Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 20, 2014

Graduate students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa are camping out in tents on campus this week to protest rumored budget cuts. They said that they’ve already received verbal assurances to some of their demands -- namely, that no teaching assistant positions will be dropped next semester. But the rallies, marches and sit-in will continue until they have a statement in writing from the administration, organizers said.

The protests, organized in part by a group called Fix UH Manoa, started after graduate students learned that up to 15 teaching assistant positions could be cut from the biology department for the upcoming spring semester. Graduate students said in letters to administrators that the cuts were ordered so late in the fall semester that graduate students wouldn’t have time to make alternative financial arrangements, jeopardizing their ability to continue their studies. The cuts also would harm undergraduate students, they said, since graduate students manage a heavy class burden and those courses would have to be canceled.  

The cuts were never announced officially, but Jonathan Whitney, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in biology, said they were discussed in emails and meetings with upper-level administration. Nobody was certain exactly how many positions would be cut, he said.

Reed Dasenbrock, vice chancellor for academic affairs, said hours after the protests started Monday that there would not be any teaching assistant positions or core courses cut in the spring. But the student group wants to ensure that administrators aren’t pacifying them now, only to make more dramatic cuts in the fall, Whitney said. “It’s a piece of positive reinforcement, but there’s still a big mess and a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Among other demands, students want a more transparent system of spending, so they know where budget cuts are happening and why, and want the teaching assistant positions that have already been eliminated this year to be reinstated. 

Added: In a statement Wednesday, Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman said he regretted "any undue anxiety caused by premature announcements about possible cuts at the school and college level." He reiterated that no positions would be cut next semester.

Colleges have been spending more than they were allocated in the budget, and as a result, Bley-Vroman mandated all departments to stay within their annual allocations. Next month, a budget committee that includes representatives from the Graduate Student Organization will finish a proposal for a new way to allocate money for the 2015-16 budget that will be presented to the public, according to the statement.


November 20, 2014

An official of the National Labor Relations Board has ordered a new election on a bid by adjuncts at Marist College to unionize. The NLRB official found that the college had engaged in inappropriate activities just prior to the vote, and that these activities raised questions about the fairness of the election, in which a majority of adjuncts rejected unionization. A spokesman for the college said via email that Marist "strongly disagrees" with the decision, and that the college is working to make sure all part-timers can vote. He said that the union was trying to "gerrymander" the election.

November 20, 2014

U.S. Representative John Kline of Minnesota, the Republican who leads the House education committee, will keep that post in the next Congress.

As was expected, Kline's Republican colleagues voted Wednesday to officially name him as the committee's chair for the next two years.

Kline said in a statement that "strengthening higher education" was among the "national priorities that will remain at the forefront of the committee's agenda."

November 20, 2014

In today's Academic Minute, Jack Ridge, professor and chair of earth and ocean sciences at Tufts University, discusses his work to more precisely understand geologic time in order to create an accurate record of the planet’s climate. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 19, 2014

The blizzard that has hit the Buffalo region trapped the Niagara University women's basketball team for more than 24 hours as they attempted to return to campus after a loss at the University of Pittsburgh Monday night. Various accounts say that the bus left Pittsburgh around 10 p.m. Monday night and got stuck around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, and remained stuck, with the team members on board, for the next 24 hours. The Associated Press reported that the team rationed available snacks and water and turned some snow into water. Students used social media to post photographs and a hashtag #NUWBBstrandedonabus allowed the university's many supporters, and friends and family of team members, to express support. Team members indicated on social media that they were praying, waiting and making the best of the situation. There were unconfirmed reports on social media early Wednesday morning that team members been rescued after about 30 hours on the bus.

UPDATE: The head coach of the team confirmed on Twitter that everyone is off the bus and on the way back to campus (photo of happy athletes below).

November 19, 2014

U.S. Representative Rush D. Holt, a former physicist and strong supporter of federal funding of scientific research, will be the next head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the group announced Tuesday.

Holt, a Democrat who represents central New Jersey, is leaving Congress this year at the end of his eighth term. He will start as chief executive officer of the AAAS in February.

The group's appointment of Holt comes as tensions between the scientific community and some members of Congress have flared in recent months. Research funding advocates, for instance, have criticized the Republican-led House science committee's inquiry into specific National Science Foundation grants.
November 19, 2014

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Arizona is facing possible expulsion after 15 of its members were accused of forcing their way into the off-campus house of members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, which is historically Jewish, and assaulting the students there, The Arizona Daily Star reported. Fifteen SAE members were reported involved and their national fraternity has suspended four of them.


November 19, 2014

Authorities on Tuesday arrested 18 students at Miami Dade College, accusing them of tax fraud, The Miami Herald reported. The students accused of a scheme to use their student accounts to fraudulently file for and obtain tax refunds. Federal officials froze 1,000 student bank accounts as part of the investigation.


November 19, 2014

Clifford Garner, an English professor who heads the faculty union at Rockland Community College, in New York, was arrested Tuesday and charged with stealing $200,000 from the union and overbilling the college by $3,000, The Journal News reported. Garner is being held in jail.


November 19, 2014

The Higher Education Mental Health Alliance released a guide Tuesday to assist colleges with their responses to campus suicides. Called "Postvention: A Guide for Responses to Suicide on College Campuses," the 26-page booklet offers suggestions as to how colleges can best facilitate the grieving and adjustment process, stabilize the campus environment, reduce the risk of negative behaviors, and limit the risk of further suicides. "Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students," the alliance said in a statement. "Tragically, after hearing about a suicide death, those who are already at risk for suicidal behavior may be at increased risk for self-harm. There are multiple factors which might increase or help to reduce risk, making a school's reaction vitally important."

The detailed guide includes suggestions such as forming a "postvention" committee that includes staff from campus behavioral intervention teams, the communications department, the legal department, the campus chaplaincy, and student affairs leadership; implementing postvention plans after an alcohol or drug-related death as it may be unknown whether the death was intentional or accidental; and having the university public relations office work with counseling leadership when reporting a campus suicide.


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