Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 30, 2013

Lipscomb University has dropped its new logo -- interlocking letters L and U -- after objections from Liberty University, The Tennessean reported. Liberty has a trademark on a similar logo.

 

October 30, 2013

A new scam is tricking academics into thinking their research has been accepted for publication in a scholarly journal, the American Historical Association warned on Tuesday. Scholars will initially receive an email with "grammatical errors and unprofessional language" with an offer to publish a conference paper, and after submitting one, the scammer will ask the author to pay a "service charge" of several hundred dollars to review, edit and print the piece. The scam is targeting scholars in a "variety of disciplines," the AHA noted.

October 30, 2013

Negative ratings pressures have intensified on higher education, according to a Moody’s Investors Service report for subscribers that reviewed the ratings agency's work through the end of the third quarter.

There have been 21 downgrades of public colleges and universities this year but no upgrades. That's due to "declining state funding, flat or declining enrollment and lack of expense containment," the agency said.

The outlook may be a bit better for private colleges and universities: there have been nine upgrades of privates but still 13 downgrades. "Certain private universities have been able to establish a strong market presence and grow net tuition revenue leading to healthy operating margins and improved financial resources," Moody's said. "Others have struggled with stagnant net tuition revenue and lack of expense control leading to thinner liquidity and weaker balance sheets."

October 30, 2013

A third federal agency is now investigating Sallie Mae for violations of consumer protection laws, the company disclosed to investors in a quarterly report this week.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in September sought information from Sallie Mae as part of the bureau’s investigation into “allegations relating to our existing payment allocation practices and procedures,” the company said. The CFPB’s inquiry, according to the report, is similar to a separate investigation of Sallie Mae by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which plans to issue an enforcement action against the company for violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and other laws. The Civil Relief Act provides service members special benefits while they are on active-duty, such as a cap on the interest-rate on their student loans.

The Department of Justice is also probing Sallie Mae about its compliance with consumer protection law. The company said that it is “cooperating fully” with all three agencies.

In a report last year, the CFPB said that military service members were missing out on important benefits because of problems with their federal student-loan servicers. In some cases, the errors could cost members of the military tens of thousands of dollars, the agency said. Earlier this month, a CFPB analysis of borrower complaints reveled that some private student-loan servicers were applying advanced payments on loans in a way that maximizes profits for the lender but often leads to the borrower paying more interest.

October 30, 2013

North Carolina State University has sold a forest it owns for $150 million, The News & Observer reported. Conservationists have opposed the sale of the 79,000-acre forest. The university said that only a limited portion of the forest will be developed, and that students and faculty members will continue to be able to do research there. Officials said that the funds from the sale would go to an endowment that would support the university's College of Natural Resources.

October 29, 2013

Morgan State University is investigating charges that Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity rejected a student for being gay, The Baltimore Sun reported. The student cited social media messages by fraternity members that used an anti-gay slur.

 

October 29, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Inna Gaisler-Salomon of the University of Haifa reveals why stress may have a more far-reaching impact than previously believed. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

October 29, 2013

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is soliciting feedback for a new governance and competitive structure in large part because the biggest athletic departments want more leeway to spend money and grow their revenue-generating programs, football and men’s basketball. Naturally, one idea that has gained traction is a "super division" within or outside of Division I. But if they’re going to get it, a dozen associations for coaches of sports including volleyball, soccer, wrestling and swimming told NCAA leaders, those institutions should be required to raise the minimum number of sponsored sports from 16 to 24, and fund each one at at least 60 percent of the Division I financial aid limit.

“While it might seem counterintuitive to attempt to control expenditures by mandating growth,” coaches wrote in a letter to the Division I Board of Directors, which will hear ideas on restructuring before its quarterly meeting this week, “in this case it is one of few legal ways to achieve cost control. Prudent decision-making is built into the structure by funding requirements.”

The money athletic departments make off football and men’s basketball supports growth in those sports, but it also keeps the non-revenue programs represented by the coaches’ associations afloat.

“Mandating an increase in opportunity for and support of student-athletes in other sports financially links intercollegiate athletics at these institutions with their nonprofit mission while also leveling the funding disparities across Division I,” the letter says. The most elite programs have budgets about 50 percent bigger than the rest of Division I, hence the new sport minimum, the letter says. And 60 percent of the financial aid maximum lets institutions set priority sports while still supporting more athletes. The coaches also proposed developing a model within the NCAA governance structure that would  include coach associations beyond football and basketball on strategic planning, sport management and relationship coordination. Coach association leaders would be included as members or advisors to the various NCAA cabinets, councils and committees (such as rules and championships).

October 29, 2013

Student organizers at Hampshire College called off an appearance by the band Shokazoba amid complaints that the band was "too white" to play Afrobeat music, The Republican reported. Band members are angry, saying that they were falsely accused of being all-white, and that it should be possible for music to be judged on artistic value, not just the race of some of the musicians. The student committee that organized the event posted this note on its Facebook page: "Due to concerned students voicing their opinions about the band Shokazoba, we held community dialogue to hear what individuals had to say. As a result of the dialogue, and discomfort expressed by members of the community in person as well as by email, Facebook, and other means, we have removed Shokazoba from the lineup for Hampshire Halloween."

Many of the comments posted there are critical of the students for uninviting the band. One person wrote: "You know, it's not like these guys run around during their performances wearing dashikis, greeting the audience with a hearty meeng-gah-bou at the start of their set. These are just people who love a certain type of music and are sharing that enjoyment." Another wrote: "This is, without equivocation, one of the most ironically racist decisions I have ever witnessed a group of supposedly educated people come to. The fact that the irony is lost on you makes me believe that maybe that education was wasted. Stupid decision, and every one of you who was party to it should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves."

The college has issued a statement denying that racial issues were at play, and saying instead that the band was dropped because of the rising tensions over the discussion. "On an online event site, some members of our student community questioned the selection of one band, asking whether it was a predominantly white Afrobeat band and expressing concerns about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures. The students tried to be clear that they meant no disrespect to the members of the band in question, but wished to raise larger questions and have a deeper conversation within our own community," said the college's statement. "The decision by student planners not to have the band perform was not based on the band’s racial identity. It was based on the intensity and tone that arose on the event’s planning site on social media, including comments from off campus that became increasingly aggressive, moving from responses to individual student voices to rude, and at times unsettling, remarks. Tensions grew and students felt they were being unfairly characterized and disparaged."

 

October 29, 2013

A University of Wisconsin at Superior professor has voluntarily resigned, after reports surfaced this summer that he pleaded guilty and served prison time for attempted sexual abuse in another state more than 20 years ago, when he was a high school teacher. Matthew Faerber, a tenured professors of vocal music, was placed on paid leave in August after a newspaper in Utah, where he used to live, published a report detailing his past criminal record, involving two 13-year old students. The university announced that he voluntarily resigned, after a lengthy investigation into Faerber’s record, Northland’s News Center reported.

Faerber was hired by Superior in 1998, but the University of Wisconsin System did not introduce mandatory background checks for all employees until 2007.

Chancellor Renee Wachter said in a statement that Faerber -- whose status changed to unpaid leave earlier this month --  resigned "under terms of a separation agreement. We believe that this is a fair and reasonable resolution to a difficult situation, which serves the best interests of students and the entire UW-Superior community."

Faerber could not immediately be reached for comment.

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