Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 14, 2020

The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation intends to pledge $75 million to Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. The gift will be the largest donation to the university in its 150-year history and one of the largest ever to a school of communications.

Donald E. Newhouse, a Syracuse alumnus and honorary trustee, made the announcement at an event at the Newhouse School on Jan. 13.

"In this era in which public communications is undergoing continual and radical change, my family and I expect to continue our long-term commitment to ensure that the school my dad helped found almost 60 years ago remains the leading communications school in the world for another generation," he said in a university press release.

The university said the gift "will support multiple academic initiatives" and boost a fundraising campaign launched in November.

The Newhouse School is named for Newhouse’s late father, Samuel I. Newhouse, who donated $15 million to the university in 1962 to help fund construction of the first of the school’s three buildings. That donation was the largest gift in its history at that time.

January 13, 2020

Austin A. Lane was placed on administrative leave as president of Texas Southern University. A statement from the university said, "The board is committed to ensuring all activities at the university are conducted in an ethical and transparent manner in accordance with the university’s mission, vision and values. The university will have no further comment at this time."

It is unclear if the announcement relates to one in November, when the board announced that it had "contacted local authorities after confirming certain improprieties related to the admissions process within the university based on an internal investigation."

January 13, 2020

A student at a San Diego college was among those killed in the crash of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran on Wednesday, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The student, Sarah Saadat, was studying for a doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Alliant International University. Her sister, Saba Saadat, a student at the University of Alberta, and their mother, Shekoufeh Choupannejad, a physician, were also killed.

Many of the plane crash victims were students and scholars affiliated with Canadian universities; at least 18 Canadian universities reported losing one or more students or scholars in the crash. Iran’s military said Saturday that it accidentally shot down the plane.

January 13, 2020

There will be no classes at Clark College in Vancouver, Wash., today, because a faculty strike has been called.

The faculty union, which represents 400 full- and part-time faculty members, has been negotiating with college officials for 15 months, according to The Columbian. A particular point of contention has been salaries for part-time employees.

January 13, 2020

Gavin Newsom, California's Democratic governor, last week rolled out his proposed state budget for 2020-21. The proposal includes substantial general fund increases for higher education. But the overall total would only increase modestly, as some one-time capital outlays expire. The budget also would set aside billions of dollars for reserves amid slowing of the rapid expansion of California's economy.

Proposed increases for the state's community colleges are intended to reduce cost pressures for students on textbooks and by reducing time to graduation or transfer. It also includes support for food pantries for students. In addition, Newsom proposed $83.2 million in new funding for apprenticeship and work-based learning programs for two-year students.

The budget proposal would not alter the state's recently created performance funding formula for community colleges.

Eloy Oakley, the California community college system's chancellor, in a written statement called Newsom's budget a "strong start."

Proposed general fund increases for the California State University and University of California systems reflect investments with the "expectation that both segments expand access, and continue efforts aimed at graduating more students, closing achievement gaps, meeting the educational needs of students in underserved regions of the state and improving all students' time-to-degree completion," the budget said.

Newsom also proposed targeted higher education funding increases for improving social mobility for Fresno and its surrounding region. For example, it includes $17 million for K-16 educational pathways into jobs in high-wage, high-growth sectors.

January 13, 2020

Iowa Wesleyan University and Saint Leo University in Florida are walking away from partnership plans after encountering difficulties with financial conditions, student financial aid and accreditation.

In 2018, Iowa Wesleyan survived a closure scare by securing gifts and financing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It then sought partnerships and entered a due diligence process with Saint Leo.

But Iowa Wesleyan’s debt load was a barrier -- Saint Leo asked the USDA to forgive part of a $21.4 million loan to the private college in Iowa, Iowa Wesleyan’s president, Christine Plunkett, told The Gazette Friday. Iowa Wesleyan would also have changed accreditors if talks were consummated, which would have made its students ineligible for the Iowa Tuition Grant. That’s significant because the state grant went to almost a fifth of Iowa Wesleyan’s students as of this fall, and Iowa Wesleyan has been emphasizing recruitment of in-state students.

Plunkett told The Gazette that she is certain Iowa Wesleyan will be able to stay open through the year and that she is “fairly confident that we have what we need to operate into next year.” A group of trustees is evaluating next steps that could still include some sort of partnership.

January 13, 2020

The American Library Association raised eyebrows last week with a proposal to create a “designated area for the expression of social beliefs” at its upcoming midwinter meeting in Philadelphia.

On its event website, the ALA said it would create a space called “the square” to “allow individuals or groups the opportunity to express support for or objection to self-identified topics.”

The proposal was ridiculed by librarians on Twitter, who joked “the square” could become an “intellectual fight club” or “Thunderdome.” Many also expressed serious concern that “the square” would create a platform for hate speech, or limit attendees’ ability to speak freely in other conference areas.

Some commenters theorized “the square” was a strategy for controlling protests. At the ALA annual conference in June 2019, a group of librarians protested the presence of a Central Intelligence Agency recruitment booth on the exhibit floor, stating the agency’s practices were incompatible with the values of librarianship.

The ALA quickly admitted it had “missed the mark” with its proposal. “We’ve pulled down the page and will be regrouping shortly to determine how best we can balance the needs of all attendees and exhibitors in Philadelphia,” said Mary Ghikas, ALA executive director, in a statement. “We apologize for the confusion this has caused. As always, we thank you for your feedback.”

January 13, 2020

Northwestern University earned a 2.5 percent return in fiscal 2019 but lost money, Institutional Investor reported. Endowment spending was used to cover a continuing deficit at the university. At the end of the year, the value of the endowment was $10.8 billion, down from $11 billion a year earlier.

January 13, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, Ben Graham, associate professor in the school of international relations at the University of Southern California Dornsife, explores why immigrants can help keep America ahead of China. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 10, 2020

The American Association of University Professors on Thursday released a statement “In Defense of Knowledge and Higher Education,” saying that “slogans and superstition are no match for the growing complexity and interconnectedness of today’s world.” The statement cites Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's past comment that faculty members tell students "what to do, what to say and, more ominously, what to think,” as well as more general concerns about “alternative facts” and ongoing attacks on expertise and science. The AAUP defines knowledge as "those understandings of the world upon which we rely because they are produced by the best methods at our disposal,” not that which is "produced merely by immediate sense impressions" or opinions.

“Colleges and universities are disciplinary, not political, institutions,” the statement continues. “They exist to serve the common good in the production and distribution of expert knowledge, as well as in the pedagogical inculcation of a mature independence of mind. Research and teaching are sites of critical thinking.” The new document, which was endorsed by groups including the Association of American Colleges and Universities and PEN America, ends with a challenge -- and a warning: “It is up to those who value knowledge to take a stand in the face of those who would assault it, to convey to a broad public the dangers that await us -- as individuals and as a society -- should that pledge be abandoned.”

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