Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 13, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Jason Boardman, professor of sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, examines whether each plays a part in our development. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 12, 2017

The Maryland General Assembly has approved legislation that would ban the state's colleges -- public and private -- from asking prospective applicants about their criminal records, The Baltimore Sun reported. The "ban the box" movement is based on the idea that many criminal records reflect long-past transgressions or the judicial system's unfair treatment of minority youth. It is unclear whether Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, will sign the bill.

Tina Bjarekull, president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association, said via email that some of her association's members ask about criminal history and others do not. She said the association opposed the bill as drafted but worked with legislators to improve it to a point where the association is comfortable with it. For example, the version that is going to the governor says that colleges may use third-party admissions services (such as the Common Application) that ask about criminal background.

April 12, 2017

Students rallied outside Tuesday as Charles Murray, the controversial co-author of The Bell Curve, gave a talk at Indiana University at Bloomington. Scores of faculty members signed an open letter calling the invitation to Murray -- by the campus chapter of the American Enterprise Institute -- "highly irresponsible and detrimental to the university community." Police were visible outside the building where Murray spoke. Students shared on Twitter some of the signs and chalkings that opposed his visit.

Murray's talk took place without disruptions, although chants from those outside could be heard. The event was open to all Indiana students and faculty members, but attendees needed to reserve tickets in advance.

April 12, 2017

Rolling Stone and the author of a now debunked 2014 article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia have settled a lawsuit by an administrator who was named in the article, The New York Times reported. Terms of the agreement were not released. A federal jury last year awarded the administrator, Nicole P. Eramo, $3 million in damages. Rolling Stone had indicated it would appeal that ruling.

April 12, 2017

Some 35 percent of faculty members who completed a survey on work-life issues at the University of Wisconsin at Madison reported having been bullied by colleagues within the last three years, The Cap Times reported. “The measure of incidence of hostile and intimidating behavior is rather surprising,” reads a new report on survey results prepared by the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute at Madison.

The same survey found that 91 percent of respondents said major budget cuts due to decreased state funding lowered morale. Some 72 percent of respondents said controversial new tenure policies adopted after changes to the state statute on tenure lowered morale. The survey involved tenured and tenure-track faculty members and saw a 59 percent response rate.

About half of women and faculty members with disabilities said they’d experienced bullying. Professors with tenure and those in the social sciences also were more likely to report having been bullied than participants over all. Some 42 percent of respondents also said they’d witnessed bullying, defined in the survey as “hostile and intimidating behavior.”

The institute has conducted the work-life survey five times since 2003, but the most recent survey, conducted last spring, was the first to ask about bullying. Hostile and intimidating behavior was also a factor in 16 percent of cases brought to Madison’s Ombuds Office in 2015-16, according to an annual report. Reports included bullying from supervisors and peers. In 2014, the UW Madison Faculty Senate and Academic Staff Assembly adopted policies defining hostile and intimidating behavior and establishing informal and formal processes for reporting it, according to The Cap Times.

Respondents said hostile and intimidating behavior is treated “somewhat” seriously on campus. Greg Bump, university spokesperson, said the uptick in reports of bullying may be attributable in part to Madison’s efforts to encourage victims to come forward. The university is developing training tools for managers, he said.

Academic bullying isn’t unique to Madison, or even the U.S., as evidenced by the popularity of a 2013 blog post on “academic assholes” by Australian scholar Inger Mewburn, moderator of the Thesis Whisperer blog. Bob Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University and author of The No-Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, said at the time that academe may perpetuate “selfishness” by virtue of its rewards system. He doubted bullying was worse in academe than in many other professions, however, including nursing, where the phenomenon is well documented and comes from a variety of sources.

April 12, 2017

The Urban Institute has created a new website that attempts to inform students and their families about college affordability. Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the institute, and other researchers designed the site to better define what affordability actually means. With funding from the Lumina Foundation, the site seeks to map out the full life cycle of student finance, from defining "what is college" to loan repayment after college. It also includes sections on financial aid, covering expenses and student demographics and income levels.

"There is not a yes or no answer to the question of whether college is affordable," the site says. "But the information on this website can increase understanding of how much students in different circumstances pay for different kinds of education and of the resources they can draw on to cover their expenses."

April 12, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Ana Inés Ansaldo, associate professor in the school of speech-language pathology and audiology at the University of Montreal, explores these benefits and how they can help us improve ourselves. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

April 11, 2017

The Morehouse College Board of Trustees has voted to replace President John S. Wilson and name new board leadership.

The board took the actions last week, nearly three months after voting not to extend Wilson's contract. The process that led up to that decision had come under fire from students and faculty.

Replacing Wilson as interim president is William Taggart, who has served as chief operating officer at Morehouse since 2015. Robert Davidson was also replaced by Willie Woods as chairman of the Board of Trustees.

"I want to emphasize that the decisions made today were out of love for the college and with a focus on turning the page toward better positioning the institution for future success," Woods said in a statement after the board's action.

April 11, 2017

Hungarian President János Áder signed into law Monday a bill that Central European University says could force it to close its campus in Budapest, Bloomberg reported. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Sunday in support of the university in what Bloomberg described as one of the largest anti-government rallies since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took office in 2010. The passage of the law, which was fast-tracked through Parliament in about a week, has been widely seen as part of Orbán’s project to end liberal democracy in Hungary in favor of what he calls an “illiberal” state.

CEU, which was founded in 1991 by the liberal financier and philanthropist George Soros, issued a statement on Monday promising it “will immediately seek all available legal remedies.” The university described the law as “targeted at an American institution in a flagrantly discriminatory manner” and as “a premeditated political attack on a free institution that has been a proud part of Hungarian life for a quarter of a century.”

The university says the legislation “seeks to make it impossible for CEU to offer American-accredited master's and doctoral degrees, as it has done with the full agreement of Hungarian authorities for many years.”

April 11, 2017

A Pennsylvania court has ruled that Chestnut Hill College's status as a Roman Catholic institution does not exempt it from all oversight by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, PennLive reported. The commission has been investigating a complaint from a black former student at the college that he was a victim of discrimination. The college denies discrimination but also said that the commission should not be reviewing actions by religious institutions.

The judge who wrote the opinion in the case noted that the dispute did not involve religious matters. "Were this court to construe the First Amendment as [the] college suggests, any church-related institution's decisions would be immune from suit based on unexplained references to church doctrine."

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