Live Updates: Latest News in Higher Education



Live Updates: Latest News in Higher Education

Antiabortion Speech Disrupted at VCU

Virginia Commonwealth University’s president, Michael Rao, on Saturday criticized the disruption of a speech at VCU last week by antiabortion activists.

“As our nation’s Constitution protects the free speech of all, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with what is being said, it is essential that everyone treat everyone else with respect and civility,” Rao said.

VCU police charged two protesters. “One protester was charged with simple assault and the other with disorderly conduct. Neither individual was a VCU student nor had any connection to the university,” Rao said.

According to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, the first 30 minutes of the speech by Kristan Hawkins, an antiabortion activist, were disrupted by yelling. Then the police arrived, fighting broke out and the event was shut down.

Virginia House Speaker Todd Gilbert, a Republican, called the incident “another sad episode of free speech being shouted down on college campuses across our nation.”

Arkansas Faculty Opposes Purchase of U of Phoenix

The Faculty Senate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville said today that it opposes acquisition of the University of Phoenix by a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Arkansas system, The Arkansas Times reported.

Stephen E. Caldwell said, “As chair of our Faculty Senate, it is my duty to represent and express the concerns of that body on all matters effecting our campus. I cannot think of any other issue that has so universally bound our faculty into a singular voice, and I am proud to represent that voice.”

In a letter to the Board of Trustees of the system, the Faculty Senate said, “Though you acknowledge the ‘checkered past’ of the University of Phoenix, we feel you are too quick to dismiss those problems as being in the past. We feel the reputation of Phoenix’s history will linger for years to come, and our campus is at the most risk for association with it. The University of Phoenix has proven itself, through strikingly low graduation and retention rates, to be unsuccessful at helping students reach their educational goals, anathema to what we do here on the Hill.”

The letter added, “Phoenix’s well-documented history of dishonest and predatory practices with students resulting in poor educational experiences are the defining features of the University of Phoenix brand, in opposition to ours.”

System spokesman Nate Hinkel said “that the contemplated structure of this potential deal would use no public funds and that the University of Arkansas System is not acquiring University of Phoenix.” Hinkel said those facts have been “heavily reported” and “explained in great detail,” though he said parts of the letter were “misleading” in this regard. “It’s important to be clear about that so there isn’t any confusion,” he said.

Fla. Professors Will Face Posttenure Review Every 5 Years

Florida professors at public four-year universities will face posttenure review every five years, under rules adopted Wednesday by the Florida Board of Governors, Florida Phoenix reported.

Each university’s board will now come up with ways to measure faculty members’ “productivity” under the rule.

The change was opposed by American Association of University Professors, the American Psychological Association, the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association, among others.

“The way that many of our faculty are looking at it is that this is intentionally designed from the ground up to allow bad actors to cull faculty from departments with whom they personally disagree or who have politics that are inconvenient to the institution,” Andrew Gothard, president of United Faculty of Florida, told the Phoenix. “Or, as we’ve seen with the narrative that’s been coming out of Tallahassee, who have politics that disagree with those of the governor,” he added.

U of California Proposes Guaranteed Transfer Plan

The University of California has proposed, for the first time, a guaranteed admission plan for all qualified community college students, but the plan applies to the UC system, not individual campuses. So students would be assured of a spot in the system, but not on a particular campus, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Community college students would need to complete a new unified set of general education courses required by both UC and the California State University system, complete specific coursework needed for their intended majors, and earn a minimum grade point average. Those who are not admitted to their campuses of choice would be offered a spot at UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced or UC Riverside.

The proposal comes amid a debate over another plan for community college transfer to the University of California, Los Angeles. That plan, from Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, calls for UCLA to create a guaranteed transfer pathway for community college students or forfeit a chunk of state funding.

To meet the requirements outlined in the proposed budget, UCLA would have to join the UC Transfer Admissions Guarantee program, which offers California community college students who meet specific criteria guaranteed admission to participating UC campuses. Six of the nine campuses that educate undergraduates currently participate, with UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego making up the last holdouts. UCLA would also be required to participate in the Associate Degree for Transfer program, which promises community college students who fulfill certain requirements a guaranteed spot at participating four-year institutions, including all California State University campuses. If UCLA doesn’t meet both requirements, it risks losing $20 million in ongoing state funding.

Arizona Admits Failings in Murder of Professor, Faces Suit

University of Arizona president Robert C. Robbins admitted failings in the October murder of a professor, Thomas Meixner, on the campus.

“There were systemic issues across our university that should’ve been identified and corrected. I’m angry at myself that I did not do more to prevent this tragedy and most of all I’m angry at this man that took from us our loved one, friend and colleague,” Robbins said at a press briefing, 13 News reported.

He also released a report by the PAX Group, which the university hired to complete a review of Meixner’s death.

The review found “systemic issues across three main themes: understanding and managing threats, providing a consistent and compassionate response, and the decentralization of communications. For those failures, I accept responsibility on behalf of the university and commit—once again—to all of you and to the Meixner family that we will do all that we can to prevent another tragedy.”

