Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 23, 2009

Adjunct leaders from a variety of institutions and different parts of the country on Sunday formally agreed to create the National Coalition for Adjunct Equity, which will aim to be a new national voice for those off the tenure track. The co-chairs of the new group are Deborah Louis , who teache at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and Eastern Kentucky University, and Maria Maisto, who teaches at the University of Akron. Maiston, in a statement, said: "Current economic conditions have made adjunct faculty even more vulnerable than usual. We believe it is imperative that a national organization dedicated only to contingent faculty be formed to educate the public about the need for just and equitable treatment of what is now 70 percent of the teaching faculty nationally.”

February 22, 2009

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a fraternity had the right to sue the University of Iowa for its use in a disciplinary hearing of a tape – made secretly and illegally – of hazing activities. But the court also reduced damages awarded by a lower court. The tape was made by a student who lived in the Phi Delta Theta house, but who was not a member of the fraternity. While he could not attend fraternity initiations, he was able to leave a recorder in the room where they took place. A lower court ordered damages to be paid by both the university and Phillip Jones, who was at the time of the dispute vice president of student services. The lower court ordered the university to pay $100 for each day the fraternity was suspended (a total that was nearly $100,000). But the Supreme Court found that because the punishment was for both hazing and alcohol violations, the payments should be recalculated to cover time related only to the hazing charges. Further, because Jones did not know it was illegal to use the tape, the court said he could not be found personally liable.

February 22, 2009

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday announced the arrests of four people charged with harassing and endangering University of California researchers who work with animals. In one incident, those arrested are charged with trying to enter the home of a researcher in Santa Cruz. In another incident, three of those arrested have been linked to fliers that publicized the home addresses and personal information of university researchers who work with animals – two of whom then had firebombs left at their homes. “With so many legal options to make their voices heard … it is inexcusable and cowardly for these people to resort to terrorizing the families of those with whom they do not agree,” said Charlene B. Thornton, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco office, in a statement. The Animal Liberation Press Office sent an e-mail to reporters saying that those arrested had engaged only in peaceful and legal protest.

February 22, 2009

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is the exclusive legal mechanism available to public college employees for claims of age discrimination, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a case involving the Nevada System of Higher Education. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that Linda Ahlmeyer, a former employee at the higher education system, could not amend her age discrimination lawsuit against the agency to include Constitutional claims once the state argued that it was immune from her ADEA lawsuit.

February 22, 2009

Waldorf College, a Lutheran liberal arts college in Iowa, may be sold to a for-profit entity. A statement from the college said it was trying to “align its future” with an unnamed entity that would preserve the college’s programs. The Des Moines Register reported that the entity is Columbia Southern University, in Alabama. In recent years, several financially struggling private colleges in recent years have sold themselves or selected assets to for-profit higher education groups. One such sale involved another private college in Iowa, Franciscan University of the Prairies, which was purchased in 2005 by Bridgepoint Education and renamed Ashford University.

February 22, 2009

The Abdul Rao controversy continues at the University of South Florida. A videotape caught Rao, senior associate vice president of research, taking a bike that belonged to a graduate student from a university building. Rao maintained that he did nothing wrong, and was trying to loan the bike to a homeless friend. In exchange for $50,000, Rao quit his job. Now, Rao wants to rescind his resignation. The St. Petersburg Times reported that he has sent university officials an e-mail saying that his resignation was rushed, and that he has the right to reconsider. The university disagrees, and both sides are talking to lawyers.

February 22, 2009

A two-day protest at New York University ended Friday afternoon when several dozen students left a cafeteria they occupied -- without having the university meet any of their demands, which ranged from more financial aid to the release of more information about the endowment and budget to scholarships for Palestinians. NYU announced that it would suspend 18 students and the university blasted the way the protest was run. “Despite the protesters’ stated principles that the protest was to be non-destructive and non-violent, the protesters, despite specific warnings to stay off the Kimmel Center balcony, broke the lock to gain access to the balcony. The protesters also injured an NYU security officer during a scuffle. These actions dishonor NYU’s commitment to free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate, and legitimate forms of protest,” said a university statement. Take Back NYU, the group that organized the protest, issued its own statement, claiming victory. “No doubt NYU will begin attempting disciplinary action, but no suspensions, expulsions or arrests can contain what began in the last two days. This fight will carry on in the hands of the dozens of people who made it inside, and the hundreds more who came out to support the occupation. NYU showed its irrational need to defend secrecy and its exclusive hold on power, and that alone will drive this movement forward,” said the statement. While the protest drew hundreds of supporters outside, it is not clear that most students backed the movement. An editorial in The Washington Square News, the student paper, said that it was “hardly democratic for this small, self-selected group to speak on behalf of the entire university,” criticized the breadth of demands (while applauding some of them), and called the protest “a catered, self-indulgent dance party.”

February 22, 2009

Alan Dershowitz continues to demand that Hampshire College do more to demonstrate that it has not adopted a policy of divesting all stocks tied to Israel -- and Hampshire College continues to tell Alan Dershowitz that he has his facts wrong. The controversy started when a pro-Palestinian student group announced that Hampshire had divested. The college acknowledged dropping some holdings in companies that the pro-Palestinian group didn't like, but Hampshire insisted this was part of a broad review of holdings in many companies that violate Hampshire's social justice policies, and not an anti-Israel move. Dershowitz's latest move has been to write a challenge to Hampshire, published in The Jerusalem Post, to do more to indicate that it isn't selling Israel-linked companies. Dershowitz challenged Hampshire to buy stock in companies that offend the pro-Palestinian group as a way to show its opposition to the divestment movement. Ralph Hexter, president of Hampshire, has responded with an open letter to Dershowitz in which Hexter notes the damage that Dershowitz can cause to Hampshire's reputation by stating that it is engaged in anti-Israel investment policies. Hexter's letter notes that not only does the college have holdings in hundreds of companies that do business in Israel, but the college also has holdings in three Israeli companies. "No other college or university should use Hampshire as a precedent for divesting from Israel, since Hampshire has refused to divest from Israel," Hexter writes. "Anyone who claims otherwise is deliberately misrepresenting Hampshire’s decision and has no right to speak for the college."

February 22, 2009

Pacific Oaks College has announced that Carolyn Denham is resigning as president after 10 years in office. The California college, known for its innovative approaches to teacher education, has been struggling financially and considering closure. While Denham has pushed for more fiscal control, many students and professors have faulted her for not fully embracing the college's non-traditional spirit. The college announced this month that it is considering mergers or other changes to remain financially viable.

February 22, 2009

Michael Rao has been named president of Virginia Commonwealth University, which will be his fourth presidency. Rao is currently president of Central Michigan University, and previously led Montana State University-Northern and Mission College. E. Gordon Gee, of course, is the leader in presidencies, as his current run at Ohio State University (his second there) is his sixth presidency. But Rao could catch up -- he's 42, to Gee's 65.

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