Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 6, 2017

Faculty organizers at the University of Minnesota at the Twin Cities are backing away from their formal unionization goal and instead forming a “workers' association,” the Star Tribune reported. Tenure-track and tenured professors and adjuncts in support of unionization had wanted to form a joint union, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last month that they could not do so. That negated an earlier decision from state mediators saying that campus adjuncts now have enough in common with tenure-line professors to bargain collectively alongside them. Rather than appeal the state court’s decision, however, Minnesota Academics United said this week that it will lobby for better working conditions not as a union but as a workers' association. The group is affiliated with Service Employees International Union.

Amy Livingston, a senior lecturer in business at Minnesota, told the Star Tribune, “We actually think that there could be a path forward to unionization in the future.” In the interim, she added, “we’re not going to wait for a union or some legal process to play out.” While they lack the legal standing of unions, Livingston said, associations can organize protests and public pressure campaigns to push the university for changes in faculty working conditions.

Kathy Brown, the university's vice president of human resources, said in a statement to professors that she looks “forward to partnering with you to continue to enhance our workplace so we can help the university achieve its important mission.”

October 6, 2017

Oglethorpe University has announced a $50 million gift -- the largest in its 182-year history. The funds will be used to start a school of business.

October 6, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Ethan Coffel, fifth-year Ph.D. student in earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University, determines whether a warmer planet means fewer chances to fly. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

October 5, 2017

Nick Cannon, the comedian and singer, is refusing to apologize to Georgian Court University, where officials are upset about his use of vulgarities in an appearance at homecoming last month. The university issued a statement saying that Cannon had agreed in advance not to use certain types of humor that might offend alumni, and that he ignored that agreement. Cannon responded by posting the university statement on his Twitter feed, along with a tweet refusing to apologize.

October 5, 2017

Protests by the Black Lives Matter chapter at the College of William & Mary successfully shut down a talk by an American Civil Liberties Union representative on Wednesday.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU in Virginia, was due to discuss the First Amendment, but was shouted down shortly after she began speaking.

Students holding signs lined up in front of the stage where Gastañaga was speaking, chanting “ACLU, you protect Hitler, too,” “ACLU, free speech for who?” and “the oppressed are not impressed.”

The protest was filmed and posted to the William & Mary Black Lives Matter Facebook page.

“In contrast to the ACLU, we want to reaffirm our position of zero tolerance for white supremacy no matter what form it decides to masquerade in,” the post reads.

A representative from Black Lives Matter spoke a little more than 20 minutes into the demonstration, accusing the ACLU’s of “hiding” behind the rhetoric of free speech to defend white supremacists.

This is a reference to the ACLU backing a white nationalist’s lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville, Va., where a bloody rally took place in August and resulted in a woman’s death.

William & Mary President Taylor Reveley released a statement:

William & Mary has a powerful commitment to the free play of ideas. We have a campus where respectful dialogue, especially in disagreement, is encouraged so that we can listen and learn from views that differ from our own, so that we can freely express our own views, and so that debate can occur. Unfortunately, that type of exchange was unable to take place Wednesday night when an event to discuss a very important matter – the meaning of the First Amendment – could not be held as planned.

The event, co-sponsored by William & Mary's student-run programming organization Alma Mater Productions (AMP) and the ACLU, was entitled “Students and the First Amendment.” The anticipated conversation never occurred when protestors refused to allow Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, to be heard. The protesters then drowned out students who gathered around Ms. Gastañaga seeking to ask her questions, hear her responses and voice their own concerns.

Silencing certain voices in order to advance the cause of others is not acceptable in our community. This stifles debate and prevents those who’ve come to hear a speaker, our students in particular, from asking questions, often  hard questions, and from engaging in debate where the strength of ideas, not the power of shouting, is the currency. William & Mary must be a campus that welcomes difficult conversations, honest debate and civil dialogue.

October 5, 2017

The University of Michigan has released a series of email messages from President Mark Schlissel about the period before and after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. The university has also agreed to speed up its responses to certain open-records requests, settling a suit with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a group focused on free markets that sued the university over the issue.

