Sonoma State University is apologizing for an incident in which a student working an an orientation event for new students was told by an administrator to remove her necklace because it had a cross on it, and that might offend other students. The Liberty Institute, a group that defends the rights of religious people, has written the university, demanding that the student be allowed to wear the cross, which is an expression of her religious faith. A spokeswoman for the university said that the student never should have been asked to take off the necklace, and that the university regrets the incident and wants to make sure nothing similar happens in the future.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A report issued Tuesday by Education Sector, a Washington, D.C. think tank, examines the federal government's three-year cohort default rate for federal student loans as well as alternative ways to measure how many students fail to repay their debt. The report, "In Debt and In the Dark," argues that current publicly available information on loan defaults is incomplete and doesn't represent students' total risk of default. The author, Andrew Gillen, research director of Education Sector, calls for combining default rates with graduation rates — saying that graduation rates that exceed default rates, found at 514 colleges, the majority of which are community colleges, are a "red flag" for prospective students.
An analysis by USA Today has found 265 colleges at which the odds of students defaulting on their loans are greater than the odds of freshmen graduating. Nearly half of the colleges are for-profit institutions, and about one-third are community colleges. However, smaller shares of the students at community colleges borrow, and their loans are smaller, than at for-profit institutions.
A Stanford University alumnus with a history of major donations has given the university its largest gift ever, Stanford announced Monday. John Arrillaga's $151 million donation will support "a variety of university projects," Stanford said. Arrillaga is a real estate developer in Silicon Valley.
Johnson University, in Tennessee, and Florida Christian College merged Monday, creating the Johnson University System. Florida Christian will now be called Johnson University Florida, and the system will also offer courses online. Current enrollment in Florida is 371, while enrollment in Tennessee is 954.
The tendency of black students to enroll in urban and less-selective public universities and the fact that they attend high schools of lesser quality contribute to their lower graduation rates in college -- but the "primary driver" of the black-white graduation gap is a difference in "pre-entry" traits such as ACT scores and high school class rank, according to a study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Though the study (abstract available here) is based on data from Missouri, the researchers suggest that the findings could apply nationally, although they cite several limitations, including that the data are derived only from public four-year universities in the state.
The American Association of University Professors on Monday issued a statement expressing concern about the recent decision of the University of Colorado Board of Regents to conduct a survey of the political climate at the Boulder campus. Regents said that they were concerned about liberal bias. The AAUP statement questioned whether the regents should be voicing views on the overall climate before having conducted a survey. And the AAUP statement noted that faculties are hardly as uniform as some critics suggest.
"To be sure, in some disciplines in the humanities, for instance, most faculty may consider themselves moderate to liberal," said the statement. "But in other disciplines, for instance, business, economics, or engineering, faculty views tend to be much more conservative. Political litmus tests, whether utilized in individual hiring decisions or in assessments of entire faculties or campus climates, are clear violations of the principles of academic freedom." The statement stressed that the results of the survey should not be used to influence faculty hiring or to impose political litmus tests.
- 4th Annual Summer Research Institute on the Future of Community Engagement in Higher Education, Tufts University, July 17-18, Medford, Mass.
- Institute for Internet Culture, Policy, and Law, Cornell University, Sept. 18-20, 2013, Ithaca, N.Y.
- 69th National Conference, National Association for College Admission Counseling, Sept. 19-21, Toronto, Ontario.
- Global Learning in College, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Oct. 3-5, Providence, R.I.
- ACUTA 2013 Fall Seminar, ACUTA: the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education , Oct. 6-9, Lexington, Ky.
These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar, to which campus and other officials can submit their own events. Our site also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education; please submit your news to both listings.