Academic Freedom for the Southern Community

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HARTFORD — The State Board of Education placed teacher-training programs at Sacred Heart University and Charter Oak State College on probation for the next three years
The board made the decision Wednesday on the recommendation of the state Department of Education’s 12-member review committee, which cited various shortcomings in the two programs.
Sarah Barzee, chief talent officer for the state Department of Education, said that when a program is placed on probation, it is allowed to continue educating students and granting degrees, but must address the problem areas within a specified time period or risk losing state approval.

A program is placed on probation, Barzee said, if “significant and far-reaching noncompliance with standards is identified.” She said the two educator-training programs are the third and fourth to be placed on probation in the past three years.

In the case of Sacred Heart, a key issue was the lack of “sufficient data” to demonstrate that students possess the “knowledge, skills and disposition” needed to meet professional and state standards, according to the state’s review.

James Carl, dean of Sacred Heart’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education, said Wednesday after the meeting, “It’s not that we don’t assess our students’ performance.” (Read More)

The U.S. Education Department has found that Michigan State University’s sexual-assault and sexual-harassment policies violated the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX, creating a “sexually hostile environment.”

In a letter released on Tuesday, the department says that the university did not notify students or employees of its Title IX coordinator, and that grievance procedures did not satisfy Title IX’s standards, among other things.

In a resolution agreement enclosed in the letter, the university agreed to take a series of steps, including:

  • Revise its notice of nondiscrimination.
  • Train its staff on revised Title IX complaint procedures.
  • Provide mandatory training to students on the role of the Title IX coordinator, as well as what constitutes sexual assault and the university’s definition of consent.
  • Update the training materials given to athletes about sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault.

The government’s investigation dealt with two student complaints — one filed in 2011, the other in 2014 — alleging that the university had discriminated against them by not fairly handling their reports of sexual violence.

After investigating, the Education Department found that the university had not promptly and equitably responded to the students’ reports, but that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest the students experienced further discrimination because of the university’s failure to respond…read more

When the last of four finalists in the search for the University of Iowa’s next president visits the campus on Tuesday, some professors will be on edge.

J. Bruce Harreld, a business executive turned consultant, will be the fourth prospective president to visit the institution. The three candidates who preceded him — Michael A. Bernstein, provost of Tulane University; Joseph E. Steinmetz, provost of Ohio State University; and Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College — are cut from fairly traditional presidential cloth.

But Mr. Harreld’s résumé is highlighted by executive positions in the corporate world: He was a senior vice president at IBM for 13 years, president and a member of the board of the Boston Market Company for two years, and chief information officer at Kraft General Foods, where he led the frozen-foods unit. He is now the managing principal at his own consulting firm, Executing Strategy LLC…read more

As recently as three years ago, it seemed unlikely that the existing system of accreditation would survive the next renewal of the Higher Education Act in anything remotely resembling its current form.

From across the political spectrum (right and left) and from various segments of higher education itself (particularly community colleges in California and elite universities across the country), many asserted that the system of peer-reviewed quality control was irretrievably broken and in need of replacement.

In some ways little has changed today. Accreditors still have enemies aplenty, and the twin (and in many ways conflicting) critiques that accreditors go too easy on poorly performing institutions (as asserted by foes of for-profit colleges and in a recent takedown in The Wall Street Journal) and that accreditation is a barrier to innovation (an argument made by President Obama and candidates on the 2016 presidential campaign trail) are not going away.

For all the protestations about accreditation’s limitations, though, a new consensus has emerged, even from tough critics of the system like Kevin Carey of New America Foundation, who sums up the view this way: “No one really likes accreditation but no one knows what else to do.”(read more)

Two top fund raisers at Portland State University have resigned after a public-relations catastrophe surrounding a $100-million donation that never materialized. The Oregonian reports the president and chief executive officer of the PSU Foundation, Francoise Aylmer, and another fund raiser, Kristin Coppola, announced Friday they would step down.

Last week the university planned to hold a news conference announcing a $100-million gift from an unnamed former student. They called it off, however, when they money never came through. The Oregonian later reported the would-be donor was John Michael Fitzpatrick, “a tech promoter with hardly any obvious assets and a history of insolvency.”

A statement issued by Ms. Aylmer and the chair of the foundation board, Mark Rosenbaum, sought to play down the controversy. “Even though this gift was never announced by PSU,” it read, “the media coverage about the promised gift has overshadowed the many achievements of the foundation and the university.”

