Higher Education Quick Takes
The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance has finished its study of 15 potentially burdensome regulations, and in a final report issued Tuesday urged the Education Department to immediately review the regulations to see if suggested changes from the committee's survey are applicable. Such reviews should become routine in the future and take place at least every two years, the committee wrote.
The committee surveyed more than 2,000 higher education officials across all sectors, and convened two panels of college and university stakeholders and experts to review regulations considered potentially burdensome. The response was overwhelming: almost all of the regulations should be changed. The respondents' suggestions on how to change them are detailed in the report, but are not binding until the Education Department conducts its own review.
Séverine Autesserre, a Barnard College political scientist, was today named winner of the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. She was honored for her new book, The Trouble with the Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press). In the book, she argues that international peacekeeping works better when close attention is paid to local conflicts.
Monday was a day of protest at University of California campuses, with students objecting to the way the university system is managed and to recent incidents at the Berkeley and Davis campuses in which many say the right of peaceful protest was denied by campus police officers:
- The University of California Board of Regents was attempting a teleconference, with regents meeting on several campuses, but the regents were forced to move to other rooms when students at several locations started chanting protest slogans, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. After the regents left the rooms (and finished their official business elsewhere), students took over the room and declared that they would act as "people's regents."
- Several hundred students held a "general strike" at the university's Davis campus, but many other students appeared to be going to class as usual, The Sacramento Bee reported.
- At the University of California at Santa Cruz, several hundred students occupied the student services building, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.
- The Occupy California movement has posted accounts of many other protests.
- At the University of California at Merced, a young campus without much history of protests, Chancellor Dorothy Leland issued a statement to praise the students for taking a stand, and doing so peacefully. "Thanks to the mutually respectful and collaborative atmosphere — which is a hallmark of our campus — academic, research and administrative activities of the university were carried out as they would be on any other day. I appreciate everyone's commitment to our campus' Principles of Community, as well as the time and effort students and others took to convey their dissatisfaction with rising cost of tuition and detrimental cuts to the university’s budget," she said.
The Modern Language Association and the Middle East Studies Association have both issued statements condemning the way the University of California has handled recent protests.
The MLA's Executive Council distributed an e-mail to members Monday in which it said: "Many of us have viewed with revulsion the images of campus police in riot gear pepper-spraying a nonviolent circle of protesters at the University of California, Davis, seated with arms linked, participating in a classic act of civil disobedience. We have seen other videos from the University of California, Berkeley, showing campus police brutalizing protesters. The use of force deployed by the police against protesters is deeply troubling.... Teaching and learning can flourish only where free and open discussion is guaranteed. Education depends on respect for all members of the community. The MLA therefore insists on the importance of the right to free speech, including lawful protest, as vital to colleges and universities and exhorts higher education administrators everywhere to safeguard that right."
The Middle East Studies Association sent a letter to the University of California calling for a fully independent inquiry into the police actions and for assurances that the university will "respect, and will protect, the rights of members of the university campus to engage in peaceful protest on campus."
Oregon's Board of Higher Education voted unanimously to cut short the presidency of Richard Lariviere at the University of Oregon, despite impassioned pleas from faculty and staff members and students at a highly contentious board meeting Monday. The vote came after a week in which it became clear that the board that governs the Oregon University System had reached informal agreement not to renew Lariviere's contract when it expires next June, citing the president's perceived failure to work collaboratively with board members and the system's other colleges. Board members listened as a parade of Lariviere's supporters described his contributions to the university and criticized the board's decision; they then voted, one by one, to endorse Chancellor George Pernsteiner's recommendation that Lariviere be dismissed without cause in 30 days.
Syracuse University's firing Sunday of an assistant basketball coach accused of abusing three boys may not end the institution's legal problems, reported The New York Times. The article noted that the third allegation against Bernie Fine, the fired coach who has denied wrongdoing, falls within the statute of limitations -- unlike the first two charges. If Syracuse is sued for failing to take action earlier, the article noted that as a private institution it cannot invoke sovereign immunity that might be used by Pennsylvania State University to try to limit its liability in the sex-abuse scandal it faces. While Syracuse investigated an allegation against Fine in 2005 and said it could not find corroborating evidence, the Times article suggested that this may not help the university. First, the article quoted a legal expert as saying that corroboration frequently doesn't exist in rape or abuse cases. (The charges at Penn State are unusual in that they include witnesses to some instances of the abuse.) Second, the article noted that -- until Sunday -- Jim Boeheim, the head basketball coach, had been a strong supporter of Fine against the charges. “I think the university could have enormous liability, including Boeheim, who was in a supervisory capacity,” one lawyer told the newspaper. “It comes down to who knew what, or who should have known. And you have to ask, because Boeheim’s defense of Fine was so complete after the initial allegations, would he have been at all open to look into anything suspicious?”
While student groups protested loudly outside, the board of the City University of New York voted Monday for a series of $300 tuition increases that will raise charges at CUNY's four-year institutions to $6,330 by 2015-16, The New York Times reported. The students protesting said that the increases would hurt low-income and minority students. But CUNY officials said that cuts in state support required the tuition increases to maintain the quality of the university system, and said that financial aid would continue to make it possible for students of all income levels to enroll.
The University of Georgia has found that Paul Roman, a sociologist at the university, violated anti-harassment policies, and ordered him to abide by specific rules, The Athens Banner-Herald reported. The university found that Roman made many comments of a sexual nature that made women uncomfortable in his presence, and that he retaliated against a female employee who filed a complaint against him. Roman has been ordered to hold meetings with staff members only when scheduled and with an agenda distributed in advance, barred from sending employees e-mail messages that are not strictly professional in nature, and barred from making personnel decisions on his own about employees he supervises. Roman has denied the charges, and appealed the findings, but his appeal was denied by the university's president.
Roman's title is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology, and this year he was also named a Regents Professor, which is one of the University System of Georgia’s highest honors, and which came with a $10,000 raise.
An Illinois appeals court last week granted a stay to the University of Illinois at Chicago of the certification of a new faculty union at the institution. The university is challenging the right of the union -- which is affiliated with both the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors -- to represent both adjuncts and tenure-track faculty members. In October, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board rejected the university's argument and certified the union, but the university appealed and also asked for both a stay of union certification and expedited review of the case. University officials said that they expected a ruling on the case in the spring.