Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 17, 2018

The Herpetologists’ League rescinded its Distinguished Herpetologist award to Dick Vogt, a professor at the Brazilian Institute for Amazon Research, last week after he showed photos that some attendees at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Rochester, N.Y., found offensive. The Democrat and Chronicle reported that Vogt showed photos of "scantily clad female students" doing field research during his award acceptance talk on turtles. The women in the photos were wearing bathing suits, but conference organizers were concerned enough to add blue boxes to cover parts of the women's bodies. A day after his talk, on Friday, the league rescinded Vogt’s award and apologized for the "offensive content" in his slides.

Emily Taylor, a herpetologist from California Polytechnic State University, said she and 14 of her students were at Vogt's lecture. Showing inappropriate slides "is something he's been doing for 20 years … There's a big difference between what he does and just (pictures of) students in normal field garb," Taylor told The Democrat and Chronicle.

Henry Mushinsky, conference committee chairman, reportedly said that "some of the photos people thought were a little too revealing, so we decided to sort of block them out a bit. The whole idea was to try to minimize anyone feeling uncomfortable." Wearing bathing suits is common for scientists working in water, he said, but the photos Vogt showed were not typical documentary images. "In my humble opinion it’s unfortunate he got selected to give this plenary," he said, noting that his organization and others involved in the conference are currently writing codes of conduct for participants.

Vogt reportedly declined comment but gave another public address at the conference, on the vocalizations of sea turtles. Some on Twitter complained that Vogt made sexual references to animal reproduction during the talk, which had little to do with the topic. Others alleged past inappropriate behavior on his part, such as talking about sex to a female scientist and auctioning off a thong swimsuit.

July 17, 2018

The fees paid by international students -- and the colleges that host them -- to the U.S. government may increase soon.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is proposing to increase the mandatory Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee paid by applicants for F and M student visas from $200 to $350. Fees for most categories of J exchange visas will increase from $180 to $220. The fee for institutions seeking initial certification from the government to enroll international students will increase from $1,700 to $3,000.

The Department of Homeland Security also is proposing to establish two new fees: a $1,250 fee for institutions seeking recertification of their existing certification to enroll international students and a $675 fee to appeal the denial or withdrawal of an institution’s certification.

In addition, the department is seeking to clarify that its $655 site visit fee can be assessed both when an institution changes address and when it adds a new physical location or campus.

Notice of the proposed fee changes will be published today in the Federal Register and will be open to public comment until Sept. 17. The government’s rationale for the proposed changes states that fees were last adjusted in 2008 and that without an increase the fee-funded Student and Exchange Visitor Program, a unit within Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “will experience a shortfall of approximately $68.9 million beginning in 2019.”

July 17, 2018

The Senate on Monday confirmed the nomination of Scott Stump, the White House pick for assistant secretary for career, technical and adult education.

Stump is an executive at learning services firm Vivayic Inc. Previously, he worked for the Colorado Community College System, where he served as assistant provost of career and technical education. Career training groups praised the nomination of Stump when it was announced in May.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, said he looked forward to working with Stump to implement an update to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

"As the Perkins CTE Act makes its way through Congress and eventually to the president’s desk, I look forward to working with Mr. Stump as he takes on this role at the Department of Education, where he will oversee programs in connection to community colleges, CTE and literacy and education for adults," Alexander said.

July 17, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Meredith MacKenzie Greenle, assistant professor at the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing at Villanova University, details how we can care for the caregivers in hospice. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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July 17, 2018

The nonprofit National University System announced today that it plans to acquire the for-profit Northcentral University, which specializes in online education in graduate and doctoral-level programs.

Officials within the private system, which oversees National University, John F. Kennedy University and City University of Seattle, did not disclose the purchase price, and the acquisition is subject to regulatory and accreditor approval.

"This is very mission-driven for us when we think about affordable, accessible, quality education to the masses," Michael Cunningham, chancellor of the National University System, said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. "Our mission is about giving folks an opportunity to increase their station in life and to meet them where they need to be met at a cost affordable to them and their family."

