Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 13, 2018

The University of St. Thomas in Houston is standing by its decision not to alert the campus about the reported sexual assault of a young woman by a university officer, according to Eyewitness News. The officer was fired Friday and the Houston Police Department has taken over the sexual assault investigation.

The woman reported that the officer engaged in nonconsensual, sexually related acts after driving her home from a police stop. The incident occurred several miles away from the St. Thomas campus.

St. Thomas insists that because the incident occurred off-campus and did not involve a student, the Clery Act, which requires universities that receive federal student aid report crime incidents that happen on or near campus, did not apply and that no warning was necessary because the officer was quickly terminated.

June 13, 2018

The operators of a debt-relief scam have agreed to pay $2.3 million to settle Federal Trade Commission claims that they bilked student loan borrowers out of millions of dollars by pretending to be affiliated with the U.S. Education Department. In an announcement Monday, the FTC said a settlement order approved by a federal judge included an $11.7 million monetary judgment against the Los Angeles-based Student Debt Relief Group, most of which the defendants do not have the funds to pay.

According to the FTC, the defendants "tricked consumers into believing they were affiliated with the Department of Education, deceived consumers into paying up to $1,000 in illegal upfront fees to enter them into free government programs, and charged consumers monthly fees they claimed would be credited toward their student loans." Actually, the FTC says, "the defendants pocketed consumers’ money and responded to consumer complaints by changing the name of their companies rather than their business practices."

The FTC in October 2017 announced a federal-state law enforcement initiative taking on deceptive student loan debt-relief schemes, called Operation Game of Loans. This settlement is part of that coordinated effort.

June 13, 2018

A coalition of 500 research universities, scientific organizations and businesses released a progress report today on a call for Congress and White House to support and improve innovation.

The report praises increased congressional support for research but says more progress must be made. And it finds areas like U.S. visa policy an increasing concern. The release of the report comes three years after the groups called on the federal government to take action to back research and innovation.

June 13, 2018

Bringing Theory to Practice, a group focused on ensuring that undergraduate education prepares students for life as well as work, has named David Scobey as its new director.

Scobey is a longtime University of Michigan historian who has more recently had roles mixing scholarship and leadership at Bates College, the New School and The Graduate! Network.

He will succeed Donald W. Harward, a former president of Bates who helped found Bringing Theory to Practice in 2003. The group, which is affiliated with the Association of American Colleges and Universities and funded by several foundations, describes its mission this way: "to encourage and support colleges and universities in developing sustainable campus cultures that support the greater purposes of higher education: engaged learning and discovery, civic purpose, well-being, and preparation for a meaningful life."

June 13, 2018

Two congressional Democrats have written to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to oppose the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed two-year delay for implementing state authorization rules.

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, and Representative Robert C. Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, wrote that the proposed delay will have “significant, negative implications” for students, state actors and taxpayers.

The Democrats argued the rules would offer more rigorous oversight of potentially predatory colleges and universities that may be “seeking to evade states’ consumer protections.”

The letter was one of several submitted to the department in response to the proposed delay. New America and many Democratic attorneys general also opposed the delay.

The rules, which were due to go into effect next month, had been criticized as "confusing" by some university groups. But Laureate Education, which also wrote to oppose the department’s proposed delay, said that “the presence of complexity and imperfection do not serve as justifications for the delay of these long-sought regulations.”

June 13, 2018

Search for a four-year college on Google, and you’ll now be presented with data on admission rates, graduation rates and tuition costs, in addition to the usual link to Wikipedia.

Google said the addition of more information to college search results would make it easier for prospective students to choose the right institution for them.

Writing in a blog post Tuesday, Jacob Schonberg, product manager for Google, said the process for finding information on colleges is “confusing” and that it is “not always clear what factors to consider and which pieces of information will be most useful for your decision.”

Schonberg said Google used data from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Though IPEDS is one of the most comprehensive sources of data on four-year colleges, its numbers are often criticized for not being representative of student populations, particularly at open-access colleges, as IPEDS data tend to reflect only first-time, full-time students.

In addition to data from IPEDS, Google has introduced new college-search features such as lists of notable alumni and suggestions for “similar colleges.”

June 13, 2018

Massachusetts and Puerto Rico have officially joined the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement -- a regulatory framework that aims to make it simpler for colleges and universities to offer online education across the U.S.

Massachusetts is the 49th state to join the agreement, meaning that California is now the only state not participating in SARA.

June 13, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Brian Krupp, an assistant professor in the computer science department at Baldwin Wallace University, explores a new tool to help keep our privacy while browsing. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

June 12, 2018

The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth’s American Federation of Teachers-affiliated faculty union is fighting an administrative attempt to remove department chairs from the bargaining unit. “It should not go unnoticed that by removing the 39 department chairs from the Faculty Federation, the federation is weakened and a new department chairs unit would be a very weak unit lacking significant influence,” Catharine Curran, union president and chair of management and marketing, said in a statement this week, issued in response to the university’s petition to a state labor board seeking the removal of chairs and library division heads from the faculty union.

Mohammad Karim, provost, argued to the board that chairs and library division heads are “incontestably supervisors” who do not belong in the same bargaining units with those “rank and file faculty and librarians whom they supervise” and evaluate. “Their continued inclusion in the faculty union creates virtually insuperable barriers to the university’s ability to realize its full potential as a nationally recognized doctoral research university,” he said, according to legal documents.

Karim and Robert E. Johnson, campus chancellor, said in a campus memo Monday that the university recently tried to engage chairs and library division heads in negotiations about such issues as decreased teaching load and increased stipends, in “recognition of the differences in working conditions and potential conflicts with the faculty within their department.” But the chairs did not want to form a new bargaining unit, they said. A university spokesperson said removal of chairs from the unit would bring the Dartmouth campus in line with two other UMass campuses, Boston and Amherst. The Dartmouth campus's administration has stressed that it is not seeking to strip chairs of their right to unionize outright, just their position within the general faculty union.

Curran said that the faculty union at Dartmouth is 50 years old and that chairs, who teach two courses per semester and do other faculty work, always have been part of it. The university’s move is therefore a clear “attempt to gain more control over the faculty, to limit accountability for administrative decision making and justify the existence of a cadre of very highly paid administrators.” The chairs “are some of the most influential, and often outspoken, faculty on campus,” she said. “This legal action cannot be viewed as anything other than an action to chill the faculty voice and faculty influence, and to weaken the Faculty Federation.”

June 12, 2018

A group of top law schools on Monday released the results of a survey of workplace harassment policies at law firms recruiting on their campuses.

Those law schools asked the firms last month to respond to questions about mandatory arbitration agreements and other policies dealing with workplace harassment. Student organizers had pushed for the disclosure of those policies, and recent news reports had shown some major law firms required summer associates to sign mandatory arbitration or nondisclosure agreements.

The survey results showed several top law firms require arbitration for workplace disputes, although some noted that they do not require confidentiality and others exclude harassment or discrimination claims. Almost half of the 200 firms that received the survey chose not to respond.

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