Higher Education Quick Takes
With a vote by the House of Delegates Tuesday, both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have now confirmed Helen Dragas for another term on the University of Virginia board, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Dragas was the leader of an effort last year to oust Teresa Sullivan as president (an effort that briefly appeared to succeed). Many critics of the board's handling of the situation last year hoped legislators would block the re-appointment of Dragas. While some lawmakers opposed the move, the final vote to confirm -- 63 to 33 -- wasn't close.
Boston College has asked a federal appeals court to reverse a court order that the college turn over some oral history records to British authorities, the Associated Press reported. Many historians have opposed release of the records, saying that violating the terms under which people gave oral history interviews would discourage others from talking to researchers. (Many oral history interviews are given on the condition that they remain sealed for specified periods of time.) The British have said that they needed to records to pursue possible criminal charges against those involved with violence in Northern Ireland. Last week, however, Dolours Price -- the apparent target of the criminal investigation and one of those who were interviewed for the Boston College collection -- died. Boston College now says that since there can be no legal charge brought against her, there is no reason to force release of the papers.
Could the National Football League offer a model for reforming college admissions? A paper being released today by the Center for American Progress argues that it could. The NFL "establishes rules that temper competitive practices that could harm the game of football," says the paper, by Jerome A. Lucido, executive director of the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice at the University of Southern California. Lucido argues that just as the NFL bans steroids, college admissions (with institutions acting collectively) could ban "hyped facts and figures." Every college could be required to report information such as the extent to which the college considers family ability to pay in admissions decisions, how close to full need colleges' aid packages are, policies that govern the renewal of aid awards, and the admission rates for students with various credentials. And just as the NFL engages in revenue-sharing, colleges could (possibly with some relief from antitrust monitors) work together to increase need-based aid, and agree on common terms so families could better understand the true "price" of a college education.
WASHINGTON — A panel discussion at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's annual conference here Tuesday highlighted differences between Senate Democrats and House Republicans as the deadline for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act looms at the end of the year. While many don't expect the reauthorization will be done on time, and perhaps will not be finished during this Congress, the panel highlighted a key divide between the parties: House Republicans, represented on the panel by Amy Jones, education policy counsel to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, favor some consumer disclosures from colleges but fewer mandates and regulations. Senate Democrats, represented by Spiros Protopsaltis, senior education policy adviser to the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, are seeking metrics to judge college's value. They emphasized to accreditors that many on Capitol Hill don't understand accreditation or understand its value — a key concern since reauthorization is expected to touch on accreditation and related issues.
A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit charging that Kaplan Higher Education discriminated against black job applicants by rejecting some people seeking employment because of their credit histories, The New York Times reported. The suit, brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said that relying on credit histories has a disproportionate impact on black applicants. The suit was dismissed after the judge agreed to block testimony from an expert witness for the EEOC, finding that the way that witness identified which job applicants were black was not reliable.
For many fans, the continuing whirlwind of athletic conference realignment has been a mixed blessing: while it brings league-hopping programs greater revenue and visibility, it also puts an end to traditional college rivalry competitions. But one state legislator is refusing to accept the latter consequence. Following Texas A&M University’s move last year from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, Democratic Rep. Ryan Guillen has filed a bill that would require an annual football showdown between that institution and the University of Texas at Austin, The Texas Tribune reported. Under the law, if either institution chose to forgo the game -- which spanned a century before coming to a halt in 2012 -- it would face athletic scholarship reductions.
However, football fans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up. Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at the Vermont Law School, told Sports Illustrated that he doesn't think the bill has "a plausible shot” at becoming law. And if it somehow did, unintended legal consequences could follow, and the universities would likely claim it unconstitutional.
Student and faculty groups at Gustavus Adolphus College are calling for the resignation of President Jack Ohle, saying that he has ignored faculty members and tried to diminish their role, questioning his handling of budget decisions, and arguing that his approach is more like that of a business leader than an academic leader, The Mankato Free Press reported. A website called GustieLeaks has also started publishing documents -- some of them leaked -- about the dispute and about Ohle's leadership. Ohle referred questions to the college's board, which had the college spokesman issue a statement that it was reviewing the situation. The statement said that Ohle has been meeting with faculty and student groups to discuss their concerns.
Harvard University officials have urged all faculty members to be clear in their syllabuses on policies about student collaboration, The Boston Globe reported. Some students complained last year, when the university experienced a major cheating scandal, that instructors were vague about the kind of collaboration that was permitted (and even encouraged) versus the kind of collaboration that would constitute cheating. The Globe quoted from the syllabus for an applied mathematics course to illustrate the kind of specificity now being encouraged. "For problem sets, students are strongly encouraged to collaborate in planning and thinking through solutions, but must write up their own solutions without checking over their written solution with another student," the syllabus said. "Do not pass solutions to problem sets nor accept them from another student. If you are ever in doubt, ask the course staff to clarify what is and isn’t appropriate."
The new chancellor of California's community colleges, Brice W. Harris, has written in opposition to a legal challenge to the system's shared governance structure. California Competes, a nonprofit group led by Robert Shireman, says local academic senates have illegal veto power over board actions, which contributes to a "tangled bureaucracy." Harris, however, said the shared governance regulations are lawful and good public policy. And while he said the group's intentions are well-meaning, they are "seriously flawed."