Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 22, 2018

ACT on Monday announced new rules on the time provided for some with disabilities related to learning to take the ACT exam. Going forward, there will be a specific period of extra time for those with diagnosed disabilities. On the 45 minute English exam, those with disabilities could have 70 minutes. Each section of the test will have a limit and a hard stop and a specified 15-minute break before going to the next section. This differs from the current system, in which students with disabilities can have up to five hours to take the entire test, with no limits on the time to be spent on any individual section.

Charles Weiner, a Pennsylvania lawyer who works on testing issues on behalf of some with disabilities, said that the ACT should not rule out the possibility that some may need the extended time now offered. "My concern is that the ACT is not overly rigid with the application of this policy so as to contravene the intent and purpose of the Americans With Disabilities Act," he said. "If for example, the test taker’s evaluator was to recommend extended time with no limits on each section (consistent with ACT’s prior practice) then the ACT should, consistent with the express provisions of the ADA, give considerable weight to such a recommendation."


May 22, 2018

The National Women's Law Center on Monday blasted the Education Department for investigating Yale University for potentially discriminating against men, saying the Trump administration appears hostile toward a key federal gender discrimination law.

In response to questions from Inside Higher Ed, Adaku Onyeka-Crawford, senior counsel for the center, said that a complaint filed by a doctoral student unaffiliated with Yale was not legitimate.

Kursat Christoff Pekgoz, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California, told Inside Higher Ed he filed a complaint with the department because women are no longer underrepresented in higher education and that certain Yale programs and scholarships that exclusively benefit women go against Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

In an interview, Onyeka-Crawford said Title IX was originally created to reverse historic inequities for women and girls and that federal regulations allow for such programs to accomplish this. These programs may need to exist to increase female participation in areas where it would usually lack, she said.

She said that the department does not seem to be welcoming to certain marginalized communities and called it “frustrating” that it was taking up the complaint. She noted how the department is no longer investigating claims under Title IX concerning transgender students and their desire to use the bathroom that matches their gender identities. 

“I don’t understand why they would be taking this up,” Onyeka-Crawford said. “They are hostile to what title ix means, its effect and how it has been effective in increasing participation marginalized students in education.”

May 22, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute: Timothy Mulgan, professor of philosophy at the University of Auckland, discusses a philosophical viewpoint of extraterrestrials. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 21, 2018

Sergio A. Garcia (right) is senior vice president of operations and chief of staff of the Upstate Medical University of the State University of New York. An article Sunday in The Times Union found that he has made questionable claims in speeches and in his biography. The article details "astonishing" and apparently false claims he had made:

  • That he was present at a car bombing in Afghanistan when federal officials say he wasn't there.
  • That he was working in the White House on 9/11 when officials said he didn't start working for the federal government until several years later.
  • That he was chief of staff to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but State Department officials said that he never worked directly for her.
  • That he has a law degree from a university in Oklahoma, a degree of which the newspaper could find no evidence.

Garcia's salary is $340,000.

Both Garcia and the university declined to comment in advance of the story.

Late Sunday, Upstate announced that Garcia had been placed on leave. A statement said: "We are aware of the disturbing and troubling allegations made against Upstate Medical University’s chief of staff and are reviewing this matter. The allegations are contradictory to Upstate’s shared values of being open and honest. While this matter is under review, Sergio Garcia has been placed on leave. Upstate will conduct its review in a timely and decisive manner."

The SUNY system issued this statement: “The leaders among our academic community are entrusted with managing the futures of our students and the best interests of our faculties and staffs. If the allegations against Sergio Garcia are true, it is a betrayal of trust and integrity, and demonstrates behavior that is unacceptable for any SUNY employee let alone one serving in a leadership role. We are monitoring this matter closely, and if the allegations are proven to be true we expect disciplinary action to be taken expeditiously.”


May 21, 2018

The University of Oregon has revised and apologized for a statement it issued after a student was found dead at a lake. The original statement included this paragraph: "As devastating as this sudden passing is, it is important to point out that this tragedy is connected to an unauthorized tradition among many college students. Students from many institutions have a history of demonstrating poor life choices during visits to Lake Shasta. These activities are contrary to the values of the university and fraternity and sorority organizations." Many students and others said it was inappropriate for the university to make such points just as students were learning of the death of a fellow student.

