Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 15, 2018

Canada's "residential schools" took indigenous Canadians away from their families and communities and educated them in ways meant to minimize their heritage. So when news spread that Mount Saint Vincent University, in Nova Scotia, had hired someone who is not indigenous to teach a course about the residential schools, many indigenous groups in Canada were critical. They said that this added insult to the injury already caused by the schools. CBC News reported that the university has called a meeting with the professor assigned to the course and indigenous faculty members to find "a way forward." But one Canadian organization is criticizing the university for not simply standing behind its choice. A letter to the university from the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship states, "The idea that only indigenous scholars can teach topics involving indigenous people is false and pernicious. Mount Saint Vincent University should clearly and forcefully repudiate it."

May 15, 2018

Yale Law School and other top legal education programs on Monday asked law firms recruiting on their campuses to disclose their workplace harassment policies for summer associates.

Those positions can be a key step toward a professional career for law students. But recent reports showed that some big firms have required summer associates to sign mandatory arbitration or nondisclosure agreements.

Organizers have pushed for the disclosure of those policies, arguing they allow law firms to limit reports of workplace misconduct, including sexual harassment, to secretive forums that favor employers.

Fifty law schools signed on to the letter asking firms to complete a survey on workplace policies. Survey results are expected to be available by June 8.

“Contractually surrendering rights contributes to workplace cultures in which discrimination and harassment are facts of life for too many women who work for law firms," said Molly Coleman, a Harvard law student who helped organize the campaign for the disclosures. "We are pleased that we will soon have a better sense of the scope of the problem, but we know this is just a first step toward our ultimate goal of firms dropping these contract provisions for employees at all levels.”

May 15, 2018

The Faculty Senate at the University of Massachusetts at Boston voted “no confidence” in Marty Meehan, president of the state university system, and the system’s Board of Trustees Monday, MassLive reported. At issue is the system’s recent decision to acquire Mount Ida College and make it part of the UMass campus at Amherst. Faculty members at Boston reportedly feel that the acquisition will set up a rivalry between the system’s Boston and Amherst campuses at a time when the Boston campus is experiencing budget woes.

"Leadership requires making decisions even when they aren't popular with everyone," Meehan said in a statement. "While I respect the faculty's passion for UMass Boston and its mission, I maintain that UMass-Amherst expanding co-op and experiential learning opportunities for its students will not negatively impact UMass-Boston.”

May 15, 2018

The Aspen Institute has named the 10 finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence today.

The biennial award recognizes two-year institutions that are improving student outcomes and access. Each of the colleges must demonstrate that it is making significant achievements in student learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer to a four-year institution, employment and postgraduate earnings, and providing access and closing achievement gaps for low-income students and students of color.

In April, the winner will receive $1 million, but before then the finalists will meet with a team of national experts assembled by Aspen on their campuses to demonstrate their achievements.

This year's finalists are:

  • Broward College, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • City University of New York's Kingsborough Community College, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Indian River State College, in Fort Pierce, Fla.
  • Miami Dade College, in Miami, Fla.
  • Mitchell Technical Institute, in Mitchell, S.D.
  • Odessa College, in Odessa, Tex.
  • Palo Alto College, in San Antonio
  • Pasadena City College, in Pasadena, Calif.
  • Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom, in Lakewood, Wash.
  • San Jacinto College, in Pasadena, Tex.

Mitchell Technical, Palo Alto and Pierce Colleges are all first-time finalists, while the other colleges have either been finalists or finalist with distinction or received the organization's Rising Star award for demonstrating rapid improvement.

The 2017 Aspen Prize was awarded to Lake Area Technical Institute in South Dakota. Former winners are not eligible to reapply for the prize.

May 15, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Marie Helweg-Larsen, professor of psychology at Dickinson College, examines why Danish people are so happy and how we can emulate them. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



May 14, 2018

Photo of Richard E. WylieEndicott College announced that its president since 1987, Richard E. Wylie (at right), died Saturday. During his presidency, Wylie oversaw dramatic changes at Endicott, which shifted from a small, two-year college for women to a coeducational institution offering bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. Commencement ceremonies later this week will take place as scheduled, "as Dr. Wylie would have wanted, in support of students and their successes," said a spokesman.

May 14, 2018

Joe Van Gogh logoJoe Van Gogh Coffee announced Friday that it would end all ties to Duke University and shut down its coffee shop on campus. A Duke vice president was offended by the music he heard there (a rap song featuring the N-word) and complained, leading to the firing of two baristas. Since then, Duke and the vice president have been widely criticized.

A statement from Robbie Roberts, owner of Joe Van Gogh Coffee, said in part, "Effective immediately, I have decided to cut my company’s ties with Duke University. I believe it’s the right thing to do to preserve Joe Van Gogh’s brand independence without conditions. I have extended jobs to our entire team at our Duke on-campus store, either at one of our off-campus locations or at our production offices. And, I have reached out to our two baristas who were provided severance so that they may either re-join Joe Van Gogh or secure employment elsewhere if they like."

May 14, 2018

The first class of students who participated in Tennessee Promise, the pioneering state program to offer free community college, are graduating at higher rates than those in the previous class did, The Tennessean reported. For those who started community college when the program began, 21.5 percent graduated within five years. That's seven percentage points higher than the prior class.

May 14, 2018

New policy guidance published last week appears to make it easier for international students to accrue “unlawful presence” in the U.S., a change that could have implications for their ability to re-enter the country in the future. Individuals who accrue more than 180 days of unlawful presence before they depart from the U.S. can be barred from re-entering the country for a period of three to 10 years.

The new policy memorandum, published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and open for public comments through June 11, changes the way international students and exchange visitors on F, J and M visas and their dependents would be found to have accrued unlawful presence beginning Aug. 9. Under the current policy, put in place in 1997, international students and exchange visitors begin accruing unlawful presence only if they overstay a specified departure date, if “admitted for a date certain” or if a formal finding is made that they violated their immigration status or are deportable. Specifically, the current policy holds that international students and exchange visitors begin "accruing unlawful presence on the day after USCIS formally found a nonimmigrant status violation while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit or on the day after an immigration judge ordered the applicant excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed), whichever came first."

The new policy guidance, however, holds that international students and exchange visitors could begin accruing unlawful presence the day after they violated the terms of their immigration status, not just the day after the Department of Homeland Security or a judge issued a formal finding of wrongdoing. Specifically, the new policy states that unlawful presence would begin accruing "the day after the F, J, or M nonimmigrant no longer pursues the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after he or she engages in an unauthorized activity."

May 14, 2018

Postdoctoral researchers at the University of Washington voted to form a union affiliated with United Auto Workers, they announced Friday. More than 700 of the campus’s 1,100 postdocs participated in the election, with 89 percent of unchallenged ballots being cast in favor of unionization, according to the union.

Postdoc unions remain relatively rare. In Washington, the university previously argued that some 40 percent of postdocs should not be included in the union. Yet it said it wouldn’t stand in the way of a vote after a March protest by hundreds of researchers, according to The Seattle Times. The university maintained that 130 positions should not be included in the union and planned to challenge only those votes.


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