Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 17, 2014

Kennesaw State University has agreed to restore an art installation that officials ordered removed from its art museum last month. The work dealt with the the homestead of Corra Harris (1869-1935), an author who gained unusual prominence in her era for a female writer -- and whose career took off when she penned a piece widely viewed as a apology for lynching, full of racist stereotypes. The homestead is controversial at Kennesaw because the university accepted it as a gift to preserve in 2009 -- over the objections of some faculty members. University administrators ordered the installation about Harris removed from an exhibit that was celebrating the opening of a new art museum on campus -- and that decision has been denounced as censorship by many artists and others.

A statement from the university said that the exhibit will have explanatory information, and that the university's  leaders "reaffirm the administration’s full support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. Our intention is to use this entire experience as a learning and engagement opportunity for all of our stakeholders." The university statement also included a statement from Ruth Stanford, the artist and an associate professor at Georgia State University, saying that she agreed with the decision to restore the installation.

Via email, Stanford was more critical of the university. "I am happy that my work is going back in the show so that viewers can see it and form their own opinions. However, despite my best efforts I feel that KSU largely continues to control the conversation. The conversation should be about censorship, and KSU does not want to talk about that," she said.

Also via email, the university responded to Stanford, and said that the university has in fact communicated about all issues that have been raised. "We have openly communicated the university administration's perspective and articulated the rationale for the action that was taken through three different media statements. We have responded to each and every individual media inquiry that we have received since this issue first developed. Members of the museum staff also have remained in frequent and consistent communication with the artist to ensure that the line of communication has remained open," the statement said.

"Finally, campus officials have directed that the related programming that the university has pledged to conduct will address all aspects of this controversy -- beginning with the acceptance of the gift and including the present controversy."

March 14, 2014

Indiana's Martin University has been placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which cited concerns about the institution's finances and governance and the adequacy of its faculty and staff. The commission also placed several other institutions -- Arkansas Baptist College, Oglala Lakota College, Southwestern Christian University, and Salem International University -- on notice, which is less severe than probation. Kansas City Art Institute and Morton College were removed from notice.

March 14, 2014

A federal appeals court has partially revived a whistle-blower lawsuit against several student loan providers accused of improperly inflating their portfolios to obtain higher subsidies from the Education Department.

The case, brought by on Jon H. Oberg, a former Education Department researcher, alleges that a handful of lenders took advantage of a loophole in federal law to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in excess federal subsidies.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a lower court erred in dismissing the lawsuit against two of the defendants: the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. The district court will now have to reconsider whether the case against them can proceed.

But the court also upheld the lower court’s decision to dismiss the suit against the Arkansas Student Loan Authority, concluding that the loan provider was clearly a state entity and therefore can not be sued under the False Claims Act.

Four of the other lenders involved in the case collectively paid $57.8 million in 2010 to resolve their part of the lawsuit.  

March 14, 2014

Many students and faculty members consider coffee to be essential to their daily existence. The University of California at Davis could be moving toward offering a major in coffee, The Sacramento Bee reported. The university, already known for its research and teaching on wine, has created the Coffee Center. Faculty members will conduct research on such topics as as the genetics of coffee and sensory perception of coffee drinkers. A long-term goal is establishing a major in coffee.


March 14, 2014

Cengage Learning appears poised to emerge from bankruptcy after the academic publisher's plan of reorganization on Thursday received court approval. The plan, supported by all of Cengage's major stakeholders, eliminates about $4 billion of the company's debt, and secures Cengage $1.75 billion in exit funding. In a press release, the company said the plan is likely to take effect in the coming weeks. Cengage filed for bankruptcy protection last July.

March 14, 2014

Northwestern University philosophy professor Peter Ludlow, whom a student accuses of sexual assault in a lawsuit against the institution, will not teach for the rest of the year, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro told the Chicago Tribune. The lawsuit says the university failed to discipline Ludlow after he violated the campus policy on sexual harassment, and accuses Northwestern of violating Title IX. Ludlow was set to leave Northwestern for a teaching job at Rutgers University, but Rutgers said officials are now evaluating Ludlow's candidacy.

"With all the controversy and allegations out there, to have him teach in the spring wouldn't be the right thing to do," Schapiro said. Ludlow also did not teach his last two classes of the current quarter, after students protested him and Northwestern's handling of the case.

March 14, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Russell Johnson, professor at Michigan State University, analyzes the negative consequences smartphone use may have on human psychology and physiology. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 14, 2014

The vast majority of Native American students (86 percent) say that they want a postsecondary education, but most are not well prepared in high school to succeed in college, according to a new report from ACT. The report, "The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2013: American Indian Students," found that a majority of the Native American students who took the ACT did not meet any of the four benchmarks the organization has set (based on taking rigorous college preparatory courses in various subject areas) as indicating likely success in college.

March 14, 2014

The Association of Art Museum Directors has taken the unusual step of adopting sanctions against Randolph College and its Maier Museum of Art. The group took the action because the college recently sold a masterpiece of American painting, the 1912 work "Men of the Docks," by George Bellows, for $25.5 million in funds for the endowment. Art ethics codes require that museums sell art only to build up collections, not for general financial support for institutions. Under the sanctions, members of the art museum association will stop collaborating with the Maier Museum of Art on exhibitions, either by borrowing or lending work. The News & Advance reported that four museums are expected to cancel plans to borrow works from the Randolph museum. College officials have defended the sale as crucial to the college's long-term financial health.


March 13, 2014

Some Harvard University students are objecting to the choice of Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, as commencement speaker. The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, is divided about the choice, and so ran an editorial endorsing it, but also a dissent criticizing the selection. The dissent cited Bloomberg's support for "stop and frisk" policing that has been criticized as racially based by many black and Latino New Yorkers. "Had Bloomberg been asked to the Institute of Politics, we would have urged our classmates to engage in a respectful dialogue with the former mayor, and to challenge him on his record. But commencement is not a night at the JFK Jr. Forum — every graduate should feel celebrated and included. We realize that no speaker will be acceptable to every single graduate, but to extend an invitation to someone who alienates entire segments of the student body is ill-advised and worthy of condemnation," said the dissent.

The main editorial, however, said that there is value in having a controversial speaker. "Michael Bloomberg is not a dull choice, and that reality is part of what makes him somebody worth listening to," the editorial said. "Whether or not his policies were mistaken or even offensive to some of the student body, he can and will deliver a thought-provoking commencement address. It would be far more troubling if the University chose someone who would deliver a milquetoast speech, devoid of both substance and controversy."

The debate at Harvard comes as some students and faculty members at Rutgers University are questioning the selection of Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, as the speaker there.



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