Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 17, 2014

Occidental College is among the colleges and universities being criticized for allegedly failing to adequately respond to sexual assaults, and The Los Angeles Times reported in December that the college had failed to report, as required by federal law, 27 sexual assault allegations. But on Friday, the Times published a note saying that its article had been incorrrect. "Occidental representatives approached The Times early this month to seek a correction. Documents reviewed by The Times this week show that the 27 incidents did not fall under the law's disclosure requirements for a variety of reasons," the note said. "Some were not sexual assaults as defined by the Clery Act. Rather, they involved sexual harassment, inappropriate text messages or other conduct not covered by the act. Other alleged incidents were not reported because they occurred off-campus, beyond the boundaries that Occidental determined were covered by the act. Some occurred in 2011, and the college accounted for them that year."

The Times note also announced the firing of the reporter who wrote the article and others about Occidental. The newspaper explained that "editors learned from the author of the articles, staff writer Jason Felch, that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with someone who was a source for the Dec. 7 story and others Felch had written about Occidental's handling of sexual assault allegations. Felch acknowledged that after the relationship ended, he continued to use the person as a source for future articles. Times Editor Davan Maharaj dismissed Felch on Friday. Maharaj said the inappropriate relationship with a source and the failure to disclose it earlier constituted 'a professional lapse of the kind that no news organization can tolerate.' "

The blog LA Observed published a statement from Felch in which he acknowledges the inappropriate relationship and the errors, but notes that, prior to publication of the article, Occidental declined to make relevant officials available to discuss the allegations on which his article was based.

 

March 17, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Brent Plate, visiting associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College, examines how objects can have a rich personal significance. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

March 17, 2014

Some Connecticut legislators are considering changes in the state's controversial new law on remedial education, The New Haven Register reported. The law makes it very difficult for colleges to offer remedial education; instead they are supposed to provide extra academic support to students in need of remediation while they take standard college courses. But many students and college officials have raised doubts about the new system, prompting some lawmakers to consider changes.

March 17, 2014

Officials at the University of Southern Maine and Southern Oregon University have announced retrenchment plans, in response to state budget cuts, that eliminate faculty jobs and academic programs -- and that are controversial.

At the University of Southern Maine, President Theodora Kalikow on Friday announced a plan to eliminate majors in  American and New England studies, geosciences and recreational and leisure studies plus an arts and humanities major at the university's Lewiston-Auburn College. The plan would eliminate the jobs of 20-30 faculty members and 10-20 staff members. The Morning Sentinel reported that many faculty members are opposing the cuts and questioning the process by which the plan was developed.

Southern Oregon University will eliminate its physics department as part of a plan to cut 25 faculty positions, Ashland Daily Tidings reported. Officials said that they hoped to find a way to reinstate physics, linked more closely to regional hiring needs.

 

 

 

March 17, 2014

The University of Louisville last year agreed to pay six months of salary to 175 administrators and staff members who agreed to take earlier retirement. But The Courier-Journal reported that three administrators got a full year's pay. The newspaper noted that all were close to President James Ramsey and all agreed to pledge not to “disparage, demean or impugn the university or its senior leadership.” Some administrators who didn't get the extra pay are raising questions about why the agreements were needed, and why they resulted in much more pay for those three officials. Ramsey declined to comment on the agreements.

 

 

March 14, 2014

The Association of Art Museum Directors has taken the unusual step of adopting sanctions against Randolph College and its Maier Museum of Art. The group took the action because the college recently sold a masterpiece of American painting, the 1912 work "Men of the Docks," by George Bellows, for $25.5 million in funds for the endowment. Art ethics codes require that museums sell art only to build up collections, not for general financial support for institutions. Under the sanctions, members of the art museum association will stop collaborating with the Maier Museum of Art on exhibitions, either by borrowing or lending work. The News & Advance reported that four museums are expected to cancel plans to borrow works from the Randolph museum. College officials have defended the sale as crucial to the college's long-term financial health.

 

March 14, 2014

Indiana's Martin University has been placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which cited concerns about the institution's finances and governance and the adequacy of its faculty and staff. The commission also placed several other institutions -- Arkansas Baptist College, Oglala Lakota College, Southwestern Christian University, and Salem International University -- on notice, which is less severe than probation. Kansas City Art Institute and Morton College were removed from notice.

March 14, 2014

A federal appeals court has partially revived a whistle-blower lawsuit against several student loan providers accused of improperly inflating their portfolios to obtain higher subsidies from the Education Department.

The case, brought by on Jon H. Oberg, a former Education Department researcher, alleges that a handful of lenders took advantage of a loophole in federal law to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in excess federal subsidies.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a lower court erred in dismissing the lawsuit against two of the defendants: the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. The district court will now have to reconsider whether the case against them can proceed.

But the court also upheld the lower court’s decision to dismiss the suit against the Arkansas Student Loan Authority, concluding that the loan provider was clearly a state entity and therefore can not be sued under the False Claims Act.

Four of the other lenders involved in the case collectively paid $57.8 million in 2010 to resolve their part of the lawsuit.  

March 14, 2014

Many students and faculty members consider coffee to be essential to their daily existence. The University of California at Davis could be moving toward offering a major in coffee, The Sacramento Bee reported. The university, already known for its research and teaching on wine, has created the Coffee Center. Faculty members will conduct research on such topics as as the genetics of coffee and sensory perception of coffee drinkers. A long-term goal is establishing a major in coffee.

 

March 14, 2014

Cengage Learning appears poised to emerge from bankruptcy after the academic publisher's plan of reorganization on Thursday received court approval. The plan, supported by all of Cengage's major stakeholders, eliminates about $4 billion of the company's debt, and secures Cengage $1.75 billion in exit funding. In a press release, the company said the plan is likely to take effect in the coming weeks. Cengage filed for bankruptcy protection last July.

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