Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 8, 2013

Florida Atlantic University football coach Carl Pelini, who resigned last week after his athletic director approached him about allegedly using an "illegal drug," says he never used drugs and rather was forced out for failing to supervise his staff. In a letter to the university president, trustees and general counsel, obtained by Deadspin, Pelini retracted his resignation and said he's seeking reinstatement. Sworn affidavits obtained through a public records request show an assistant coach said he personally saw Pelini use marijuana and cocaine, and Athletic Director Patrick Chun apparently possesses a text message Pelini sent to a friend in which he allegedly "admitted he uses drugs on occasion."

November 8, 2013

David R. Smith, his compensation under investigation, is resigning as president of the State University of New York's Upstate Medical University, The Syracuse Post-Standard reported. SUNY placed Smith on leave this week to review compensation issues that were later reported to involve unauthorized payments he was receiving from two companies. The Albany Times-Union reported that the payments were discovered when a search firm was vetting Smith for the presidency of Pennsylvania State University. In a statement, Smith said he would cooperate with the inquiries and that he was resigning his position "to avoid further distraction for the university from its important mission."


November 8, 2013

Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly issued a statement Thursday saying she was pleased that faculty voted to continue the college's partnership with Peking University. More than 130 Wellesley faculty had signed a letter earlier this year saying they would urge the college to reconsider its partnership with Peking if it fired an economics professor, Xia Yeliang, “based solely on his political and philosophical views." Xia’s contract was not renewed last month in a decision that many in the West view as retribution for his criticism of the Chinese government, though Peking maintains it was a result of his teaching and research record. 

Bottomly’s statement does not speak directly to the issues raised by the Wellesley faculty letter in regards to academic freedom and conditions for collaboration with universities in authoritarian societies. Rather, the statement speaks more broadly to the faculty role in determining the future direction of the partnership.

“A dedicated group of faculty will develop Wellesley’s recommendations for the parameters and elements of the partnership,” she said. “These recommendations will be brought to the full faculty body at Wellesley for approval and will then be shared with faculty counterparts at Peking University for their consideration.”

Susan M. Reverby, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Wellesley who was one of the leaders of the letter-writing campaign, wrote that she believed the letter-writers did in fact achieve a great deal.  She said that the faculty action, among other things, “raised the question of what these partnership qua exchanges are about,” “reminded our colleagues they should not give up their control over the educational experience (writ large) of our students and that more transparency in the process is absolutely required,” and “made it clear that academic freedom and human rights matter even when we engage with countries whose political cultures are different from ours (and even when many of us disagree with what our own country does too).”

“Furthermore,” she wrote, “we have hopefully made it more difficult for Professor Xia to be persecuted, even jailed, at home and found a way to bring him here (something we did not expect to happen when we first began this process of questioning the partnership).”

In a previous statement President Bottomly indicated she is supportive of efforts to bring Xia to Wellesley as a visiting scholar, but Thursday’s statement did not speak to that subject. A college spokeswoman said that nothing has been finalized yet in this regard.

November 7, 2013

Officials at the University of Maryland at College Park knew that many fans would react its move to the Big Ten "emotionally and negatively," so the university planned a public relations campaign to win them over, according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun. Many fans were bothered by the loss of long-time regional rivalries, among other issues. Maryland's response was to "plant positive comments into fan message boards," the article said. Email messages exchanged among university officials talked about seeing all the negative reaction and working to change attitudes. One official talked of plans to "engage professional assistance in helping to drop positive messages into the blogs, comments and message board sites. I will arrange for this service today."


November 7, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, John Broich of Case Western Reserve University explores the contentious history of the municipal water supply. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


November 7, 2013

A paperwork snafu following the merger of two Georgia colleges may have contributed to an 8 percent enrollment decline, according to officials at Middle Georgia State College.

