Higher Education Quick Takes
Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has vetoed legislation that would have allowed students with a permit to carry concealed weapons on campus, the Associated Press reported. The bill also would have allowed students -- with their roommate's permission -- to keep guns in dormitory rooms. Higher education officials lobbied against the bill, arguing that it would endanger students, not protect them. Currently Montana allows students to keep hunting weapons on campus, but they are kept in special lockers where students can get them when they want to go hunting.
The Scholars at Risk network has welcomed the acquittal of Habib Kazdaghli, a dean at the University of Manouba, in Tunisia, who was accused of slapping one of two veiled students who entered his office without permission. The incident was part of a broader dispute involving conservative Muslims about the university’s prohibition on students veiling their faces in the classroom.
The Associated Press reported that the two students in question were convicted of damaging property in the dean’s office. The dean, Kazdaghli, has maintained that he was defending himself against the students’ affront.
James F. Jones Jr. announced Monday that he will retire next year -- a year earlier than planned -- as president of Trinity College in Connecticut, The Hartford Courant reported. Jones has been under sustained criticism from many alumni since last year, when he announced that all fraternities and sororities would be forced to become coeducational. College officials characterized the retirement decision as unrelated to the Greek uproar, but the Courant reported that many alumni critics are dubious, given the extent of anger over the Greek decision.
University of Southern California students are alleging that the more than 70 Los Angeles Police Department officers who responded to a noise complaint and broke up a house party early Sunday morning engaged in racial profiling, The Daily Trojan reported. While police came in with riot gear and batons, those students said, a large house party attended primarily by white students remained undisturbed. Police say some of the 400-or-so students – most of whom were black or Latino, and six of whom were arrested – became aggressive and threw bottles at them, which students denied. One student who attended the celebratory graduation party posted a petition afterward titled “Stop Racial Profiling at USC!”, which had gathered nearly 2,000 signatures as of early Monday evening. The television station KTLA reported that LAPD will investigate the allegation internally.
Syracuse University has decided to leave the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference, which has large payout for members. But Syracuse is bound by its contract with the Big East to pay a $7.5 million exit fee. The university is planning to allocate that bill across the institution, arguing that all parts will benefit from the eventual greater revenues from the ACC. But The Syracuse Post-Standard reported that both student and faculty groups are asking why the athletics department shouldn't pay the $7.5 million, and spare other departments cuts. A petition says: "In light of the fact that the Athletic Department is expected to receive an annual increase from the ACC in excess of $10 million per year, we endorse the resolution of the University Senate and Senate Budget Committee recommending that the $7.5 million Big East exit fee be paid fully by the Athletic Department and not out of student tuition."
Some legislators and civil liberties groups are asking why Governor Chris Christie's administration in New Jersey is planning to award $10.6 million in funds from a voter approved bond issue for college facilities to Beth Medrash Govoha, an all-male, orthodox rabbinical seminary, The Star-Ledger reported. The article notes increasingly close ties between the college's leaders and the Christie administration. The bond vote explicitly included private colleges, and many private colleges in New Jersey have religious affiliations. Critics say that Beth Medrash Govoha -- unlike the Roman Catholic colleges in New Jersey -- appears to have religious tests for admission. College officials deny any religious tests. But critics say that requirements -- such as knowing Hebrew, knowing sacred Jewish texts and agreeing not to date for the first six months enrolled -- suggest a strong religious orientation for all students.
Smith College has been receiving criticism over reports (not confirmed by the college) that a transgender applicant was rejected (although some of those reports suggest that the prospective student's application was returned for more information and not rejected). The college has for many years stated that students who are admitted to Smith may complete their educations, even if they are transgender and start identifying as such while enrolled, despite having presented themselves differently at the time of admission. But until recently, the college's statement on sexual identity said this about admission: "Is Smith still a women's college? Absolutely. As a women's college, Smith only considers female applicants for undergraduate admission." Now, however, the college's statement reads this way: "How does Smith decide who is a woman? It doesn’t. With regard to admission, Smith relies upon the information provided by each student applicant. In other contexts, different definitions and requirements may apply. For example, the definition of a woman for NCAA competition may differ from the definition of a woman for purposes of admission to Smith or other single-sex colleges."
Debra Shaver, dean of admission, said via e-mail that the new statement didn't mean the policy had changed. "We clarified how we consider transgender applicants; we're being more transparent. This is the same practice we've used for more than a decade," she said.
Throughout the economic downturn, some pundits and politicians have suggested that there is limited value to a college degree. An analysis in The New York Times, based on the latest unemployment data, suggests otherwise. The Times noted that in April, when the national unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, the rate for college graduates was 3.9 percent. Further, the number of college-educated graduates with jobs is now up 9.1 percent since the recession started. The number of those with a high school diploma, but no college degree, who have jobs is down 9 percent.