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.
Florida's higher education governing board said Tuesday that it would begin an investigation into whether officials at Florida A&M University ignored warnings that hazing was rampant within the marching band at Florida A&M University, days after a member of the band died, an apparent hazing victim. In a letter to the chair of Florida A&M's board, Ava Parker, the chair of the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida, said its review would seek to determine "whether university administration took appropriate action to address the hazing activities referenced by [Julian White, the band's former director], and any hazing activities in the student population at large."
"The events surrounding the tragic death of Robert Champion and allegations by Dr. White that he received little support despite repeatedly advising current and former university administrators of hazing activities within the Marching 100 band, is of grave concern to the Board of Governors."
Leaders of the American Association of University Professors on Tuesday released a statement warning of the "dangers of a sports empire" in higher education, citing recent sex-abuse scandals as evidence. "Recent accounts of the systemic cover-up of allegations of sexual assaults on young boys at Penn State indicate that the unchecked growth of a sports empire held unaccountable to the rest of the university community coincided with the steady erosion of faculty governance," says the statement. "Genuine shared governance, which involves meaningful participation by the faculty in all aspects of an institution, could have resulted in these alleged crimes being reported to city and state police years ago, and might have spared some of the victims the trauma they endured, and indeed continue to endure, because of the memories that remain, and the legal and judicial processes they still face."
The statement added that "the AAUP’s Council, in the earnest hope of preventing abuses of power, suffering of victims, and betrayals of trust, reaffirms the necessity of ensuring meaningful faculty participation in all aspects of institutional governance and, in particular, of athletics programs."
Big-time college football may have yet another issue of concern. USA Today reported that the latest trend is for colleges to fire head coaches after only two years -- meaning that those hired to lead football teams have a shorter timeframe to produce a winner. Officials said that this trend raises questions about fairness to the coaches (since turning around a program doesn't happen overnight) and about finances. The dismissed coaches are taking away large payouts for having their contracts cut short. "It's a trend that's very disturbing," said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. "I took over a program [at Baylor University] that wasn't very good, and if they had let me go after two years, we would not have had the success we had."
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.