Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 5, 2018

Ohio State University’s head football coach, Urban Meyer, is retiring after his last game, the Rose Bowl in January, ending his lately turbulent tenure at the institution -- he was accused of covering up a domestic violence scandal with one of his deputies.

Meyer will be succeeded by offensive coordinator Ryan Day. In his announcement of his retirement Tuesday, he cited health problems and the effects of his suspension at the beginning of this season.

“It has been an honor to represent for the last seven years this football program, my home state of Ohio, this university and community that I care so deeply about,” Meyer said. “I am grateful to Buckeye Nation, the students, faculty, our administrators and most importantly, our student athletes for their support and respect for this program during this time.”

While Meyer is one of the most winning football coaches in the entire country, he came under fire earlier this year after his assistant coach Zach Smith was fired following allegations he abused his wife on multiple occasions. Meyer was accused of covering for Smith but ultimately only received a three-game suspension. President Michael V. Drake and the Board of Trustees were criticized for handing down what many perceived as a light punishment.

Meyer already retired from the University of Florida back in 2010 but ultimately returned to college football.

December 5, 2018

In today's Academic Minute, part of University at Albany Week, Tolga Soyata, associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, discusses how to enable better communication for those who can’t speak or type. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 4, 2018

Hampshire College has announced that it is removing the name of Lester Mazor, a late professor, from a room on campus and from an endowed fund created in his memory, after finding that an alumna's recent allegations of inappropriate behavior by him in the 1970s were "more likely than not" true. An investigation also found similar allegations, suggesting that the incidents in the complaint were not "isolated," a college statement said.

The college statement noted that there are difficulties in examining charges against people who are dead, but Hampshire adopted a new set of policies on "historical complaints of harassment" to assist in such cases.

"Some may call into question the college’s actions since Professor Mazor cannot defend himself and because these actions date from decades ago," said the college statement. "This era has brought long-needed attention to issues of sexual harassment and we want there to be no confusion at Hampshire over what behaviors were and are inappropriate. We take our roles as educators, mentors, and role models very seriously and apologize that a member of our faculty apparently did not do so, regardless of the era."

December 4, 2018

Six Democratic senators have written to U.S. News & World Report asking it to change its methodology to put more focus on institutions that educate students from many socioeconomic backgrounds. The letter follows some tweaks in the methodology this year, changes that critics said did little to shift the system away from one that favors wealthy institutions that educate many wealthy students. "Without an exclusive metric assessing the access a college or university provides to historically underrepresented students, deep inequities will continue to be masked," the letter says.

U.S. News did not respond to a request for comment.

December 4, 2018

“How can faculty work together to create a more coherent and intentional curriculum whose goals, pathways and outcomes are clear to students and other constituencies with a stake in the future of higher education?” With that question, the Teagle Foundation began its Curricular Coherence initiative in 2014. A new report based on four early grants in that initiative, involving 12 institutions, found -- among other things -- that “shared recognition of the existence of a problem and agreement on its nature constituted a crucial first step in the reform process.”

Academic reform is a “learning process for faculty,” Teagle also found. Starting with willing faculty members and then expanding the group of participants is advised. Other tips are “identify and address structural barriers,” “collaboration is difficult work” and “many paths can lead to the same outcome.” Strategies adopted by institutions were curriculum redesign, of general education and the major, along with curriculum mapping, identifying clusters of related courses around an issue or topic, using pedagogy -- especially high-impact practices -- to drive greater coherence in the curriculum, and using advising to help students "see connections within the curriculum and among various learning opportunities."

December 4, 2018

In a semiannual report to Congress, the Education Department's inspector general took issue with the agency's proposal to eliminate the gainful-employment rule without other accountability standards in place.

Inspector General Kathleen Tighe, who retired from the department as of Nov. 30, also warned House and Senate education committee leaders earlier this year against eliminating the rule in an overhaul of the Higher Education Act.

In the new report, which covered work by the inspector general from April through September of this year, Tighe said the for-profit college sector "continues to be a high-risk area for the department."

"OIG resources devoted to postsecondary school investigations continue to be disproportionately devoted to fraud and abuse in the proprietary sector," she wrote. "The sector also represents a disproportionate share of student loan defaults."

The report also found that the Education Department has failed to meet targets to reduce improper payments through the Pell Grant program and that the department has not shown that it only recognizes accreditors that meet federal standards.

December 4, 2018

The University of Wisconsin at Stout’s science education program faces elimination because it doesn’t produce enough graduates, even though Wisconsin faces a science teacher shortage, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The fate of that program, along with an unknown number of other programs, depends on a proposed University of Wisconsin System policy linking numbers of graduates to continued funding on an accelerated timeline. A low-performing program is defined as one that produces fewer than five bachelor’s degrees per year over five years and three master’s degrees over the same period.

A faculty group from across Wisconsin already has asked the system to ensure that that decisions about program elimination happen through shared governance at the campus level. The change does not require a vote by the university system’s Board of Regents, just the approval of Ray Cross, system president. Heather LaRoi, system spokesperson, said in a statement that the modifications to existing guidelines on program productivity "aim to provide a structure for our campuses, so they have a consistent source of data when seeking to identify academic degree programs with low enrollment, and so that they may utilize campus resources as efficiently and effectively as possible." A public comment period for the policy ends Dec. 21.

December 4, 2018

A group of fraternities and sororities has filed a lawsuit against Harvard University, alleging that its rules against single-sex clubs constitute discrimination.

The collection of Greek organizations has sued in both federal and state court in Massachusetts, arguing that a policy that dissuades students from joining the “final clubs” violates the federal law that protects against gender discrimination, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the equivalent civil rights law in the state.

Enacted in 2016, the rule started being enforced this academic year in an attempt to stamp out the controversial all-male final clubs. Students who join a single-sex organization are not allowed to lead other campus groups or captain a sports team. But the policy against the final clubs applied to many other groups -- including fraternities and sororities. Since the rule took effect, some sororities have opted to become co-ed.

“As a result of this policy, almost all of the once vibrant sororities and women’s final clubs open to Harvard women have either closed or had to renounce their proud status as women’s social organizations,” Renee Zainer, international president of Alpha Phi, a sorority in the state case, said in a statement. “Together we are standing up to Harvard on behalf of all students, because they have the right to shape their own leadership and social paths. Harvard simply can’t erase the spaces students value for support and opportunity.”

Harvard officials did not respond to request for comment.

December 4, 2018

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences on Monday named David W. Oxtoby (right) as its next president. Oxtoby, a member of the academy since 2012, served as president of Pomona College from 2003 until 2017.

December 4, 2018

In today's Academic Minute, part of University at Albany Week, Wendy Turner, an assistant professor of biological sciences, looks at the factors that may lead to worse outbreaks of anthrax. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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