Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 21, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: Jerald Podair, professor of history and Robert S. French Professor of American Studies Emeritus at Lawrence University, discusses the historical precedent of sore losers in a presidential race. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 20, 2023

House and Senate Republicans are planning to introduce a resolution to overturn President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan after the Government Accountability Office determined that the plan meets the definition of a rule under the Congressional Review Act.

That means that a simple majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate can vote to block the administration from carrying out the rule, though a Congressional Review Act resolution is subject to a presidential veto.

“This resolution prevents these Americans, whose debts look different from the favored group the Biden administration has selected, from picking up the bill for this irresponsible and unfair policy,” said Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, ranking member of the Senate education committee, in a statement.

Similarly, North Carolina representative Virginia Foxx, the Republican who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said in a statement she looked forward to working with other lawmakers “to hold the Biden administration accountable for this illegal, unfair, and costly student loan bailout.”

“The Government Accountability Office confirmed today what the American people already knew: the President cannot rule by press release,” Foxx said. “The Congressional Review Act is one of Congress’s key tools to hold the executive branch accountable for not implementing laws with fidelity.”

An Education Department spokesperson said in a statement the administration will continue fighting to deliver debt relief to borrowers.

“It’s a shame for working families across the country that Republican lawmakers continue to fight tooth and nail to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents impacted by the pandemic,” the statement says.

The GAO’s determination, released Friday, said the debt relief is considered a rule because it has a future effect, implement law and policy, and that the waivers and modifications of the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 were published in the Federal Register.

“The Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to provide targeted, one-time student debt relief to more than 40 million Americans is based on the Department of Education’s decades-old authority granted by Congress and is a result of the same procedures used by multiple administrations over the last two decades to protect borrowers from the effects of national emergencies,” an Education Department spokesperson said in a statement. “This longtime statutory authority has never been subject to the Congressional Review Act. GAO’s decision is at odds with clear longstanding practice, and the Department remains fully confident that its debt relief plan complies with the law.”

March 20, 2023

Sam Joeckel said Palm Beach Atlantic University “made the disappointing decision to terminate my contract early,” The Palm Beach Post reported.

The move came a month after administrators told Joeckel they were investigating a concern raised by a parent that he was “indoctrinating” his students by incorporating lessons about racial justice into his writing composition course.

“They did this for a clear reason: my decision to teach and speak about racial justice,” Joeckel said. “The timing of this is not a coincidence as we are dealing with an ‘anti-woke’ crusade from Governor [Ron] DeSantis and other far-right politicians and activists. PBA was clearly influenced by this toxic political ideology.”

Palm Beach Atlantic is a private Christian college. The university declined to comment.

March 20, 2023

Women majoring in science, technology, engineering and math fields are subjected to sexual violence at higher rates than their non-STEM counterparts, a new Georgia State University study suggests. Additionally, it showed that women in STEM fields that have equal numbers of men and women—such as chemistry, biology and math—faced more sexual violence than those in disciplines that are not gender balanced. Women in gender-balanced STEM disciplines reported 3.4 times as many attempted rapes—not necessarily by the men in their department—as the average female undergraduate.

The study surveyed 318 undergraduate STEM and non-STEM majors at five U.S. institutions.

One of the study’s researchers said the results reflect the “backlash effect,” in which gender equality is associated with increased violence against women.

Nevertheless, further research is needed to understand why this pattern exists, the researchers said.

“This study demonstrates that the problem exists, but it doesn’t really explore the why. That’s really the next step in this line of research,” said co-author Leah Daigle, a professor in Georgia State’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, in a press release. “If you see an equal number of women and men in your classes, you might think that, by definition, the women are being treated fairly. But that’s not what our study shows. It should be a wake-up call for people to realize that even when people are not in the minority in a group, they can still be at risk for discrimination and harm.”

March 20, 2023

Concordia University Wisconsin has closed campuses it operated in Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee, The Post Crescent reported. The university’s main campus, in Mequon, remains open.

The university said students who used the closed campuses may shift to virtual programs.

March 20, 2023

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.

March 20, 2023

A law firm’s report on a fatal shooting by a New Mexico State University basketball player found the institution met its legal obligations, but the university should consider revising a policy on weapons and set clearer curfew guidelines for athletic teams, the Associated Press reported.

