Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 3, 2020

The University of Mississippi has hired DJ Durkin as an assistant football coach, ESPN reported. Durkin was head football coach at the University of Maryland, College Park, until he was fired in 2018 after two investigations by the university's governing board revealed that the university was at fault for the death of Jordan McNair, a red-shirt freshman football player, due to heatstroke. The investigations found widespread abuse of players by the Maryland coaching staff.

Keith Carter, athletics director at Ole Miss, said the university had conducted a thorough background check on Durkin.

“We received consistently strong feedback about Coach Durkin’s strong character and work ethic and his positive impact on the communities and institutions where he was previously employed,” Carter said in a written statement.

Mississippi's former head football coach, Hugh Freeze, resigned in 2017 over allegations that he used a university mobile phone to call escort services. Liberty University in 2018 hired Freeze as its head football coach.

January 3, 2020

A Washington State community college is facing a large budget shortfall, leaving one of its most popular (and most expensive) programs at risk.

Shoreline Community College is facing a shortfall of $2 million, according to The Seattle Times, leading administrators to begin a program-by-program review.

Some fear that the dental hygiene program is now in jeopardy. Adding to the uncertainty, the Times reported that the college removed the program from designs for a new building, which would leave it without a home after its current clinic and classrooms are demolished next July.

The program attracts 120 students each year but accepts only 24. A student told the Times that a survey of her peers found that many are the first in their families to attend college, and most quit full-time jobs to do so.

Like many other community colleges, Shoreline is struggling with fewer enrollments and thus less revenue. The president plans to deliver next year's budget and proposed cuts to the college's board next month.

January 3, 2020

The former president of now-closed Southern Vermont College has sued four of its trustees and its "restructuring officer," charging that they prevented the institution from meeting contractual obligations to provide him severance pay and indemnify him against legal responsibility for the closure, the Bennington Banner reported.

David Evans was president of Southern Vermont through last May, when enrollment and financial troubles resulted in its closure. His federal lawsuit alleges that the "subgroup" of the board led the institution to fail to adhere to its commitments to him, in favor of "their own personal interests as creditors of the college."

January 3, 2020

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has been appointed chancellor of a university in Northern Ireland.

Clinton, who ran against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, will be the first woman in Queen's University's 173-year history to hold the position, according to the BBC. The term lasts for five years.

Clinton will succeed Tom Moran, an American businessman who died in August 2018. The chancellor is chosen by a special committee, which receives nominations for the position, according to the university's website.

The role of chancellor at Queen's University, located in Belfast, is largely ceremonial. Clinton will act as an ambassador for the university as well as an adviser for the vice chancellor, and she is expected to participate in graduation ceremonies.

Clinton received an honorary degree from Queen's in 2018 and took the opportunity to speak out against Brexit. She also participated in the peace process in Northern Ireland along with her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

January 3, 2020

This is "Best of" Week on the Academic Minute. For the Best Education Segment Award, Ashley Taylor, assistant professor of educational studies at Colgate University, explored who can be a producer of knowledge. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 2, 2020

The community colleges in Washington State received one of their largest gifts to date from a woman who saw the importance of education, despite not attending college herself.

Eva Gordon, who died in 2018 at the ripe age of 105, left behind $10 million to the state's 17 community colleges, according to The Seattle Times.

Each college will receive about $550,000, to be used for scholarships or other student supports.

Gordon grew up in Eugene, Ore., and reached adulthood during the Great Depression, hampering her ability to go to college, according to the Times. She moved to Seattle and worked as a trading assistant at an investment firm, buying partial shares in various industries and investing in companies like Nordstrom. She and her husband, Ed Gordon, made several donations to South Seattle College throughout the years.

The money will piggyback off several initiatives aimed at providing free or affordable higher education to Washington students. As of this past fall, all public high school graduates in Seattle can attend two years of community college tuition-free. A state law was also approved this year to let students from low- and middle-income families go to state colleges for free or a reduced price.

January 2, 2020

Zaosong Zheng, a medical student from China at Harvard University, is being held without bail on charges he attempted to smuggle cancer research material out of the country, the Associated Press reported. Zheng is charged with stealing materials from his lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Beth Israel has fired him from his job, and Harvard officials said that his visa has been revoked. He was arrested at Logan airport. His lawyer did not comment.

January 2, 2020

San Diego State University has confirmed that Ava Muhammad, a minister, author and spokesperson for the Nation of Islam's leadership, will not be invited to speak on campus. Muhammad was on a list of five suggested speakers for a summit on reparations for slavery.

SDSU had previously announced that four graduate students were awarded funding to develop programming to improve the lives of black students at SDSU. Their proposal for the reparations summit, which suggested speakers including Muhammad, was awarded $68,000.

Muhammad speaks to students on behalf of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, an African American political and religious organization. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have both been highlighted by the Southern Poverty Law Center for anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ vitriol. Muhammad, in 2017, also referred to Jews as “bloodsucking parasites.”

After an outcry, SDSU announced Dec. 23 on Twitter that the student-led event would have a revised list of speakers. The university said it supported that decision. “We strongly reject anti-Semitic, and other disparaging messages and actions.”

January 2, 2020

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor did not discriminate or retaliate against a pair of married professors who raised complaints about disparate treatment of their colleagues of color, a jury found following a trial in a local county court. Scott Kurashige, a former director of Asian American and Pacific Islander studies at Michigan, and Emily Lawsin, a current lecturer there, sued the university several years ago, alleging that they were treated in a hostile manner after trying to expose what they called race- and gender-based discrimination and inequity within their department and throughout the campus. 

Kurashige, who is now a professor at the University of Washington at Bothell, says he was terminated from his leadership position at Michigan and eventually forced out of his faculty role after asking his dean for equitable retention packages for three faculty members. Lawsin said that classes she’d long taught were taken away from her and that the university once tried to lay her off while she was on protected leave taking care of their baby with Down syndrome. Her contract was later renewed. The initial lawsuit said that at least 20 full-time faculty members of color left Michigan between 1997 and 2016 because they were “disparately denied tenure despite strong academic records,” and that others reported they’d left due to racial bias, according to MLive. The university denied these claims. 

MLive reported that the jury rejected all allegations of disparate treatment and racial discrimination, harassment, retaliation, sex discrimination, and discrimination based on a disability. The university said it was pleased with the outcome of the trial.

January 2, 2020

Lehigh University accidentally emailed congratulations to 137 applicants who were not admitted, The Morning Call reported. Within a few hours, Lehigh realized the mistake and apologized to the students. “Receiving the erroneous email after the disappointment of our decision must have brought confusion, frustration and perhaps anger, for which I again apologize,” said Bruce Bunnick, director of admissions, in the email. “You deserve better and we will work harder to eliminate the human error that led to this mistake.”

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