Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 15, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute, Ricia Anne Chansky, professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, explores what communal trauma in Puerto Rico can teach us about responding to COVID-19. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 14, 2020

The president of North Georgia Technical College, Mark Ivester, died after several weeks in the hospital battling COVID-19, the college announced Sunday.

Ivester became president of North Georgia Technical College in 2016 and before that served on the college’s executive team for 17 years, according to the local newspaper Now Habersham. Positions he held included vice president for economic development and vice president of administrative services.

Ivester held an Ed.D. from the University of Georgia. He and his wife, Eleanor, had four adult children.

The college announced Ivester’s death on Facebook.

September 14, 2020

California State University, Fresno, extended a tenure-track job offer to CV Vitolo-Haddad but is now looking into Vitolo-Haddad’s recent admission that they (their preferred pronoun) claimed to be a person of color online and in conversations at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where they are currently a Ph.D. candidate in journalism and mass communication.

Fresno State “is aware of the concerns regarding CV Vitolo-Haddad that have been appearing online,” the university said in a statement. “Please know that this matter is currently under review. The university will always uphold its core values of discovery, diversity and distinction. We are taking this matter seriously and acknowledge the pain and confusion this situation has caused members of our campus and external community.”

A spokesperson for the university confirmed that Vitolo-Haddad received a conditional job offer for fall 2021 prior to the allegations of racial fraud coming to light, “subject to our background check procedures.” Vitolo-Haddad, who is a white Italian American, did not respond to a request for comment.

Duke University Press spoke out last week about Jessica Krug, the now-former associate professor of history at George Washington University who also recently admitted to racial fraud. The press has faced questions about what it will do about Krug’s book, Fugitive Modernities: Kisama and the Politics of Freedom, which it published in 2018.

Gisela Fosado, the press’s editorial director, said in a statement that almost everyone “I’ve spoken to about Krug’s book has asked about profits from her book,” and that the “truth is that the book, like many monographic scholarly works, did not generate a profit -- its expenses were more than its revenues.” That said, the press will move “all proceeds from the book to a fund that will support the work of Black and Latinx scholars.”

“Our conversations and deliberations about other actions will continue,” Fosado added.

On a more personal note, Fosado said that Krug -- who is white with Jewish heritage but claimed various Black and Afro-Latinx identities -- insisted to her that her name was pronounced “Cruz.”

Krug “told me the fictitious story of how her grandparents came to this country from the Caribbean and how immigration officials made a transcription mistake on their last name,” Fosado said. “She also repeated other details that I now know to be false about her identity and her past.”

Fosado said that that those who promoted Krug’s work -- herself included -- have “struggled in trying to consider the relationship between Krug’s scholarship and her wrongdoing.” Krug “leveraged her deception to enable and promote her work, in ways that are not quantifiable or always specific,” she continued. “As others have pointed out, Krug’s scholarship may not have ever existed without the funding that was inseparable from her two decades of lies.”

What to do with Krug's scholarship, “which, as it happens, has been widely praised and recognized as important?” Fosado asked. “Many scholars and scholar activists have continued to push for a focus not just on content of scholarship, but also on context, methods, ethics and politics -- often promoting decolonial approaches. These are the conversations and movements that can lead us forward. I hope that we can all muster the strength to lean into these conversations, even though they will challenge us all.”

Krug, who resigned from George Washington last week, has not responded to multiple requests for comment about her case.

September 14, 2020

Duquesne University has placed an education professor on paid leave pending an investigation after short videos circulated on social media showing him using a racial slur in class, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In one of the videos, the professor, Gary Shank, says, “I’m giving you permission to use the word, OK? Because we’re using the word in a pedagogical sense. What’s the one word about race that we’re not allowed to use?”

“I’ll give you a hint. It starts with ‘N.’ … It’s even hard to say, OK? But, I’ll tell you the word, and again, I’m not using it any way other than to demonstrate a point. Fair enough?”

In the other video, Shank said the word was commonly heard in his youth and gave examples of how it was used, asking students if the usage would be acceptable today.

The Post-Gazette could not immediately reach Shank for comment. Shank did not respond to an email from Inside Higher Ed on Sunday.

September 14, 2020

The University of Virginia announced Friday it would remove a statue that depicts subjection of Native American people and rename or remove several other campus landmarks or buildings named after slaveholders.

The university’s Board of Visitors said it would work with Indigenous groups to find an off-campus location where it could relocate the controversial statue honoring George Rogers Clark, a military leader during the American Revolution credited with helping claim the Old Northwest Territory for the U.S. and noted for his military incursions against Native American tribes and villages. The statue calls Clark “Conqueror of the Northwest” and “features Indian people braced for submission,” according to a UVA Today article.

