Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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.

 

March 13, 2014

The University of Tennessee can't ban the Knoxville campus's annual "Sex Week," the system president has told state legislators, the Associated Press reported. The week, similar to those at other campuses, features a range of events, and Republican legislators have threatened to punish the university financially because of the program. In particular, lawmakers have objected to a panel discussion on pornography and a contraception scavenger hunt. Joe DiPietro, the system president, said in a letter to lawmakers that the First Amendment protects the event, and that the university can't ban it. Further, DiPietro said that he worried that “the attention focused on this matter by the General Assembly is quickly reaching a point that will cause greater harm and damage to the long-term interests of the university than any programming that may occur as result of Sex Week.”

March 13, 2014

The top education adviser for Republicans on the House of Representatives education committee will leave his post to lead a trade association that represents private student lenders, loan servicers and collection agencies.  

James Bergeron, the director for education and human services policy under House education committee chair Representative John Kline of Minnesota, will next month become president of the National Council of Higher Education Resources, the organization announced Wednesday. Bergeron will succeed the current president of three years, Shelly Repp, who is scaling back his workload at the organization, according to a press release. 

March 12, 2014

Neil Theobald, president of Temple University, has pledged to review the decision not to renew the contract of Anthony Monteiro, a non-tenure track faculty member in African-American studies, The Philadelphia Daily News reported. Theobald made the pledge at a protest by 100 people, who said that the non-renewal reflected larger problems with Temple's relations with those who live in the area. Monteiro has taught at Temple for 10 years, on a year-to-year basis.

 

March 12, 2014

Betabrand, an online clothing store, has an unusual approach for models for its spring collection for women. All of the women in the ads have Ph.D.s or are doctoral candidates. Shoppers looking at the Del Ray Perfect Dress will find it modeled by a Ph.D. candidate in nuclear engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, and those interested in the Gray Confetti Popover Shirt will find it modeled by a woman who earned her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at Stanford University. (The models are identified only with first names and their degrees.) Betabrand's founder, Chris Lindland gave a statement to Adweek about the new strategy: "When you look beyond the ranks of the professionally beautiful, photography becomes a lot more fun. Our designers cooked up a collection of smart fashions for spring, so why not display them on the bodies of women with really big brains?"

March 12, 2014

Indiana officials are considering whether the state's March 10 deadline for applications for state student aid is too early, and discourages applications from those who may most need assistance, The Indianapolis Star reported. The deadline is earlier than those of most states and the deadline for seeking federal aid. Officials believe that up to half of the state residents who meet eligibility requirements don't apply. Many say that nontraditional students don't figure out their college plans until later in the year, and so are missing the chance at getting state aid. A flip side of this issue, however, is that if more students apply, and the state doesn't provide more aid, the size of grants could shrink.

 

March 12, 2014

Stephanie Ross, an engineering student at Drexel University, died Monday in her sorority house, and meningitis is the suspected cause, Philly.com reported. The university is offering preventive treatment to all who were in close contact with Ross.

 

March 12, 2014

Florida Memorial University, Oakwood University and Wiley College on Tuesday announced the founding of the Center for Excellence in Distance Learning, a collaborative aimed at helping historically black colleges and universities create distance learning programs. The center will work with Lumen Learning, an open educational resources support provider. Housed at Wiley College, the center has created 40 courses using OER and has another 30 in development to be released this summer.

Haywood L. Strickland, president of Wiley College, acknowledged in a statement that HBCUs have been slow to adopt online education. “Distance learning creates inherent challenges for small colleges where the educational experience is grounded in personal relationships that cultivate scholarship and leadership among the students we serve," he said.

March 12, 2014

New research from the University of Manchester has found that members of some minority groups in Britain are more likely than white people in the country to have postsecondary degrees, Times Higher Education reported. The study found that 43 percent of those with Chinese heritage had a degree, as did 42 percent of those with Indian backgrounds and 40 percent of those from black African groups. Only about a quarter of white British people have a degree.

 

March 12, 2014

Adjunct organizers at Loyola Marymount University have withdrawn their petition for a union election from the National Labor Relations Board, delaying their union bid for at least another six months. Voting was to have started last month but was delayed once already, after organizers filed an unfair labor practice claim alleging that Loyola Marymount administrators were interfering in the process. As evidence, they cited a series of information meetings on unions hosted by their individual colleges (an email invitation to one was obtained by Inside Higher Ed). Emily Hallock, an adjunct professor of political science at Loyola Marymount and an organizer who attended one of the meetings, said the tone was intimidating and not conducive to “free and fair” elections, as mandated by the National Labor Relations Act.

Hallock also said administrative influence in the unionization process shrank the pool of willing witnesses for the NLRB investigation into unfair labor practices. So adjunct organizers withdrew both the complaint and the election petition to focus on more education and outreach efforts before the adjuncts apply for an election once more. They must wait at least six months, according to NLRB policy. A university spokesman said NLRB had begun investigating the interference charges "but did not present [Loyola] with any evidence to support them." He added: "The meetings were in the nature of town hall discussions; they were voluntary and, honestly, not widely attended."

Adjuncts at Loyola Marymount are trying to form a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. The union is organizing adjuncts across numerous metro areas. In Los Angeles, Whittier College adjuncts have voted to form a union affiliated with SEIU and University of LaVerne adjuncts have filed for an election. That also has been delayed due to an unfair labor practice claim.

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