Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 25, 2018

Carlos Vargas, the president of Southeast Missouri State University, apologized Saturday for drinking from a beer bong during a tailgate party after videos of the spectacle made the rounds on social media, the Kansas City Star reported. In his statement, Vargas said that his actions projected an image "I am not proud of, is not flattering, and certainly not expected from the president of Southeast Missouri State University."

“During my attendance at a tailgate party prior to the Southeast football game on Sept. 15, I was observed being offered and accepting to drink beer from a beer bong, a device normally associated with excessive or binge drinking, which is conduct I do not condone,” Vargas's statement read.

A video posted to a Twitter account called Barstools SEMO shows the president kneeling and taking an eight-second pull from a beer bong, much to the delight of student bystanders. Any backlash on social media over the video seems to be minimal, as users appear more miffed that Vargas apologized.

Donald G. LaFerla, president of the university's Board of Regents, said that he spoke to Vargas after the incident and called it a "teachable moment."

September 25, 2018

David Smith, former president of State University of New York Upstate Medical University, has pleaded guilty to abusing his position to illegally increase his pay.

New York attorney general Barbara Underwood announced Monday that Smith pleaded guilty to three counts of official misconduct. As part of the plea agreement, Smith must pay over $250,000 in restitution and fines and will be sentenced to three years of probation in December. If he fails to adhere to the terms of his probation, he could face up to three years in jail.

In 2007, Smith directed an employee to approve an unauthorized raise of $28,450. He received proceeds from that raise through his retirement in 2013, totaling $189,412 in additional unearned salary. Smith also received reimbursements for housing expenses above his $5,000 monthly housing allowance and oversaw the creation of a deferred compensation plan through MedBest Medical Management Inc. for himself and others without the authorization of the SUNY chancellor.

“David Smith brazenly abused his position and exploited those he served in order to line his own pockets -- and now he’s facing the consequences,” Underwood said in a press release. “We have zero tolerance for those who try to game the system and violate the public trust, and my office will continue to hold public officials to account.”

September 25, 2018

Colby College announced Monday that it is dropping a requirement that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. A statement from the college, which is competitive in admissions, cited "the limited ability of standardized tests to assess a range of intellectual attributes Colby values."

September 25, 2018

The state auditor in Mississippi has asked prosecutors to bring charges against two former employees of Coahoma Community College for embezzling more than $750,000 from the institution, the Clarion Ledger reported. The auditor, Shad White, has filed a civil demand seeking reimbursement of nearly $1 million (including interest and investigative costs) from the two former employees of the college's purchasing office, Gwendolyn Jefferson and Stacie Neal. They allegedly used college credit cards to make personal purchases of shoes, watches and other goods.

September 25, 2018

Quinnipiac University's men's lacrosse team has been suspended while officials investigate whether it violated the student conduct code.

The institution has not announced in what way the team may have broken the rules.

“This suspension, which takes effect immediately, prohibits all team activity, including practicing and representing the university in competitions,” Lynn Bushnell, Quinnipiac’s vice president for public affairs, said in a statement. “With the well-being of our students being our top priority, the university has zero tolerance for any behavior that endangers any member of the university community.”

The team’s season begins in February.

September 25, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part of St. John’s University Week, Don McClure, assistant professor in the department of curriculum and instruction, discusses how getting prospective teachers into the classroom earlier can create a more shared agenda in teacher education. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 24, 2018

AnnCatherine Heigl defied expectations when she was accepted into George Mason University’s highly competitive LIFE program, a full-time college program for intellectually disabled students. The college sophomore with Down syndrome also made the university’s Division I cheerleading team, serving as a flier.

But when Heigl rushed to join one of the university’s eight sororities, she wasn’t invited to join any of them, IndyStar reported.

Her older sister Lillie Heigl wrote to the head of Greek life to express her concern.

"Accepting a woman with a disability isn't an act of charity," she wrote, "it brings diversity and promotes inclusion. AnnCatherine in an athlete, she is a friend, she works hard in the classroom, she is funny and she is accomplished. She is the first collegiate cheerleader in the nation with an intellectual disability. I firmly believe that if a typical student had gone through recruitment, as a D1 cheerleader, they would have gotten a bid; but AnnCatherine wasn't extended one because she's a woman with a disability."

