Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 24, 2014

A report released this week by a Pennsylvania State University task force of faculty, administrators and staff who reviewed the controversial “Take Care of Your Health” wellness and health insurance program echoed what many employees said about the plan all along: that it violated employee privacy; that its design was not supported by health care research; and that the university was not forthcoming about the plan as a whole. Among other elements of the plan, which was proposed last summer, faculty objected to monthly surcharges for not completing certain physical exams and wellness screenings; covering family members eligible for health care through their own employers; and for tobacco use. Most all of the plan has since been tabled, except for the tobacco use surcharge.

The task force report says that “To implement a costly, intrusive and unpopular mandate that the academic literature suggests would not attain the stated goals, and to justify the mandate by reference to potentially self-serving vendor studies, did not engender confidence among some that the necessary level of due diligence had been performed.” It also criticizes the university for announcing the plan quietly in the middle of the summer, saying “many of the faculty and staff at Penn State expect more forthright behavior from their university," and validates privacy concerns employees raised about a required online health questionnaire.

While critical, the report says the university has a chance going forward to emerge as a leader in employer health care. “By taking a deliberate yet measured approach, and collaborating with the health and research expertise throughout the University, Penn State can provide significant benefits to society in this area,” it says.


April 23, 2014

American University officials are investigating a unrecognized campus "brotherhood" that has become the subject of debate because of leaked emails from members that appear to show them joking about raping or sexually assaulting women, The Washington Post reported. Cornelius M. Kerwin, president of the university, sent a message to the campus saying that the emails “not only conflict with our values and standards, but also may represent breaches of our student conduct code and of the law.” The website Jezebel published many of the emails.

April 23, 2014

Community college students who earn an associate degree before transferring to a four-year institution are more likely to earn a bachelor's degree than their peers who transfer without one, according to new research from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. After controlling for background characteristics, the study found that transfer students with associate degrees were 49 percent more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree within four years, and 22 percent more likely to earn one within six years.

April 23, 2014

A month after The Boston Globe reported on bullying allegations against Kelly Greenberg, the head women's basketball coach, she is resigning. The university conducted a review of the allegations, failing to confirm some of them, but still finding problems. At least four players quit the team in the last year, the university said. BU released a statement from Todd Klipp, senior vice president and senior counsel, in which he said that “a compelling case was made, based on interviews with the team as a whole, that the manner in which Coach Greenberg interacted with many of her players was incompatible with the expectations and standards for university employees, including our coaches.” Klipp added that “when we shared these conclusions with Coach Greenberg, she determined that it would not be possible for her to continue coaching at Boston University.”

The university statement also included this comment from Greenberg: “I do not agree with some of the findings of the review panel regarding my coaching style, which was intended to produce well-rounded athletes and a winning team. However, given all that has transpired, I do not believe that it will be possible for me to continue as an effective coach at Boston University.”

April 23, 2014

Mesa, Ariz., attracted considerable attention in academic circles by recruiting established colleges from the East and Midwest to set up branches there. On Tuesday, Westminster College, in Missouri, announced that it is shutting down its operations after only one academic year. "Demand did not meet the student numbers necessary to sustain Mesa operations as quickly as we had anticipated, and it is not financially prudent for our college to proceed," said a statement from Westminster. The college said it would try to help students find new ways to continue their educations.

April 23, 2014

Faculty and student groups are criticizing the leadership of Debra Townsley, president of William Peace University, The News & Observer reported. A letter sent by faculty members to the board cited problems such as "staff turnover, dropping graduation rates, unsecured student records and university buildings with malfunctioning heat, asbestos problems and infestations of poisonous spiders." The letter said: “Peace has become an institution driven by mediocrity, suspicion, and fear, a university desperate for tuition dollars but entirely unwilling to provide students with the support and encouragement they need to complete their degrees." And students who circulated a petition criticizing Townsley now say they are facing retaliatory disciplinary proceedings.

Townsley defended her record, noting that William Peace, like many small colleges, is undergoing change and that such transitions are difficult. Townsley led a controversial shift under which the former women's college started to admit men.



April 23, 2014

A new analysis of available jobs finds that the highest demand (among openings for college graduates) is for white-collar professional occupations (33 percent) and science and technology occupations (28 percent). The analysis -- by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce -- is consistent with that center's past research, in finding many more opportunities for those with a bachelor's degree than for those without a college degree.

The new study is based on online job advertisements. The most in-demand professional jobs are accountants/auditors and medical/health service managers. In STEM, the most in-demand jobs are for applications software developers and computer systems analysts.

April 23, 2014

James Kilgore, who has earned good reviews as a lecturer in global studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was told his contract would not be renewed this year, shortly after it became widely known that he had once been a fugitive and had later served jail time for his role in the Symbionese Liberation Army, The News-Gazette reported. That same newspaper reported on his past associations in February, prompting local discussion. The SLA is the group that kidnapped Patty Hearst and robbed banks in the 1970s. Kilgore and the university declined to comment on the situation. The American Association of University Professors sent a letter to the Phyllis Wise, chancellor at Illinois, raising concerns about why Kilgore would not be renewed. The AAUP is "troubled" by the "sequence of events" in which someone was receiving good reviews, with the expectation of continued employment, only to have that change after publicity over his past. The AAUP letter states that Kilgore disclosed his felony conviction and six-plus years in prison when he was hired.

April 23, 2014

Charles Murray, the controversial conservative writer best known for The Bell Curve, is accusing Azusa Pacific University of lacking the courage to bring him to campus. He was scheduled to appear today, and was called and told not to come. In an open letter to Azusa Pacific's students, Murray suggested that fear of controversy was behind the decision. He questioned the stated reason -- that it is late in the semester -- given that Murray said the visit has been planned for some time. He urged students to make up their own minds about him. "You’re at college, right? Being at college is supposed to mean thinking for yourselves, right?," Murray wrote. "OK, then do it. Don’t be satisfied with links to websites that specialize in libeling people. Lose the secondary sources. Explore for yourself the “full range” of my scholarship and find out what it is that I’ve written or said that would hurt your faculty or students of color. It’s not hard."

The university released a statement from Jon Wallace, the president: "Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation. We want to host robust discussions. We have a long history of being in the middle of conversations that matter, but those take time and careful planning. As we value open discourse and varying viewpoints, we do so not merely for freedom’s sake, but for Jesus’ sake. Our approach to all topics must be in light of a biblical worldview. In doing so, we strive to model civic virtue for our campus community and encourage spiritual unity in Christ. We look forward to an opportunity to gather around the table for thoughtful and meaningful dialogue with Dr. Murray in the 2014–15 academic year."

April 23, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Susan Thomson, assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University, examines life in the African nation since the genocide in Rwanda. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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