Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 8, 2014

A vocational college in Gaza is reporting widespread damage to its facilities as a result of the war with Israel, Al-Fanar Media reported. An administrative deputy for the University College of Applied Sciences, Mahmoud Hamid, said the shelling appeared to directly target college buildings. The central administrative building was reportedly destroyed, as was a conference hall and some laboratories and classrooms. The Israeli Defense Forces could not immediately be reached for comment.

August 8, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Michelle Hersh, an assistant professor of biology at Sarah Lawrence College, discusses the unlikely relationship between ticks and white-footed mice. Though these ticks carry Lyme disease, the population of white-footed mice appears to be unharmed. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

 

 

August 7, 2014

The Illinois conference of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement Wednesday about the way the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign backed away from hiring Steven Salaita, who had been expected to take up a position in the American Indian studies program this month. Salaita had been offered the position, pending board approval, typically a formality, and the university told him recently that his appointment would not go forward, reportedly because of concerns about his comments on Twitter and elsewhere about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Critics have said that the comments suggest a lack of civility, while his defenders say he is being punished for outspoken support of Palestinians.

"Professor Salaita’s words while strident and vulgar were an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East," the Illinois AAUP statement says. "Issues of life and death during bombardment educes significant emotions and expressions of concern that reflect the tragedy that armed conflict confers on its victims. Speech that is deemed controversial should be challenged with further speech that may abhor and challenge a statement. Yet the University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America."

The statement adds: "What one says out of class rarely, in the absence of peer review of teaching, confirms how one teaches. Passion about a topic even if emotionally expressed through social network does not allow one to draw inferences about teaching that could possibly rise to the voiding or reversal of a job appointment."

The university has said it will not comment on the situation.

 

 

August 7, 2014

A lawsuit filed in a state court is raising awkward questions about the Louisiana State University Alumni Association. The Times-Picayune reported that the suit is by a woman who says she had an affair with Charlie Roberts, president and CEO of the association. The suit says the affair started before he hired her. Later, the suit charges, board members found out about the relationship and said that either Roberts had to quit or she did. She says she was offered payouts of $3,200 a month if she quit, and she sued when the payments stopped. She is seeking to have them restored.

Roberts and other association officials did not respond to requests for comment. F. King Alexander, president of LSU, issued this statement: "LSU takes these accusations seriously, and will conduct an inquiry to gather all the facts. We will ensure that we do the right thing by our alumni and our university."

August 7, 2014

Six Tuskegee University students participating in a study abroad program in Monrovia have had their travel plans back from Liberia indefinitely delayed due to the Ebola outbreak in the country. A university statement noted that British Airways has suspended flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone through the end of August and said, of the students, that “the matter of when they will be able to leave Liberia is still ongoing.” The university reported that the students are in good health and good spirits and in a safe location. 

August 7, 2014

The main group representing student aid administrators has backed a proposal to create a federal database that tracks student progress through higher education and into the workforce.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators announced Wednesday that it now supports a “limited” student-unit record system because it would provide more accurate and comprehensive data than the government’s current collection of information, which leaves out transfer and nontraditional students, for example. “As higher education policy is increasingly focused on student success, completion, and outcomes, including the recent negotiations over gainful employment regulations, it becomes increasingly critical to have robust data that gives an accurate picture,” the group said in a report.

NASFAA is the latest organization to call for a repeal of the federal prohibition on a student unit record database. Last fall, two community college associations backed the proposal, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities also supports such a database.

Private colleges, though, have long been resistant to a student unit record database. They argue that storing student-level data in a single federal database would threaten student privacy.

Among the other recommendations for policy changes in the report released Wednesday: eliminating student aid rules that have nothing to do with financial aid, such as the requirement that colleges celebrate Constitution Day, promote voter registration, and make certain disclosures about their athletic department.

August 7, 2014

The Board of Directors that governs Division I member universities of the National Collegiate Athletic Association voted today to restructure how the institutions govern themselves, granting a greater level of autonomy to the five wealthiest conferences.

The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 12, and Southeastern Conferences can now make their own rules concerning issues such as allowing full-cost-of-attendance stipends, offering four-year scholarships, and providing better health care for athletes. Though the new structure was easily passed with a 16-2 vote, some officials from less-wealthy Division I conferences have expressed concern about the new structure, saying they are worried about the growing gap between high-resource institutions and the rest.

"The NCAA is letting those five conferences do whatever they want," one Division I president said. “The Division I colleges that are left out, they are now in a different stratum of American athletics. Do the athletes, the fans, the alumni realize that they may be pushed down to a different level of excellence?”

The restructuring also increases the size of the board of directors from 18 members to 24. The new board will consist of five presidents from the five "power conferences," five presidents from the remaining five Football Bowl Subdivision Conferences, five from the Football Championship Subdivision, and five from Division I institutions that don't have football teams. A college athlete, a faculty athletics representative, a campus senior woman athletics representative, and the chair of the Council -- a new governing body in charge of the day-to-day legislative functions -- will round out the rest of the board.

The weighted voting totals of the Council gives 37.5 percent of the vote to the five major conferences, as well as a combined 37.5 percent to FCS and no-football conferences. FBS conferences would have 18.8 percent. Faculty representatives and student athletes would have 3.1 percent each.

“I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership," Mark Emmert, NCAA president, said in a statement. "The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes,” Emmert said. “These changes will help all our schools better support the young people who come to college to play sports while earning a degree.”

Institutions that oppose the governance change can still say so during a 60-day comment period. If 75 colleges request an override, the board can reconsider the change. If 125 colleges request an override during that time, the legislation will be suspended.

August 7, 2014

Our Cartoon Caption Contest is back.

There are multiple ways to play.

Submit a caption for this month's cartoon here.

Vote for your favorite here from among the three nominees chosen by our panel of judges for last month's cartoon.

And congratulations to Ronald Paige, winner of our contest for June. Paige is director of learning technology at Cleveland State Community College, in Tennessee. Find out more about him and his winning entry here.

August 7, 2014

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday sent letters to a dozen universities criticizing them for not fully disclosing the arrangements they have with companies to market financial products on their campuses. “We wanted to alert you that this failure to be transparent may pose potential consumer protection risks,” the bureau’s student loan ombudsman, Rohit Chopra, wrote in a letter to twelve Big Ten universities.

The bureau said it looked for the agreements between financial institutions and all Big Ten universities, which represent some of the largest institutions in the country. Of the 13 universities that had contracts with financial institutions to offer products on campus, only one was fully disclosed to the public, Chopra wrote in a new blog post Wednesday.

The CFPB has been probing campus debit cards since last year. Officials at the bureau have said they are concerned that arrangements between colleges and financial institutions to provide debit cards are insufficiently transparent and may have incentives that harm students.

The bureau previously called on financial institutions to disclose the terms of the arrangement, warning companies that it may consider their failure to make public such agreements the type of risky practice that triggers more scrutiny from regulators.

The Education Department is currently in the process of crafting new rules to more tightly regulate campus financial products. The department suggested during rulemaking negotiations earlier this year that it wanted to include a requirement that colleges disclose the agreements they have with banks and other companies to offer debit cards. Federal law already requires such disclosure for credit cards that are affiliated with universities.  

August 7, 2014

The University of Oregon announced Wednesday that its president, Michael Gottfredson, was resigning, effective today, The Oregonian reported. He has been in office for only two years. While the move is being described as a resignation, the newspaper noted that it had "telltale signs of a forced departure: Gottfredson does not have a new job lined up, it was announced the day before it takes effect, and he cites spending more time with family as a key motive."

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