The Meixner family announced a $9 million suit against Arizona Monday. “The university had a chance to save Tom and did not act,” said the family’s lawyer, Larry Wulkan. “Nothing the university can do can bring Tom back. Now it has a chance to ensure that Tom’s family does not live with financial uncertainty because of the university’s failures. Hopefully, the university will do the right thing this time.”

Authorities said Meixner was killed by former student Murad Dervish, who had a history of violence.

A faculty panel released a report in February with many of the same conclusions as the outside panel. The report noted Meixner’s dying words were “I knew you were going to do this!”

Rates for Low-Income Students Up More Than for High Income

At nearly 700 colleges and universities and colleges, the rates paid by low-income students increased by larger percentages than the prices paid by their highest-income ones, according to federal data analyzed by the Hechinger Report and published in USA Today.

The study is based on what students actually paid, not tuition rates.

The net price for the lowest-income students at Connecticut College rose 235 percent in the last decade, compared to 9 percent for the highest-income students. The lowest-income students at Oklahoma Wesleyan University saw their net price go up by 69 percent, while it fell by 37 percent for their highest-income classmates. At Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, the net price went up by 45 percent for the lowest-income and down by 27 percent for the highest-income students.

None of the colleges responded to requests for comment.

In most cases, the low-income students still pay less (in dollars) than wealthier students.

Report: Antisemitic Incidents on Campuses Increased 41%

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents on campuses increased by 41 percent in 2022.

That is greater than the 36 percent increase in incidents in the United States over all.

Of the 219 campus incidents, 127 were incidents of harassment, 90 were incidents of vandalism and two were assaults. Some 33 percent of the campus incidents included swastikas.

“Acts of vandalism on campus included the desecration of mezuzot (small ritual items that some Jews affix to the doorframe of their homes) in residence halls, as well as antisemitic messages such as ‘Jews did 9/11,’ ‘Kanye was right,’ ‘Hitler’ and ‘Fuck Israel’ in academic and residential halls.”

The report added, “In addition to the 219 incidents that took place on college campuses, 25 incidents occurred at Hillels. Hillels are centers of campus Jewish life … Hillel-related antisemitic incidents add to an environment of fear for Jewish students on campus.”

The ADL did not count resolutions calling for a boycott of Israel as antisemitic, the report said, “because they do not target individuals. However, these are antisemitic and contribute to the pressures faced by Jews on campus.”

Protests of President Who Canceled Drag Show

Students at West Texas A&M University held a protest Wednesday of President Walter Wendler, who wrote in an opinion piece that “drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent.” He also wrote that “drag shows stereotype women in cartoonlike extremes for the amusement of others.” And he canceled a drag show at West Texas A&M.

Dozens of students waved gay pride flags and held signs that included the sayings “Women for Drag,” “Drag Is Rad” and “Everybody Say Love" at the Wednesday protest, the Associated Press reported.

WT Spectrum, a student group for LGBTQ students and allies, was recruiting participants for the March 31 drag show to raise money for the Trevor Project, a group that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ young people.

A petition in favor of the show had nearly 4,500 people signatures by Tuesday. By Thursday morning, it had more than 8,800 signatures.

Second Suicide in Same Classroom Building This Year

A second student this year died by suicide in the same classroom building at the University of Houston, reported.

Renu Khator, the president at Houston, shut down Agnes Arnold Hall after the second death and moved classes held there to remote learning for now.

“While we have shut down activities including classes in Agnes Arnold for now, we still need to sit down with students, faculty and staff in the coming weeks to seriously consider our options in regard to the building … I recognize mental health is posing serious challenges on campuses nationwide, including our own,” Khator said.

Many students are angry at Khator because the language she used in announcing the second suicide was similar to her announcement of the first.

“The same exact message as last time,” said one on Twitter. “Are y’all not embarrassed?”

A petition signed by more than 2,300 people said Agnes Arnold is the only building on campus with open verandas on every floor. “Continual refusal to modify the building as it currently exists makes the university not only negligent but complicit in these students’ deaths,” the petition said.

Cal State Long Beach Students Protest Graduation Plans

Students at California State University, Long Beach, are protesting the lack of a graduation ceremony in which they will walk across the stage and hear their names, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Such a ceremony didn’t take place the last two years because of COVID-19, but this year university is bringing back large graduation ceremonies—but without student names.

“I’ve been in and out of school for seven years,” said Joshua Biragbara. “I kind of thought that once I graduate, it’d be like a crowning moment.”

A university spokesperson said it is “not practical at this scale” to read all the names.

A petition signed by more than 16,000 people said, “This is not the college graduation ceremony that most of us have been envisioning during our years as students. After the immense amount of hard work it requires to earn our degrees, we deserve to be properly recognized. Many students have loved ones who will be traveling great distances to attend this commencement ceremony, only to sit in the stadium and listen to speeches instead of getting to witness their graduate accept their diploma.”