Northcentral serves about 10,000 students and would become the San Diego-based National University System's fourth affiliate institution. The system has more than 45,000 students globally. Northcentral offers 19 doctoral and 20 master's degree programs. Cunningham said acquiring Northcentral would help the system meet the needs of working adults seeking graduate degrees.

"Northcentral University is proud to continue serving students globally in their aspirations to pursue and obtain an advanced degree through our innovative approaches to the student experience," said George Burnett, president of Northcentral. "The National University System shares this vision, and as an affiliate, Northcentral will have a terrific opportunity to grow, diversify degree offerings and deliver superior student outcomes in the coming years."

National's conversion of Northcentral into a nonprofit follows a recent trend of for-profit institutions undergoing a status change. Grand Canyon University, a Christian for-profit institution, is the most recent college to successfully convert to nonprofit status. Last year, for-profit Kaplan University was acquired by Purdue University, and Bridgepoint Education is seeking to convert Ashford University into a nonprofit.

July 16, 2018

Randy Dunn (right), whose future as president of the Southern Illinois University System has been uncertain for weeks, will agree to step down Monday.

The SIU board has scheduled a meeting to vote on a separation agreement to which he has agreed. He will be on leave for the rest of July and will officially step down at the end of the month, in return for which he will receive $215,000 over the next six months. The SIU board released the agreement with Dunn on Friday, as part of the board's notice of a special meeting Monday. In a statement reported by the Chicago Tribune, Dunn said, "In my role, I had become a polarizing figure, so my retirement … can allow healing to begin across all parts of the organization and advance important decisions that will need to be made for the future."

Some board members tried to remove Dunn last month, but that plan collapsed. Faculty opposition to Dunn has been particularly intense at the system's largest campus, Carbondale. Many there have been outraged by a plan by Dunn and others to shift more than $5 million from its annual state appropriation to the smaller but growing Edwardsville campus. The situation worsened when a faculty leader obtained emails from Dunn in which he discussed how it was time to “shut up the bitchers from Carbondale.” To many faculty members and others from Carbondale, this email and others suggested not only a disagreement over budget policy but a sense that the president did not respect them.

Southern Illinois hired Dunn in 2014 as he was seven months into the presidency of Youngstown State University. While there is no consensus on what a minimum time is that a president should stay in a position before considering jobs elsewhere, seven months is almost universally seen as inadequate. Defenders of Dunn's move noted that he is a native of Illinois, taught at SIU early in his career and had served as the state schools superintendent. Critics said that the costs of presidential searches, and the time spent by a new president learning the issues and meeting constituents, made his departure after such a short tenure unprofessional.

July 16, 2018

Colleges and universities are continuing to re-evaluate their ties to John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s Pizza, after he used a racial slur to describe black people. Schnatter apologized Wednesday, but many colleges are already distancing themselves from his company.

The University of Kentucky announced Friday that it will discontinue its financial relationship with Schnatter and that he will no longer be recognized by the Gatton College of Business and Economics or the Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise.

“We appreciate Mr. Schnatter’s understanding that his unacceptable language is contrary to the values of the University of Kentucky. We believe in his sincerity to try to make amends. But attempting to continue any financial relationship with Mr. Schnatter would be a painful and unnecessary barrier to our efforts of building a community where everyone is welcome and belongs," Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky, said in a statement.

Neeli Bendapudi, president of the University of Louisville, announced Friday that the university’s football stadium (above), Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, would be renamed Cardinal Stadium. The university will also remove Schnatter’s name from the Center for Free Enterprise at the College of Business.

“Over the last 24 hours, our community has been fractured by the comments made by former UofL trustee John Schnatter,” Bendapudi said during a press conference. “These comments were hurtful and unacceptable, and they do not reflect the values of our university.”

Morehouse College tweeted Friday that it is also parting ways with the pizza company.

“Due to a recent racial slur made by Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, @Morehouse is immediately suspending its campus dining relationship with Papa John's. The college is exploring all options for removal of the franchise from campus in light of this highly offensive behavior,” the tweet read.