By Sunday morning, that paragraph was gone from the online version of the university statement.

R. Kevin Marbury, vice president of student life at Oregon, also issued an apology for the way that "the statement came across as insensitive."


May 21, 2018

A panel appointed by Washington and Lee University to study its history and that history's impact on the institution has recommended that the name of the university remain as it is. The Lee portion of the name honors Robert E. Lee, at one-time the president of the institution, whose life story has been revered there, with many symbols of his life and the Confederacy on campus in portraits, traditions and more.

The commission recommended numerous changes for the university's leaders to consider. It suggests that the Lee Chapel be converted to a museum and not be used, as it is now, for key university events. Another recommendation was that the university only display portraits of Lee in civilian attire, and not in his Confederate uniform. And the commission recommended renaming Robinson Hall, which is named for a donor whose bequest to the university included slaves.

As to the university name, the commission said: "The recommendation to retain the name is not passive. Rather, the commission thought that, at this point, efforts are better spent on concrete recommendations about how best to teach and present the university's history. At this time, the commission believes that W&L can maintain its namesakes while being a relevant, ethical and vibrant 21st-century institution."

The university is now starting a process to review the recommendations.


May 21, 2018

Florida Atlantic University told the U.S. Education Department in 2017 that 51 percent of its athletes were women, a substantial gain from 31 percent the previous year. The Palm Beach Post reported that the data were correct the previous year, and that Florida Atlantic's report was false, and that the university "counted dozens of women athletes who did not exist." For example, the newspaper found that Florida Atlantic reported having 98 female track athletes, when the roster showed 43 and the team photo showed 38. Florida Atlantic officials said that it was investigating problems that they attributed to a "clerical error."


May 21, 2018

Among the honorary degree recipients at the University of Rochester this year is Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist who died in 1895. Douglass lived much of his life in Rochester and founded the North Star there. The degree is scheduled to be accepted by Kenneth B. Morris Jr., a great-great-great grandson of Douglass.


May 21, 2018

Ball State University is officially taking over the financially challenged local school district in its home of Muncie, Ind., after the state’s governor signed a measure last week that was approved during a special legislative session.

The university’s board then voted to take on the task of running the district Wednesday. Ball State will appoint a seven-member school board for Muncie by July 1. That university-appointed board will operate Muncie Community Schools.

“They do not report to me,” Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns said, according to Indiana Public Media. “They’ll report to the public.  They are a public school board, they’ll have public meetings the way any school board would.  Again, the only difference is how they get to that seat, not how they operate once they’re in that position.”

Ball State leaders had expected the plan to pass earlier this year because it was being advanced by Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature. It proved divisive amid concerns about local control and union rights, and time ran out on the takeover plan before lawmakers could approve it during their scheduled 2018 session, which ended in March.

The legislation that ultimately passed gives Ball State the choice between recognizing or not recognizing the existing Muncie Teachers Association as the collective-bargaining agent for teachers, The Star-Press reported. Ball State will chose one school board member from a group of three nominees chosen by the Muncie mayor and one from a group of three nominated by its city council.

Ball State’s interim provost, Marilyn Buck, will be the university’s main liaison to the school system.

May 21, 2018

As a part of the $500 million settlement that Michigan State University will pay to the survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse, they must also agree to stop advocating for certain reform bills in the state’s legislature.

The survivors must agree to publicly stop supporting two bills that would remove governmental immunity in cases of childhood sexual abuse.

One of the survivors’ lawyers, John Manly, told Deadspin that “the victims continue to support statute of limitations reform, etc.”

“The only area they agreed not to pursue actively was the bills dealing with governmental immunity,” said in his Deadspin interview, adding that this doesn’t prohibit survivors in the future from advocating for such measures.

A Michigan State lawyer has said that survivors initially sought a settlement of more than $1 billion.

It remains unclear how the university will pay for the settlement, which appears to be the largest of its kind involving a university and a sexual misconduct case.


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