Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 8, 2017

Hampshire College canceled a student-organized event hosting Antonia Okafor, a gun rights advocate, two hours before the event was scheduled to take place Thursday.

Okafor -- a conservative Fox News commentator who also voted for President Obama and frames the Second Amendment as an avenue for women’s empowerment -- blasted the move on social media.

Hampshire apologized for the cancellation but said it was due to technical errors in the application submitted by the student wishing to host Okafor, and not the content of the speech.

“The college did not follow its own procedures in sufficiently reviewing the application before we approved it. We take responsibility for that mistake,” a statement from Hampshire read. The application “lacked the necessary details we require in advance of any event, particularly one that might draw large audiences and intense debate, so we can allot the appropriate resources to staff and support the event.”

Hampshire said it would reach out to Okafor and to student organizers to talk about rescheduling the event.

Okafor pushed back on the college’s response in a Facebook post, alleging a conspiracy against her.

“What really happened is this. Someone failed to do a [Google] search on me and then started freaking out once professors, students and the media started calling in, demanding that I don’t speak tonight,” she said. “They caved.”

December 8, 2017

A sculpture of a clitoris has been installed at the University of Poitiers, in France, Times Higher Education reported. The statue was donated by a feminist group called Friends of Women and Liberation. The group commissioned the statue to act as a balance to a large statue of a penis that has been on the campus for decades.

December 8, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Whitworth University Week, Elizabeth Abbey, an assistant professor of health sciences, looks at the complicated question of whether a person is healthy (in various ways, including spiritually). Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 8, 2017

President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital is setting off protests in the Middle East, a number of them at universities. In Cairo, students from American University in Cairo marched to protest the decision (Al-Quds is the Arabic word for Jerusalem):

 

Jordanian news outlets reported protests at the University of Jordan and several other universities.

The president of American University of Beirut, Fadlo R. Khuri, on Friday morning issued a statement denouncing President Trump's policy. He said that Trump had ignored Palestinian rights and "made our task of bringing forth thoughtful, moderate, and inclusive leaders harder."

And Arab students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem staged protests as well, prompting some on the Israeli right to criticize the university for permitting such protests. The university said that it permitted peaceful protests that did not break the law.

 

December 7, 2017

The theater program at the University of Central Florida has called off plans to produce The Day Before Yesterday, a play by Israel Horovitz, who has been much praised for his works of drama but who recently was accused of sexual misconduct by nine women. Horovitz had been scheduled to attend the production.

A statement from Julia Listengarten, the artistic director of the theater, said, "As an educational institution, it is our job to instruct students how to produce and participate in theater. However, it is also our duty to teach them to do so with integrity and respect."

December 7, 2017

Ongoing wildfires in Southern California have prompted several colleges to close campuses or cancel classes.

All three colleges in the Ventura County Community College District were closed Wednesday, the district said on its website, because of the "fire, evacuations, power outages, poor air quality and travel restrictions."

While its campus remained safe, the University of California, Los Angeles, canceled classes Wednesday due to traffic snarls related to the fires. UCLA briefly lost power Wednesday and had to rely on generators to "sustain limited operations," the university said. UCLA also canceled a men's basketball game. And the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper, reported that UCLA's student health center was distributing masks to help protect students from breathing the smoke.

California State University, Channel Islands, shut down Wednesday over concerns about power outages and air quality.

The Los Angeles-located Mount Saint Mary's University, citing power outages, evacuated its Chalon campus. The university provided shuttle buses to help faculty, students and staff move to another campus.

Thomas Aquinas College, which is located in Ventura County, closed for the remainder of the week after firefighters helped turned back a nearby fire Monday night.

"The flames in the surrounding area -- which, at one point, came up to the very edge of the campus access road -- have subsided," the college said on its website. "Although there has been extensive damage to trees and brush, as well as minor damage to the coffee-shop patio, no major structures have been harmed."

Update: California State University, Northridge, closed Thursday. "High winds and smoke from the fires in and around the San Fernando Valley have affected air quality on campus and traffic conditions," the university said.

Los Angeles Valley College also closed Thursday, citing poor air quality from the fires.

December 7, 2017

Many changes are needed -- in federal financial aid policies, how institutions and others recognize nonformal learning, among other things -- if the roughly 60 percent of undergraduates who are "post-traditional learners" are to get a meaningful postsecondary credential, the American Council on Education says in a new report.

The study, a follow-up to a 2013 ACE paper, defines post-traditional students as those who are over the age of 25, working full-time, financially independent or connected with the military. The paper calculates, among other things, that if all adult students who have some college experience but no degree earned an associate degree, more than one million Americans would climb out of poverty.

December 7, 2017

Graduate students at Georgetown University plan to rally this afternoon on campus in protest of the institution’s refusal to voluntarily recognize its would-be graduate student union. Georgetown has previously recognized a number of other unions on its campus, including a Service Employees International Union-affiliated one for adjuncts, citing its Just Employment Policy. But earlier this week, Provost Robert Groves told graduate students who wish to organize with the American Federation of Teachers that Georgetown believes “that a graduate student’s relationship with the university is fundamentally an educational one,” not an employer-employee one.

That opinion is in conflict with a 2016 decision from the National Labor Relations Board saying that student teaching and research assistants at private institutions are workers under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore entitled to collective bargaining (public campuses are governed by state laws on that issue). But Groves’s statement echoes those by leaders of a growing number of other, private institutions who’ve disagreed with the NLRB’s stance. Institutions may legally challenge the NLRB’s call. But the board itself has flip-flopped on graduate student-versus-employee question historically, and many union advocates fear a coming reversal by a body with more Trump administration appointees. The Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees delivered a letter to administrators last month announcing majority support for a union.

December 7, 2017

The governing council for Rhodes University, in South Africa, voted 15 to 9 not to change the university’s name following years of debate, the Johannesburg-based TimesLIVE reported Wednesday. The university is named after Cecil John Rhodes, the British diamond magnate who held imperialist and white supremacist views.

A statement from the Rhodes Council identified dozens of considerations, central among them the financial cost of changing the name.

“Given the university’s precarious financial position and the need for the university to prioritize transformation and be responsive to the challenges facing our society while maintaining its enviable academic credentials‚ the university cannot embark on a process of changing its name that will divert the limited resources it has,” the statement said.

At the same time, the council said, there was “not much to celebrate about [Rhodes] and the way he went about doing things.”

The TimesLIVE article notes that the decision is likely to infuriate many on the campus. The University of Cape Town removed a statue of Rhodes in 2015 in response to student protests. Rhodes also remains a controversial figure at the University of Oxford, where his estate endowed the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships.

December 7, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Whitworth University Week, Dawn Keig, associate professor of business at Whitworth, examines formal and informal corruption and how they affect firms differently. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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