The Detroit News reported that the email messages show Schlissel concerned about Trump. For example, in an August 2016 email, he wrote about his preparations for a speech to freshmen, most of whom would be first-time voters in the election. “I realize that some may interpret this as anti-Trump although there is nothing explicit in the remarks,” he wrote. “I would feel awful if Trump won the election and I was too afraid of appearing political to make any effort to encourage our students to thoughtfully participate. I’m willing to accept the criticism since I think it’s very important.”

October 5, 2017

Nobel Prize medalKazuo Ishiguro this morning was named winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. Ishiguro, the Nobel committee said, "in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world." Ishiguro is best known for his 1989 novel, The Remains of the Day, which was turned into a film starring Anthony Hopkins. The Nobel committee released this summary of Ishiguro's literary works.

"Ishiguro’s writings are marked by a carefully restrained mode of expression, independent of whatever events are taking place," the summary says.

The scholarship about Ishiguro includes Understanding Kazuo Ishiguro (University of South Carolina Press), by Brian W. Shaffer. Shaffer is a professor of English and associate dean of academic affairs at Rhodes College. He is also the editor of Conversations With Kazuo Ishiguro (University Press of Mississippi).

October 5, 2017

The Higher Learning Commission has issued a show-cause order to Marygrove College in Detroit because of financial issues and the college’s plans to end its undergraduate program.

The order means HLC has determined Marygrove does not meet criteria for accreditation and is now asking the college to demonstrate why its accreditation should not be withdrawn. It comes after Marygrove announced in August that it plans to shut down its undergraduate programs and only offer master’s degree programs as of January. Budget shortfalls and dropping enrollment led to the move, college leaders said at the time.

But HLC outlined several areas in which it concluded the college does not meet accreditation criteria, laying its concerns out in an Oct. 2 letter and in a public disclosure effective as of Sept. 25. Those areas include mission, the way the college represents itself to students and the public, governing board autonomy, sufficient faculty and staff levels, retention and completion, the college’s resource base, governance and planning. HLC also flagged several other areas of concern.

“The college’s current approved mission, which describes a liberal arts college significantly focused on undergraduate education, is no longer guiding its current operations, and the impact of changes planned at the college on the mission is not broadly understood,” said the top bulleted point in the Oct. 2 letter, which was signed by Barbara Gellman-Danley, HLC president.

The college must file a report by Jan. 1 and host HLC reviewers on campus by February. In June, HLC will decide whether the show-cause order can be removed. Marygrove will remain accredited while the order is in effect.

October 5, 2017

Ohio State University and Apple on Wednesday announced a collaboration that will start a digital learning effort at the university that Apple and university officials said may represent the company's most ambitious program in higher education. The university plans to start a series of efforts to promote student success, using tools from Apple. Starting in autumn 2018, new first-year students (at Columbus and regional campuses) will receive an iPad Pro with tools including Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard as well as apps to support learning and life at Ohio State. Financial terms of the deal have not been released. (The Columbus Dispatch reported that the retail value of the products would top $10 million but that officials said that the university would be paying much less under terms of a discount still being worked out.)

Other key parts of the effort:

  • An iOS design laboratory will be set up on the Columbus campus.
  • New programs will be created so students can learn coding skills.


October 5, 2017

It’s safe to say October has been good to the University of Hawaii and the University of Maryland. 

Hawaii’s business college received a $117 million donation in cash and real-estate assets on Tuesday from alumnus and namesake Jay H. Shidler. The Schidler College of Business received the donation after Schidler completed the final payment of a $111 million gift pledged in 2014. 

The terms of the gift include that the university must hold on to the land leases for the full 99-year period. The university estimated that the holdings -- which include land leases for properties at other colleges, such as the University of Washington Biomedical Center and the Wake Forest University Charlotte Center -- would yield “a minimum of $7.2 billion during the life of the current leases,” the university said in an announcement.

A day later, and 5,000 miles away, the University of Maryland announced a $220 million gift from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. In addition to funding need-based scholarships, the money will also fund more than a dozen faculty chairs, postdoctoral fellowships and the building of new facilities.

The foundation’s namesake was a University of Maryland student from modest a background whose education was funded through scholarships, the university said.


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