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Higher Education Quick Takes
Employees of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York and Yale Universities sued their respective institutions on Tuesday for allegedly allowing them to be charged excessive fees on their retirement savings, The New York Times reported. Each university has several billion dollars in retirement holdings, and the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status. The employees allege that the institutions failed to monitor high plan management fees and poor-performing investments, costing them tens of millions of dollars collectively, according to the Times.
New York University said in a statement that “retirement plans offered to [employees] are chosen and administered carefully and prudently. We will litigate this case vigorously and expect to prevail.” A spokesperson for MIT told the Times that it does not comment on pending litigation. Yale said it was “cautious and careful” with retirement plans and that it planned to defend itself vigorously.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association and five co-defendants will pay $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a Frostburg State University football player who died after suffering a head injury in 2011. Three Frostburg State staff members, helmet manufacturer Kranos Corp. and retailer George L. Heider Inc. also agreed to the settlement.
The lawsuit alleged that Derek Sheely, a Division III football player at Frostburg State, had earlier suffered a concussion and complained of a headache during a preseason practice in August 2011. He had complained of similar headaches days earlier, as well, and had a bruise on his forehead. According to the lawsuit, instead of pulling Sheely from practice, an assistant coach told him to "Stop your bitching and moaning and quit acting like a pussy and get back out there." Later, while running a drill, Sheely collapsed.
''This is a landmark settlement not just because it is the first brain-injury case that the NCAA has agreed to pay a significant amount of money to resolve, but also because the stakeholders of football are now on notice that they have an obligation to protect the health and safety of the athletes,'' Kenneth McClain, attorney for Sheely's parents, told the Associated Press.
In May, several former college football players from six institutions filed class action lawsuits alleging that their universities, athletic conferences and the National Collegiate Athletic Association were negligent in their handling of the players' head injuries. The athletes who filed the lawsuits all played college football prior to 2010, when the NCAA began requiring its members to have concussion protocols. The lawsuits were filed by former football players for Auburn, Pennsylvania State and Vanderbilt Universities and the Universities of Georgia, Oregon and Utah.
The NCAA was first sued over concussions in 2011. That lawsuit was then joined by several others, becoming a class action. Earlier this year, a judge approved a settlement in the case that includes the NCAA creating new safety protocols and providing $70 million for medical screenings for former college athletes. That settlement included no payments for players already suffering from head injuries, however.
Supporters of the University of Alabama System -- using a "dark money" nonprofit organization -- appear to have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to political leaders in the state despite laws designed to prevent nonprofit institutions from lobbying, AL.com reported. The investigative report examines an entity called the Alabama Association for Higher Education, which describes itself as "promoting common business interests of all nonprofit institutions of higher learning in the state of Alabama along with their respective affiliated organizations in the health care, research and service sectors," according to AL.com. It reports that the group has received $1.4 million since 2014 and has donated $541,000 to a single entity, Innovation PAC -- more than $300,000 of which has been contributed to leading politicians in Alabama.
Representatives of the two organizations declined AL.com's requests for comment, but a University of Alabama spokesperson told the website that the university, while a "member" of the higher education association, is not involved in any decisions about political contributions.
An Education Department review of Ashford University's compliance with federal financial aid rules has resulted in a fine of $137,695 for a handful of violations, Bridgepoint Education, which owns Ashford, announced Tuesday. The review, initiated in 2014, found that Ashford had awarded financial aid in excess of some students' need, and disbursed more loan funds than the maximum allowed.
The American University of Afghanistan this morning confirmed that two of its faculty members were abducted on Sunday. The university had not previously commented on the news reports about the abductions. The university was closed Monday and today. A statement from the university said it planned to resume normal operations Wednesday. University leaders worked after the abductions "to review the security situation and to put in place additional precautionary measures," the statement said. No details were provided about those who were abducted, although press reports have indicated that one is an American and the other is an Australian.
The university is unique in Afghanistan, offering a private, American-style, coeducational college program.
The student government at the University of Houston has lifted a series of punishments it imposed on Rohini Sethi, the association's vice president, for a social media post that said, "Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like #AllLivesMatter," Houston Public Media reported. Sethi had been suspended and told that to resume her position, she would have to attend three cultural events per month, write a letter reflecting on the controversy over the social media post and speak about the issue at a student government meeting. The university said it played no role in the matter, but many accused the university of violating Seth's First Amendment rights to free expression. Now, the student government has lifted the punishments, saying that they may have violated internal rules. But Sethi said she plans, voluntarily, to participate in diversity training.
The U.S. State Department, citing the current unrest in Turkey, has suspended the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program, which sends Americans to teach English in Turkey, The New York Times reported. Fulbright research grants have not been impacted. However, prior to the recent coup attempt and crackdown on civil liberties in Turkey, participants in the State Department's Critical Language Scholarship Program were told that their work in Turkey would be moved to Azerbaijan.
A scam may have cost 90 Chinese students at the University of Washington up to $1 million, The Seattle Times reported. University police officials said a student from China spread word on a Chinese social media website that students could save about $600 on tuition for the summer by paying their tuition bill through an intermediary. Students paid but the money did not go to the university and now the students must pay again. Some students may have been duped into spreading word about the alleged discount without knowing that it was fake.