,” the seven search committee members wrote on Feb. 25, a month before McConnell was named president. “These rumors beg the question -- is the integrity of the process we worked under being assaulted? If a politicization of this process occurs, the consequences will be far reaching.”

The letter predicted the college would damage its ability to recruit quality faculty, staff, deans and future presidents and lose the confidence of nearly every campus constituent group. So far, the latter half of that prediction is playing out: students have held a major protest against McConnell and the student government and faculty have both taken a “no confidence” vote in the board.

The documents also include emails from Sharon Kingman, the chairwoman of the College of Charleston Foundation Board, that say lawmakers put pressure on the trustees to pick one candidate over another and discusses "the conspiracy theory" that McConnell could eventually seek a spot on the state’s Supreme Court. The justices are selected by the state legislature.

April 17, 2014

Should Sean Combs -- known to many as Puff Daddy or P. Diddy -- be Howard University's commencement speaker? Howard's announcement called him an "entrepreneur and entertainment mogul," and mentioned that he had been a student at Howard in the late 1980s. But the statement didn't state explicitly that he is a dropout. So some people are talking -- and websites are compiling Tweets -- on whether Combs is an appropriate choice as speaker. Critics ask about the message sent by having a dropout speak at commencement. For example, one comment on Twitter said "diddy is gonna make the commencement speech at Howard but what is he gonna say. 'Well I dropped outta here & got rich but good luck,'" and another said, "Can someone explain why Diddy, a person who never graduated from Howard, is speaking at graduation?"

But others defended him. One comment: "Strange to see so many people displeased w/ Diddy being HU's commencement speaker. Too caught up in his lack of degree to note his successes." And one person on Twitter offered an interesting comparison: "Diddy's net worth is greater than Howard's Endowment. Just to give some context."

 

April 17, 2014

Mid-Continent University, a private institution in Kentucky, will close June 30, KFVS 12 News reported. The university has been financially struggling, and facing rumors about a possible closure for months. All employees received layoff notices, and the university hopes that some faculty members will volunteer to allow a final cohort of students to graduate. The university enrolls about 300 students on campus, and another 600 online or through off-campus programs.

 

April 17, 2014

Beginning next month, the massive open online course provider Udacity will cut the first O from the acronym and only offer MOCs. Founder Sebastian Thrun, whose "pivot" last year shifted the company's focus to corporate training, in a blog post announced Udacity will stop issuing free course completion certificates on May 16. The course materials will still be available on the website for independent study, but in order to earn a certificate, students need to verify their identity. That track is currently available for about $150 a month.

"Discontinuing the 'free' certificates has been one of the most difficult decisions we've made," Thrun wrote. "We know that many of our hardworking students can’t afford to pay for classes. At the same time, we cannot hope that our certificates will ever carry great value, if we don’t make this change."

April 17, 2014

Phil Hanlon, president of Dartmouth College, Wednesday night told student leaders that it was time for the institution to end certain behaviors that he said are undermining the college's outstanding undergraduate education and experience.

"Dartmouth's promise is being hijacked, hijacked by extreme and harmful behaviors, masked by their perpetrators as acceptable fun," Hanlson said. "The list of offenses is familiar. From sexual assaults on campus … to dangerous drinking that has become more the rule than the exception … to a general disregard for human dignity as exemplified by hazing, events with racist and sexist undertones, disgusting and sometimes threatening insults hurled on the Internet … a social scene that is too often at odds with the practices of inclusion that students are right to expect on a college campus in 2014."

Hanlon said that these behaviors are hurting the college, citing a decline in applications this year as one example. "We can no longer allow this college to be held back by the few who wrongly hide harmful behaviors behind the illusion of youthful exuberance. Routinized excessive drinking, sexual misconduct, and blatant disregard of social norms have no place at Dartmouth. Enough is enough."

He called for a task force -- including students -- to move to come up with strategies for changing campus culture.

 

April 16, 2014

The Tennessee House of Representatives on Tuesday, following a similar vote in the Senate, approved a plan by Governor Bill Haslam to offer free community college tuition to all graduates of high schools in the state, The Tennessean reported. The plan will take effect in fall 2015. Governor Haslam, a Republican, has pushed the plan as a key way for the state to encourage a larger share of the population to seek college credentials. The idea of free community college tuition has also been discussed in other states, but the Tennessee plan -- with the strong advocacy of a governor -- has attracted attention nationally and is now being adopted.

April 16, 2014

Virginia Intermont College announced Tuesday that its planned merger with Webber International University would not go through. The two institutions "have reached the joint and difficult conclusion that we do not have a viable model for merger in July. This deeply saddens the administration and the boards of each school, as we have very high regard for one another and we both strongly believe in Webber’s goal of uniting small colleges in order to preserve their identities," the statement said. Virginia Intermont has been struggling financially and hoped that linking up with a larger, business oriented university like Webber would allow the liberal arts program in Virginia to survive. Tuesday's statement said that the university would finish the semester and offer a summer session that ends June 27. But the statement did not indicate how the college plans to operate after that.

The Washington Post noted that Virginia Intermont's enrollment in the fall was 378, a 35 percent decline since 2010.

 

April 16, 2014

Ball State University is planning to toughen post-tenure review to weed out "chronic low performers" on the faculty, The Star Press reported. Under the plan, faculty members whose performance is unsatisfactory two years in a row or three years out of five will be given a year to improve or to face termination. Ball State officials said that only a very small share of faculty members fit this category, but that failing to deal with them creates extra work for other professors. Dave Pearson, chair of the University Senate, said, “It’s a very, very small problem, but it can cause real problems in small departments.... I think the faculty have bought into this."

April 16, 2014

Dartmouth College is running an advertising campaign touting its work to better prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus, to counter another online ad campaign by the women’s rights advocacy group UltraViolet, which says Dartmouth has a “rape problem.” Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the UltraViolet ads, which are aimed at prospective and current students and alumni, have been seen more than 60,000 times since they started running more than a week ago. The Dartmouth ads, which are running on websites including that of The Boston Globe, redirect readers to a web page describing how – “Consistent with President Obama’s call to action to address sexual assault” – the college is “making progress on a number of fronts.”

Dartmouth is one of a few dozen colleges whose sexual assault response is being put under the microscope by the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights. However, the review at Dartmouth differs from the investigations OCR has recently opened at dozens of other colleges in that it's a compliance review, opened proactively by OCR, and did not stem from an official federal complaint (by a student or otherwise) alleging that the college has violated Title IX.

(Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Dartmouth is undergoing a compliance review, not a Title IX complaint, by OCR.)

April 16, 2014

The National Collegiate Athletic Association's Legislative Council voted Tuesday to let Division I institutions offer free unlimited meals, not just the standard three a day, for athletes, USA Today reported. The change still requires approval by the Division I board.

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