Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 12, 2018

The Juilliard School is reviewing an investigation that found one of its former instructors had engaged in “severe, persistent or pervasive” sexual harassment of students over two decades, when he was a professor of music at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati.com reported. Bradley Garner, the professor, taught in Juilliard’s division for 8- to 18-year-olds for more than 30 years, but the New York institution says it was previously unaware of Cincinnati’s harassment findings against him. A spokesperson for Juilliard said last week that the institution was reviewing Cincinnati’s 15-month-old report, now that it was aware of it, and would take “appropriate action.”

Juilliard had heard "informally" that Garner was being investigated by Cincinnati near the end of 2016, the Juilliard spokesperson said. Juilliard placed him on leave in early 2017 and his contract, which ended soon thereafter, was not renewed. The Cincinnati investigation reportedly includes two allegations involving Juilliard students, including that students had heard Garner had a video of a Juilliard precollege student engaging in sexual activity with him.

Garner was never interviewed by Cincinnati as part of its investigation, but he denied that and all other accusations made against him a sworn affidavit provided to the university. "There is no video of me with any Juilliard precollege student. This never happened," Garner also wrote on social media. Cincinnati.com reported that the local university never responded directly to a question about whether it had notified Juilliard of its findings but said, “Appropriate notifications were made.” Cincinnati moved to fire Garner after its investigation, but he retired prior to a scheduled hearing about his case in December.

February 12, 2018
  • Many students at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln are upset that the university has said it will not kick out a white nationalist student, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. Officials have said, consistent with the decisions at other public institutions, that the student has a First Amendment right to his opinions, however offensive they may be.
  • The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has announced that a white supremacist group planning a lecture on campus this week is not welcome to do so. Beverly J. Davenport, chancellor of the university, said in a message to campus that the "safety and well-being of everyone on this campus is my primary concern," and appealed to the campus to focus on activities other than those planned by white supremacists. The reservation of the lecture space was originally from someone claiming to represent a church, which denied involvement. Only later did someone call and "transfer" the reservation to a group planning a lecture on "National Socialism or Death." The original topic was "Problems in Appalachia, From Opioid Addiction to Poverty," university officials said.
  • Kent State University has affirmed its announcement that it will not permit the white nationalist Richard Spencer to appear on campus on the date he wants in May, at a time when the campus is busy with end-of-semester activities. Spencer's lawyer is threatening to sue the university.
February 12, 2018

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents has postponed a vote on a controversial change to the conduct code that would have allowed the institution to punish student groups for the actions of individual members.

Critics of the new rule -- students and professors alike -- had characterized it as collective punishment and urged the board to halt their vote on it. Protesters gathered on the steps of the student union Thursday and urged the regents to reconsider.

Spokeswoman Emmalynn Bauer provided a statement.

“The university community has provided many comments regarding the proposed amendment to student group responsibility language in the student conduct code. To provide more time to consider these comments and to consult faculty governance and student leadership, the university has requested that its Board of Regents postpone its vote on the proposed amendment. The board is granting this request. Details as to when this matter will be returned to the board for review and action are to be determined.”

February 12, 2018

Michigan State University interim president John Engler is taking steps to fire Larry Nassar’s boss, William Strampel, because he failed to monitor the former doctor as he underwent an investigation for sexual assault in 2014, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Strampel, who served as the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine from 2002 until December, created but failed to enforce several guidelines for the physician to follow after an investigation into sexual harassment claims began, according to a memo released by the university Feb. 9. The guidelines required Nassar to have another person in the room when performing procedures in intimate areas, to wear gloves during these treatments and to secure consent before seeing patients.

Strampel even offered Nassar some support while the former physician was under investigation for sexual harassment in 2014. Strampel told Nassar that he could return to work before the investigation wrapped up, the Lansing State Journal reported after reading emails obtained in a public records request.

​Strampel, who resigned from his position at the department’s helm late last year for medical reasons, is still a faculty member at the university, although he is currently on medical leave. He has tenure at the university, so a faculty hearing committee must find cause in order to remove him.

Strampel declined to comment on the matter, his attorney Maria Dwyer told the Lansing State Journal.

“William Strampel did not act with the level of professionalism we expect from individuals who hold senior leadership positions, particularly in a position that involves student and patient safety,” Engler said in a statement provided to the Lansing State Journal. “Further, allegations have arisen that question whether his personal conduct over a long period of time met MSU’s standards. We are sending an unmistakable message today that we will remove employees who do not treat students, faculty, staff, or anyone else in our community in an appropriate manner.”

February 12, 2018

University of Maine System chancellor James Page has a financial interest in a firm linked to an energy company in the midst of brokering a $150 million contract with the college, the Portland Press Herald reported Friday.

Page signed a personal loan guarantee to his former employer, James W. Sewall Co., which has a partnership with ConEdison Solutions, an energy services company that beat three finalists to negotiate for a contract to supply steam and electricity to Maine's Orono campus. According to the Portland Press Herald, Page supported the loan when he was chief executive officer of the Old Town-based engineering firm. According to university system counsel James Thelen, the loan hasn’t yet been paid off.

The university's code of ethics explicitly bars the university chancellor and president from benefiting financially from a contract. The code also mentions that such conflicts of interest are prohibited by state law.

