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Canceling Clery?

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July 2, 2015
 By Jake New
 Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, suggested last week that she was in favor of “removing” the Clery Act, the law that requires colleges to provide and publicize information about campus crimes. In a statement late Wednesday night, though, she softened her language, saying through a spokeswoman that she had been referring only to the campus security law’s reporting requirements.

While McCaskill — who has promoted legislation that would toughen oversight of colleges on sexual assault — has long been critical of the Clery Act, her statements last week were especially condemnatory. The comments, which came during McCaskill’s keynote address at last week’s Campus Safety National Forum, elicited cheers from campus law enforcement officials and concern from campus safety groups.

“I don’t need to tell you it’s flawed,” McCaskill said to the gathering of college security officials on Thursday. “To be honest with you, I am OK with removing the Clery Act completely.”

Adding that the Clery Act accomplishes little besides being “a waste of time pushing paper” for campus safety officials, McCaskill said she would ultimately like to see the law replaced with something that would provide a clearer picture of what crimes are taking place on campuses. “My goal is to remove [the Clery Act,],” she added. “Or at a minimum, simplify it…read more

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would revisit a lawsuit challenging how the University of Texas at Austin considers race and ethnicity in admitting undergraduates, setting the stage for yet another heated national debate over affirmative action at colleges.

The justices previously weighed in on the case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, just two years ago. They handed down a 7-to-1 decisionthat was regarded as an incremental victory for the plaintiff, Abigail Noel Fisher, a white applicant who sued the university for discrimination after being denied admission to the Austin campus, in 2008.

In its 2013 Fisher ruling, the Supreme Court struck down a lower court’s summary judgment in the university’s favor, but left intact its precedents allowing colleges to consider race in admissions to advance a compelling government interest in campus diversity. The majority opinion said the lower court had erred in essentially accepting at face value the university’s claims that it had seriously considered race-neutral alternatives to its policy and had narrowly tailored the policy to assign race or ethnicity no more weight than necessary. The lower court was ordered to reconsider the case…read more

June 25, 2015 

Just 19 percent of adjunct faculty members say they’re very confident they’ll have enough money for retirement, while another 49 percent say they’re somewhat confident at best. Nearly one-third of adjuncts (31 percent) say they’re not confident they’ll be financially able to retire at all.

Those are the findings of a new report from TIAA-CREF Institute, the research arm of TIAA-CREF, which is a major provider of financial services and retirement planning to colleges and universities.

The results — based on a national survey of some 500 part-time and full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members — are hardly surprising. That is, many adjuncts report that their relatively low pay makes it hard to make ends meet at the end of the month, let alone put money away for retirement. But the data nevertheless shed new light on a perhaps neglected subtopic of the national debate over adjunct working conditions. And while some advocates for adjuncts say that the reality for many is worse than what this study found, they hope TIAA-CREF’s attention will jump-start overdue conversations.

“A major portion of college education is being conducted by adjuncts, and we need to treat them properly,” said Mary Gray, a tenured professor of mathematics and statistics at American University who studies economic equity and education issues, after reviewing the report…read more

The U.S. Department of Education has retreated from its controversial plan to create a giant college-ratings system, top officials revealed on Wednesday. Instead, by late summer the department is now promising to produce a customizable, consumer-oriented website that won’t include any evaluations of colleges but will contain what one official described as “more data than ever before.” In effect, it will be a ratings system without any ratings.

The as-yet-unnamed new system will allow students and others to compare colleges “on whatever measures are important to them,” said Jamienne S. Studley, deputy under secretary of education.

The proposed federal ratings have been contentious since the moment they were announced. In Congress, Republicans in particular have introduced measures to keep the department from spending money to develop them. And many college leaders and higher-education associations have questioned the department’s capacity to devise an accurate or fair system…read more

In the past few weeks, I’ve been in the midst of a debate over tenure for college professors in Wisconsin.

This has implications for public higher education across the country. I know this as both the chancellor of Wisconsin’s flagship campus, in Madison, and as an economist who has helped shape national policy.

