Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 9, 2013

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.

July 9, 2013

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.

 

July 9, 2013

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. 
 

July 8, 2013

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  has filed an objection to a unionization bid by faculty members at the University Laboratory High School that the campus runs, The News-Gazette reported. The union organizers say that these faculty members are entitled to collective bargaining. But the university says that these teachers are part of a larger group of non-tenure-track faculty members at Urbana-Champaign, and that any consideration of a union should involve all such instructors, not just those at the high school.

July 8, 2013

Pima Community College has faced a series of controversies and been placed on probation by its accreditor in the last year, all the while generally defending its actions. But The Arizona Daily Star noted that the college's latest report on dealing with its accreditation woes takes a different approach, admitting problems and apologizing for them. Among other things, the college has been accused of ignoring issues of sexual harassment and moving too quickly to change admissions policies. Among the statements in the college's report that the Daily Star highlighted:

  • "We accept full responsibility and say we are profoundly sorry for the serious breaches of integrity."
  • "The era of inattention and heedlessness is over."
  • "We failed to respond quickly and give proper credence to allegations of sexual misconduct."
  • "Our constituents, stakeholders and colleagues spoke, but we did not listen. For this, we are truly sorry."

 

 

July 8, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Andrew Juhl of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory explains why, when it comes to pollution, the extremes are more important than the mean. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 8, 2013

Students whose parents have university degrees but are working in jobs that don't typically require such a degree were likelier than their peers to question the value of applying to college, a new study of British college-aged youth finds. The study, conducted by Britain's Strategies Society Centre and funded by Universities UK and Pearson, compares the college-going aspirations and behavior of a group of academically qualified and interested British students who considered not applying to a university and those who never had any such hesitation. It is published in the wake of the British government's decision to significantly increase tuition levels.

The report provides a wealth of information about which factors are likeliest to deter students from considering enrolling and from ultimately doing so. In general, the data back up the conventional wisdom that students from economically disadvantaged families are more likely than their peers to consider not applying to attend a university. But while having a parent with a university education generally made students less likely to express concern about applying to college, that pattern did not hold true for those at lower socioeconomic levels.

“It seems that when young people weigh up the costs and benefits of higher education, the experience of their parents is paramount,” said James Lloyd, director of the Strategic Society Centre.

July 8, 2013

Some of the wealthiest American universities are starting to invest in Africa, seeing the potential for large gains, Reuters reported. Northwestern University, with holdings in companies in Kenya and Nigeria, recently doubled its African investments. Other large endowments investing in Africa include those of the Universities of Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and Wisconsin. Rockefeller University is expected to make such an investment this year.

 

July 8, 2013

WASHINGTON — The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education has sent a letter to the Education Department protesting the appointment of another interim director for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities rather than a permanent leader. The previous director, John Wilson, left in January to become president of Morehouse College. Historically black colleges have already felt under fire from the Obama administration since the Education Department tightened underwriting standards for parent PLUS loans, leading to a wave of loan denials that HBCU leaders say have fallen disproportionately on their institutions.

"The decision to have the White House Initiative on HBCUs without leadership for almost a year is confounding, especially given the administration's higher education goals and the vitally important role HBCUs must play in reaching the goals," the group wrote. "The appointment of yet another interim executive director does not bode well for the HBCU community, whose challenges are many, immediate, and likely to have lasting adverse impacts."

"We recognize the prominent role of our nation's historically black colleges and universities to provide students with a high-quality higher education and help our nation reach the 2020 goal for the U.S. to have the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world," Education Department spokesman Daren Briscoe said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. "During this transition, we are continuing conversations to ensure the White House Initiative on HBCUs has the best leadership in place to harness the opportunities and navigate the challenges that face HBCUs today, and we are moving as quickly as possible to find a permanent executive director."

 

July 8, 2013

Ball State University has hired Guillermo Gonzalez -- a prominent figure in intelligent design -- as assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy, The Star Press reported. Gonzalez was denied tenure at Iowa State University, where he said that he was being punished for his views, but his faculty colleagues said he was rejected based on traditional tenure criteria. A broad consensus exists among scientists that evolution, not intelligent design, explains the origins of the earth. And many scientists -- while having no problem with intelligent design as a focus in philosophy or religion classes -- object to science departments teaching it. Ball State is currently investigating a complaint that another faculty member in physics and astronomy was inserting religious, creationist views into a science course.

 

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