Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 24, 2014

The American Council on Education on Wednesday named 31 faculty members and administrators as the next class of ACE Fellows. The program, which matches those with potential as administrators with successful presidents and others, is credited with launching many careers.  More than 300 fellows have gone on to become presidents, and another 1,300 have become provosts, vice presidents or deans. The new class may be found here.

 

April 24, 2014

A report released this week by a Pennsylvania State University task force of faculty, administrators and staff who reviewed the controversial “Take Care of Your Health” wellness and health insurance program echoed what many employees said about the plan all along: that it violated employee privacy; that its design was not supported by health care research; and that the university was not forthcoming about the plan as a whole. Among other elements of the plan, which was proposed last summer, faculty objected to monthly surcharges for not completing certain physical exams and wellness screenings; covering family members eligible for health care through their own employers; and for tobacco use. Most all of the plan has since been tabled, except for the tobacco use surcharge.

The task force report says that “To implement a costly, intrusive and unpopular mandate that the academic literature suggests would not attain the stated goals, and to justify the mandate by reference to potentially self-serving vendor studies, did not engender confidence among some that the necessary level of due diligence had been performed.” It also criticizes the university for announcing the plan quietly in the middle of the summer, saying “many of the faculty and staff at Penn State expect more forthright behavior from their university," and validates privacy concerns employees raised about a required online health questionnaire.

While critical, the report says the university has a chance going forward to emerge as a leader in employer health care. “By taking a deliberate yet measured approach, and collaborating with the health and research expertise throughout the University, Penn State can provide significant benefits to society in this area,” it says.

 

April 24, 2014

The Community College of Baltimore County was sued in federal court this week by a student rejected for admission to a competitive radiation therapy program, he says, because of his religious views, The Baltimore Sun reported. According to the suit (available online here), he was rejected because of his answer to an interview question about what was most important to him. His answer was "My God." The suit includes text of an email from the program director, responding to the student's request for details about why he was rejected. The director said (according to the suit): "I understand that religion is a major part of your life and that was evident in your recommendation letters, however, this field is not the place for religion. We have many patients who come to us for treatment from many different religions and some who believe in nothing. If you interview in the future, you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process." The suit maintains that he met or exceeded the program's requirements.

College officials did not respond to requests for comment, citing a policy not to do so about pending litigation. But in court filings they have questioned whether the student was sufficiently "motivated by an individual passion in the field." Further, they said that because the student has a criminal record, he would have difficulty getting a job in the field in Maryland.

 

April 24, 2014

Students at two dozen high schools that use the company K12 Inc. to provide their curriculum will no longer be allowed to count their coursework toward initial-eligibility certification, the National Collegiate Athletic Association said. The schools’ nontraditional courses did not comply with NCAA requirements for athletic eligibility, AthleticsScholarships.net reported. For students who complete coursework between spring 2013 and spring 2014, eligibility will be “subject to further review on a case-by-case basis, which will require additional academic documentation,” the NCAA said. Same goes for an additional number of K12-affiliated schools that are under “extended evaluation.”

K12’s senior vice president of corporate communications, Jeff Kwitowski, said that the NCAA has “vague standards and [an] unclear review process” that leaves schools to “guess” what counts toward eligibility.

April 24, 2014

A number of student newspapers that once produced daily print editions have dropped a day or two, but The Columbia Daily Spectator plans to switch to a weekly print format with daily news online only, Capital New York reported. Editors say that this will allow for better coverage.

 

 

April 24, 2014

Two dozen Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday called on the Education Department to enact tighter regulations on campus debit cards. In a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the lawmakers urged the department to create rules that would prohibit any college-affiliated debit cards that students use to access federal student aid from charging fees. They also urged the department to enact a ban on revenue-sharing arrangements between debit card providers and colleges.

A negotiated rule making panel is meeting in Washington this week for the second of four scheduled sessions aimed at hammering out rules on campus debit cards, among other issues.  If the panel does not come to unanimous agreement on the package of rules, the Education Department is free to proceed with new regulations on its own. 

April 23, 2014

Faculty and student groups are criticizing the leadership of Debra Townsley, president of William Peace University, The News & Observer reported. A letter sent by faculty members to the board cited problems such as "staff turnover, dropping graduation rates, unsecured student records and university buildings with malfunctioning heat, asbestos problems and infestations of poisonous spiders." The letter said: “Peace has become an institution driven by mediocrity, suspicion, and fear, a university desperate for tuition dollars but entirely unwilling to provide students with the support and encouragement they need to complete their degrees." And students who circulated a petition criticizing Townsley now say they are facing retaliatory disciplinary proceedings.

Townsley defended her record, noting that William Peace, like many small colleges, is undergoing change and that such transitions are difficult. Townsley led a controversial shift under which the former women's college started to admit men.

 

 

April 23, 2014

A new analysis of available jobs finds that the highest demand (among openings for college graduates) is for white-collar professional occupations (33 percent) and science and technology occupations (28 percent). The analysis -- by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce -- is consistent with that center's past research, in finding many more opportunities for those with a bachelor's degree than for those without a college degree.

The new study is based on online job advertisements. The most in-demand professional jobs are accountants/auditors and medical/health service managers. In STEM, the most in-demand jobs are for applications software developers and computer systems analysts.

April 23, 2014

James Kilgore, who has earned good reviews as a lecturer in global studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was told his contract would not be renewed this year, shortly after it became widely known that he had once been a fugitive and had later served jail time for his role in the Symbionese Liberation Army, The News-Gazette reported. That same newspaper reported on his past associations in February, prompting local discussion. The SLA is the group that kidnapped Patty Hearst and robbed banks in the 1970s. Kilgore and the university declined to comment on the situation. The American Association of University Professors sent a letter to the Phyllis Wise, chancellor at Illinois, raising concerns about why Kilgore would not be renewed. The AAUP is "troubled" by the "sequence of events" in which someone was receiving good reviews, with the expectation of continued employment, only to have that change after publicity over his past. The AAUP letter states that Kilgore disclosed his felony conviction and six-plus years in prison when he was hired.

April 23, 2014

Charles Murray, the controversial conservative writer best known for The Bell Curve, is accusing Azusa Pacific University of lacking the courage to bring him to campus. He was scheduled to appear today, and was called and told not to come. In an open letter to Azusa Pacific's students, Murray suggested that fear of controversy was behind the decision. He questioned the stated reason -- that it is late in the semester -- given that Murray said the visit has been planned for some time. He urged students to make up their own minds about him. "You’re at college, right? Being at college is supposed to mean thinking for yourselves, right?," Murray wrote. "OK, then do it. Don’t be satisfied with links to websites that specialize in libeling people. Lose the secondary sources. Explore for yourself the “full range” of my scholarship and find out what it is that I’ve written or said that would hurt your faculty or students of color. It’s not hard."

The university released a statement from Jon Wallace, the president: "Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation. We want to host robust discussions. We have a long history of being in the middle of conversations that matter, but those take time and careful planning. As we value open discourse and varying viewpoints, we do so not merely for freedom’s sake, but for Jesus’ sake. Our approach to all topics must be in light of a biblical worldview. In doing so, we strive to model civic virtue for our campus community and encourage spiritual unity in Christ. We look forward to an opportunity to gather around the table for thoughtful and meaningful dialogue with Dr. Murray in the 2014–15 academic year."

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