Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 2, 2014

Oklahoma State University students created a sign for their institution's football game against Florida State University (team name "Seminoles") that read in part "Send 'Em 'Home #Trail of Tears," The Tulsa World reported. The sign went viral online, infuriating many for apparently mocking the Trail of Tears, which refers to the expulsion of many Indian tribes from their lands in the Southeast. The Oklahoma State official account originally made a tweet with the sign a favorite, but later apologized and asked that the sign be taken down.

One of the students who was involved published an apology in which he said: "Though we did not set out to hurt or offend anyone when we made our banner, I see that it did just that. Referencing the Trail of Tears in such a flippant and disrespectful manner was insensitive and wrong, and I make no defense for our having had such a lapse in judgment. I apologize for our mistake. I am truly sorry."

September 2, 2014

Most colleges were initially cautious about adopting policies about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which started in countries that send relatively few students to the United States. But with the outbreak continuing, some colleges are announcing extra health screenings for students arriving from some countries in West Africa, the Associated Press reported. Among the institutions starting special screenings are Liberty and Mercer Universities, the State University of New York at Buffalo, and the Universities of Akron and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the AP said. Carolina Live TV News reported that Coastal Carolina University has screened eight students and one faculty member who recently traveled in West Africa.

In developments outside the United States:

  • Senegal reported its first case of Ebola, found in a university student who had come from Guinea, The Guardian reported.
  • Dominica has announced that it will screen all students arriving from West Africa for Ebola, Caribbean 360 reported.
September 2, 2014

Dozens of higher education interest groups submitted comments last week on Senator Tom Harkin’s draft proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

The American Council on Education submitted a consensus letter, signed by 20 other higher education groups, that laid out provisions that garnered widespread support as well as concern. The group’s letter praises efforts to expand and ease access to federal student aid. But it says that colleges and universities are opposed to proposals that would increase federal regulation and reporting requirements. They also oppose a provision that would hold colleges accountable for how well their graduates are able to repay their loans.  

The council said that different sectors of higher education are split over making accreditation documents public, creating a student unit records system, and state-federal college affordability partnerships.

Following are some of the letters submitted separately to Harkin’s office by other higher education associations: 

September 2, 2014

Southern Utah University has removed the name of a prominent alumnus -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- from the building housing the Outdoor Engagement Center of the campus, The Spectrum reported. Local civic leaders objected to having the prominent Democrat's name on a building and offered to raise money to give to the university in return for the removal of Reid's name. University officials said that offer did not motivate them, and that they hoped to have a new building (for which no money has yet been raised) named for Reid.

 

September 2, 2014

University of Texas at Austin police officers detained, questioned and released a student who flew a drone -- without authorization -- over the UT football game Saturday against the University of Northern Texas, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Authorities are continuing an investigation and seized the drone. While there was no apparent harm caused by the drone, a column in Forbes warned of the dangers. "The flight is the type of seemingly harmless, yet actually irresponsible behavior that irks many drone enthusiasts," said the column, by Gregory S. McNeal. "Experienced operators realize that a malfunction or mistake here could have landed the drone on the playing field or in the stands — jeopardizing fan safety or disrupting the game. That type of televised incident might cause substantial harm to the nascent industry as it struggles to overcome public relations problems associated with irresponsible operators."

 

September 2, 2014

Christine Plunkett, president of the financially struggling Burlington College, told protesters who confronted her Friday, "I resign. Happy? Goodbye," The Burlington Free Press reported. The newspaper said that other officials indicated that Plunkett had not resigned. Plunkett did not respond to an email from Inside Higher Ed seeking clarification of her status, but on Monday, the board released a statement indicating that she had resigned, and announcing new interim leadership, the Free Press reported.

 

September 2, 2014

Several campuses in the California State University System are trying to rebrand themselves, The Los Angeles Times reported. The campuses want more individual identities and to avoid confusion with University of California institutions. California State University at Los Angeles officials believe their acronym CSULA is frequently confused with UCLA. California State University at Long Beach wants to be known as "the Beach." And California State University at Northridge is promoting the acronym CSUN (to be pronounced SEA-sun).

September 2, 2014

The seven-figure salaries of Division I football coaches are worthwhile economic investments, according to a new study by Vanderbilt University researchers, The New York Times reported. The study has not been peer reviewed or published, but a draft was shared with the Times. "If one believes that CEO compensation is set by the market at an appropriate level, and that employment contracts reflect this equilibrium, then one should reach the same conclusion about football coaches,” the study says.

 

September 2, 2014

The Lynn, Mass. public school district has ended an 11-year relationship with Gordon College in which the latter sent student volunteers into the schools, The Boston Globe reported. The relationship was ended because Gordon's president, Michael Lindsay, signed a letter to President Obama asserting that an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring should exempt religious institutions. Like many Christian colleges, Gordon bars students and faculty members from any sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

 

September 2, 2014

The Communist Party Committee at Peking University has published an article in an influential journal in China demanding that students and faculty members not criticize the party, Reuters reported. Students and professors must "take a firm stand and be unequivocal, and fight against speech and actions that touch upon the party's and country's principles and bottom lines in a timely, efficient and resolute manner," said the article. It is viewed as another sign that China is clamping down on free speech at universities.

 

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