The newspaper notes Ms. Aylmer is paid $278,000 and serves as the honorary consul for France in Oregon. Ms. Coppola was the foundation’s No. 2 official…read more

August 27, 2015

As Democrats on the presidential campaign trail pitch their college affordability plans to voters, they are largely united in their calls for a big boost in federal spending on higher education.

Following a monthslong effort by liberal groups to push “debt-free college” — and after President Obama’s call for free community college earlier this year — leading Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both now have proposals that would expand the role of the federal government in higher education.

At the heart of both plans is a new federal-state matching program that would send billions of dollars to states and colleges with the goal of seeing tuition slashed or eliminated at public colleges and universities.

For all the similarities, however, there are key differences in how Clinton and Sanders are approaching college affordability and which types of students their plans would benefit…read more

Many assumed the next president of the Connecticut State College and University System would have an extensive background in education. Some are disappointed with the recent news, but, the appointment of the governor’s Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian as interim president for the Connecticut State College and University System has nothing to do with education. Nor does it have anything to do with academic quality or rigor; nor does it have anything to do with placing equal emphasis on the universities and community colleges; nor does it have anything to do with faculty or students; nor does it have anything to do with reducing the hostility that exist between the 16 campuses and the System office, the Board of Regents, and selected Legislators.

My read of the tea leaves is the appointment is based upon the primary strength of the appointee which is collective bargaining experience and budget and finance expertise. I suspect as the collective bargaining agreements are up for re-negotiation in 2016, the interim president will seek significant concessions from faculty, staff and others. This is a critical negotiation to help Governor Malloy, (budget chief) Ben Barnes and the Legislature balance the state budget. In addition, the state budget is based upon various revenue projections that probably will not materialize that could result in a midyear budget reduction to the CSCU system and other government agencies. Hence, the contract negotiations are critical…read more

A Weaker ‘Yeshiva’?

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Point Park University on Monday announced that it was dropping legal appeals designed to prevent its full-time faculty from unionizing. The decision could be a sign that a December ruling by the National Labor Relations Board will make it more difficult for private colleges to fight off union drives for full-time faculty members.

And that would be a significant shift away from the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in NLRB v. Yeshiva University, a decision that has largely made unionization impossible for tenure-track faculty members at private colleges and universities, unless those colleges agreed.

In accepting the union, Point Park ended 12 years of legal battles to prevent collective bargaining by its faculty members, who voted in 2004 to be represented by the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America. A statement by the university noted that a prior administration at Point Park started the effort to block the union. “The current administration at Point Park does not wish to spend any resources on a potentially costly legal battle with its full-time faculty. Therefore, the university will recognize the right of the full-time faculty to form a union and begin collective bargaining accordingly,” said the statement.

As recently as May, however, the university was urging the NLRB to back off plans to apply its December ruling to Point Park. The decision by Point Park to drop its appeals follows the NLRB stating that it would apply the December ruling, which came in a case involving Pacific Lutheran University…read more

W.Kent Barnds loves his job. But with all the pressures facing higher education these days, it’s not getting any easier.

Mr. Barnds is vice president for enrollment, communication, and planning at Augustana College, in Illinois. He’s been there 10 years but has worked in higher education since he graduated from college, in the early 1990s.

A lot has changed in those two-plus decades, and Mr. Barnds’s job has expanded remarkably. Like other administrators and faculty and staff members on campuses around the country, he is learning to live in a world of tighter budgets, swelling regulations, and ever more assessment and competition.

“The pressure’s greater on enrollment officers for a whole host of reasons, but we’re not alone,” he says. “There’s increased pressure on every senior leader on a college campus.”

The squeeze to do more, often with less, has been felt throughout higher education. The proportion of tenure-track jobs continues to dwindle, the precariousness of choosing the professorial life reflected in the statistic that some 76 percent of faculty members now work as adjuncts. In the sciences, researchers have been learning to deal with little to no growth in federal support for a decade now; the budget of the National Institutes of Health has fallen about 25 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2003. Their colleagues in the humanities, meanwhile, feel the weight of increased expectations…read more

Faculty Salaries

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“Faculty Salaries” is Inside Higher Ed’s latest print-on-demand compilation of articles.

It contains a report on the annual faculty compensation survey from the American Association of University Professors and explores such topics as gender and racial pay gaps and adjunct unionization.

This compilation is free and you may download a copy here.

And you may sign up here for a free webinar on Thursday, August 20, at 2 p.m. Eastern about the themes of the booklet.