Higher Education Quick Takes
The National Labor Relations Board has impounded ballots from an election at Duquesne University to decide whether adjuncts there can form a union. The ballots will be sealed until the NLRB rules on an appeal by the university. Duquesne, a Roman Catholic university, previously agreed to the election, but then decided to challenge it on the grounds that its religious affiliation exempts it from an union election. The Pittsburgh office of the NLRB denied that motion to withdraw from the election but the university appealed the decision to the national office. The election ballots were to be counted Tuesday, after a mail-in election.
Edward Blews Jr., president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, has been appointed the next president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He begins the new position Jan. 1, 2013. Blews hasn't previously represented Christian colleges and universities as such -- the association is made up of 116 regionally accredited Christian colleges and universities that hire only Christians as full-time faculty and staff. But the Michigan association has religious colleges as members and Blews received his undergraduate degree from Seattle Pacific University, a member of the council, and previously served on the council's governing board. Three members of the council are also members of the Michigan group.
Paul Corts, the current president, is retiring at the end of this year.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has voted to strip Mountain State University of accreditation. The action, if not reversed or successfully appealed, would make students at the West Virginia university ineligible for federal student aid, potentially making it impossible for the institution to function. A statement by the Higher Learning Commission identified numerous, serious violations of the commission's standards. The commission said that Mountain State doesn't meet the requirement that an "institution operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff, and students," and fails to meet a requirement that "the institution’s allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.” For instance, the commission found that Mountain State "has not planned realistically to address challenges ... [and] lacks adequate human and financial resources to fulfill its mission."
Mountain State's board issued a statement vowing to appeal the decision. "We are surprised because the report ignores the significant progress that has been made since the Higher Learning Commission notified the University of its concerns a year ago. Major changes have been undertaken in all of the areas of concern that were cited by the Higher Learning Commission and significant progress has been demonstrated in implementing these changes," said the board statement.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday rejected a harassment lawsuit against Southern Illinois University by a student who complained of inappropriate remarks and actions by an emeritus professor. While the court found that the actions by the emeritus professor, if accurately described, were "despicable," the university "responded reasonably" to the complaints, and could not be found liable as a result.
Adjunct instructors are getting some help (rhetorically, at least) from the country’s largest education union. The National Education Association’s Representative Assembly voted overwhelmingly last week to ask the Department of Labor to help cut "them"adjuncts get unemployment benefits. The union will ask the department to issue an advisory letter saying that adjuncts lack “reasonable assurance” of work, and are eligible to collect unemployment benefits when out of work.
Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, said that adjuncts struggle to get unemployment benefits during the summer months when they are not teaching, and that universities often contest their claims by saying they have a chance of getting rehired. Even if the letter is issued, though, it would be non-binding. “But it is something that individual adjuncts can use as they are making their claim,” Maisto said.
A year after the British government essentially tripled tuitions, applications for university spots fell by nearly 9 percent in Britain and by 10 percent in England, Times Higher Education reported. Applications from students of traditional college age fell less sharply than did those from older students, and government officials played down the impact of the dip; “the proportion of English school-leavers applying to university is the second highest on record and people are still applying,” David Willetts, the universities and science minister, told the newspaper. But others said the decrease was the predictable result of the dramatic change in government policy.
Pennsylvania State University fund-raisers took in $208 million in the 2011-12 academic year, the second-most in institutional history, despite spending much of the year wracked in intense controversy related to child sexual abuse charges against a longtime football coach, the Centre Daily Times reported. But pledges and other measures of long-term giving were down, the newspaper reported.