Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Notre Dame has agreed to a series of policy changes to resolve an inquiry by the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights into the university's handling of sexual assault charges. The OCR statement referenced a number of concrete changes that will assure those bring complaints of clear information about their options and a range of support, while also requiring prompt investigations by the university. Notre Dame's statement, in contrast, referred to "several minor modifications" it agreed to make in its policies. The Education Department inquiry followed a series of complaints about Notre Dame's handling of such allegations. In one case revealed by The Chicago Tribune, a new student at St. Mary's College (Notre Dame's neighbor) killed herself shortly after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexual battery -- a charge that her family believes the university did not investigate adquately. The parents of Lizzy Seeberg, the St. Mary's students, told the Tribune on Friday: "Perhaps it will be her legacy that our daughters and granddaughters, our sisters and nieces, may one day soon walk their college campuses with the safety and freedom that they should expect and that the people should demand."
In today's Academic Minute, Ben Trachtenberg of the University of Missouri School of Law explains how economists value human life and why the lives of Americans are becoming more valuable. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
Oxford University Press issued a statement Thursday affirming that it had not killed the "Oxford comma" (also called a serial comma), which appears before "and" in a series. Twitter and the blogosphere have been full of outrage over the reported elimination of the comma. As the Associated Press explained, the false reports were based on a style guide produced by the University of Oxford public relations office for press releases. For those following the Oxford University Press style, the comma lives on.
Baltimore International College officials said the institution would explore a merger that might allow it to survive the stripping of its accreditation in June by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The revocation of accreditation for the culinary college was one of many negative actions that the regional accrediting agency imposed at its meeting last month, which added four colleges (Baltimore City Community College, Caribbean University, Luzerne County Community College,and Richmond, the American International University in London) to its rolls of institutions on probation and issued warnings to nine other colleges, listed below. Most of the institutions that Middle States placed on probation or warned were cited for their failure to provide evidence that they were assessing their own institutional effectiveness or the extent of student learning.
- Columbia-Greene Community College
- Erie Community College
- Essex County College, NJ
- Institute of World Politics
- Kean University
- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
- SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill
- Union Theological Seminary, NY
- Washington Theological Union, DC
Four colleges (all campuses of the University of Puerto Rico) were continued on probation, while seven other branches of the Puerto Rican university were removed from probation.
The American Association of Community Colleges on Thursday appointed a 36-member commission to take "a holistic look" at the mission of and challenges facing community colleges. Most of the commission members are current community college presidents, but the group also includes such experts on community colleges as Vincent Tinto, Distinguished University Professor at Syracuse University and Mark David Milliron, deputy director for postsecondary improvement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and university system chancellors such as William Kirwan of the University System of Maryland and Nancy Zimpher of the State University of New York.
In today’s Academic Minute, Robert Vanderlan of Cornell University explains the role poets played in creating one of the 20th century’s great media empires. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
The longtime former president of Hocking College and his wife -- also a former official at the Ohio institution -- were charged Thursday with violations of ethics and other laws related to actions while in office, The Columbus Dispatch reported. John Light, who presided over Hocking for nearly 40 years, was charged for failing to report college-paid travel, while Roxanne DuVivier, a former vice president at Hocking, faces several conflict of interest charges, the newspaper reported. Hocking's successor had a very short tenure, ousted last month after clashes with the board.
Historically, the University of California's campuses have not recruited undergraduates (or enrolled very many) from out of state. This wasn't surprising, given the high demand to get into its institutions, and the state's demographics, which produced highly diverse enrollments of Californians. But in the last two years, the system has stepped up out-of-state recruitment, with officials saying that they need the higher tuition revenue paid by these students. The latest numbers, as reported in The Los Angeles Times, show that 12.3 percent of freshmen this fall will be from out of state, up from 8 percent last fall. The non-California proportion is highest at Berkeley, 30 percent, up from 23 percent.
Two blind students — backed by the National Federation of the Blind -- on Wednesday sued Florida State University over the use of technology that they maintain denies equal access to the blind. The suit mentions mathematics courses in which the students allege the university required the students to use an inaccessible Web-based application to complete homework and exams, and required the use of clickers that cannot be used by a blind person to respond to in-class questions and obtain bonus credit. The suit is the latest in a series by blind students over educational technology tools.
The Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science released a statement Wednesday about the way some climate scientists have been treated. "We are deeply concerned by the extent and nature of personal attacks on climate scientists," the statement said. "Reports of harassment, death threats, and legal challenges have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and makes it difficult for factual information and scientific analyses to reach policymakers and the public."
While some of the legal attacks have involved extensive records requests of scientists at public universities, the AAAS statement says that these inquiries go beyond legitimate requests for information. "The sharing of research data is vastly different from unreasonable, excessive Freedom of Information Act requests for personal information and voluminous data that are then used to harass and
intimidate scientists. The latter serve only as a distraction and make no constructive contribution to the public discourse," the statement says.