No criminal charges have been filed against Mike Peake, the basketball player who shot and killed a University of New Mexico student after being “lured” to the UNM campus at 3 a.m. on Nov. 19, according to state police. Peake sustained a gunshot wound during the encounter.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that other University of New Mexico students involved in the altercation told police Peake had been targeted in a revenge plot connected to an October brawl at the New Mexico State football stadium.

Unrelated allegations of team hazing led New Mexico State to suspend the rest of the team’s season on Feb. 10, and the university soon after fired head coach Greg Heiar.

A summary of the report by the Rodey Law Firm released Thursday stated that the university’s existing policy prohibiting weapons did not go far enough, calling for a change to make clear that weapons should be prohibited when “traveling for team events or while engaging in any activity where the student-athlete is representing NMSU.”

The report also stated a recommendation that the university create a policy for how coaches should respond to police when athletes are suspected of criminal activity. The university announced in December plans to hire an investigator to review the university’s response in the days after the shooting.

Some students who spoke to TV station KVIA expressed dismay at how the violence escalated.

“I think there should be disciplinary action, but I feel as if though everything that could have happened wrong already did,” student Jewel Rivera said.

March 20, 2023

University of Chicago graduate student workers have voted 1,696 to 155 to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board announced Thursday evening.

On Friday, Ka Yee C. Lee, Chicago’s provost, said in a statement that “the university will bargain in good faith with” the union.

The NLRB said there were 3,200 eligible voters. Lee said in her statement that, “Of the 9,904 graduate students at the university, 3,287 were eligible to vote based on their current or recent appointments under the election petition” the union filed.

“The parties have five business days to file objections to the election,” an NLRB spokeswoman wrote in an email Friday. “If no objections are filed, the result will be certified and the employer must begin bargaining in good faith with the union.”

The provost’s statement gave no indication that Chicago will object. The new union will be called Graduate Students United, affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

“Almost every graduate student at the university could potentially be represented by GSU-UE at some point during their academic career,” Lee said. “I encourage them to continue learning about and engaging with GSU-UE to make sure their voices are heard and represented during the bargaining process.”

Valay Agarawal, a chemistry Ph.D. student researcher and the union’s communications secretary, said the election occurred in person Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 and by mail from Jan. 31 to March 14.

“We are already happy with the result and, as organizers, we’re also very gratified by the result because of the amount of effort we have put into it,” he said. “And we are very excited for what comes next. We want to start improving the working conditions of everyone as soon as possible.”

March 20, 2023

A federal jury has awarded $1 million to a former University of Pennsylvania assistant professor who was denied tenure, but the university says it will ask the judge to overturn that verdict.

In September 2020, Cathrine Veikos sued Penn to, her lawsuit said, “hold Penn accountable for its intentional and willful discrimination against her because of her gender (female) and familial status (mother), and for retaliating against her when she attempted to protect her rights and salvage her career.”

The lawsuit says Veikos gave birth to a son in 2006 and “received a one-year extension of her tenure probationary period pursuant to Penn’s ‘family-friendly’ policies.” She alleged her tenure application was “sabotaged” partly because she used this option.

According to a verdict sheet provided to Inside Higher Ed by Veikos’s legal counsel, on Feb. 10, a jury answered yes to the question “Has Cathrine Veikos proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the University of Pennsylvania denied her re-review application for tenure in retaliation for her complaints of discrimination?”

The jury answered no to the five other questions, including saying she hadn’t provided enough proof that Penn had rejected her application for tenure or her application for re-review based on her gender or on her being a mother.

“The jury found for Penn on five of the six liability questions it answered,” a Penn spokesman wrote in an email Friday.

“It did find for the plaintiff on the remaining count of retaliation,” the spokesman wrote. “Penn disagrees strongly with that finding and will be asking the judge to overturn it based on the overwhelming weight of the evidence and the law applicable to the claim.”

March 20, 2023

Today on the Academic Minute: Oladele Ogunseitan, professor in the department of population health and disease prevention at the University of California, Irvine, examines how to combat the e-waste phenomenon. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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