Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 23, 2020

Brigham Young University will allow same-sex couples to compete in a national amateur dance competition hosted on its campus, departing from its honor code, which prohibits “all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The United States National Amateur DanceSport Championships will be held on the Provo, Utah, campus from March 10 to 14, according to the National Dance Council of America which sanctions the event. The NDCA changed its own definition of a “couple” to be “a leader and follower without regard to the sex or gender of the dancer” on Sept. 23, allowing same-sex or gender-neutral couples to compete in all NDCA events.

Brigham Young, which is privately owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hosts the competition annually and initially refused to abide by the NDCA rule in November 2019, according to the Tribune. But after protests from several competitors, the NDCA posted on its website on Jan. 13 that the competition would be hosted at Brigham Young and would follow the council’s governance, the Tribune reported.

January 23, 2020

A report from an independent auditor has found that City College of San Francisco has a budget problem so severe that it raises a "substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern," the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The two-year college had an overall student head count of roughly 63,000 during the 2018-19 academic year. CCSF has run deficits for at least three years, the audit found, and spent nearly $14 million more than it took in during the last fiscal year. College officials told the newspaper that they do not believe CCSF will close, but that it will need to make tough budget decisions.

Money woes and near bankruptcy were major factors in an accreditation crisis that rocked City College eight years ago. The two-year institution obviously survived that meltdown, which contributed to problems for its accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

January 23, 2020

More than 40 faculty and staff members at a Catholic college in Canada wrote a letter requesting an apology regarding the institution’s handling of a screening of an anti-abortion film.

The faculty letter to King’s University College principal David Malloy -- which was first reported on by the CBC -- claimed that “there was no intentional provision for meaningful dialogue or debate” at the event, a screening of the film Unplanned sponsored by King’s Campus Ministry office. The letter also takes issue with comments made by King’s director of campus ministry, the Reverend Michael Bechard, who told the CBC that the office chose to show the film “because it’s really consistent with our general ethic of life at King’s.”

“The public endorsement of an anti-abortion stance at King’s University College by the Director of Campus Ministry is of great concern to the viability of our institution as we work to recruit and maintain excellent students, staff, and faculty,” the letter states.

The faculty made a number of requests, including that Malloy “assure faculty and the broader King’s community that the institution will uphold its mission of the respectful and critical dialogue of difficult subjects in a scholarly, just and ethical manner and that the Unplanned event did not meet the threshold of those elements within the Catholic intellectual tradition.” They also requested that Reverend Bechard apologize for “appropriating King’s mission and values.”

Reverend Bechard did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson confirmed that Malloy received the letter. Malloy responded in a message on the college’s website.

"Open dialogue and debate about uncomfortable truths is part of our mission," Malloy wrote. "We are not advocating for any side of this debate but rather being a vehicle for the conversation.

“Uncomfortable truth discussions are not designed to make people feel badly or hurt. I regret that people in our community have experienced anxiety, stress and frustration as a function of this event. As Principal, I take responsibility for this and will strive to create a more open format for future events.”

Malloy also said there "was some confusion generated in the media between where King’s stands and where Campus Ministry stands on issues such as abortion. The presentation of the film and the belief of life beginning at conception is the stance of Campus Ministry and not of King’s as a whole," he wrote.

January 23, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Worcester Polytechnic Institute Week, Kristin Wobbe, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, explains that project-based learning provides benefits from the beginning. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 22, 2020

Students graduating from Morris Brown College will now be accepted by Point University for graduate studies under a new agreement announced Monday between the two private liberal arts institutions. MBC graduates will also pay discounted tuition as part of the agreement.

The two Christian institutions are located in Georgia. Morris Brown, a historically black college, is in Atlanta. Point University is located in the city of West Point.

Morris Brown has struggled to remain open for nearly two decades after repeated financial problems and significant enrollment declines. It lost its accreditation and federal funding in 2002 and is now seeking full accreditation with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

Earlier this month, the African Methodist Episcopal Church forgave more than $4 million in debt owed to it by Morris Brown in order to help the college regain accreditation. The college agreed to establish a $1.5 million scholarship program for AME Church members worldwide in return.