Middle Georgia State – the combination of Macon State College and Middle Georgia College – is the product of a round of mergers pushed by the University System of Georgia. When the first class of students to attend the merged college used the Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year, the online application presented them with these two choices: "Middle Georgia College, Cochran, GA" and "Middle Georgia State College, Macon Cam, Macon, GA.” Students who picked the first received their financial aid normally. Students who picked the second choice didn’t because the identifier was tied to an old school code.

Sheri Rowland, the head of enrollment management at Middle Georgia State, said the problem and resulting delays in offering aid awards caused some students and families to believe the college was providing poor customer service. That, in turn, may have cost the newly merged university some first-year students. “Because of this delay in processing, we wonder if students went elsewhere because they got notification of their financial aid in a much timelier fashion from other institutions than we were able to provide to them this year,” she said.

Rowland said the first-to-second-year retention rate was pretty good, but there was an 8 percent decline in first-year enrollment at the new institution compared to what the total enrollment had been at the two institutions before they merged, which was about 9,100 students. She said no one was at fault and the problem would not occur again.

Rowland said the FAFSA problems didn’t help, but were not the only problem. She said the college has had to rebrand and market itself in a totally different fashion since the merger. “It was a drastic enough difference that it just wasn’t tied to a bad recruiting year,” Rowland said.

The Georgia higher ed system has been pushing mergers since 2011. A recently announced merger of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University is meeting strong opposition from students and alumni. On Wednesday, local news media reported an iconic globe in the center of Southern Poly campus had been toppled, apparently in an act of vandalism or protest linked to unrest after announcement of the merger.

November 7, 2013

A 2011 lawsuit alleging that Drake University officials tried to keep a student from bringing the service dog she was training into class may proceed in court, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. The Drake law school graduate says university officials were hostile toward her from 2006-9 even though Iowa law permitted her to have the dog in public places, the Des Moines Register reported. A Polk County District Court judge had dismissed the case in April 2012, but the student appealed.

November 7, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association charged Chadron State College with a lack of institutional control, its most serious breach of conduct, after finding that a former football coach maintained an outside bank account for the program and gave two players $250 for academic and insurance bills. The coach also allowed an athlete to compete while ineligible and lied or misled to NCAA investigators. The association announced Wednesday that Chadron State, a Division II program, will vacate all football wins from the 2011 and 2012 seasons and face recruiting visit reductions. It also charged the university $5,000 and placed a show cause order on the former coach and former athletics director, meaning the penalties will carry over if another institution tries to hire them.

November 7, 2013

The law dean at Case Western Reserve University told colleagues and students that he would take a leave of absence in response to a lawsuit accusing the dean of retaliating against a professor for reporting potential sexual harassment, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported. Lawrence Mitchell, dean of the Case law school since 2011, said in an email message to law school students and staff that he had asked for the leave to avoid having the lawsuit disrupt the school's work, according to the newspaper. The Plain Dealer reported last month on the lawsuit filed by Raymond Ku, a professor and former associate dean who alleged that he lost his administrative post after informing university administrators about incidents he and others witnessed in which Mitchell caressed a female staff member and made inappropriate sexual comments to others. Mitchell has denied the charges, and Case released a statement last month citing inaccuracies in the lawsuit.

November 7, 2013

Faculty at Wellesley College have voted to continue the institution's partnership with Peking University, subject to oversight by the college's Academic Council, according to Thomas Cushman, a professor of sociology who spearheaded a letter-writing campaign on behalf of Xia Yeliang, an associate professor of economics at Peking who was fired in October. Many view Xia's termination as retribution for his criticism of the Chinese government, although the university says the decision was based on his teaching and research record. More than 130 Wellesley faculty members had signed a letter objecting to the termination of Xia “based solely on his political and philosophical views” and saying that they would urge the Wellesley administration to reconsider the college’s institutional partnership with Peking if it fired Xia.

Wellesley is expected to release a statement on the matter today. In a previous statement, the college's president, H. Kim Bottomly, indicated she is supportive of efforts to bring Xia to Wellesley as a visiting scholar.



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