Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 24, 2020

Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, an association also known as NASPA, released an investigative report this month about the level of campus services provided to "respondents," or students accused of sexual misconduct. The report's researchers found that 72 percent of colleges and universities surveyed provide services specifically to address the needs of accused students.

Administrators at more than 200 U.S. institutions participated in the survey conducted from January to February of 2019, according to the report, “Expanding the Frame: Institutional Responses to Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct.” Of all survey participants, 87 percent said all services offered to students who report sexual misconduct are also available to accused students, and participants “overwhelmingly agreed” that the services they provide to both parties are either identical or “fair and equitable,” according to a NASPA press release.

The intention of the survey, according to the NASPA report, was to collect the national perspectives of administrators involved in the processes on campus that comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments Acts of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex at institutions that receive federal funding. Researchers addressed the “increased concern over due process rights of the accused in sexual misconduct cases” and institutions’ desire to provide equal services to both the reporting and responding parties in such cases, the report states.

January 24, 2020

George Soros, the Hungarian American investor and philanthropist, on Thursday announced the creation of a $1 billion global network that seeks to "transform" higher education.

"The Open Society University Network is a new model of global higher education," the Open Society Foundations, a grant-making group founded by Soros, said in a news release. "It will integrate learning and knowledge creation across geographic and demographic boundaries, promote civic engagement to advance open societies and expand access of underserved communities to higher education."

Soros said the network will seek to integrate teaching and research across higher education institutions worldwide. It plans to offer simultaneously taught network courses and joint degree programs, both online and in person.

The network will focus on neglected populations, including refugees, incarcerated people, Roma and other displaced groups.

Bard College and the Central European University, which Soros founded, will be the primary partners of the new network. Other partners include Arizona State University, the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan and BRAC University in Bangladesh.

January 24, 2020

The College Republicans chapter at Middlebury College has invited Charles Murray, the controversial writer and scholar for the American Enterprise Institute to return to the campus for a speaking event on March 31, VTDigger, a statewide news agency reported this week.

Murray is known for his research linking race and intelligence. He has been widely condemned by social scientists and is labeled a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was invited to the Middlebury, Vt., campus in March 2017 by a student organization affiliated with AEI. That visit made national headlines when student protesters shouted down Murray, turned violent and forced the cancellation of the event.

The co-presidents of the Middlebury College Republicans said Murray accepted their invitation and they hope students and administrators give him “the chance to speak that was denied to him in 2017,” according to an opinion piece written by Dominic Aiello and Brendan Philbin in The Middlebury Campus, the college’s student newspaper.

“The way the administration and the protestors handled the 2017 event was a stain on Middlebury’s reputation and a betrayal of its mission of ‘creating a world with a robust and inclusive public sphere,’” the co-presidents wrote. “We’d like to make clear that we not only welcome but also encourage any and all constructive forms of support or opposition to this event. We are fervent supporters of the right to peacefully protest and look forward to receiving input from the community in the coming months.”

January 24, 2020

A student at the University of Minnesota was sentenced to six months in prison in China for tweets he posted while he was studying in the U.S., Axios reported.

Axios cited a Chinese court document that accused the student, Luo Daiqing, of having “used his Twitter account to post more than 40 comments denigrating a national leader's image and indecent pictures” in September and October of 2018, when he was studying in Minnesota.

Luo was detained last July after returning to his hometown in China. In November, he was sentenced to six months in prison for “provocation.” The time he spent in detention counts toward that six months, according to the court document cited by Axios.

U.S. senator Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, called for China to immediately release Luo.

"Don't forget that the Chinese Communist Party has banned Twitter, so the only people who even saw these tweets were the goons charged with monitoring Chinese citizens while they're enjoying freedom here in the United States," he said. "This is what ruthless and paranoid totalitarianism looks like."

“It is obvious that China is attempting to send a signal with Luo Daiqing’s conviction -- they are telling overseas Chinese citizens that there is no place where they are free from state censorship and surveillance,” said James Tager, the deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America, a group dedicated to promoting free expression. “Luo’s case has implications for every Chinese student studying abroad, and for every academic institution that seeks to safeguard its students’ freedom of speech.”

January 24, 2020

Babson College is facing new pressure to reinstate the staffer and adjunct faculty member it terminated earlier this month over his joke about Iran. In a letter to Babson, the free speech group PEN America wrote that against "a national backdrop in which punishments for speech are chilling open discourse, this draconian outcome risks compounding the constrictions on our public discourse." As an institution of higher learning, the letter says, "Babson should be on the side of defending free thought rather than punishing it." The letter's 160-some signers include academics Judith Butler, Geoffrey R. Stone and Steven Pinker and writers Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen and Salman Rushdie. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education previously defended Asheen Phansey, the former employee, and his right to "hyperbole."