January 22, 2020

The U.S. Department of Education's civil rights office is launching a center to increase awareness of civil rights laws by schools, educators, families and students to help them avoid facing complaints, Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday.

The Outreach, Prevention, Education and Nondiscrimination (OPEN) Center will be housed in the Office for Civil Rights, which enforces civil rights laws.

"The OPEN Center is all about strengthening civil rights compliance through voluntary, proactive activities," Kenneth L. Marcus, an assistant secretary at the department, said in a news release. "Instead of waiting for violations to occur before responding, OCR will get in front of the problem, partnering with educators and other institutions to better protect students. As the name implies, we want to be a better resource, more welcoming and supportive of students, families, educators and communities." The center can be reached at [email protected].

January 22, 2020

Indiana's community college system is partnering with McDonald's to help its employees afford workforce training.

The Archways to Opportunity education program is open to employees who work at least 15 hours per week for 90 days, according to a news release. Once employees cross that threshold, they can get up to $2,500 for tuition assistance each year -- or $3,000 per year if they are a manager -- for the 18 Ivy Tech Community College campuses across the state.

More than 300 McDonald's locations will participate in the program.

While the Archways program started five years ago, McDonald's employees now can get "crosswalk" credits from Ivy Tech. Counselors will help employees determine if their McDonald's training or work experience can articulate into credits to go toward certificates or degrees. Each of the system's campuses will have a dedicated adviser for McDonald's employees, according to the release.

"This is the exact kind of forward-thinking partnership that enables Indiana to develop our skilled and ready workforce," Governor Eric Holcomb said in the release. "The combined strength of these two great entities will allow thousands of students to pursue their dreams and simultaneously help keep Indiana's economy moving full steam ahead."

January 22, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, part of Worcester Polytechnic Institute Week, Geoff Pfeifer, associate teaching professor, discusses one tool that could broaden the appeal of student project teams. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 21, 2020

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research examined the relationship between college openings, college credential attainment and health behaviors and outcomes later in life. It used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze whether increases in the numbers of community colleges and four-year institutions in a state contributed to higher levels of college attainment and better health later in life.

The accessibility of community colleges, the paper found, was associated with greater college attainment and employment and earnings, particularly among white and Hispanic people. The research also found a host of health benefits that were associated with the accessibility of two-year colleges, including less smoking, more exercise and improvements to self-reported health.

January 21, 2020

The American Historical Association sent a letter to the National Archives over the long weekend, objecting to the agency’s decision -- now reversed -- to alter a picture of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington. The image, captured by photographer Mario Tama, clearly shows signs critical of President Donald Trump. But the photo recently appeared in an exhibition on women’s voting rights at the archives with Trump’s name and other words blurred. There was no accompanying explanation, according to The Washington Post. Facing criticism, including from historians, the archives originally said it was acting as a nonpartisan government agency and trying to be apolitical in censoring the photo. Then the archives issued an apology and said staff members would replace the display with unaltered images.

In his letter to the archives, James Grossman, executive director of the AHA, said, “We recognize that exhibitions staff make choices about what historical artifacts to display and how to contextualize them.” Once an object is chosen for presentation, however, he wrote, “the professional standards of historians, archivists, librarians and other keepers of the public trust forbid its alteration, with occasional allowance for minor, non-substantive cropping for publicity purposes.”

Visitors to the archives “must have confidence that what they are seeing is authentic,” Grossman also said. For the archives, “the custodian of the official public record of the U.S., to make such a decision is as inexcusable as it is unthinkable.” Nevertheless, Grossman thanked the agency for admitting its misstep and correcting the error. The archives have “taken an admirable initial step in assuring this trust by admitting error and promising a reconsideration of policies,” he said. “Such admission seems to be rare these days in so many environments, and affirms our confidence in the integrity” of the agency’s staff.

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