Board Fines President $5,000 for Rules Violations

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities board has ordered Marsha Danielson, the president of Minnesota State College Southeast, to pay more than $5,000 for breaking rules about expenses, The Star Tribune reported.

An investigation by the system’s internal auditors found that Danielson had used college-owned cars for trips between campuses and her home. The system said she shouldn’t have used the cars because she received an $833 per month transportation and communication allowance as part of her contract. She was fined the cost of those trips. The system also required her to pay $225 to cover the value of a Minnesota Wild hockey ticket package. Danielson had told investigators the event was a work function that would allow her to meet with community leaders, which internal auditors disputed.

She has repaid all the money owed.

The system also asked a company to investigate allegations that Danielson used profanity, racist and sexist language, and invoked stereotypes while working. In some instances, Danielson denied making the remarks, but an investigator wrote that witnesses who described the behavior were “found to be more credible.” The report said she called people “hon,” “girlie” and “babe.” She will be required to improve her leadership and communication skills.

Danielson declined to comment.

Hampshire Admits All Students From New College of Florida

Hampshire College on Thursday offered admission to all New College of Florida students in good standing. The offer also includes a match of their costs on tuition, which is much greater for Hampshire students than Florida students.

“This opportunity is in response to the continuing attacks on New College of Florida intended to limit intellectual exploration, turn back progress toward inclusion, and curtail open discussion of race, injustice, and histories of oppression,” Hampshire said. “By committing to impose a narrowly politicized curriculum on New College, the newly appointed trustees broke promises made to its current students to support a self-directed, rigorous education grounded in a commitment to free inquiry.”

The college added, “What is happening at New College of Florida is merely the most radical example of increasingly aggressive efforts to suppress meaningful examination of the realities of our society and curb the advancement of democratic ideals, aspirations that should be the mission of higher education. Increasingly, public institutions are a target for those trying to censor discussions of racism, white supremacy, gender identity, structural barriers to equity, and the reproduction of oppressive hierarchies. This doesn’t serve the students, it doesn’t serve democracy, and it certainly doesn’t serve the world those students seek to improve.”

A spokeswoman for Hampshire told CBS News that four students applied to the college Thursday.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment.

Lansing CC Closed for Week Due to ‘Cybersecurity Incident’

Lansing Community College closed for the rest of this week due to an “ongoing cybersecurity incident,” The Lansing State Journal reported.

The college is suspending nearly all classes and activities and asking students and most employees not to work or log in to the college’s systems or come to campus. The college said it has no evidence that employee or student information has been compromised but acknowledged that “we do not know everything yet, and communication is going to be very challenging once we disconnect from the network.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Michigan Cyber Command Center are helping the college investigate.

Princeton Student Charged With Attacking Officers on Jan. 6

A Princeton University student was charged Tuesday with civil disorder, a felony, and related misdemeanor offenses in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

A Justice Department announcement of the arrest said Larry F. Giberson Jr. “was among rioters who repeatedly engaged in violence against law enforcement officers guarding the Capitol in the Lower West Terrace tunnel entrance. Giberson entered the tunnel at approximately 3:10 p.m., and made his way towards the front of the pack of rioters. Giberson joined rioters as they attempted to force their way into the building by coordinating ‘heave-ho’ pushing efforts against the police line. While Giberson was at the front of the pack of rioters pushing against officers in unison with other rioters, one officer was crushed between a door and a shield held by a rioter. A few minutes later, Giberson rushed to the tunnel entryway and began waving more rioters into the tunnel. Giberson then returned into the tunnel to participate in a second round of coordinated pushing against the police line. Eventually, police officers were able to gain temporary control over the tunnel and push rioters, including Giberson, out.”

The press release also said, “After watching the intensifying violence in and around the tunnel, and after watching rioters drag one officer out of the tunnel and violently assault that officer, Giberson started yelling ‘DRAG THEM OUT!’ He then cheered as weapons and pepper spray were used against police officers in the tunnel.”

The New York Times reported that Giberson was arrested in Washington and released after he appeared before a federal magistrate judge.

A Princeton spokesman confirmed that he was a member of the class that will graduate this year.

The Times reported that Giberson could not be reached for comment and that a lawyer representing him did not respond to a request for comment.

Federal investigators matched a photo of Giberson from the day of the riot with images posted on Instagram and the Princeton website, according to a federal affidavit. He was subsequently interviewed at the Princeton Police Department, where he acknowledged being the person seen in videos and photos from the scene of the riot.

Louisiana’s U of Holy Cross to Reduce Size of Faculty

The University of Holy Cross, in Louisiana, will reduce the size of its faculty from 74 to 60 by 2026, 4WWL News reported.

The university said most of those impacted by the change will be instructors of general studies.

“As a result of these reductions, the University of Holy Cross is repositioning itself to more effectively address the growing demands of the workforce by aligning our academic programs to meet the needs of our community and beyond,” said Christopher Rholdon, vice president for strategic initiatives and university advancement at the University of Holy Cross.

In the future, the university’s focus will be on mental health counseling, nursing, health sciences, biology, business and education, he added.


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