Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 7, 2020

A new report highlights ways governors and other state policy makers are working to improve workforces with lifelong learning.

The National Governors Association spent two years examining 150 policies and programs across more than 40 states to create a guide for other policy makers. As more work becomes automated by technology, Americans will need to retrain to stay employed, according to the report. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this an even more timely project, a news release said, as it will likely accelerate disruptions to the American economy.

“While the pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to state economies, governors of both parties around the country are not only taking steps to reopen their state economies, but to do so with a sustainable and equitable approach that both anticipates and responds to the transformational changes under way in the American workforce,” Rachael Stephens, program director for workforce development and economic policy in the NGA Center, said in the release. “The State Guide to Preparing the Future Workforce is a timely resource for governors to leverage proven innovations and promising ideas to ensure that a rapidly changing economy provides opportunities for all.”

The current education and training systems tend to overlook those who are still employed but in fields that are at greater risk of being disrupted by technology, the guide argues. Targeted interventions also are necessary to reach and support populations with generally fewer resources, like minorities, women and those learning English.

The report identifies three phases that states must go through to prepare the workforces of the future. The first phase focuses on building a statewide ecosystem with a shared vision, including a data infrastructure, increased accountability of state programs where funding is tied to outcomes and the creation of partnerships between education and industry.

The second phase is to invest in a resilient workforce by innovating teaching and learning models, engaging employers in developing programs, and becoming a model employer. The third phase is to enable workers to participate in the future workforce by supporting them in various ways, such as ensuring lifelong learning is an affordable investment and grant flexibility for workers.

An interactive website lets people explore different policy pathways aimed at achieving these phases. It also includes case studies from Alabama, Arkansas and Washington.

July 7, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, Katherine Higgs-Coulthard, assistant professor in the department of education at Saint Mary’s College, explores one way to foster the joy of writing in teens. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 6, 2020

Jose V. Sartarelli, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said Thursday that the university had paid Mike Adams $504,000 to retire Aug. 1. The decision followed a tweet by Adams that offended many. Adams has been involved in a number of prior controversies.

Sartarelli, in a note to the campus, said he had three choices. "1) Have him continue as a faculty member and accept the ongoing disruption to our educational mission, the hurt and anger in the UNCW community, and the damage to the institution. 2) Attempt to terminate him, and face drawn out, very costly litigation, that we might not win, which was the case when Dr. Adams sued UNCW and won a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit in 2014. That legal process lasted 7 years and cost the university roughly $700,000, $615,000 of which was for Dr. Adams’ attorneys’ fees. Losing a similar lawsuit today could cost even more. 3) Negotiate a settlement when, as part of a conversation with me about his conduct and future at UNCW, I learned Dr. Adams was interested in retiring. This approach allows us to resolve the situation quickly, with certainty, and in the most fiscally responsible way. This is the best option for our university and our community."

July 6, 2020

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday backed off on its threat to bar students from being able to use the GI Bill to attend Temple University, the University of Phoenix and three other institutions, saying they had resolved allegations that their recruiting practices were misleading.

Some veterans' advocates said they were “flabbergasted” and complained the universities are getting off easy. But the University of Phoenix saw it as vindication that the university is now in compliance with federal regulations.

The VA had threatened in March that it would stop approving new GI Bill enrollments at the two universities, as well Bellevue University and the Career Education Corporation’s Colorado Technical University and American InterContinental University, unless they took corrective action.

In the University of Phoenix case, for instance, the Federal Trade Commission had accused the institution of featuring companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Adobe and Yahoo! in its advertisements, giving the false impression that Phoenix worked with those companies to create job opportunities for its students. The university in December agreed to pay the FTC to settle.

In a letter to the university, the VA said it will continue to allow students to go there using the GI Bill, citing a number of factors, including the fact that the institution’s entire leadership and marketing teams have been replaced since the ads ran.

In a statement, the University of Phoenix said it “has always respected that student veterans have earned the right to choose the institutions that best fit their needs, and this news vindicates that principle.”

Temple agreed to a settlement in December with Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania's attorney general, to establish $250,000 in scholarships for Fox Business School students over the next decade. Shapiro had filed a complaint against Temple for misrepresenting data to college rankings organizations like U.S. News & World Report. The VA in a letter to Temple said it would allow the GI Bill to continue being used at the university, noting Temple has spent $18 million to ensure the data will be accurate. Temple said in a statement it is “extremely pleased” with the VA’s decision.

But Tanya Ang, vice president of the advocacy group Veterans Education Success, called the decision “disappointing at best, but not surprising given how much money and political power these schools have. Yet again, those who have served our country are denied the protections they deserve.”

July 6, 2020

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee said comments made by a senior lecturer about Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen’s killing were “repugnant and terribly at odds with UWM’s values,” but the university resisted calls to terminate the lecturer, saying that under the First Amendment the university “cannot regulate the private speech of its employees.”

The lecturer says her comments were misinterpreted.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the lecturer, Betsy Schoeller, posted in a private Facebook group in response to an article about Guillen’s killing: “You guys are kidding, right? Sexual harassment is the price of admission for women into the good ole boy club. If you're gonna cry like a snowflake about it, you're gonna pay the price."

Family believe Guillen’s death was linked to sexual harassment she was experiencing on her Army base, as National Public Radio reported. Prosecutors say Guillen was killed by a fellow soldier.

