Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, August 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors on Thursday told the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights that its recent crackdown on policies and procedures in cases of sexual harassment has the potential to threaten academic freedom. In April, the OCR sent an advisory letter to colleges and universities reiterating their responsibilities to address sexual assault under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. Given the aim of the ramped-up enforcement, organizations such as Security on Campus have praised the letter.

But the AAUP is now among groups, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, that worry that the office is overreaching. In a letter to the federal office, AAUP President Cary Nelson and Ann E. Green, chair of the AAUP Committee on Women in the Academic Profession, took issue with the OCR telling colleges to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard -- which requires them only to show that it is more likely than not that an assault occurred -- and suggested that they use the tougher "clear and convincing" standard of evidence because requiring more proof lessens the likelihood that professors be unfairly disciplined or sanctioned. (The OCR has noted that many colleges do use the latter, illegally.) The AAUP also cautioned against rushed judgment of faculty who teach courses touching on sexually sensitive topics. “‘Dear Colleague’ should encourage discussion of topics like sexual harassment both in and outside of the curriculum, but acknowledge that what might be offensive or uncomfortable to some students may also be necessary for their education,” Nelson and Green wrote.

Friday, August 19, 2011 - 3:00am

A local judge has dismissed a conservative watchdog group's lawsuit challenging a Maryland community college's policy that lets recent graduates of the county's high schools pay lower tuition rates, even if they are not legal U.S. residents. The ruling in Montgomery County Circuit Court blocks Judicial Watch's lawsuit against Montgomery College; the lawsuit charged that "[b]y providing reduced, in-county tuition to all students who graduate from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their residence or status as unlawfully present aliens, Montgomery College is failing to collect revenue that, by state and federal law, it is required to collect." The court ruled that the three county residents who served as Judicial Watch's plaintiffs did not have standing to sue the college. A lawyer for the college, Michael Hays of Dow Lohnes, said that the college "believes that its tuition policy is fully consistent with all applicable laws and regulations."

Friday, August 19, 2011 - 3:00am

White applicants for grants from the National Institutes of Health were significantly likelier than black researchers to win funding, according to a Science magazine study published Thursday that sought (and struggled) to explain the reasons for the gap. The study found that about 16 percent of black applicants were successful in winning NIH grants, compared to about 29 percent of applications from white researchers and 25 percent of Asian researchers. The gap between black and white applicants shrank (to about 10 percent, from 13 percent) but was sustained even after controlling for factors such as the applicants' educational background, country of origin, training, previous research awards, publication record and employer characteristics. But the gap disappeared among applicants whose applications emerged from the peer review process with "strong" scores.

The study, which was commissioned by the NIH and drew expressions of concern from its officials, said it was difficult to gauge what caused the gaps in grants or in the scoring of the submitted proposals, but suggested that they could be caused by differences in the quality of the papers or by racial bias. "Although our models do not fully explain the funding gap, the greatest differences between blacks and whites that we observed were in the effect of previous training and the probability of receiving a priority score," the researchers wrote. "Although more research is needed to discern the basis for the award differences, it is possible that cumulative advantage may be involved."

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 3:00am

Governor Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, wants his state's universities to rise in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Brownback spoke on the issue Wednesday at a meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents. He said that he was open to higher admissions standards as one way to rise in the rankings.

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 3:00am

Half of all women who have graduated from a four-year college give the higher education system excellent or good marks for the value provided by the money spent by students and their families. But only 37 percent of male graduates agree. Those results come from a nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center. The study also found that women are more likely than men to say that their education helped them, both personally and intellectually.

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Cheryl Paradis of Marymount Manhattan College explains her efforts to understand the inner workings of the criminal mind. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 3:00am

An order of nuns has dismissed the president and the entire board of Our Lady of Holy Cross College, in Louisiana, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported. No reason was given for the dismissals, and board members said that they were surprised by their ouster.

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 3:00am

President Donna E. Shalala said Wednesday that the University of Miami would cooperate fully with a National Collegiate Athletic Association investigation into a former booster's charges that he made improper payments to dozens of Hurricane players and coaches during an eight-year spree in which he appeared to have virtually unfettered access to the university's sports program. The allegations made to Yahoo Sports by Nevin Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year sentence for a series of financial crimes, are on a scale that rival some of the biggest in college sports history, and Mark Emmert, the NCAA's president, said in a statement Wednesday that the association was several months into an investigation of the university. In her statement, Shalala -- who was photographed in 2008 holding a $50,000 check from Shapiro, a picture that appeared alongside the Yahoo article -- said the university would "vigorously pursue the truth, wherever that path may lead."

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of California, whose campuses have worried about losing top faculty members amid budget cuts and salary freezes and cuts, on Wednesday announced that faculty members who receive good performance reviews will receive a 3 percent raise, The Los Angeles Times reported. Non-academic, non-unionized employees could receive larger raises. The university also announced that administrators who earn more than $200,000 will not be included in the raise pool.

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 3:00am

New York University has agreed to pay $210,000 to settle a suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over racial harassment of an employee from Africa, CNN reported. The EEOC said that the supervisor referred to the employee as a "monkey" and "gorilla," asked "do you want a banana?" and urged the employee to "go back to your cage," An NYU spokesman said that the supervisor is no longer employed by the university and that NYU does not tolerate such behavior.

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