The Panhellenic Council issued a statement in response emphasizing its commitment to diversity and explaining that the council couldn't control whom sororities accepted.

"Panhellenic Formal Recruitment is a mutual selection process, and as the overseeing council we manage the process and enforce policies that have been decided on and approved by our member organizations. However, we do not posses the ability to dictate our chapters' membership or the process of selecting new members," the statement read.

September 24, 2018

Ed Meek asked University of Mississippi officials to remove his name from the journalism school on Saturday after he received backlash for a racist Facebook post, the Clarion Ledger reported.

“This past week I made a post on Facebook that reflected poorly on myself, the school and our university. It was never my intention to cast the problems our community faces as a racial issue,” Meek wrote in a statement. “I do not believe that to be the case. I heartily apologize to all I have offended. I particularly apologize to those depicted in the photographs I posted. I was wrong to post them and regret that I did so.”

The post, which has since been taken down, included photos of two black female students and warned about falling real estate values. Meek also linked the photos to the university’s 3 percent decline in enrollment and emphasized the need for greater police presence on the Oxford town square.

Students and faculty expressed their concerns, and Jeff Vitter, university chancellor, called on Meek to apologize. After Meek’s request and statement Saturday, Vitter commended him for responding to the university’s concerns. (Note: This item has been updated from an earlier version to clarify that the university has not yet decided whether to change the school's name.)

“While his request tonight to remove his name from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media was made selflessly to permit the university to move forward, it is nonetheless regrettable and poignant,” Vitter wrote in a statement. “A primary hallmark of leadership is the willingness to sacrifice personal gain for the betterment of the whole. We commend the Meek family for their heartfelt response to the concerns of the UM community.”

Removing Meek’s name will take some time. First, the Meek School faculty must approve its removal, then it must pass through the university undergraduate and graduate councils. From there, it must be approved by “a group consisting of all of the university’s deans, the Faculty Senate chair, faculty representatives, three vice chancellors, the Associated Student Body president and the Graduate Student Council president,” according to the Clarion Ledger. Finally, Vitter must ask the state College Board for permission to rename the building.

September 24, 2018

Yale University stripped a professor previously found to have harassed a junior colleague of his endowed chair, according to the The Washington Post. Yale said over the summer that it had transferred the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professorship to Michael Simons, a cardiologist who was in 2013 found to have harassed a postdoctoral researcher. That’s after the family of Robert W. Berliner, the late dean of the Yale School of Medicine, expressed concern that Simons still held the professorship named after Berliner that he’d held since 2008. Students and faculty members criticized Yale’s decision, saying it was inappropriate to bestow what seemed like a new honor on a known harasser.

The university said earlier this month that Simons’s new chair was not supposed to be new honor. But on Friday, it walked back its decision completely, according to The Post, with Robert J. Alpern, dean of medicine, saying in an all-campus email that it "has become clear that members of our community perceive the transfer of chairs as bestowing a new honor, and that this action is viewed as a statement about our values. I acknowledge the strength of the community’s perception, and I am extremely concerned about its impact on the community’s well-being.”

September 24, 2018

California State University, Long Beach, is retiring its controversial Prospector Pete mascot, which critics say represents the genocide of indigenous people during the Gold Rush.

The statue of Prospector Pete in the campus quad will be moved to the new alumni center next year, the institution said.

A committee devoted to studying relocating the issue recommended moving the statue.

“Inclusive excellence is a core value of the Long Beach State University community,” President Jane Close Conoley said in a statement. “I’m pleased to accept the recommendations of the committee and am grateful for the many hours that committee members spent listening to the many individuals who have a stake not only in the issue at hand, but also in the life and history of our campus.”

The institution’s Associated Students Inc. passed a resolution in March trying to relocate the statue -- which was erected in 1967 and is formally known as the Forty-Niner Man -- and asked that the university disassociate from Prospector Pete. The name is a reference to the original institution’s founding year, 1949, and athletics programs have been known as the '49ers. In recent years, the athletics department has moved away from that nickname in favor of “the Beach.”


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