Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The fight is back on. Last week, El Paso civic leaders reacted with outrage to the news that Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, had canceled a planned boxing match in the Sun Bowl, which is part of the University of Texas at El Paso, citing unspecified security risks. The reaction was intense in El Paso, with many saying that the chancellor was playing into unreasonable fears about safety in El Paso because of its proximity to Mexico. On Friday, however, Cigarroa reversed himself, and outlined a series of security steps that he said would "mitigate" the security issues associated with the event.

Before he reversed himself, the chancellor's decision led to widespread speculation about why he was opposed to the fight. And that speculation led to exposure for Academically Adrift, a book sharply critical of the quality of higher education, in the nation's boxing press. Bob Arum, promoter of the fight, said that he believed Texas might be punishing him for comments made by Richard Arum, his son and a co-author of Academically Adrift. The younger Arum, a professor at New York University, was recently quoted in The Washington Post suggesting that students at the University of Texas at Austin don't learn very much. Richard Arum told Yahoo! Sports: "This is a crazy situation.... It's hard for me to believe it's connected to my criticisms and the book. However, the timing of things is an incredible coincidence." Texas officials responded to the alleged link between the criticism and the boxing match decision by pointing to the official statement on the match, which cited only security issues.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association cited the University of South Carolina on Friday for a failure to monitor its athletics program. The violations, which included impermissible recruiting, extra benefits and preferential treatment for athletes, primarily involved football players. Twelve athletes lived in a local hotel, considered a booster organization by the NCAA, for a daily rate of under $15 and nine received loans in the form of deferred hotel rent (the athletes signed leases to live there at about the same cost of local apartments, according to the public infractions report). The total rent added up to about $51,000. Also, two boosters, with whom the university self-imposed an “indefinite disassociation” as part of its penalties, provided $8,000 for recruiting inducements and extra benefits like cash and entertainment for football players and prospects.

The NCAA accepted the university’s self-imposed penalties, adding only a three-year probation period and a reduction of three football scholarships during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 years. South Carolina volunteered to give up three initial football scholarship for each of those years as well. Other self-imposed penalties include an $18,500 fine, limits of official visits in 2012-13 to 30 for football and 50 in men’s and women’s track and field, suspension of the head track coach from the 2012 Penn Relays meet, the withholding of an assistant men’s basketball coach from recruiting in December 2012, and the withholding of an assistant football coach from campus recruiting during January 2012.

Britton Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA and chair of the Division I Committee on Infractions, said South Carolina’s aggressive handling of the case and its strong self-imposed penalties made this “one of the best cases” he has seen in terms of process. “When information comes to their attention, a university really has a choice to make. It either decides to fully develop an investigation and go above and beyond to the truth, or it tries to manage the information in a way to protect themselves,” Banowsky said in a call with reporters. “The university wanted to get to the truth.”

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 4:18am

In 2009, Georgia Institute of Technologies uploaded sensitive information about U.S. military technologies to servers, where the information could be accessed worldwide, even though that information was supposed to be blocked to non-Americans, Bloomberg reported. The incident prompted a rebuke from the U.S. State Department. The security lapse, which wasn't intentional, came when the instructor for a course for federal employees and contractors, asked that course materials be placed on a DVD, and Georgia Tech staffers instead uploaded the material to servers. The article uses the Georgia Tech incident as an example of the potential problems faced when sensitive course material is shared on American campuses with traditions of openness.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed the University of Florida and Florida State University -- research universities where tuition rates lag national averages -- to increase tuition substantially. In his veto message, Governor Scott cited concerns about the impact of tuition increase on students and their families, and a need for more information on whether tuition increases would provide an appropriate "return" for Florida taxpayers. Florida State and University of Florida had lobbied hard for passage of the bill, arguing that they needed more money to achieve the state's aspirations for them as research universities. The veto comes amid deep budget cuts to the state's universities. Following the veto, Bernie Machen, president of the University of Florida, issued a statement saying that he was "so very disappointed" in the governor's action. "This legislation presented the University of Florida with a pathway toward excellence and would have enabled the great state of Florida to have two world-class universities."

