Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 9, 2018

A new study on faculty job satisfaction from TIAA says that most full-time faculty members across institution types are satisfied with their work. At the same time, many professors report an increase in their workload and dissatisfaction with increasing levels of bureaucracy. As for work-life balance, professors at bachelor and master’s degree-granting institutions have it better than their peers at doctoral institutions. While women report earning lower salaries than men, they do not report lower overall job satisfaction.

TIAA’s study is based on data concerning approximately 31,000 faculty members obtained from Harvard University’s Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education and interviews with 42 faculty members across the U.S. The full report, prepared by Karen Webber, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Georgia, is available here.

March 9, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Rebekah Piper, associate professor of literacy at Texas A&M University at San Antonio, looks into diversifying the curriculum to fit a diverse student body. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 8, 2018

Arizona State University this week suspended Lawrence M. Krauss, a well-known physicist and skeptic, pending an investigation into sexual harassment claims against him dating back to 2006 and recently detailed by BuzzFeed. “In an effort to avoid further disruption to the normal course of business as the university continues to gather facts about the allegations, Krauss has been placed on paid leave and is prohibited from being on campus for the duration of the review,” the university said in a statement.

The Center for Inquiry also said this week that it would break ties with Krauss, citing its zero-tolerance policy on harassment. In so doing it joined a number of other organizations to limit contact with Krauss since the allegations -- including groping and inappropriate comments -- came to light last month. “Serious allegations have been raised … and we suspend our association with him pending further information,” the center said on Twitter.

Krauss denies the allegations, none of which relate to his current role at Arizona State. He published a statement refuting each claim in detail and taking issue with BuzzFeed’s overall reporting. Arizona State “has placed me on paid administrative leave, as per normal procedure, while it reviews claims arising from the BuzzFeed article,” he wrote. “The story represents a series of largely anonymous hearsay claims against me that were countered by at least an equal number of presentations of counter-evidence by numerous individuals and two reputable academic institutions.”

March 8, 2018

The leaders of 49 wealthy postsecondary institutions sent a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday urging them to repeal or amend the so-called endowment tax enacted as part of last year's Republican tax overhaul.

College costs or student debt will not be addressed by the tax, wrote the university leaders, who hold top executive positions at institutions potentially affected -- including Amherst, Bryn Mawr and Franklin & Marshall Colleges; the Juilliard School; Princeton Theological Seminary; Brown, Duke, Rice and Stanford Universities; and Washington University in St. Louis.

“Instead, it will constrain the resources available to the very institutions that lead the nation in reducing, if not eliminating, the costs for low- and middle-income students, and will impede the efforts of other institutions striving to grow their endowments for this very purpose,” the letter said. It went on to warn that taxing college and university resources will force institutions to provide less in student aid, spend less on research and dedicate less to public engagement in their surrounding communities.

It’s not clear whether the letter, addressed to both Republican and Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress, will lead to changes in tax law. But it demonstrates that the leaders of institutions with large endowments have not dropped the issue in the months since the tax reform package was signed into law.

“Endowments are not kept in reserve to be drawn on only occasionally or on a rainy day,” the letter said. “In fact, across our institutions, endowments support a significant and growing portion of our operations; for many, endowments provide almost half of annual revenues.”

Although it is commonly referred to as an endowment tax, the law in question places a 1.4 percent excise tax on net investment income at colleges and universities with at least 500 students and more than $500,000 in net assets per student. Institutions have faced uncertainty about which assets will be counted. Estimates vary, but dozens of colleges and universities could have to pay the tax.

March 8, 2018

A second complainant joined a lawsuit alleging that the University of Arizona paid a female former dean significantly less than her male counterparts and then ended her deanship in retaliation for raising the issue, their attorneys announced Wednesday. In January, Patricia MacCorquodale, dean emerita of Arizona’s Honors College and a professor of gender and women’s studies, sued the university for gender discrimination, saying she was underpaid as compared to male deans. 

Now Janice Cervelli, former dean of architecture at Arizona and current president of Saint Mary’s College in Indiana, alleges that the difference between her pay and the average male dean’s was $80,000 annually in her last two years at Arizona. The women’s collective action seeks to represent all female deans at Arizona and asserts that there is a broader pattern of underpaying these women in relation to male deans. MacCorquodale and Cervelli are seeking a jury trial and back pay for lost compensation, along with damages and relief. Arizona’s governing Board of Regents has previously said it does not comment on pending litigation.

March 8, 2018

TIAA is recognizing its 100th anniversary by giving away $1 million to 100 "difference makers" who work in the academic and nonprofit worlds, the financial services company announced. TIAA will recognize individuals for either professional or personal contributions. Nominations for the competition are due June 12 and may be submitted here.

March 8, 2018

An investigation by Foreign Policy examines the links between the Chinese Embassy and consulates and campus chapters of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which have long hosted cultural and social events and provided support for Chinese students at U.S. universities. Foreign Policy reported that campus chapters of CSSA regularly accept funds from Chinese consulates and that many describe themselves as being under the embassy's "guidance" or "leadership." The article cites "numerous CSSA members, including two current chapter presidents," who "say that they are uncomfortable with what they felt was growing ideological pressure from the embassy and consulates."

The Foreign Policy investigation found that embassy and consulate officials are regularly in contact with CSSA presidents, with whom they share information related to safety and "the occasional political directive." Consulate officials have asked CSSA leaders to share articles spouting a Chinese Communist Party line and last fall encouraged CSSAs to hold events tied to the 19th Communist Party Congress. In addition, the Chinese government has worked through CSSAs to organize welcoming parties for visiting Chinese leaders and pay students -- in one case, $20 each -- for their participation. 

Foreign Policy also reported that a "few CSSAs explicitly vet their members along ideological lines, excluding those whose views do not align with Communist Party core interests." The Chinese embassy did not respond to Foreign Policy’s requests for comment.

March 8, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute: Jonathan Pruitt, associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California Santa Barbara, asks a good leader is always able to rally the troops. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 7, 2018

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is the latest institution to have an email error confuse people about who was admitted. The university sent out 11,000 messages this week that were supposed to go only to parents of admitted applicants. But about 500 went to parents of rejected applicants, leading some of them to think that their children had in fact been admitted. Calls started to arrive 15 minutes after the email went out, and Colorado Springs followed up with correct information and an apology.

March 7, 2018

Grand Canyon University's accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, approved the for-profit institution's application to convert to a nonprofit entity. 

"We appreciate the Higher Learning Commission's due diligence in thoroughly examining our proposal," said Brian Mueller, president of Grand Canyon, in a news release. "This is consistent with GCU's history and puts us on a level playing field with other traditional universities with regard to tax status and among other things the ability to accept philanthropic contributions, pursue research grant opportunities and participate in NCAA governance." 

The conversion means the company will sell the university and its academic-related assets to a nonprofit entity. The company, Grand Canyon Education, will continue as a for-profit entity that operates as a third-party provider of services like recruiting, counseling and human resources to the new nonprofit university.

Grand Canyon announced in January it would attempt to change its tax status after failing to make the conversion in a similar bid a few years ago. 

The deal still needs approval from the Education Department and the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education. 


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