Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 7, 2014

Many community college leaders were angered -- and many walked out -- at Saturday's opening session of the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges when a comedian's performance offended them.

The performance, by an impersonator of President Clinton who was not introduced by name or identified in the program, featured jokes about Monica Lewinsky and digs at Hillary Clinton that many said were sexist and inappropriate at a time that she appears to be getting ready to run for president (and has consistently expressed support for community colleges and their mission).

Other attendees were most angered by a part of the skit in which the fake Bill Clinton discussed how political life changes people, showing images of George Washington at various stages in his life, ending with a photo he said was of Washington at his death, illustrating the dead president with a photo of Barbara Bush. Many presidents said that they weren't angry so much at the comic (who has apparently been doing his routine since jokes about the Clinton's use of White House bedrooms for donors reflected current events) but at the AACC itself.

Community college presidents, all seeking anonymity because they said they didn't want to offend association leaders, asked if the comic had been vetted, and why AACC leaders didn't say anything after a performance that visibly upset so many people. The fake Clinton followed a very well received speech by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great. A frequent comment heard at the meeting was that after Collins inspired them, the comic's performance degraded them.

A spokeswoman for the AACC, asked if the association planned to apologize or say anything, said that no statement was planned.

April 7, 2014

Emmanuel College has announced that it will no longer require the SAT or ACT of applicants for admission. "This test-optional policy reinforces the college's commitment to understand a student's overall academic experience, regardless of performance on a single test," said a statement from the college. "In addition, it encourages all students who have achieved success in high school to consider Emmanuel."

April 7, 2014

Occidental College has settled a complaint by students who say they were sexually harassed by the longtime athletic trainer at the college, The Los Angeles Times reported. The trainer, who could not be reached for comment, left the college last year. The agreement between Occidental and the students is confidential. But the complaint said that the trainer touched male students' groins inappropriately, and that they were not aware that the trainer has been required to attend sexual harassment training following an earlier complaint of inappropriate behavior.

 

April 7, 2014

The North-American Interfraternity Conference will commission three panels to study and recommend solutions to the issues of alcohol abuse, hazing and sexual assault. The conference said Sunday that the panels will include "8-12 members from higher education, public policy, public health, research, law and other sectors." The panels are charged with suggesting policies, programs and standards "to help eradicate these detrimental behaviors" among fraternities.

April 7, 2014

With a threat by the faculty union at Portland State University to strike on April 16 looming, the union and administration reached a deal on a new contract on Sunday, ending months of highly contentious negotiations. A press release from the union -- part of the American Association of University Professors -- said that deal provides raises for all professors and key advances for full-time, non-tenure-track professors. According to the AAUP, the contract will create a path for long-term contracts for 80 percent of full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members, up from the present 45 percent. And these long-term contracts will be available after four years, not the current six years. The Oregonian characterized the raises in the deal as more "than the administration had said it could possibly afford, but substantially less than the union had sought." A statement from the university quoted President Wim Wiewel as calling the deal "fiscally responsible."

 

April 7, 2014

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) on Sunday released a report of suggestions for how two-year institutions can improve completion rates, better work with employers and be more accountable. The guide is linked to a 2012 report from the association that called for substantial changes in how the sector operates. Over the weekend the association kicked off its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., which continues until Tuesday.

April 7, 2014

Students, alumni and others are rallying behind Patricia Prechter, whom they say was ousted unfairly as head of the nursing program at Our Lady of the Holy Cross College, in Louisiana. The college says simply that she resigned. But The Times-Picayune reported on email messages between Prechter, who had also been serving as provost, and President Ronald Ambrosetti. In the emails, Prechter says that she was trying to resign as provost to focus more of her attention on the nursing program. She said she had long worked in the nursing program and took on the provost's job in 2011 at the request of the nuns who run the college. She said she could no longer do two full-time jobs and so was giving up the provost's position. But the president said that in leaving that job, she was resigning from all employment.

An online petition seeking her reinstatement at the nursing program says in part: "Dr. Prechter is also the heart and soul of the OLHCC community. She maintains an 'open door' policy that allows students to approach her with their needs as they arise. She is a student advocate for not only the students in the nursing department, but also for students throughout the OLHCC community."

 

April 7, 2014

Applications were down about 20 percent at Cooper Union this year, as the institution prepared to start charging tuition to undergraduates under a controversial shift in its financial strategy. A statement from the university said that the drop was expected. Cooper Union admitted more students this year than in the past, assuming that its yield (the percentage of accepted applicants who enroll) will drop from 50 to 45 percent. Officials said that they believed the quality of the class was comparable to the quality in previous years.

 

April 7, 2014

Tel Aviv University has called off a lecture by Mohammed Kena’ana, who has served time for helping Hezbollah, Haaretz reported. Ken'ana was invited to speak by left-wing students, but right-wing students and others have been protesting the planned appearance. Originally the university refused to block the appearance, citing the principles of free expression. But the university reversed itself on Sunday and said that it was doing so not because of what the speaker might say, but because of "the threat to public order," and that there had not be enough time to organize security for the event.

 

 

April 7, 2014

George Fox University, a Christian institution, is being criticized for denying a transgender student's request to live in male student housing, which he says is consistent with his gender identity. A petition attracting support online was written by the student's mother. (The student goes by the name Jayce.) "As Jayce’s mother, I am deeply concerned by George Fox University’s decision. The university has also indicated that it is considering a policy for students, which will require that all housing be based on 'biological birth sex.' In this case, there would be no housing accommodations, at all, that would be allowed for transgender students like my son, to live with their male friends," the petition says.

The university has issued a statement that says that the petition "does not give a complete picture of a complex situation." The statement says that "George Fox strives to be a Christ-centered community and our residential facilities are single gender because of our theological commitments. The student’s request to switch from female-only on-campus housing to male-only on-campus housing is one that many institutions would struggle with. While the university did not grant his request to live on campus with males, the student was not denied on-campus housing. He was offered the option of an on-campus single apartment with a commitment from student life to ensuring he stayed socially connected to the community."

 

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