Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 28, 2016

Adjunct faculty members at Hillsborough Community College in Florida voted 339 to 189 to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced last week. SEIU also announced that part- and full-time non-tenure-track faculty members at Minnesota’s Augsburg College voted to form an affiliated union, but the college says the final election outcome is unknown, with a key number of ballots still disputed. A spokesperson for Hillsborough said, “Moving forward, we are committed to working with the SEIU to create the best possible teaching and learning environment for all [college] faculty and students.”

Karen Kaivola, Augsburg's provost, said in a statement to colleagues, “We will continue [to] operate openly, honestly and in good faith in this final phase of the election process and in its aftermath, whatever the final outcome of this election turns out to be. If the final vote affirms that unionization is the majority’s choice, some of the direct engagement we’ve enjoyed will change, but I am confident that, no matter the result or the scenario, our commitment to teaching and learning and to our students’ success will remain a shared priority.” The outcome of the ballot challenge won't change the election result, according to SEIU.

November 28, 2016

Federal agencies must do more to coordinate public benefits so that low-income students can access and complete college, the secretaries of education, agriculture, housing, labor and Treasury said in a joint letter released this month. The letter collected previously released guidance from those agencies concerning benefits such as food stamps, Section 8 housing and student financial aid.

Even when low-income students do receive aid, they are more likely to have remaining financial needs unmet. Part of the solution, the letter argues, is ensuring the millions already enrolled in federal benefit programs are provided information about other resources to pay for college or other work force training. The guidance in the letter is aimed at state work force agencies, welfare administrators, student financial aid professionals and other key contacts at the state and local levels responsible for administering federal benefits programs.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. cited the letter in a meeting with reporters last week as one of a number of steps the Obama administration has taken to address the issues related to access to education. The department is incorporating the guidance on benefits into its outreach to colleges and universities.

November 28, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Alison Phillips, assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State University, examines a way to make a new habit -- like a new exercise routine -- stick. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 25, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Philip Watkins, professor in the college of social sciences at Eastern Washington University, explores how gratitude exercises can help strength your sense of well-being. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 23, 2016

President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Betsy DeVos, a conservative philanthropist and Republican Party official known for her advocacy for private school vouchers, as education secretary, the transition office announced Wednesday.

Little is known about her views on federal higher education policy.

A statement from Trump said, “Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate. Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families. I am pleased to nominate Betsy as Secretary of the Department of Education.”

DeVos used Twitter to comment on her nomination:

DeVos was chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party in the late 1990s. She and her husband, Dick, who ran for governor of Michigan in 2006 and is a member of the family that owns Amway, have a foundation in their names that contributes heavily to education organizations and arts groups, especially in Michigan.

November 23, 2016

A federal district judge in Texas blocked a Department of Labor overtime rule Tuesday night in a major setback for the Obama administration.

The rule, which would have affected 4.2 million workers, was highly controversial among many employers, including higher education institutions. It would have raised to $47,476 from $23,660 the threshold under which salaried employees would be eligible for overtime pay. The final version of the rule released by the administration included a teaching exemption but, in theory, would have applied to postdoctoral fellows as well as many who work in student affairs, admissions and other parts of colleges and universities.

It would have gone into effect Dec. 1, but Judge Amos Mazzant granted a temporary injunction in response to a legal challenge filed by 21 states.

Congressional Republicans were joined by the American Council on Education in opposition to the rule. It received praise, on the other hand, from groups including the American Federation of Teachers and other groups that represent some of the workers who would benefit. Republicans had targeted the overtime rule along with a number of other Obama administration regulations for repeal at the beginning of the next Congress. It remains unclear exactly what will happen with the regulation, and how employers such as colleges will respond to the legal uncertainty.



November 23, 2016

Baylor University has reached an undisclosed settlement with two women who reported being gang raped by football players in 2012, ESPN reported. Baylor confirmed that the football players are no long enrolled but didn't provide additional details. A statement from David E. Garland, interim president of Baylor, said, "It breaks my heart that even one student would be sexually assaulted while a part of this university. I offer my sincere apologies, both personally and on behalf of the university, that we did not do more to prevent, respond to or support the care of these young women."

ESPN reported that, in total, 17 women have reported 19 sexual or physical assaults involving football players since 2011, and that four of those reports involve gang rapes.

In another controversy involving Baylor's football program, its associate athletic director, Heath Nielsen, has been arrested and charged with assaulting a reporter at the end of a football game, ESPN reported. The reporter said Nielsen grabbed him by the throat and pushed him away from a football player he was photographing. A statement from Baylor said, "Baylor Athletics was made aware of the postgame incident involving Heath Nielsen shortly after the game and took immediate action to address it with him through the university's human resources process. We will continue to handle this personnel matter internally."

November 23, 2016

Yale University has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a suit by the family of a graduate student who was murdered in a research lab in 2009, the Associated Press reported. The suit said the university did not do enough to protect Annie Le, the graduate student, or women generally on the campus. The suit also charged that Yale should have known of the danger posed by Raymond Clark III, a research technician who worked in the same building as Le and who is currently serving a 44-year prison sentence for killing her. Yale has denied wrongdoing. Both Le's family and Yale declined to comment to the Associated Press.

November 23, 2016

A police officer at Wayne State University was shot in the head while on duty off campus Tuesday night. The university announced that it was adding campus patrols as a caution, after the shooting. This is the most serious attack ever on a Wayne State police officer. After the police officer, Collin Rose, was released from surgery, Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson told reporters, including one from The Detroit News, that Rose remained in critical condition and has "a tough road to climb but we’ll just have to see what happens." The News also reported that a man was in custody in relation to the shooting but that it remained unclear what led to the officer's shooting.

November 23, 2016

Four University of Kansas cheerleaders have been suspended from the team after a photo circulated on social media showing three of them posing with their Kansas "K" shirts to spell out "KKK." The photo, at right, also includes the caption "Kkk go trump."

A university statement said that the individuals (one woman and three men) involved have been suspended from participation while the university completes its investigation.


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