Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 23, 2018

Hundreds of students and faculty members at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point held a rally -- including a brief sit-in -- to protest plans to eliminate 13 majors in the humanities and social sciences, The Stevens Point Journal reported. Students at the Save Our Majors rally said that the plan was shortsighted and was drawn up without appropriate campus input. The university has said that the plan is a necessary response to worsening financial conditions.

March 23, 2018

President Trump on Thursday announced plans to impose $60 billion in tariffs on China to retaliate against allegedly unfair trade practices but made no mention of a proposal to limit visas for Chinese citizens that reportedly had been under consideration.

Two media outlets, The Wall Street Journal and Politico, reported last week that the White House was considering including restrictions on visas for Chinese citizens as part of the expected tariff package. The news reports raised concerns in higher education that potential restrictions on visas for students and researchers from China, the biggest source of international students and visiting scholars in the U.S., could harm American colleges and U.S. competitiveness.  Asked by Inside Higher Ed if the Trump administration is considering restrictions on visas for Chinese citizens in the future, a White House official said, "We have seen the media reports, but do not have any information to share."

March 23, 2018

Anna Stubblefield, the former chair of philosophy at Rutgers University at Newark, said this week that she sexually assaulted a disabled man, after years of insisting that she and the man were in love and had engaged in a consensual relationship. Her admission of third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact was part of a plea deal under which the Essex County prosecutor’s office will recommend a four-year prison sentence, according to NJ.com

Stubblefield was originally convicted of assault in the case and sentenced to concurrent 12-year prison terms, in 2015. But an appeals court overturned the conviction last year, saying that she should have been able to present blocked evidence from an expert in facilitated communication. That’s the highly controversial form of communication through which Stubblefield long said she communicated with the man known in court documents as D. J. The man’s family said that Stubblefield raped him, since he was unable to talk or give consent due to a severely limited intellectual capacity stemming from cerebral palsy. Stubblefield and D. J. began working together in 2008 after the man’s brother, a former student of Stubblefield’s, asked her if facilitated communication might help him.

March 23, 2018

The president of the University of Akron announced Thursday that he will step down this summer, also apologizing after he recently interviewed for another presidency in his former home of Florida.

Matthew J. Wilson will step down at the end of July after just two years as University of Akron president, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. He will rejoin the university’s law school faculty, taking a pay cut to $240,500, down from his current annual base compensation of $450,000. Wilson came to Akron as its law school dean in 2014, then was hired as interim president in July 2016 after the departure of controversial president Scott L. Scarborough. Wilson’s interim tag was later removed.

Wilson has given several reasons for leaving the presidency, telling Crain’s he works 100-hour weeks and has been wondering how long he could keep up the pace. In a letter addressed to campus, he cited both personal and family considerations.

But the letter opened with his “sincerest apologies” for any concern caused after he was included as a finalist in the presidential search for the University of Central Florida.

“As I previously mentioned, the invitation to apply for the UCF presidency caught my interest due to our roots in the Orlando area and the opportunities associated with this once-in-a-lifetime chance,” he wrote. “Please know how much I sincerely appreciate those who reached out with words of gratitude, understanding, and support during the search process.”

Akron trustees had said they welcomed Wilson’s continued service as president, issuing a statement earlier this month after he was not selected for the UCF job.

March 23, 2018

The American Council on Education has announced a new class of ACE Fellows, faculty members and administrators rising through the ranks who serve at another institution for a year under the mentorship of a senior official there. The program is known for identifying talented individuals who go on to become provosts and presidents. The names of the new fellows may be found here.

March 23, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Margaret Sibley, associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Florida International University, delves into diagnosing the condition in adults. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 22, 2018

The board of Bates Technical College, in Washington State, fired Ron Langrell Tuesday, following complaints that he gave unwanted hugs to female employees, The News Tribune reported. The complaints led to an investigation, which found that the complaints were accurate. Initially the board indicated that it would punish Langrell in some way but not fire him. But that view changed.

Langrell's lawyer told the newspaper that he was "disappointed with the board’s decision and finds it unfortunate, but not surprising, that a poorly conducted investigation, without adequate due process or basis, results in his forced ouster even after his agreement to cooperate and comply with material components of a discipline directive."

March 22, 2018

Quentin D. Wheeler is stepping down as president of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in June, ending a tenure troubled by faculty votes against his leadership and a controversial overhaul of department chairs.

Wheeler will end his presidency June 30, before the start of the new academic year, SUNY said in a news release Wednesday. The state university system did not give a reason for his departure.

But Wheeler's relationship with faculty has deteriorated since he took over in 2014. More than half of faculty members voted no confidence in his leadership in 2016 amid complaints about his hiring, financial decisions and vision for the university, Syracuse.com reported. Then in December, the ESF Academic Governance body approved a resolution taking issue with Wheeler for not consulting with faculty members on plans including increasing enrollment.

Wheeler also angered faculty and students when he removed three department chairs in January. Wheeler emailed students saying the changes were for intellectual renewal and growth at the institution. Some students were dissatisfied with his stated reasons, reported WRVO.

Results of another faculty vote announced earlier this month showed 85 percent of ESF union members were against renewing the president's contract. Another 91 percent thought the college's finances need to be investigated.

March 22, 2018

More than half of the campuses in the California State University System will be led by female presidents when Lynnette Zelezny becomes the next president of Cal State Bakersfield in June.

Zelezny will be Bakersfield's first female president, according to the Los Angeles Times. She was named to the position Wednesday, taking over for the retiring Horace Mitchell.

Her rise to the presidency comes after Cal State significantly increased the number of women presidents at its 23 campuses in 2016. The system hired women in five straight presidential searches that year, for a total of 11 presidents who are women.

Cal State hired the best candidate for each position, Chancellor Timothy P. White said at the time. But its chances of hiring women for presidencies rose because its applicant pools were more diverse, he said. He attributed the diverse applicant pools largely to confidential searches that make more candidates feel comfortable applying for a position.

Zelezny, 61, is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fresno State. The university system also announced a new president for Cal State Dominguez Hills Wednesday, naming Thomas Parham, 63, to the position. Parham is a vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of California, Irvine. He is set to succeed a retiring Willie Hagan in June.

March 22, 2018

Jacksonville State University’s campus will be closed until April 2 after tornadoes tore through Alabama Monday night, damaging dormitories, classrooms, offices and other student housing.

Officials were still working Wednesday to assess the state of the the university's campus, according to AL.com. It will take a week or more to remove debris and fully gauge damage to each building, said John Beehler, the university's president.

But the 8,500-student university will finish the semester, Beehler said.

After assessing the damage, officials will draw up contingency plans for temporary classrooms and student lodging. The university is considering options for both on-campus students and those living in apartments that were damaged.

This week is Jacksonville State's spring break. It is too dangerous for students to return to campus to collect personal effects, according to a message from Timothy B. King, Jacksonville State's vice president for student affairs. He promised to notify students when it is safe, noting over 70 buildings on campus must be reviewed.


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