Higher Education Quick Takes
Faculty members and students this week held a protest at Coppin State University, objecting to what they say are 25 layoffs or non-renewals of staff members this year, The Baltimore Sun reported. Leaders of the protest said that they never were told why layoffs were needed, and are concerned about the elimination of positions at a time that President Reginald Avery has been adding slots to his cabinet. Avery and other university officials declined to comment on the protests.
Steve Garban, former chair of the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees, has resigned from his trustee position, the Associated Press reported. Garban has been criticized for twice failing to share with the full board information about the investigations into Jerry Sandusky, and many have called for him to resign.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Thursday killed a major contract that had been criticized as a conflict of interest, The Chicago Tribune reported. The contract was to an architectural firm partly owned by the husband of the administrator who oversees campus construction planning. Christopher Kennedy, chair of the Illinois board, said, "We don't want any more ethical issues associated with the university. We get public money and we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard."
Wheaton College in Illinois has joined the Catholic University of America's lawsuit against the Obama administration over a mandate that would require health insurance plans for students and employees to cover contraception, including the morning-after pill. Several evangelical Christian and Catholic colleges have already sued over the mandate, which they say is an infringement upon their religious freedom. A federal judge in Nebraska rejected a similar suit from Catholic employers and seven states Wednesday.
Pennsylvania State University trustees who tried in 2004 to strengthen the board’s oversight of President Graham Spanier and Coach Joe Paterno said the board’s failure to vote on proposed reforms may have helped keep Jerry Sandusky’s crimes under wraps, ESPN reported Wednesday. After reviewing the proposals, Spanier and the then-board chair, Cynthia Baldwin, declined to put them to a full vote, according to ESPN.
An independent report commissioned by Penn State and released last week indicated that Spanier kept the board in the dark regarding claims about Sandusky, the former assistant football coach who raped boys in football locker rooms, and faulted the trustees for not ensuring consistent reporting from Spanier and Paterno, the former head football coach. That report, written by the former FBI Director Louis Freeh, made no mention of the “good-governance proposal,” even though Freeh’s team interviewed trustees about it.
Long-time Penn State trustee Joel Myers told ESPN that if the board had adopted the proposal, “This [crisis] could have been avoided.” An unnamed trustee said the revelation could increase the board’s liability in impending negligence lawsuits filed by victims against Penn State, “possibly by millions.” Another board member reported that Freeh said that e-mails obtained during his investigation showed Spanier and Baldwin, who is now Penn State's general counsel, “didn’t want the added scrutiny.” But Baldwin’s lawyer told ESPN that she “did not in any way interfere with the board’s consideration” of the proposal and “was instrumental in facilitating a full discussion of those issues.” Spanier declined to comment for the ESPN article.
The Aspen Institute today published a data set tracking the performance of 120 community colleges it picked as finalists for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The metrics are unique, according to the institute, and measure colleges on student retention, degrees awarded, graduation and transfer rates, and minority and low-income student success. The institute hopes the data can be used to better learn what works best in the sector.
The National Labor Relations Board has found that Columbia College Chicago violated federal laws by refusing to bargain with the part-time faculty union at the college and hand over information requested by them. In a ruling Tuesday, Robert Ringler, an administrative law judge, ordered the college to bargain in good faith with the union and to provide back pay to part-time faculty members in the department of humanities, history & social sciences affected by a 2010 decision to reschedule classes. The Part-Time Faculty Association at the college, also known as P-fac, is affiliated with the National Education Association. Diana Vallera, P-fac’s president, called the decision a victory for part-time faculty members. “In this case, Judge Ringler has ruled that Columbia College not only mistreated its faculty but also violated federal labor law,” she said.
Mountain State University, stripped of accreditation by its regional agency, has decided not to enroll any new students in the fall, institution officials said in a document explaining the situation to students. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools said this month that it would end the West Virginia private college's accreditation, citing serious financial and management troubles. Most colleges have great difficulty operating without accreditation, which opens the door to students' receiving federal financial aid, and Mountain State officials have until Monday to appeal, which they have said they would do.
University officials have been working with students to help them explore options should they choose to leave Mountain State. In addition to not enrolling any new students, the university said, "new students who have already signed up for classes in the fall will be dropped from their classes."