A fire that killed a student Monday at Saddleback College, a community college in California, was set deliberately, The Los Angeles Times reported. Authorities have not figured out whether the male student who died was a victim of the fire or set it.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday held a wide-ranging hearing on innovation in higher education. Members from both sides of the aisle expressed interest in competency-based education and prior learning assessment. The continued relevance of the credit hour standard was also discussed. Speakers included representatives from the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning, StraighterLine, the University System of Maryland, and Western Governors University.
A number of colleges are currently facing complaints that they do not adequately investigate charges of sexual assault. A male student who was suspended by Saint Joseph's University is suing the Philadelphia institution under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Bloomberg reported. The student says that he was accused of rape (over what he says was consensual sex, and says he has text messages that back his version of events) and that the university's system of investigating such accusations is designed to assure findings of guilt against accused males. That, he says, is sex discrimination. The university declined to comment on the accusations.
Amherst College spent $19 million on architectural and other expenses for a planned $245 million science building that the college has now decided not to build, The Boston Globe reported. Amherst officials say that they still need and plan to find a way to build a new science facility, but that the planned building was creating too many problems. The Globe article uses the Amherst situation to discuss competing pressures on colleges as the plan the best spaces for scientists. In the Amherst case, some science professors say that the project grew more expensive and more complicated in part because of a desire for architectural details (a light filled atrium, for example) as opposed to focusing on the basic lab spaces that the professors need.
A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2014 spending bill that supports the launch of a “Race to the Top” program focusing on college affordability and calls for a significant increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies bill set discretionary spending at $164.3 billion. The bill includes $400 million to support the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative. This is a noticeable difference from last year’s budget plan, which omitted the $1 billion the administration had requested for the initiative. The funding for the program will be an incentive for states to reduce college costs and improve academic outcomes. The subcommittee would also allocate $850 million for the TRIO programs, which help low-income, first generation college students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education.
The Senate’s bill would also provide $31 billion to the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $307 million from last year, to fund biomedical research. The funding would allow the NIH to allocate $40 million for the new Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.
Under the plan, the total maximum Pell Grant would rise by $140 to $5,785.
The House has not yet introduced its version of the appropriations bill. It is considered unlikely that the two bills will be reconciled and passed. The full appropriations committee will meet on Thursday.
Robert Agrella is the new "special trustee" for City College of San Francisco, which may lose its accreditation next year. The California community college system chancellor, Brice W. Harris, appointed Agrella to the role on Monday. Agrella had previous served as the system's representative on the City College governing board -- a position that was created last year, after the college's received a stiff sanction from its regional accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The new trustee position will come with added and "extraordinary" powers, according to Harris.
Meanwhile, the American Association of University Professors weighed in with an initial take on the crisis. In a news release the faculty group cited criticisms about the commission that professors at City College and faculty union leaders in California have voiced, including that the accreditor has been "excessive and unfair" in its treatment of CCSF and other community colleges. The association promised to investigate those concerns and urged the commission to reconsider its decision to yank City College's accreditation.
Yeshiva University has been sued for $380 million by 19 former students of the high school it runs, who allege a cover-up of sexual abuse by a teacher and administrator there, The Forward reported. The abuse is alleged to have taken place in the 1970s and 1980s, and Yeshiva officials have admitted that they did not notify authorities of the charges when they heard about them. Normally the statute of limitations on such charges would have passed, but the lawyer for the ex-students is focusing on what the suit says was a fraudulent covering up of the abuse. Not only did the university not turn over the accused to authorities, but the university treated them as honorable people, making victims uncertain of what to do and unaware that others were being abused. The university declined to comment on the suit.
Lawyers representing former athletes who are challenging the National Collegiate Athletic Association's commercial use of their likenesses (for which the athletes receive no compensation) are trying to make sure that the association will not punish any current athletes who join the suit, USA Today reported. The lead lawyer in the antitrust suit send a letter asking the NCAA to stipulate that it would not retaliate if a current player is added to the suit, as a federal judge's ruling last week permitted. An NCAA lawyer told the newspaper that the association would never take action against an athlete for joining a legal matter against the association.
London Mayor Boris Johnson is under attack for a quip suggesting that female students are still after Mrs. degrees. Times Higher Education reported that Johnson was on a panel on which Malaysia's prime minister was talking about the increasing number of women enrolling. Johnson said that women "have got to find men to marry." Twitter is full of outrage over the comment. One comment: "Women go to university to bag themselves a husband! Sure, it still being 1953!" Another: "Does this mean I can get a refund on my student loan?! Didn't find a husband at my uni... “
A federal appeals court on Monday reinstated a federal False Claims Act lawsuit brought against ITT Educational Services, Inc. by a former enrollment official. A federal judge in Indiana dismissed the suit against the for-profit higher education provider last year, saying the court did not have jurisdiction because the plaintiffs in the case were not the original source of the allegations against the company, as is required under the false claims law. The court also slapped the plaintiffs with nearly $400,000 in fines for having brought, in the judge's words, a "frivolous" lawsuit.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sharply disagreed Monday. The appeals panel agreed that the False Claims Act -- in which parties sue companies or others on behalf of the federal government, claiming that the defendants have defrauded the treasury of funds and hoping to be joined by the U.S. Justice Department -- requires a suing party to come forward with allegations that were not previously in the public domain. But the Seventh Circuit court concluded that the charges made by Debra Leveski, the former employee at an ITT campus in Michigan, differed sufficiently from previously disclosed information about the company that the case can appropriately be heard by the federal court.
In directing the lower court to consider the case, and in at least temporarily reversing the financial penalties against her lawyer, the court said: "We do not know whether Leveski will ultimately prevail, nor do we state any opinion as to whether Leveski should ultimately prevail. But we do believe that Leveski should be allowed to litigate her case on the merits, and thus, sanctions for bringing a frivolous lawsuit are inappropriate."