Higher Education Quick Takes
Some professors at Mississippi Valley State University are criticizing a Faculty Senate vote of no confidence this month in President Donna Oliver, The Clarion-Ledger reported. The Faculty Senate cited a number of problems, including poor relations between the president and the faculty, declining enrollment and budget problems. But faculty members who are not on the Faculty Senate say that they were not consulted about what they consider to have been an important vote. Further, some question the wisdom of such a vote with an accreditation review coming up.
The following are the latest developments from Pennsylvania State University as it struggles to move forward amid a sex-abuse scandal:
- Moody's Investors Service announced that it will conduct a review that could lead the agency to downgrade the university's bond rating (currently Aa1). A statement said: "Moody's will evaluate the potential scope of reputational and financial risk arising from these events. While the full impact of these increased risks will only unfold over a period of years, we will also assess the degree of near and medium term risks to determine whether to downgrade the current Aa1 rating. We will monitor possible emerging risks emanating from potential lawsuits/settlements, weaker student demand, declines in philanthropic support, changes in state relationship and significant management or governance changes."
- Thousands of Penn State students and others attended a candlelight vigil Friday night to express sympathy with victims of sexual abuse and to vow to help such individuals, The Centre Daily Times reported. And at Saturday's football game against the University of Nebraska, fans participated in a moment of silence for the abuse victims, and players from the two teams kneeled together to recognize the victims. The emphasis and tone of the events were in contrast to the protests earlier in the week against the firing of Joe Paterno as football coach.
- The top recruiting prospect for Penn State's football team announced that he was backing away from a pledge to attend the university, ESPN reported.
- For those seeking perspective on how the Penn State scandal compares to other major athletics scandals, Slate has assembled links to some of the better long-form journalism on such scandals in the past, as well as some more recent coverage.
A feature article in The Los Angeles Times discusses what it was like in South Korea this week on the day of the College Scholastic Ability Test -- a nine-hour exam that determines students' chances of getting in to top universities. Weeks before the test, mothers start to pray and and to leave wreaths at Buddhist shrines. On exam day, early morning flights are postponed to avoid loud noise, and those monitoring the exams are told not to wear flashy clothing or squeaky shoes.
David L. Soltz, president of Bloomsburg University, wants everyone at that Pennsylvania institution to know that Pennsylvania State University is no role model when it comes to reporting possible incidents of child abuse. Soltz sent a memo to everyone on campus Thursday specifying that anyone who sees possible child abuse on campus must call the police first and only then notify one's immediate supervisor. The policy also states that those supervisors, upon being told of a possible incident of child abuse, also have an obligation to call authorities. "What is essential is that university police are notified immediately," Soltz wrote.
College students’ perceptions of their peers’ drinking habits are over-inflated and could contribute to excessive alcohol consumption, according to new research by a professor at the University of Houston. The five-year study, “Social Norms and Alcohol Prevention,” will kickoff in January 2012, surveying 2,000 students at the University of Houston, Loyola Marymount University and the University of Washington. Clayton Neighbors, the professor heading up the research, said students “actually drink no more than three or four drinks per week, but most students think their peers are drinking much more,” according to a press release. The study will measure student perception of drinking so researchers may better understand what social and individual factors play a role in binge drinking. Neighbors said he hopes the results will be used to better inform drinking intervention programs on campuses, according to the press release.
The U.S. Education Department is investigating whether Marquette University violated campus crime reporting requirements in its handling of two allegations last year of sexual assaults by athletes against other students, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Local law enforcement officials have criticized the university's handling of the cases, saying that too much time passed before they were notified of the reports. Marquette officials have since announced reforms of the university's procedures for handling such reports.
The Los Angeles Community College District has fired a third contractor used in its controversial multi-billion dollar construction campaign, The Los Angeles Times reported. The dismissals follow a series of articles in the Times about delays, flaws and cost over-runs in the construction program. The latest contractor to be fired was involved in a $123 million budget shortfall that led to the abandonment of plans for four building projects.
As more and more colleges provide gender-neutral dorms and bathrooms, Grinnell College has become one of the few to include a locker room in its offerings. A handful of other colleges, such as the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington State University, have similar facilities available for transgender students, those with families or others who prefer a gender-neutral option. Several other institutions, including the Universities of Cincinnati and Massachusetts at Amherst, have built private, single-use changing rooms, while others have promised to do so when any new facilities are built. Still, Grinnell’s decision is generating buzz – and not all of it is positive.