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, G. Thomas Couser of Hofstra University explains how memoir is often the precursor of social change and the increased acceptance of minority groups. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 3:00am

Thirteen students at six California State University campuses are planning a hunger strike, vowing to fast until the university system freezes tuition, cuts spending on administrators and agrees to various other measures, The Los Angeles Times reported. "We've tried pretty much everything, and they just ignore us," said Donnie Bessom, a student at Cal State Long Beach. "We've talked to state legislators, written petitions, mobilized people on campus. The next step for us is in the tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience. They keep raising salaries and have those other luxuries, and we thought the symbolic nature of a hunger strike was appropriate to the crisis."

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

Creighton University has announced plans to sell its struggling medical center in Omaha to a regional health care network. The university, which sold off a large share of the hospital's ownership to another health care company, Tenet, in 1995, said Wednesday that Alegent Health would buy the entire Creighton University Medical Center, and that Alegent would become the university's primary partner for its medical and other health professions students. The university did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 4:30am

The conference commissioners and other college football bigwigs who run the Bowl Championship Series emerged from a three-day meeting saying they had reached general agreement for the first time on creating a playoff to decide the sport's annual champion each year, the Associated Press reported. The BCS, the sport's current method of picking a winner each year, has been much derided by sports fans and others, but opposition to a playoff has come from some college presidents and from those in college football (particularly in the Big Ten and Pacific-12 Conferences) loyal to the bowl games, which many believe would be threatened under a playoff system.

Details of the new arrangement have yet to be worked out (and college presidents were generally not involved in the discussions), but a four-game playoff is likely. “Yes, we’ve agreed to use the P word,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the AP.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 3:00am

High school athletes will have an extra year to meet new eligibility requirements and “limited resource” institutions will have more flexibility in adjusting to higher academic standards, leaders of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top athletic programs announced Thursday. Both decisions tweak new rules the Division I Board of Directors adopted in October. The board also pushed back the timelines for the working groups assembled by NCAA President Mark Emmert this summer.

Most institutions must ensure their teams are earning at least a 930 Academic Progress Rate, the NCAA’s measure of classroom performance, by the 2015-16 postseason. (A 930 APR represents a 50-percent graduation rate, the NCAA says.) Low-resource institutions and historically black colleges and universities will have an extra year to bring their athletes up to the new standards, and will have more flexibility in meeting benchmarks along the way. But they must also develop “a meaningful APR improvement plan,” that identifies “issues on that campus most critical to academic success, supported by data,” and develops “meaningful initiatives” to address those issues.

After administrators and coaches complained that 2015 was too soon to start enforcing the NCAA’s new freshman eligibility standards, the board of university presidents voted to give them an extra year to prepare athletes. The eligibility rules raised the minimum grade point average in a set of high school core courses from 2.0 to 2.3 (community college transfers must come in with at least a 2.5 GPA), and require students to take the majority of those courses before senior year. Students who don’t meet the GPA minimums will still be eligible for athletic scholarships and practice.

The new working group schedule “allows for a more comprehensive discussion within the membership, but still ensures the presidents can make principled decisions in a timely fashion,” the NCAA said in a press release. The Enforcement Working Group will present its final recommendations at the Board’s next meeting in August. The Rules Working Group, which among other things is charged with paring down the notoriously extensive NCAA rulebook, will present its “first phase” of recommendations “either later this year or possibly” at the NCAA’s annual convention in January. Finally, the Student-Athlete Well-Being Group is considering various ways to implement a rule that would award athletes with an additional $2,000 to help cover living expenses. The board adopted the controversial rule in October but rescinded it for modifications in January after more than 160 institutions requested an override.

Friday, April 27, 2012 - 4:35am

The vice dean of the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education resigned Thursday, a day after Penn officials placed him on leave amid reports that he did not actuall have the doctorate he had claimed to have, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

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