July 16, 2018

German police allegedly beat an Israeli-born professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University last week after he was attacked by another man for wearing a yarmulke in the city of Bonn. The Jerusalem Post reported that the professor, Yitzhak Melamed, was assaulted by a German-Palestinian man who knocked the yarmulke from his head and yelled insults at him, including, “No Jew in Germany!” In the midst of the fight, German police reportedly confused Melamed with the attacker and punched him multiple times in the face.

Ursula Brohl-Sowa, the head of the Bonn police, reportedly called it “a horrible and regrettable misunderstanding.” Melamed posted an account on the incident on Facebook, saying that he was in Germany on Wednesday to give a lecture at Bonn University. He was touring the city with a colleague when a man approached him and asked him if he was Jewish. “I started saying that I have sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians and deeply regret the current depressing state of Islamic-Jewish relations,” when the man starting cursing and following him, Melamed wrote.

The man allegedly grabbed Melamed’s yarmulke and tried to throw it away it away as the professor repeatedly put it back on his head. The man lunged at Melamed again and again, he said, until the police arrived some 20 minutes after his colleague called them. The attacker allegedly ran away as the police approached, so Melamed followed him. But the police ignored the attacker and ran toward Melamed instead, he said.

“I didn’t have much time to wonder, as almost immediately four or five policemen with heavy guard jumped over me (two from the front, and two or three from the back),” he wrote. “They pushed my head into the ground, and then while I was totally incapacitated and barely able to breathe (not to mention move a finger), they started punching my face. After a few dozen punches, I started shouting in English that I was the wrong person. They put handcuffs on my hands, behind my back, and after a few dozen additional punches to my face while I am shouting that I’m the wrong person, they finally moved from my back. I was now able to breathe."

Melamed said the police eventually caught the other man, but that he was warned by the first responders, “Don’t get in trouble with the German police!” Melamed said he told the officers, “I am no longer afraid of the German police. The German police murdered my grandfather. They murdered my grandmother. They murdered my uncle, and they murdered my aunt. All in one day in September 1942.” Melamed was asked to give testimony at the police station, where he eventually received an apology and filed a complaint, he said. One of the police officers allegedly tried arguing that Melamed had "touched his hand" during the altercation, forcing him to respond, but the professor called that a “flat lie.”

July 16, 2018

Washington University in St. Louis announced Saturday that its next chancellor will be Andrew D. Martin (right), dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan. He will take office June 1, 2019, succeeding Mark S. Wrighton, who has served as chancellor since 1995. Martin has strong ties to Washington University, having earned his Ph.D. there and teaching there for 14 years.

 

July 16, 2018

Israel’s science minister, Ofir Akunis, blocked the appointment of Yael Amitai, a prominent brain scientist, to a binational German-Israeli science committee because Amitai signed a petition 10 years ago supporting soldiers who refused to serve in the occupied West Bank, Haaretz reported.

An aide to the science minister, said Akunis, “decided not to sign the recommendation to appoint Ms. Amitai as a representative to the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research, not because of her opinions but because in the past she had signed a petition encouraging draft refusal to the Israel Defense Forces.

“The science minister believes it is improper that someone who encourages refusal should represent Israel in international forums.”

Israeli university officials have protested the decision, saying it risks damaging Israel’s academic standing, according to Haaretz. “This is an embarrassing situation for the State of Israel, in which the minister in charge of science will stop at no means to glorify himself among his political supporters, while sacrificing on the altar of politics the interests of the State of Israel and the status of Israeli academia as a whole, putting millions of euros that are supposed to reach Israeli researchers and scientists at risk,” the Forum of University Heads said in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to overrule the science minister.

The executive committee for the Alliance for Academic Freedom, which defines itself as a group of scholars “who are dedicated to combating academic boycotts and blacklists, defending freedom of expression and promoting empathy and civility in the debate over Israelis and Palestinians,” has also issued a statement urging the reversal of the decision, which it says “politicizes the work of a fundamentally academic and non-political international committee.”

“The unacceptable and invasive character of the Minister’s decision is made clear by the reason he offered -- that Professor Amitai years earlier had signed a petition supporting the right of Israelis to refuse military service as a matter of conscience,” the alliance’s statement says. “That political position clearly has no bearing on the work of the scientific committee, which includes reviewing applications for science grants.”

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