Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 13, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, a Student Spotlight: Krystle Cobian, a doctoral student in higher education and organizational change at the University on California, Los Angeles, explains why what happens after graduation can help keep women on the STEM career path. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 12, 2018

The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has re-opened a complaint filed seven years ago charging that Rutgers University permitted a hostile environment for Jewish students, The New York Times reported. The complaint had been filed after a supporter of the movement to boycott Israel spoke at Rutgers. The Obama administration rejected the complaint. Most academic leaders -- while rejecting the Israel boycott -- have not viewed speeches or activities advocating for the boycott as violations of college regulations or civil rights laws, but as free speech. But the complaint now being reviewed by OCR maintains that “denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination" is a form of anti-Jewish bias.


September 12, 2018

A new analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research looks at whether the National Institutes of Health fund "edge" science. The study finds that the answer is in the affirmative, but only to a point. The NIH does fund innovative basic research, but is much less likely to fund "edge" clinical science.


September 12, 2018

The trustee appointed to oversee the bankruptcy proceedings for ITT Educational Services Inc. is suing the U.S. Department of Education and lenders who backed the failed for-profit chain's private loan program, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Deborah Caruso, the trustee, argued in a court filing last week that the department failed to adequately act to protect students from the loan program, which allegedly preyed on low-income students. Two years ago, ITT shut down its 130 campuses, which enrolled 43,000 students at the time. The company had been facing serious financial stress, sanctions from the department and a wide range of investigations and lawsuits.

"ITT’s PEAKS Loan Program was a for-profit education version of the sub-prime mortgage lending catastrophe, in which students rather than new homeowners were the victims," Caruso said in the filing. "For the benefit of ITT insiders and defendants, the PEAKS Loan Program allowed ITT to defraud students and evade regulators, while shielding the fruits of ITT’s fraud from claims of students through a complicated structure involving multiple trusts and a circuitous flow of funds between ITT and defendants. After ITT paid hundreds of millions to defendants, and millions to insiders, there was little or nothing to pay $1.5 billion in student claims, U.S. Department of Education claims, or claims of other creditors."

The trustee is seeking money to pay for some of the $1.5 billion in claims from students and others.

September 12, 2018

A new survey of alumni at 12 Hispanic-serving institutions finds that they are slightly more likely than other college graduates to believe they have “the ideal job” and are doing interesting work.

The survey, published by the advocacy group Excelencia in Education along with the Strada Education Network and Gallup, found that 26 percent of the institutions' alumni believe they have an ideal job, compared to 22 percent of college graduates nationally.

Forty-one percent of HSI graduates surveyed believe that their job gives them the opportunity to do work that interests them, compared to 37 percent of other alumni.

Just over one in four graduates of the 12 HSIs, 27 percent, strongly agreed that their education prepared them well for life outside college.

Excelencia estimates that HSIs represent 14 percent of colleges and universities, but they enroll 65 percent of Latinx undergraduates.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16 percent of Latinx adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, lower than rates for white adults at 36 percent, African American adults at 23 percent and Asian adults at 54 percent.

Those gaps may change in coming years, Excelencia predicted: between 2000 and 2015, enrollment of Latinx students in two- and four-year institutions grew from 22 percent to 37 percent, outpacing other groups.

September 12, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Kiersten Greene, assistant professor of literacy education in the department of teaching and learning at SUNY New Paltz, determines teachers aren’t getting taught how to use new classroom technology devices before introducing them to students. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


September 11, 2018

Facing mounting criticism over news of a new endowed chair for Michael Simons, a professor of medicine found to have sexually harassed a postdoctoral researcher, Yale University said in a statement that “we agree that in cases where someone has been found, through a formal process, to have violated university standards of conduct, there should be a presumption against awarding new honorifics.” Recent “announcements about a specific circumstance may appear to be at odds with these statements,” however, Yale said, noting that Simons was awarded the Robert W. Berliner Professorship of Medicine in 2008. He continued to hold that chair despite the 2013 harassment finding, and family members of Berliner, the late dean of the Yale School of Medicine, “expressed concerns” about that in recent months, according to Yale.

In response, Yale instead awarded the Berliner Professorship to Eric Velazquez, the medical school’s new chief of cardiovascular medicine. Simons, meanwhile, “accepted a transfer to the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professorship.” In making the transfer, the university “had no intention to confer a new honor,” it said. “We share the community’s strong and unflagging commitment to uphold standards of conduct essential to the maintenance of a safe, respectful, and inclusive campus. And we rely on the community’s ongoing engagement, including its questions and criticism as well as its creativity and contributions, in our efforts to realize that commitment.”

Simons did not respond to a request for comment. Five years ago, a universitywide panel recommended that Simons be removed as chief of cardiology for harassing a co-worker. But he was only suspended for 18 months. He later stepped down as chief anyway and publicly said he took responsibility for “pursuing” a junior colleague.

Hundreds of Yale faculty members, students and alumni have signed an open letter to the university, protesting what they see as a new honor for someone found to have committed misconduct. Those complaints came just as the Yale Women Faculty Forum published issued a report saying that the university has failed to substantially punish many faculty members found to have committed misconduct, the New Haven Register reported. Out of 128 complaints against faculty members since 2011 for which details were available, 22 cases resulted in sanctions. But just six penalties had a “negative material consequence,” such as loss of pay, according to the report. The document also says that graduate and professional students were frequent targets of abuse and that they need better protection. A Yale spokesperson reportedly said the university is working with the Women Faculty Forum “to further explore all of their recommendations, which pertain to departmental culture as well as institutional programs.”

September 11, 2018

Federal law enforcement officials have indicted a former employee of embezzling more than $300,000 from the medical education division of Washington University in St. Louis. In the news release, the U.S. attorney for Missouri's eastern district said that Barbara (Basia) Skudrzyk had committed mail fraud through a variety of means, including seeking reimbursement from the university for contract work she had done for her personal benefit, charged gift cards to a fellow employee's university account, and traveled around the world using falsified invoices.

September 11, 2018

As Hurricane Florence bore down on the Atlantic coast Monday, some colleges and universities in the storm's path closed and others braced for its impact. Coastal Carolina University was among the state agencies in 26 coastal counties ordered closed by South Carolina governor Henry McMaster, with the university announcing that only essential employees could be on campus after 8 a.m. today to help with the evacuation of students and to prepare for the storm's effects. The university will be closed for the rest of the week.

Other institutions closing (mostly as of today) include Barton College, Cape Fear Community College, Charleston Southern University, the College of Charleston, the Citadel, East Carolina University, Horry-Georgetown Technical College, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

September 11, 2018

A group of parents of students who died in hazing rituals is working with national Greek life organizations on a national campaign designed to press state lawmakers to strengthen anti-hazing laws.

Among the proposed measures: making it a felony to force students to consume alcohol during an initiation.

Four sets of parents whose children died from hazing-related incidents are working with the North-American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference.

In an emotional conference call Monday, parents described their initial reluctance to work with the organizations, saying that once the groups figured out that parents didn’t want to abolish the fraternity and sorority system, they were able to collaborate.

“While we may seem like strange bedfellows, we all want the same thing -- to end hazing, so other parents don’t have to experience what we have,” said Jim Piazza, whose son Tim died at Penn State University in 2017 after being forced to drink 80-proof liquor until he could not stand and falling down a flight of stairs.

The parents on Monday said they were confident that telling their stories would help “change the hearts and minds” of those who perpetuate hazing: Greek life members.

The coalition intends to lobby for the Report and Educate About Campus Hazing, or REACH, Act at the federal level, which would force institutions to report hazing acts.


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