Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 5, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, part one of our series on the cost of textbooks, Tanya Grosz, assistant professor of English at the University of Northwestern St. Paul, explores how open textbooks can help students make their dollar go further. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 4, 2018

A faculty group at the Catholic University of America voted no confidence in President John Garvey and Provost Andrew Abela last week, according to the National Catholic Reporter. The Faculty Assembly vote tally regarding Garvey was 62 to 0 with one abstention. The vote of no confidence in Abela was 63 to 0, with two abstentions. (The assembly is distinct from the official Academic Senate, of which Abela is part.)

The assembly then launched a broader vote of full-time faculty online. Some 78 percent of voters reportedly expressed no confidence in the president, and 76 percent voted no confidence in the provost. Responses numbered 225, out of 448 eligible faculty members.

Tension between the faculty and the administration is rooted in a cost-cutting initiative called Academic Renewal, announced in March, according to the Reporter. The proposal reportedly involved eliminating 35 faculty positions, some tenured, through layoffs and buyouts. A spokesperson for the university said that the Academic Senate was involved in drafting the renewal plan. A final draft of the plan does not include an earlier reference to eliminating tenured faculty jobs.

June 4, 2018

Fontbonne University, in Missouri, has announced layoffs of 27 employees took place last week, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. That represents about 10 percent of all employees. Officials said that no tenure-track faculty members lost their jobs and that only a few layoffs involved academic positions. Enrollment, currently just under 1,400, is down several hundred from a few years go.

June 4, 2018

British historian Niall Ferguson resigned from his senior role in a speaker series called Cardinal Conversations at Stanford University, after leaked emails showed that he’d asked his research assistant and Republican students to conduct “opposition research” on another student activist, SFGate reported.

"I very much regret the publication of these emails," Ferguson wrote in a statement to the Stanford Daily student newspaper. “I also regret having written them.” In a column for the Sunday Times announcing his resignation, Ferguson also said that no action was ever taken against the student activist and that “student politics is best left to students.”

In one of the leaked emails, Ferguson reportedly suggested that Cardinal Conversations committee members “should all be allies against” the student activist in question, and “unite against the SJW [social justice warriors].” Provost Persis Drell has said she accepted Ferguson’s resignation. Ferguson remains a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, according to SFGate.

June 4, 2018

Northwestern University settled Friday with a man who said he was wrongly convicted in a double murder case following attention from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. The man, Alstory Simon, in a federal lawsuit accused Northwestern and David Protess, a former professor of investigative journalism, of conspiring against him to free death row inmate Anthony Porter for the 1982 murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Simon sought $40 million, but the amount of the settlement was not disclosed. Matthew Piers, Protess’s attorney, said Protess admitted no wrongdoing and stood by his work, which he still believes proves Simon’s guilt. Northwestern also admitted no wrongdoing and said it was “pleased” with the settlement. Simon’s attorney declined to comment. Simon also reportedly filed a motion to dismiss claims against private investigator Paul Ciolino, who worked for Protess and obtained a controversial confession from Simon.

Protess founded Medill’s Innocence Project, which helped exonerate 11 wrongfully convicted men, according to the Tribune. He left in Northwestern in 2011 to found his own organization, amid controversy about the project’s tactics. Many of the details in the Simon case remain under seal. Simon has said he was pressed into confessing. His case contributed to the end of the death penalty in Illinois.

June 4, 2018

Belmont University is moving quickly to sell the campus of O'More College of Design, which it struck a deal with in February to house on its own campus, The Tennessean reported.

Belmont and O'More jointly announced in February that the design college would move its roughly 150 students and its operations to Belmont, about 20 miles away in Nashville, Tenn. No money exchanged hands, but Belmont acquired O'More's assets and liabilities; the seven-acre campus was among the former.

University officials told The Tennessean that "several" parties had expressed interest in O'More's campus to the south of Nashville, but that there was no timeline on a sale.

June 4, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Michael Rosko, a professor in the Widener University School of Business Administration, discusses more efficient hospitals as an avenue to lower costs.

June 1, 2018

Recently released data on declining college enrollments in the U.S. and constraints on tuition pricing will continue to suppress tuition revenue growth this year, according to Moody's, the credit-rating agency.

Moody's projects that this fiscal year, median net tuition revenue will increase just 2.4 percent for public universities and 2 percent for privates. In addition, roughly 20 percent of public universities and 23 percent of privates will have declining net tuition revenue this year, Moody's estimates.

June 1, 2018

Statue of Thomas Jefferson outside the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center at Hofstra University.Hofstra University has announced that it will reject calls from some students to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson from a prominent spot on campus. An online petition said that it was inappropriate to have a slave owner honored in this way.

A statement from Stuart Rabinowitz, president of the university, said that Jefferson and other early leaders of the country can be honored while also noting their flaws. "The founding fathers represent the duality of the American character and the difficulty of our history: freedom and oppression, equality and injustice, in issues of race, gender, religion and origin, that we have dealt with since our founding and will deal with for years to come. Yet in the documents most critical to our national character these men of their time laid out a vision of a world in which all people are created equal. It is this vision we celebrate and honor in our founding fathers, even as we wrestle with their human and indefensible failings," he said.

At the same time, Rabinowitz announced the appointment of a task force to "consider further dialogue and education about our founding fathers, the Atlantic slave trade and Western expansion; to think about what freedom and equality mean at the university; and to consider how we use history to advance understanding and build a better, more just world."

June 1, 2018

Police charged a Boston man with threat to commit assault and civil rights violations this week, months after he allegedly threatened a Bridgewater State University professor about his social media comments. The man, Matthew Prinn, allegedly left a voicemail for Garret Nichols, the professor, in September, saying “Let’s see how tough you are” and “I’m coming for you.” That was days after a local news channel reported that Garret had criticized President Trump and his supporters on social media, such as by writing, "Trump voters, you belong in this parade,” next to a picture of the Ku Klux Klan. Police identified Prinn after his name registered on Nichols’s caller ID, NECN reported. Charges were filed after university police subpoenaed Bridgewater State’s phone company for records. Many professors have been threatened over their public statements in recent years, but it's rare for these threats to result in criminal charges.

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