Two key points have been misunderstood. First, the University of Wisconsin hasn’t abolished tenure. Rather, we’re becoming like virtually every other state university, with tenure enshrined in university-system policy rather than state statute. At Madison, I’m committed to keeping academic freedom as robust as it’s always been.

We are strongly urging legislators to change the proposal that ignited this debate. It created the impression that faculty members could be laid off when minor program changes occur. We are asking that this legislative language be removed or brought in line with guidelines from the American Association of University Professors, which allow the removal of tenure when there is just cause, financial emergency, or program discontinuance for educational reasons…read more

Three statues of leaders of the Confederacy were vandalized with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” at the University of Texas at Austin on Monday night, The Texas Tribune reports.The spray-painted tags were discovered the morning after South Carolina’s governor, Nikki R. Haley, called for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the grounds of the State House.

Statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Albert Sidney Johnston were vandalized in Austin. Along with “Black Lives Matter,” the Davis statue was tagged with the phrase “Bump All the Chumps.”

On Monday afternoon the university’s new president, Gregory L. Fenves, met with students calling for the statues’ removal. A university spokesman said the talks were “productive.” In a written statement on Tuesday, Mr. Fenves said he would form a committee to “discuss the future of the Jefferson Davis statue.”

The uproar over the flag in South Carolina and the statues in Texas followed last week’s deadly shooting in a church in Charleston, S.C., of nine black people by a white gunman…original post

June 22, 2015

After years of delays spurred by concerns from states and colleges, a new federal requirement that colleges obtain authorization from regulators in each state in which they are physically located is finally due to take effect.

The U.S. Education Department on Friday issued a Dear Colleague letter reminding institutions and state regulators of the looming July 1 effective date for the so-called state authorization regulation for on-ground campuses (which is distinct from a parallel rule about online programs, which is in a holding pattern because of legal challenges).

The rule, which imposes requirements on states and college alike, is aimed at setting some minimum standards for how a state approves colleges operating within its borders. In addition to requiring institutions to have legal authorization from every state in which it physically operates a postsecondary program, the rule requires states to have a process for considering student complaints about a college, and sets out the conditions under which state regulators can use an institution’s accreditation or business licenses as a substitute for a more intensive approval process…read more

The U.S. Department of Education, in a letter meant to highlight to states their responsibilities to oversee colleges and protect students, reminded colleges on Friday that, beginning on July 1, they could lose their eligibility for federal student-aid programs if they aren’t authorized by a state agency that has a policy meeting minimum federal requirements.

Such “state authorization” must include a system for students to file complaints against colleges for wrongdoing and for the state to act on the complaints, the letter says.

The department has required all colleges to be authorized under such a process since 2011, but it has postponed enforcement of the rule to give state agencies more time to develop policies that would comply with it. In the “Dear Colleague” letter, issued on Friday, the department reminded institutions that those extensions expire on June 30…read more

The Florida Legislature has wrapped up an ugly budget battle, and Florida State University will receive $16.7 million in new money from a pool set aside for public institutions. That’s a small fraction of the university’s overall operating budget. But Florida State saw its state appropriation drop nearly $150 million from the 2006 to the 2012 academic years, so any new money is huge.

The university nearly missed out on that windfall, though, because it was awarded under Florida’s performance-based funding model.

That model is in vogue nationwide: Some 30 states now distribute at least a portion of their higher-education money based on achievement measures, and President Obama called for broader use of the strategy as part of his plan for free community college.

The jury is still out on whether performance-based funding is effective. But as Florida, an early adopter of the practice, demonstrates, it can certainly be fickle…read more

June 16, 2015

An Education Department report urges the panel that advises the education secretary on accreditation issues to terminate federal recognition of the agency that accredits nursing programs and schools, known as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The staff report to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity is the latest salvo in a long-running dispute between the commission and the National League for Nursing, the membership association for nursing educators, from which the accreditation commission separated in 1997 at the urging of the Education Departmentread more