The university also said it would rename its education school, dropping the name of J. L. M. Curry, a Confederate leader and slaveholder who advocated for free public education but opposed integrated schools, and remove the name of Henry Malcolm Withers, another Confederate leader and slaveholder, from Withers-Brown Hall at UVA School of Law. The university plans to rededicate or -- if rededication is not possible -- remove the Hume Memorial Wall, a Confederate memorial honoring Confederate soldier Frank Hume.

UVA's Board of Visitors also voted to “contextualize” the statue of Thomas Jefferson -- primary author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the U.S. and UVA’s founder -- located on the north side of the university’s rotunda. UVA said in a press release that the resolution approved by the Board of Visitors “acknowledged Jefferson’s contributions to the University and the nation, but also pointed out that he owned slaves and used slave labor at UVA, in direct contradiction to the ideals of liberty and equality he professed.”

September 14, 2020

U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings of colleges today -- with some tweaks to the methodology, but no significant changes in those colleges ranked at the top.

The main addition to the methodology was two measures of student debt: the average amount of accumulated federal loan debt among full-time undergraduate borrowers at graduation, and the percentage of full-time undergraduates in a graduating class who took out federal loans.

Those measures were added to the "outcomes" section of the rankings, increasing its total value from 35 percent to 40 percent. The weights for SAT and ACT scores, high school class standing, and alumni giving were reduced.

More information is available here.

September 14, 2020

Social media giant Facebook, which started as a networking site for college students, has come full circle, announcing the launch of a platform exclusively for students.

Facebook Campus is described as a “dedicated section of the Facebook app designed for students,” where shared content can only be seen by other people attending the same institution.

Facebook Campus will have its own chat rooms and a News Feed where students can see updates from classmates and find information about upcoming events. There will also be a campus directory where students can find other students by class, major, year and more -- a callback to the “early days when Facebook was a college-only network,” the company said in a press release.

Facebook described Facebook Campus as an “opt-in” experience, suggesting the directory will not be automatically populated with student profiles.

“Every campus profile contains your name, cover photo and profile photo from your Facebook profile, as well as your graduation year. All other fields are optional and you can choose what you want to include,” said Dianne Hajdasz, privacy and data policy manager at Facebook, in a blog post about privacy on Facebook Campus.

Facebook Campus is currently available at the following colleges in the U.S.: Benedict College, Brown University, California Institute of Technology, College of William & Mary, Duke University, Florida International University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, Johns Hopkins University, Lane College, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, Middlebury College, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Rice University, Sarah Lawrence College, Scripps College, Smith College, Spelman College, Stephen F. Austin State University, Tufts University, University at Albany in the State University of New York system, University of Hartford, University of Louisville, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Vassar College, Virginia Tech, Wellesley College and Wesleyan University.

September 14, 2020

Some student activists at Skidmore College, in New York, are calling on the college to fire an art professor who briefly attended a pro-police rally in late July, the Albany Times-Union reported.

The professor, David Peterson, said he attended the rally out of "civic interest and curiosity." He reportedly attended the rally for a total of about 20 minutes.

Peterson recently arrived at his classroom to find a notice taped on the door: "STOP," it read. "By entering this class you are crossing a campus-wide picket line and breaking the boycott against Professor David Peterson."

Peterson said one of his classes has no students enrolled and two others have only a small number of students remaining.

Peterson said he was troubled by what he described as "the mob mentality." Three students associated with a group that has championed Peterson’s firing did not return the Times-Union’s request for comment.

September 14, 2020

Martin Methodist College could become the fourth college in the public University of Tennessee system. The two institutions signed a nonbinding letter of intent Friday, a move toward the UT system acquiring the private college, contingent on approval from the Boards of Trustees at both institutions, the Tennessee state Legislature and the institutions' regional accreditors.

“Martin Methodist is in good shape, but the pandemic has accelerated conversations about the future across the higher-education system,” Mark La Branche, president of Martin Methodist, said in a press release. “The trustees and I had been talking about sustainability for a long time. When presented with the opportunity to expand the breadth and quality of our mission, the trustees were eager to explore.”

The acquisition would be the UT system’s first new campus in more than 50 years, following the addition of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1969.

Randy Boyd, president of the UT system, described the move as a “win-win-win,” in part for employees at Martin Methodist.

“As state employees, they’ll have better benefits, more job security and more sustainability,” Boyd said in a video that accompanied the press release.

Martin Methodist is a private liberal arts college founded in 1870. It enrolls about 900 students, almost all undergraduates. It's the only institution offering four-year and graduate degrees between Sewanee and Freed-Hardeman University, a 13-county Middle Tennessee region near the border with Alabama.

The UT system enrolls about 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

September 14, 2020

Today on the Academic Minute: Matthew Boedy, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of North Georgia, looks to a past example of change to draw parallels to how higher education might shift post-COVID-19. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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