As of late Sunday afternoon, more than 118,000 people had signed a petition on Change.org calling for the termination of Schoeller, who teaches in UW-Milwaukee's School of Information Studies and was formerly a colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard. The student who started the petition, Emily Cruz, wrote, "As a woman, and a student at UWM I feel unsafe knowing that we have professors who think the sexual assault of women serving in the military is justified."

In an email to Inside Higher Ed -- and in a statement posted on UWM's website -- Schoeller offered her condolences to Guillen's family and loved ones and said her Facebook post was "interpreted out of context."

Schoeller said in writing the offending post she was attempting to explain to another Facebook user how and why Guillen's death could have happened. "I did not mean to imply that this is how I feel," Schoeller said. "I was giving voice to the messaging that women hear in the culture of sexual harassment: The message we receive from the culture is not only will you suffer from sexual harassment, if you squawk about it, you will suffer even more."

Schoeller added, "I do not believe in or support sexual harassment. Quite the opposite. I’ve seen the toll it takes on individuals and entire units. But I know it’s still here. Because SPC Guillen is not here."

Cruz, the student who organized the petition, said that as a professor Schoeller should have been chosen her words more carefully. “We are asking that she does hold herself accountable because there’s a certain way to say things and there’s a way not to say it, and she chose to say it the way not to say it. How we are all interpreting what she said is, 'if you’re going to go into the military you are going to have to face this and you’ll have to take it,'" Cruz said in an interview. 

Cruz added that while Schoeller has a First Amendment right to say what she said, she believes the lecturer violated the university's code of conduct and Title IX policy. "We feel she violated what the university stands for and so because of that she should be terminated or choose to resign, whichever comes first “

July 6, 2020

Wells Fargo will not accept new student loan applicants for the upcoming academic year and will only issue loans to people who applied before July 1 or who currently have an outstanding balance on a prior student loan issued by Wells Fargo, according to the business intelligence publication Fastinform.

Wells Fargo has about $10.6 billion in student loan holdings, a number that has declined from $11.8 billion two years ago and that accounts for about 8 percent of the $130 billon private student loan market. The bank’s decision to pull back from private student lending comes amid disruptions to higher education caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

July 6, 2020

Wheaton College, an evangelical college in Illinois, said it had dismissed its chaplain for “inappropriate comments and actions of a racial and sexual nature” toward staff members, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Wheaton said it had commissioned an outside review of Tim Blackmon’s conduct. “While Reverend Blackmon did not engage in sexually immoral relationships or physical sexual misconduct, the investigation revealed conduct inconsistent with Wheaton’s policies and commitments,” Wheaton president Philip Ryken said in an email to students, faculty and staff.

Ryken did not elaborate on the nature of the alleged conduct. A spokesman for Wheaton told the Tribune the college would be making no comment beyond Ryken's internal email.

Blackmon did not respond to the Tribune’s requests for comment.

July 6, 2020

A panel of three judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the dismissal of a long-running federal lawsuit challenging the American Studies Association’s adoption of a resolution endorsing the academic boycott against Israel in 2013.

The appellate judges ruled that the four American studies professors who sued the organization did not show that their alleged damages exceeded $75,000, the minimum threshold for them to sue in federal court. The judges expressed no opinion on the merits of the professors' claims and noted that the lower district court recognized they "may have meritorious claims arising from their individual injuries as ASA members."

The four American studies professors have also filed a separate lawsuit against ASA and a group of current and former officers that is still pending in D.C. Superior Court. In that case, they allege breaches in contractual and fiduciary duties on the part of officers of the ASA, who, they claim, "gained and abused positions of trust within the American Studies Association through deception and manipulation" and "orchestrated the misappropriation of the assets, both monetary and reputational" of the association to promote an anti-Israel boycott. They further argue that pursuit of such an agenda "subverts the apolitical mission and scholarly purpose" of the association.

Slightly less than two-thirds -- 66.05 percent -- of ASA's membership ratified the association's 2013 resolution endorsing an academic boycott of Israel.

While noting that other pending litigation remains unresolved, ASA hailed the appellate court ruling upholding the dismissal of the federal lawsuit in a press release, describing it as the latest in “a string of victories for the ASA in a case it has defended since April 2016.”

"We will continue to defend our work, our reputation, and our members who come under attack," the association said. "We will continue to form principled alliances in the interests of academic freedom and social justice."

Jennifer Gross, an attorney representing the current and former members of the ASA who sued the association, said the professors "disagree with the Court of Appeals’ decision and are considering how to proceed in light of it." She said the case will continue, "although perhaps only in the District of Columbia Superior Court."

"We look forward to continuing to prosecute this case to obtain full disclosure of exactly how the ASA was victimized by anti-Israel activists, and a remedy for the abuses those people have inflicted on this academic society, its work and its members," Gross said.

July 6, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, Naomi Yavneh Klos, professor of languages and cultures at Loyola University New Orleans, explores Holocaust history in the Netherlands, beyond Anne Frank. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

July 2, 2020

The deans of the University of California Health's six medical schools announced Tuesday that all medical school, residency and fellowship interviews for the 2020-21 academic year will be held in a virtual format. The decision creates a consistent approach of no in-person interviews, so that all applicants who advance to the interview stage have the same setting for presenting their skills.

"We want to create an equitable process for all," said Cathryn Nation, vice president of health sciences for University of California Health. "Applicants to UC medical schools and residency programs rigorously prepare academically and usually travel for in-person panel interviews. We don't want these individuals to feel their chance for success is influenced by their ability to appear in person at this time when the risk of coronavirus transmission remains a very real concern."

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