Phansey worked at Babson as director of sustainability and an instructor of sustainable entrepreneurship. He says that Babson fired him for jokingly writing on his Facebook page that Iran should respond to President Trump’s recent threat to bomb 52 targets of cultural significance by making an American target list of its own -- including a Kardashian family residence and the Mall of America. Babson said in a statement Thursday that it conducted a "prompt and thorough investigation" of the post, which "does not represent the values and culture of the college." Phansey is no longer an employee, and Babson "condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate."

January 24, 2020

The California Institute of Technology announced Thursday that it is eliminating the SAT Subject Test scores as a requirement for admissions. Caltech is among the very few institutions that requires subject tests from all applicants. The university had been requiring students to take and submit scores in the SAT Subject Test in mathematics level 2, as well as one SAT science test in either ecological biology, molecular biology, chemistry or physics.

"In reviewing our admissions requirements, we have come to the conclusion that the requirement for submission of SAT subject test scores creates an unnecessary barrier to applying for a Caltech education," said a statement from Nikki Chun, director of undergraduate admissions. "We are guiding our focus back to long-term academic STEM preparedness based on coursework and grade performance."

Caltech continues to require all applicants to submit either the SAT or the ACT.


January 24, 2020

The president of Goshen College offered "profound apologies" on Wednesday to a now-famous alumna who was denied a volunteer coaching position at the institution 11 years ago because of her sexual orientation.

Rebecca Stoltzfus, president of the Christian liberal arts college in Indiana, issued the written apology to Katie Sowers, an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers who will become the first woman and first openly gay person to coach in a Super Bowl game next month. (Her team will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2.)

Sowers participated in soccer and track and field and was a captain on the women's basketball team during the time she attended Goshen from 2006 to 2009, according to WNDU.com. When her playing eligibility ran out, she asked the head basketball coach if she could volunteer to coach the basketball team, but he rejected her offer, citing her sexuality and the concerns of parents of team members.

"I thought it would be natural to ask if I could be a volunteer assistant coach, and my coach called me in and said they have a lot of parents that have been worried about their daughter being around someone who is gay, and he said, 'We got rid of all of that,'" WNDU.com quoted Sowers as saying in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "That's not something they would want around the team. So, he asked that I would not be around the team anymore."

January 24, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Worcester Polytechnic Institute Week, Kent Rissmiller, associate professor of social science, explores how project-based learning can set students up for success outside school. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 23, 2020

A California woman pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for paying a man to take online courses for her son to graduate on time from Georgetown University. The woman, Karen Littlefair, was indicted in December. She admitted to paying $9,000 to Rick Singer, coordinator of the Varsity Blues admissions scandal, to arrange for the fraud. The man completed four courses, and Littlefair's son graduated from Georgetown.

The government agreed to recommend a prison term of four months in the case.

January 23, 2020

The advocacy group Student Defense, on behalf of the American Federation of Teachers, sued Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a California federal court yesterday, seeking the restoration of an Obama administration rule mainly targeting for-profit colleges.

Under the 2014 rule, mostly for-profit programs faced the loss of federal student aid if graduates racked up substantially more debt than they earned in the jobs they got. In the first gainful-employment ratings released in 2017, 98 percent of programs that failed the standards were operated by for-profit institutions. However, for-profit college advocates and DeVos said the rule discriminated against programs because of their tax status. DeVos in July repealed the rule, drawing the ire of advocacy groups, which said it removed protections for students against low-quality for-profit schools.

In the suit, filed Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Student Defense and the teachers' union alleged the department made a number of legal errors in repealing the rule. “It is rare for a federal agency to publish a rule that is so replete with errors, makes so many unsubstantiated assertions, and takes so many unlawful shortcuts,” the suit said.

“Predatory for-profit colleges have been trying to escape accountability for years, and Secretary DeVos was only too happy to help them,” Aaron Ament, the president of Student Defense, said in a news release. “With this lawsuit we are going to strike down DeVos’ illegal repeal of the gainful employment rule and protect students from schools that leave borrowers with worthless degrees and debt they can never repay.”

A department spokeswoman said in an email that the "department will vigorously defend its final regulation rescinding this deeply flawed rule.”

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, which represents for-profit institutions, called for equitable standards for nonprofits as well as for-profits in a statement. "If AFT and Student Defense were serious about their missions, they would look past politics and support a fair standard for all," he said in a statement.

Attorneys general in 18 states sued the department when the Trump administration stopped enforcing the rule. The suit Wednesday was the first to challenge the formal repeal of the rule.


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