The university picked ConEdison over three other companies because it planned to use renewable energy, powering the Orono campus with wood-fired steam and electricity from a defunct paper mill and a biomass plant in Old Town.

The potential conflict was brought to light when a Feb. 5 report by the Portland Press Herald revealed Jake Ward, the university’s vice president for innovation and economic development, had given ConEdison information to help the company win the lucrative energy contract. Ward denied the allegations.

An audit committee of the system trustees found no evidence of misconduct by either Ward or Page, the Portland Press Herald reported. But while Page “doesn’t have any policy role” in the contract negotiations right now, Thelen told the Portland Press Herald, the final contract will need the approval of the entire Board of Trustees. The committee recommended Page recuse himself in case Sewall Co. does benefit from the contract.

February 12, 2018

A professor of journalism at Northwestern University whom 10 alumnae and employees accused of misconduct is taking a leave of absence, the Chicago Tribune reported. Alec Klein, the professor, “has requested a leave of absence from all of his positions at Northwestern until the university completes its investigation, and the university has agreed that is the appropriate action,” Alan Cubbage, university spokesperson, said in a statement.

Last week, a group of former students and employees of the Justice Project at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism published an open letter accusing Klein of sexual harassment, abusive behavior and bullying. Klein has denied the claims, saying in a statement that many came from a “disgruntled former employee.” Northwestern has said that some allegations dating back several years were previously found by the university to be unsubstantiated. But new allegations included the letter are now being investigated.

Klein’s attorney, Andrew T. Miltenberg, said in a separate statement that Klein denies the allegations but “intends to respect the confidentiality and privacy” of Northwestern’s investigation. Records obtained by the Tribune show that Northwestern's human resources department recently reviewed complaints made about Klein's behavior and did not determine the allegations to be substantial enough to launch a formal investigation into Klein. Northwestern’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Access said that it would pursue “informal action,” however, such as “a warning to cease current behaviors, no-contact directives, and/or an educational conversation with the respondent or others.”

Meribah Knight, a Nashville Public Radio reporter who graduated from Medill in 2009 and who is one of Klein’s public accusers, said she and her colleagues have received more than two dozen emails from others voicing similar complaints against Klein since last week. “I’m really glad that people felt that they could come forward, but it was sad to see so many of the same patterns emerging,” she told the Tribune.

February 12, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, David C. Richardson, associate professor of biology at the State University of New York at New Paltz, discusses how lakes can show signs of a warmer planet. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 9, 2018

A student in an online sociology course at Southern New Hampshire University had to appeal repeatedly when her professor gave her a failing grade on a key assignment. The problem, BuzzFeed reported, was that the assignment was to compare a social norm in the United States with another country. The student selected Australia as the comparison country, and the instructor rejected the assignment, saying that Australia was a continent, not a country. It took multiple appeals before the instructor relented.

A spokeswoman for Southern New Hampshire University confirmed the facts of the article to Inside Higher Ed. "Yes, it’s true. We take this concern seriously and our academic team is working to resolve the matter," the spokeswoman said.

February 9, 2018

The budget deal senators approved Friday morning would benefit two colleges in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But because the Senate did not approve the deal until Friday, a government shutdown started. The House of Representatives approved the deal Friday as well, so the shutdown will only last hours and should be over by the start of the workday today.

The budget agreement exempts Berea College, a nonprofit Christian college, from a provision taxing private college endowments in the Republican tax plan passed in December.

The deal also grants the secretary of education added authority to waive sanctions on colleges with high student loan default rates. That provision will most likely affect Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, which for the past three years has skated close to the cutoff point for access to Title IV federal student aid.

February 9, 2018

The University of Wisconsin Madison on Thursday announced a free tuition plan for many in-state students that will start in the fall, the latest development in the spread of free public college.

UW Madison will pay four years of tuition and segregated fees for incoming freshmen from Wisconsin who come from families with annual adjusted gross household incomes of $56,000 or less under a new program dubbed Bucky’s Tuition Promise. Transfer students meeting the income requirements will have two years of tuition and segregated fees paid. About 800 new students will have tuition covered each year, the university estimates.

The $56,000 cutoff was chosen because it is close to Wisconsin’s median household family income of $54,610. Income only -- not assets -- will be counted, and students will not have to fill out a separate application. The award will be made using information from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which students will still need to file annually.

Those are important differences from some other states and public institutions that have put free tuition programs into place. The University of Michigan this summer announced a program offering four years of free tuition for in-state students with family incomes up to $65,000 per year, but that program has asset limits. New York State’s much-publicized Excelsior Scholarship requires a separate application.

UW Madison’s plan will cover the cost of tuition and fees no matter how many credits students take -- another key difference from New York, which requires a student to complete 30 credits per year. The university is urging students to enroll full-time, however, as the program is limited to eight semesters for incoming freshmen and four for incoming transfers. The program only covers fall and spring semesters.

The university expects the program to cost about $825,000 per year, per class, above current institutional financial aid spending. That means the university will spend roughly $3.3 million per year once four classes are enrolled. Funding will be drawn from private gifts and institutional resources. Tax dollars won’t be used, according to the university.

The program is a last-dollar award, meaning it is structured to plug the gap between the tuition and fees students are charged and any financial aid they receive. Students could still receive additional financial aid to cover other expenses like housing and food. They could also take out loans for living expenses.

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