Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 27, 2014

South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Glen McConnell says he can overcome the backlash that erupted after he was named the next president of the College of Charleston, a public liberal arts college. McConnell, who has been criticized for not being an academic and for his affiliation with Confederate historical causes, said time as leader of the state Senate taught him how to bring together divided constituencies. McConnell, a former student government president at the college, said students who staged a protest after his selection that was the largest in recent memory just need to get to know him. “Most of those people have never met me,” he said. ”They don’t know anything about me. They just know what somebody told them. When you operate on a misconception, then you don’t know the truth.” (McConnell did not respond to a request for an interview for the story linked to above, but reached out after it was published Wednesday.)

The student government has already taken a “no confidence” vote in the college’s trustees. The Faculty Senate is expected to take one next month. One of the concerns is that McConnell got the job through a rigged search process – he was selected despite not being one of the search committee’s finalists, according local media reports. McConnell said in a phone interview he didn’t know for sure about that.

Faculty also worry the trustees are looking to merge the college with a separate state-run medical school in Charleston. McConnell said he wants to expand the College of Charleston's research and post-graduate work to ensure that the state doesn’t force a merger. “I’m a product of a liberal arts college – the College of Charleston,” he said.

Faculty also say the board did not do enough to stick up for academic freedom after the state’s House moved to dock the college’s allowance over freshman reading material that lawmakers found to be gay-themed and therefore offensive. The book, Fun Home, is a memoir by a lesbian; it has been widely acclaimed and was recently turned into a musical. McConnell said he believes in academic freedom but would have handled the situation differently and not gotten into a tussle with House lawmakers and instead promised to take their concerns back to the faculty. But, he said, it’s not his job to tell faculty which books to assign. “Look,” he said. “I’m not qualified to tell a professor what to teach in their course.”

March 26, 2014

A few weeks ago The New York Times, while recruiting students for its own unpaid video internship (the ad for which has been removed), commended Columbia and New York Universities for moving away from internships that substitute academic credit for pay. After being called out on the apparent hypocrisy, the paper of record told BoroughBuzz Tuesday that it will pay interns minimum wage, starting now. Interns who previously worked 10 to 13 hours a week during an academic semester for a $500 stipend will now make $8 an hour.

March 26, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Veronica Davidov, assistant professor of anthropology at Monmouth University, observes the interesting symbiosis of tourism and industry. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

March 26, 2014

Division I's new Board of Directors will include an athletics director, a faculty athletics representative and a current athlete as voting members, the National Collegiate Athletic Association committee charged with proposing a new governance model said Tuesday. College presidents, who currently make up the entire board, will fill the remaining seats. During a "Division I governance dialogue" at the annual NCAA convention in January, many in the room expressed concern that athletes and others who are in the thick of athletics did not have enough say in governance. The NCAA said it would consider feedback from the dialogue while moving toward a final proposal, which is expected to be put up for a vote at the current Division I Board's August meeting.

The proposed model also breaks down voting power among the new 34-person group called the Council, which will conduct "the day-to-day legislative functions of the division." (The board will be responsible for bigger-picture issues and questions.) The breakdown gives the five major Bowl Championship Series conferences 37 percent of the vote; the next five-biggest conferences get 18.6 percent, and the remaining 22 conferences get 40.7 percent power. The remaining 3.7 percent goes to athletes.

March 26, 2014

Two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent a letter last month warning lawyers at about 75 universities that "few, if any, college and university diversity admissions programs" would meet the test set by the Supreme Court in its ruling in Fisher v. Texas last June on affirmative action. The authors of the letter, Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, are in a clear minority on the panel: they are an independent and Republican, respectively, while the other four current members are all Democrats, and President Obama has two remaining spots to fill.

The views they express in the letter -- which they made clear were delivered in their "capacity as individual commissioners" -- are consistent with what they have often said before in criticizing colleges' consideration of race in admissions, arguing both that it is illegal and that racial preferences "hurt, rather than help, their intended beneficiaries."

College officials questioned the approach taken by the letter writers. “A letter on Civil Rights Commission stationery from a couple members sharing their personal legal interpretation of the Fisher decision does nothing to help campuses deal with these thorny issues but it can easily confuse and mislead those officials who receive it about the Commission’s views," Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said via email.

The civil rights commission had a discussion more than two years ago over whether it was appropriate for individual members of the panel to send correspondence on commission letterhead. The panel's members concluded that it was permitted as long as the letter writers made it clear they were not speaking on behalf of the panel.

March 26, 2014

California's storied Master Plan has led to a structure and financing of public higher education that is out of sync with the needs of students and the state, according to a new report from the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy (IHELP) at California State University at Sacramento. The report calls for heightened planning and collaboration at the regional level. It also makes the case for more cost-effective specialization at individual institutions as well as the broader use of technology, such as online education.

March 26, 2014

Timothy Flanagan, who resigned Saturday as president of Illinois State University, has been charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, The Chicago Tribune reported. The resignation, after less than a year in office, came amid an investigation of an altercation with a grounds-keeper. Flanagan has denied doing anything wrong.

 

March 26, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City has big plans to increase the number of qualified pre-K teachers, and announced plans to work with City University of New York’s Early Childhood Professional Development Institute to do so The mayor released a report Tuesday, announcing a $6.7 million partnership with the university to recruit and train about 400 New Yorkers so they can become certified to teach pre-K students. The effort is designed to help the city expand full-day pre-kindergarten, a major goal of the new mayor. The Department of Education projects that the city needs up to 1,000 new teachers this fall and another 1,000 next year to meet this goal.

 

March 26, 2014

The editors of The American Scholar -- the quarterly magazine of the Phi Beta Kappa Society -- have chosen 10 of their favorite sentences from fiction and nonfiction. Examples include:

"I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race." --James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

"It was a fine cry — loud and long — but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow."  --Toni Morrison, Sula

The rest may be found at The American Scholar's website.

March 25, 2014

Many faculty members at Rutgers University at New Brunswick are upset that the university's board approved a plan to invite Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state in the administration of President George W. Bush, to be commencement speaker. Now faculty leaders are upset for a related reason: They asked for time at the next meeting of the Board of Governors to explain their opposition to Rice, and they were turned down. University officials say that they could have expressed their views at the meeting where Rice's selection was approved, but that they can't speak now. A university spokesman confirmed the decision via email, explaining it this way: "The bylaws of the Rutgers University Board of Governors set forth a process for speaking at meetings. Speakers are welcome to address any action items that are listed on the BOG agenda. The selection of Condoleezza Rice was on a previous (Feb. 4, 2014) agenda and approved by the Board of Governors."

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